The St Albans Music Scene 25 May 2019
When visiting St Albans, you cannot help but be aware of the rich architectural history of our gorgeous cathedral city. Yet there is also a rich musical history too.
You might of course have heard about those recent inductees to the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, The Zombies, whose late guitarist ‘Gentleman’ Jim Rodford lived in St Albans. I remember introducing Jim live on a stage for the Alban Street Festival a couple of years ago, and he said to me, “I’ve played all around the world, but I never thought I’d play in the High Street of my home town.” Such a lovely man and supporter of local music. RIP Jim.
St Albans has always had a lively music scene. In the 1970s the likes of The Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Stranglers all played here before their big breaks. I remember seeing the Stranglers at St Albans Art College around 1978, when there were probably less than 50 people there. And then there was the time I met Billy Idol in The Midland Pub – which acted as overflow for The Horn.
The Horn was and continues to be a fabulous venue for upcoming and more established acts. Back in the 70s you had bands like Clientelle – still local rock legends with their second-hand vinyl selling for around £100 in Empire Records. Paul Young’s Streetband held a Monday night residency at The Horn at the same time – every week the venue was packed to bursting on a Monday night! He then went onto a Wednesday night residency with soul band Q-Tips in the early 80s before achieving fame and fortune as a solo artist. Band member Stuart Blandameer, sadly no longer with us, penned the hit single ‘Darlin’ for Frankie Miller back in the 70s too.
We then had our very own home-grown punk legends like The Tea Set and Tanya Hyde & Clive Pig on Waldo Records, based in Liverpool Rd. Paul Dean, bass player for X-Ray Spex, was a St Albans-ite. And still regularly touring in the US to massive stadium crowds is Dan Brown’s band The Fixx.
Bringing things more up to date, St Albans is home to rock legends Enter Shikari, who started of playing at The Pioneer Youth Club. And Friendly Fires, who formed at school in St Albans, have experienced global success after their debut album was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize. I remember getting a call one day from a manager wanting to hire Trestle theatre for a band rehearsal. He was reluctant to say who the band was, but needed space for a big rig and an artic lorry. It turned out to be Enter Shikari rehearsing for the Download festival. Loud and amazing!
Today, The Horn is still supporting local and touring bands, and you never know who you might see. I remember a secret gig a couple of years ago run by Luke Hinton from Jukebox, where you had to buy a ticket not knowing who it may be performing – it turned out to be Chrissy Hynde from The Pretenders!
Almost every night in pubs all over St Albans there are performances by covers bands, tribute bands and my favourites; local original bands like The Tuesday Club or Charlotte & The Glovers and singer-songwriters of every hue. Grassroots open mic nights like The Blue Angel Acoustic Café every Sunday at The Horn to my own Rosey Open Mic at The Rose & Crown and Dandy Lion open mic at The White Lion pubs show that live music is alive and well supported in St Albans.
Why not pop along to a local pub and catch some live music when you visit us? You can find out all about local gigs on Lemonrock.com – a national gig guide run by St Albans resident and musician Mac Maclaren – or check out our community radio station, Radio Verulam for what’s on. I guarantee you will hear music as good as anywhere in the country. Who knows, you may just discover the next Ed Sheeran before the rest of the world!
Denise Parsons – The Parsons Knows – radio presenter and live music promoter.