This website exists because of people like Doreen Allen. People who came of age in times of sexism and racism as the orthodoxy, yet who still managed to create, cultivate and curate an alternative scene where others could feel at home – a scene with great music, endless good times and a sense of community. Not much to ask, is it?
“Nearly 500 people turned up to my 34th Birthday party at The Warehouse… and I knew nearly all of them,” laughs Doreen, thinking back to the club she worked at in the early eighties. “The owners then asked me to do a night in another club they owned, MacMillans, on a Friday when it wasn’t doing any business. I had always had an ambition to own my own club, and I had a good insight into how to make it work from my time at Eric’s, so I jumped at the chance. That’s how Planet X was born… ” Planet X is the reason we’re talking to Doreen. At the Liverpool International Music Festival this summer, ’76-16: From Eric’s To Evol’ – featuring Buzzcocks, Pete Wylie, Clinic and more – takes pride of place on the poster, as a celebration of Liverpool’s alternative club culture over the years. Doreen is involved to represent Planet X, amongst many others: “I’m really looking forward to meeting up with the friends I have made over 40 years of being involved with the Liverpool music scene,” she says.
It’s time to dig out the old photographs, clothes and LPs, then, and celebrate the ever-changing sounds, look and feel of the city’s counter culture. And Doreen Allen is the only guide you will ever need…
We bet you go way back with Buzzcocks and Pete Wylie?
I remember Buzzcocks playing quite a few times in Eric’s – Roger Eagle booked a lot of the Manchester bands to play as he lived in Manchester for many years before moving to Liverpool a short time after he opened Eric’s. The first time I saw Pete Wylie was at a Sex Pistols gig, upstairs at Gatsby’s… Eric’s was the downstairs bit where the support bands played! The Stranglers and The Runaways also played upstairs that same month, October 1975, before everything was moved to downstairs. I really got to know Pete a bit later on, in 1976, when he hung around Eric’s at lunchtime. I ran the office, then, issuing people with membership cards and selling badges and posters.
Can you remember the first time you set foot in Eric’s?
The first time was when Roger Eagle, whom I worked for at Liverpool Stadium, took me to see the building, as he was opening a club there.
The start of it all… what do you think of when remembering Eric’s?
My best mates from those days – people like Hilary Steele, who used to leave her camera in the cloakroom where my first duties were. Hilary was the person who brought Julian Cope to Eric’s and she became my flat mate in 1977… she moved to London when Eric’s closed, but is still one of my best friends. Paul Rutherford (Frankie Goes To Hollywood) also played a big part in our lives, then, as he used to stay in our flat after Eric’s and Ian McCulloch was also a good friend – he used to be around at lunchtime with Wylie and we all used to go to The Armadillo for a cuppa’ together. I always remember that McCulloch used to come to the Echo office with me most Wednesdays, too, as it was my job to put the advert in for the weekend gigs! I’ll admit I did have to bribe him with a chocolate biscuit – we hated that walk!
Any other names we’d know?
Lynne and Pete Burns and Jayne Casey became good friends in the early Eric’s days, too. I had actually met Pete, Lynne and Jayne just before Eric’s opened – they worked at ‘Cut Above The Rest’, the hairdressers in St. John’s Precinct!
What else were you doing at Eric’s in those early days?
Before Roger, Pete Fulwell and Ken Testi had the lease on the building, we actually had an office in the back room at Probe Records, then on Button Street. I didn’t actually run the office then, Ken Testi did, but I worked in the cloakroom, bar, kitchen… and mostly on the door at night.
Can you remember the last time you were in there?
The last time I walked out of Eric’s was on the Monday after the police raid the previous Friday… I had to clear my desk in the office.
Let’s move on to happier times. Can you recall some of the events that led to Planet X?
When Eric’s closed, I became label manager for Eric’s/Inevitable Records and had an office above Cafe Tabac, on Bold Street. I also did the door at Club Zoo and The Warehouse, as I knew people from my Eric’s days… that’s probably why I was asked to work at The Warehouse like I said earlier. I also managed Dead or Alive and The Ponderosa Glee Boys for a time and then came that birthday party…
Where did the idea for Planet X come from?
I based it on The Batcave, which I had been to in London and loved. Liverpool needed something a bit different in 1983 and Planet X was certainly that – it appealed to a great crossover of cultures: punks from Eric’s, post-punks, psychobillies and the emerging goth culture. We opened on June 3rd 1983 and it was a great success. We stayed at MacMillans for eight months and then moved to the old Eric’s building, which had been renamed Brady’s, for band nights on Thursdays and downstairs in Jody’s, on Stanley Street, for Friday nights. We named that ‘Pink Palace’ for our dance nights.
Then you got your own ‘home’?
Yes, we eventually bought the lease on premises in Temple Street in 1986 and then relocated to Hanover Street, four years later. My ambition of owning my own club had been realised.
Tell us about some of the bands you brought to Temple Street and Hanover Street…
The Mission played probably the most successful Planet X gig at Temple Street. Primal Scream, Ride and The Wedding Present stand out from Hanover Street… the list seems endless! I reckon we put on nearly 1000 bands between 1983 and 1993.
Wow. So many great bands and memories… and you haven’t even mentioned The Stone Roses!
That was in 1986 and I got fined £100 by Liverpool City Council for fly posting for that gig! Their fee was £40… and about twenty people turned up!
LIMF Presents – 76-16: From Eric’s To Evol
Saturday 23 – Sunday 24 July, Arts Club, Liverpool
Pic courtesy Doreen Allen