Famous music club to return to Aylesbury

Ealing Times: The Specials The Specials

THE latest relaunch of the legendary Friars music club brought scenes reminiscent of the early 1980s, as hundreds queued for tickets to see The Specials in Aylesbury.

Promoter David Stopps said there were "massive queues" at the Waterside Theatre from 1am on Saturday and the show had sold out by lunchtime.

The Specials gig in May will be nice moment for David, who first brought Terry Hall and co to Aylesbury in 1978 to support The Clash.

The 64-year-old told Freetime: "They were billed as the Coventry Automatics but just before they went on stage Terry, the singer, took me aside and said can you introduce us as The Specials, and that was their first gig they did under the new name.

"We’re very excited about having them back. We’ve got 1,700 tickets and the demand has completely outstripped what we were expecting. We were totally overwhelmed but it will encourage us to put on more bands."

Despite waits of up to five hours, David said most just seemed happy about some great live music coming to Aylesbury. He feared an online release would have enabled professional resellers to snap up all the tickets, leaving loyal Friars fans having to pay inflated prices.

He said staff will be better prepared tomorrow (February 23), when tickets go on sale for Steve Hackett and his Genesis Revisited show.

The Friars club dates back to 1969, when dozens of world famous bands played at various Aylesbury venues over a 16-year period.

David, who had been a student at Wycombe College in the 60s and lived in Princes Risborough, said: "I was involved in local bands but I quickly turned into a promoter. I guess I’d been a failed musician like most managers and promoters.

"A friend of mine called Robin Pike came to me and said why don’t you do something in Aylesbury. I remember saying I don’t think so...but High Wycombe maybe?"

Despite his initial reservations David, then 21, went ahead and booked Mike Cooper and Mandrake Paddle Steamer to play the New Friarage Hall in Aylesbury, and gradually built up from there.

He added: "I put Genesis on and paid them £10, then £15 the next time they played. And I was the first person on earth to pay them £100. We moved to a second venue in 1971 and that was the golden era when we put on Bowie and Fleetwood Mac.

"In 1975 we moved to Aylesbury Civic Centre and that included the whole punk period when we had bands like the The Jam, The Ramones and Motorhead."

David’s departure to manage synthpop musician Howard Jones in 1984 sparked a 25 year slumber for Friars, which looked as though it would be consigned to the history books.

But the club came back from the ashes with a hugely successful 40th anniversary gig at the Civic Centre in 2009, featuring Stiff Little Fingers and Paul Weller.

The Buzzcocks came to town in October 2010 and David is hoping the gigs can now become a regular fixture in the Bucks calendar.

He said: "We’ve done a couple of shows at the Waterside before but the new manager’s got a fantastic history of doing gigs and has reignited the whole thing as we were dormant for a little while.

"These are heritage bands but we’re hoping to put on more of today’s bands in the future. It’s a little bit safer to do it like this at the moment."

Tickets for the Steve Hackett show on May 9 go on sale tomorrow (February 23). See www.atgtickets.com/aylesbury or phone 0844 871 7607.

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