A few words about Eric’s, the legendary Liverpool club. This was done for MOJO magazine in March 2002, serving as a trailer for my book, Liverpool: Wondrous Place, which was just about to be published.
Giving birth to The Beatles seemed to leave Liverpool exhausted. As late as 1976 a kind of post-natal depression afflicted the city’s music scene. Strangely, though, new life sprang from the same shabby backstreet where The Fab Four’s shadow was most pronounced. In Mathew Street a new club, Eric’s, was opened in October 1976 in a basement opposite the now disused Cavern. Opening act were US punkettes The Runaways, followed on successive nights by The Count Bishops, The Sex Pistols and The Stranglers. But Eric’s ultimate fame would be as the birthplace of a whole new Liverpool music scene.
Bands that formed among the audience there included The Teardrop Explodes, Echo & The Bunnymen and Wah! Famously, their respective frontmen Julian Cope, Ian McCulloch and Pete Wylie started out as The Crucial Three, formed during an Eric’s Clash gig. They were soon followed by Dead Or Alive and Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark. Graduates of one Eric’s band alone, Big In Japan, would go on to found Frankie Goes To Hollywood, the KLF and The Lightning Seeds; their vocalist Jayne Casey would go on, after Pink Military, to become a prime mover in the global dance empire of Cream.
The creative energy of Eric’s was inspired by the musical evangelism of its owner Roger Eagle. As the novelist Kevin Sampson remembers, “It was very influenced by New York. There were more musical rows in Liverpool over The Velvet Underground versus The Doors than over The Clash versus the Pistols. My memory of sitting in Eric’s, trying to make a pint last forever, was of the most played record on the jukebox being Suzanne by Leonard Cohen. Everyone goes on about seeing the White Riot tour or the Stranglers, but I remember seeing Matumbi there, Prince Far-I or Rocking Dopsie & His Cajun Twisters. And I wouldn’t value one above the other.”
The club’s co-owner Pete Fulwell blames Eric’s demise, in March 1980, on mounting debts and patchy attendances. “Plus there was the old joke about how many people does it take to change a light bulb at Eric’s? Thirty. One to change the bulb and 29 on the guest list….” Finally, keen to be seen “cracking down” on Liverpool’s gangster-ridden clubland, the police picked on the softest target available. A huge raid on the night of a Psychedelic Furs show dealt the fatal blow.
Nowadays Mathew Street has been transformed from a drab backwater into the gaudy epicentre of Beatle Tourism. Galvanised by Lennon’s murder in 1980, the nostalgia trade has overwhelmed Eric’s neighbourhood with Beatle theme bars, souvenir shops, a new Cavern club and shopping mall, with plaques and statues at every turn. Younger pilgrims, meanwhile, head for Cream, a mile uptown. Between the Cavern and Cream, the glory that was Eric’s has been somewhat overlooked. Could it be time for a statue of The Crucial Three?