Derby's Great Gigs
Derby can seem quite an unhappening place at times and there's no denying that the big names of rock'n'roll don't often tune in, turn on or drop out here. However, this modest city does have a wild past that needs exploring...
Derby had its first taste of fame and glamour in 1933 when a 32-year-old Louis Armstrong, trumpet in hand, strolled into town.
He played at the Central Hall on Albert Street, you might recognise the building now as a travel agents. Who'd have thought that the man, often referred to as the world's greatest jazz musician, played right here?
The town of Derby suffered something of a musical drought post-Louis. It took almost 30 years until the next band of note arrived to play at the Derby Gaumont.
Barely three months old, a band known as The Rolling Stones enjoyed their debut gig at London's Marquee Club (minus Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts) and then embarked on a non-stop tour of the country. They played in the club now known as Zanzibar on 11th October 1962.
The Who: Daltry & Townsend
The 60s was a glorious decade for music and Derby attracted its fare share of top acts including The Who, Pink Floyd, complete with Syd Barrett, and the Yardbirds.
If the 60s provided quality, the 70s undoubtedly gave us quantity. Who could forget the likes of Genesis, with Peter Gabriel, Hawkwind and The Crazy World of Arthur Brown?
Punk arrived in the mid 70s and it didn't pass Derby by. All fired up from their UK tour, one of the last gigs on The Sex Pistols' itinerary was Cleopatra's in Derby.
Amidst a media frenzy the Pistols delighted in creating as much disorder as possible. They inspired the kids and appalled their parents so much that a second gig, planned for December of the same year, was called off after the band played a trick on the local politicians of the time.
Derby councillors were left for two hours at the King's Hall venue on Saturday 4th December. Johnny Rotten and co had promised a preview matinee gig for local dignitaries and the press.
The controversial band had no intention of showing up. The councillors waited in front of a stage, empty but for a lonesome guitar with only its amp for company. Enraged, the councillors stamped their feet and said that the show would not go on.
The Jam on TOTP, 1980
Not every band that visited Derby was quite so controversial, The Jam, The Clash, The Stranglers and The Cure all managed to exhibit their dramatics on stage rather than on the front page.
The 80s were a mish-mash of musical styles, there was certainly something to suit everyone's taste.
Human League, Toyah and Gary Numan brought with them a new brand of pop inspired by the New Romantic movement in London and a more electronic sound that originated in Germany. For those who fancied something a little darker there were the likes of Bauhaus, The Fall and Joy Division.
Ian Curtis, singer in Joy Division, committed suicide only days after their gig at Derby's Ajanta club.
Other bands that made a Derby appearance included The Stranglers, U2 and The Smiths. If you preferred your music direct from the other end of the melodious spectrum there were the delights of Slade, Shakin' Stevens and Bonnie Tyler.
Primal Scream were one of the last bands to play in the 80s. Somewhere between their psychadelic rock and dance phase, they were supported by local band White Town at the Dial.
Although Derby struggled to produce any modern day heroes of its own, the city did attract a glut of singers and musicians who, although not stadium-fillers at the time, were 'Definitely Maybe' due to be.
The action centred around the Dial and the Wherehouse.
Teenage Fanclub, Ash, Radiohead, Oasis and Pulp went head-to-head with acts that played at the Assembly Rooms. Petula Clark, Take That and Roy Wood were aimed at a completely different audience though.
Oasis played Derby twice in one year. Both gigs were at the former Wherehouse on Friargate. Their first gig, in November 1993, was as the support act for BMX Bandits. The crowd liked them so much that they came back just six months later as the main headliners.
Dates to remember
A few highlights to stimulate your memory banks:
Louis Armstrong - 1933 - Derby Central Hall
last updated: 30/06/2009 at 13:06