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at the TOBY JUG
by Stephen King (February 2000)
Fan Story Index
10th February 2000 was the 28th anniversary of the very first Ziggy Stardust concert which was held at The Toby Jug Pub, 1 Hook Rise South, Tolworth, United Kingdom. To celebrate - here is a first person account of that historic day. Many thanks to Steve for his wonderful memories!
I have always been into music. I can even remember learning the lyrics to The Beatles "Love Me Do" at the tender age of seven in the school playground. Then there was the excitement of rushing home clutching a paper bag containing a freshly purchased 7" single. Carefully studying the label, the producer, publisher, playing time, catalogue and matrix number - all this information would be consumed with relish. Then I would slowly slip the beautiful, black, shiny disc from its usually bland paper sleeve. Taking satisfaction at the rainbow colours as the daylight caught the surface, excitedly switching on the Dansette record player, waiting about 15 seconds for the valves to warm up and then .. the virgin vinyl would be carefully introduced to the stylus.
London Gig Guide for February 1972
In February 1972 I was just a month away from my 18th birthday. I used to buy the Melody Maker music magazine every week, keeping abreast of the very latest trends and following my heroes. In the back pages of the Melody Maker were adverts for whatever gigs were going on that week. Venues such as the Marquee Club, the Greyhound, Golden Lion, Speakeasy and of course the Toby Jug were all featured. David Bowie would be playing at the Toby Jug on the 10th February and as we now know this was to be the very first gig of his Ziggy Stardust UK Tour.
Melody Maker (22 Jan. 1972) & The Old Grey Whistle Test (8 Feb. 1972)
Click images for transcript and more information
I had read the famous "Oh You Pretty Thing!" David Bowie interview in Melody Maker from a few weeks earlier and had also caught his appearance on BBC TV's "The Old Grey Whistle Test". And of course, I still remembered his "Space Oddity" single which had been a hit several years earlier but NOTHING prepared me for what I was about to experience on this day.
The Toby Jug Pub, Tolworth had for many years been a venue for up & coming bands. Playing host to the likes of Traffic, Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, Ten Years After and King Crimson it was well established as a local pub gig. I had persuaded a couple of friends from work to come along and check out this David Bowie who had suddenly appeared all over the media.
The pub itself was fairly small and the venue was just an ordinary function room. I don't recall having to queue for long to get in. We paid our entrance fee and got our hands stamped so that we could get out if we wanted and be re-admitted without hassle. There was no support group - just a DJ.
About 9pm the house lights were switched off. I think a taped introduction from "A Clockwork Orange" was played and Ziggy Stardust (with his trademark red hair) and The Spiders from Mars then took to the two foot high stage. While he used a pianist later in his concerts - on this night it was just Bowie and The Spiders.
There were about 60 people in the room, mostly aged between 17 and 25, and we watched the concert standing. There were a few tables and chairs at the back of the room but people only used them to stand on for a better view. We were 10 feet away and the energy was just incredible. I had never seen or heard anything like it before.
I'm pretty sure he wore the very same combat outfit as on the Ziggy Stardust album cover and "The Old Grey Whistle Test." I definitely remember him wearing the same knee high wrestling boots. I think he wore the same costume all through the set.
A very small lighting rig was used to incredible effect - often just a tight pin-spot on the "Main Man" himself. The lighting was theatre style - not the usual rock flashing Par cans. Bowie had brought theatre to a humble pub gig!
The sound was fantastic - so loud my ears were ringing for days afterwards. I can still remember feeling the sheer power of the opening chords of "Ziggy Stardust". Mick Ronson had a tremendous guitar sound.
The songs pounded into us thick and fast, interspersed by brief introductions from Bowie. About halfway through the show came the acoustic numbers. "Port of Amsterdam", "My Death", "Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud", "Space Oddity" and "Andy Warhol" seem to stick in my mind. Then it was time to crank it up again for "Hang on to Yourself", "Suffragette City" and "Queen Bitch." I can clearly recall the hairs on the back of my neck standing up during "Queen Bitch."
It all gets hazy here - I was oblivious to everything and everyone else in the room. I couldn't blink for fear of missing something. Nothing would ever be the same again. I knew one thing for sure - David Bowie was going to be HUGE!
The audience was enthusiastic and responded with rapturous applause, whistles and cheers. Bowie appeared to enjoy the show as well. The material was so fresh. After rehearsing the set without an audience it must have been great for him to finally get this response from the crowd. I don't remember anyone heckling. My reaction? I was completely blown away. I was just entranced by the entire performance. It was a heady combination of the best music I have ever heard, tremendous sound, very basic but so effective lighting. The concert finished around 11pm - a two hour set.
I was so impressed with the gig that I dragged some more friends to the Wallington Public Hall gig the following week. Sadly nothing could compete with the Toby Jug gig and for me still hasn't to this day. The Wallington Public Hall was only about half full and lacked the intimacy of the Toby Jug. Still it was a great set there too - but I had now been spoiled! I later saw him at The Rainbow Theatre Concert on 19 August 1972 with Roxy Music supporting.
I ended up working as a professional sound engineer and toured with many great bands such as The Who (coincidentally the first live band I ever saw at the age of 12), The Kinks, Bread, XTC etc but that very first Ziggy Stardust gig will stay with me forever as what rock 'n' roll is all about.
I have recently read this description of the gig from the book Alias David Bowie (1986) by Peter and Leni Gillman:
"The Toby Jug is a gaunt fortress of a pub, on the edge of an underpass, that was accustomed to presenting cabaret acts for it's suburban clientele. According to Stuey George, ever present at David's side, the audience were expecting "a northern-club-type act". When David arrived, having chosen to wear one of his dresses for Ziggy's opening act, "they didn't really know how to take it - he took their breath away for a while" And when the audience did recover their voice, it was not to express universal acclaim. "There were one or two heavy guys there," Stuey recalls. "The place had never had a guy wearing a dress and we got some hostile reactions" - from pg. 342
However, this differs from my recollections. The Toby Jug was never a cabaret venue and instead has a fine rock pedigree. Everyone definitely knew who David Bowie was and were certainly NOT expecting a "northern-club-type act." David never wore a dress at this show, nor do I remember any "hostile reactions" from any of the crowd.
Postscript (March 2002):
I thought I must write to let you know that I drove past the Toby Jug a couple of days ago and sadly it is in the process of being demolished. It was a sad sight seeing the JCB's pulling the place apart. It holds so many memories for me. Truly an end of an era. I wish I'd had my camera with me at the time. I hear the site has been aquired by Tesco supermarkets. Thats progress for ya!
See also: "Caught in the Act" - a review of the 3rd Ziggy Stardust concert two days later
---This page last modified: 19 Jan 2007---