The Splash Club was to 90s London what CBGBs was to New York in the 70s and 80s. In words and pictures, this is the definitive story of the much loved and much missed live music venue whose star burned so brightly it took 23 fire engines to put it out.
WHY A BOOK?
By the time it ended in 1997 with a major fire that burned the Camden venue that Splash had been forced by the brewery to relocate to, the Splash Club had been voted the A&R Centre of Britain. It helped launch the careers of a whole generation of bands including Oasis, Travis, Skunk Anansie, Placebo, Feeder, Moby, Weezer, Bush, Beck, Ocean Colour Scene, Deus, God Machine, Catatonia, Reef, Super Furry Animals, Warrior Soul, Ash, Supergrass, Kula Shaker, Sleeper, Echobelly, The Bluetones, McAlmont and Butler, Tortoise, Goo Goo Dolls, Whale, Tricky, Propellerheads, Aimee Mann, Tiger Lillies, David Gray and even the comedian Harry Hill.
The Splash Club book is a beautifully designed piece of social and musical history told by its founder Ben Steadman, a document of an extroardinary time in British and London’s music history and an amazing gift for anyone who was there and an inspiration for those who weren’t.
HOW DID IT START?
The story begins twenty five years ago. Before heading off on a UK tour with punk rockers Chelsea, Ben Steadman, played a show at The Water Rats on Gray’s Inn Road and fell in love with the place and its music hall vibe, red velvet curtains, white grecian pillars and kitsch chandeliers. He started plotting to run nights and promote bands and happenings there. Feeling that the venue needed an identity of his own he called it the Splash Club, because it was synonymous with his ambition to “make a splash” and would feature the hottest new artists making a splash on the scene.
WHAT'S IN THE BOOK?
35,000 words of text from Ben Steadman alongside exclusive black & white and colour photographs that capture the Club's magic. There are a host of quotes and anecdotes from bands, record company A&R’s, band agents, publishers, journalists, managers, faces and players on the scene. Plus reprints of the 15 monthly Splash news/fanzines, a definitive gig guide of who played and when, gig review cuttings and a collection of posters, flyers and playlists from DJ’s like Ace from Skunk Anansie.
The photographs are provided by...
Ian Dickson has been photographing rock stars since 1972, his work has been published in Disc, Record Mirror, New Musical Express, Sound, Vox and Rolling Stone. He was one of the three exclusive photographers Ben tipped off to capture the hot new bands coming through such as Oasis, Ocean Colour Scene, Skunk Anansie, Feeder, Deus, Therapy?, Sneaker Pimps and more...
George Bowstead is a freelance journalist and photographer. His Splash Club photos include: Oasis, Whiteout, Ocean Colour Scene, Teenage Fanclub, Sleeper, Echobelly, My Life Story, Levitation and many more.
Jocelyn Bain Hogg is an award winning documentary photographer. He is the author of five photographic books and his work has featured in Vanity Fair, The Sunday Times, The New Yorker, The Observer, Vogue and many other magazines and newspapers. His Splash Club photos include Jay Kay, Morrissey, Aimee Mann, Mike Scott, David Thomas and more...
HOW CAN I BUY A COPY?
Pledge now and the book will be published, the launch will be celebrated with a big Splash Club party.
The book is available as a limited special edition hardback, or as a numbered collector's series limited edition in a slipcase with a signed copy of the book.
Memories of the club...
I started writing for Melody Maker in the early 90s and I got a tip-off that an amazing new band were playing the Splash. "The singer is amazing, she's going to be a star," said my tipster. It wasn't the first time I'd heard that, but when the band came on I immediately realised it was true. Or at least, I hoped it was. The singer was Skin, and the band was Skunk Anansie. This was their first proper London show. I lined up a profile piece with Skunk for The Maker, and made them my Tip for 1995. There's a necessary symbiotic relationship between music journos and emerging bands, and it's thanks to the broad and knowledgeable booking policy of Ben and the Splash Club — giving tons of new bands their first London shows — that I got to write all the early hype about Skunk Anansie... Carl Loben, DJ Mag
Will Matthews the singer for Rub Ultra had this way of talking where you never quite understood what he was saying but you felt like it must be really cool anyway! For example, he would describe Rub Ultra's music as 'bubble over crunch with a cosmic fruit centre' or 'testosterone crackle with a feminine underbelly.' Nick Moore, Splash Club Manager
Club M was one of the forerunners of the Easy Listening scene and right up there with the likes of Indigo, Regency Rooms at the time but probably a bit more on the bonkers rock 'n roll side. Special memories for me was the Splash Christmas all dayer with the likes of the Tiger Lillies and Mike Flowers Pops and carol singing in the local Costcutter before it became a McDonalds. There was also the time when a girl had a hair cut and just burst into tears. She was alright after everyone told her how great she looked. Heilco van der Ploeg, Club M promoter
The Bluetones got their first NME review at Splash, we also played a sold out fan club gig before we'd put a record out, cool memories. Neil Burrows, The Bluetones manager
I was on the door and looking down at the guest list when I saw this pair of golf shoes. I looked up to see who they belonged to and saw Paul Weller. He'd come down to see Ocean Colour Scene and ended up on stage with them. Keith Eccles, Splash booker
The tour’s gone really well, the fans have been great in their response to the new stuff, but I’m more excited about playing at Splash than I am about Brixton Academy. Andy Cairns, Therapy?
Rock music is mostly about moving big black boxes from one side of town to the other in the back of your car. David Thomas, Pere Ubu
One night Johnny Rotten rocked up, kissed me on the lips, said loudly "up the Arsenal!" and walked in without paying. Then we couldn't get him to leave. He was sitting at the bar having more and more lagers. Laura Lee Davies from Time Out kept trying to get him to leave in a cab but he didn't want to go and it took forever to get him out. Joe Lee, Splash door manager
Some of my favourite memories of Splash are of playing the first Skunk Anansie shows when everyone just went crazy and the club was packed. In fact we actually got signed there, so what a great place it was! Ace, Skunk Anansie
Although I'd heard of the infamous Splash Club I'd never been until I met Diamond Dave Thompson, friend of Therapy? Dave worked there and would invite us down for various gigs. The best band I saw at Splash Club would be Grant Hart. He was with a young band from Ireland, The Burn Burning, the set was comprehensive, his voice was gorgeous and he was in a great mood, bantering with the crowd and mingling with them before and after the show. I've no particularly crazy tales to tell of the Splash days, but I can say that in over twenty years in music it's the only club I've been to on a regular basis that I've never had a bad night in... We recorded our live album 'We're Here to the End' at the Splash Club over three sold out nights. It was our first choice of London venue and over the three day residency people travelled from all over the world to be there. We met fans from Brazil, Colombia, U.S, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Finland, Norway, Scotland, Wales and Ireland all collected in the pub at the front of the venue. We would chat to a lot of them before and after the gig and they were chuffed at the choice of venue and loved its intimate ambience. A phrase to describe the Splash Club? A velvet claw that drags you in. Andy Cairns, Therapy?
Yet again January got off to a flying start and the acts got hotter as the month went on. My old sparring partner Paul West’s band Out of My Hair kicked off on 5/1 with a Welsh band on the Ankst label called Gorkys Zygotic Mynci who sang in both English and Welsh and were much loved by the Velvet Underground’s John Cale who came down to check them out. King Prawn made their Splash debut on 6/1 supporting Fat and their gentle giant guitarist Roger became a lifelong friend and huge supporter of all things Splash. Fat for their part was a side project of Madness’s drummer Woody who played several shows with Splash over the years and Suggs and the Nutty Boys would often hang out taking in the vibes. TV Smith, the punk rocker formerly of the Adverts, did a solo show to great effect on 18/1 and dragged down several faces from the punk scene and even had the Tom Robinson Band doing lights for him!
I’d thought an irreverent comedy night would go down well and had been approached by the promoter Charlie Gough, (a friend of Heilco’s who promoted the Club Montepulciano easy listening scene nights at Splash under the pseudonym of Featureman), to give it a shot on the basis that we could look at a regular monthly event. I agreed to give it a shot provided he came up with some quality acts.
As things turned out he hadn’t really thought the economics through properly as he wanted to have it seated and make up for it with a higher door price although the venue was not even remotely established on the comedy circuit and that market was very price sensitive. Not only that with seats set up we could only get about 75 people in the main space. However he did put a fantastic bill together and a comic soiree on 21/1/1995 was topped off with a hilarious performance by big collared shirt wearing (even then) Harry Hill who headlined with Nobby Shanks, Buddy Wells and Charlie himself in support..
Stewart The General Splash Stage Manager : During his comedy act there was a joke about a fly having a heart attack and falling into an electric fly zapper which restarted his heart – what are the chances of that?
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