Backstage with John Hughes
Bristol’s music scene has long been heralded as one of the best in the UK, forever producing a diverse range of artists, production labels, genres, and events. Perhaps even more well-known is Bristol’s small but hugely iconic music venues, which over the decades has attracted many-a-famous face and swarms of crowds to the city.
Now, a new rock ‘n’ roll walking tour, launching after lockdown, will take attendees on a journey of some of the city’s most famous venues, past and present. Hosted by rock fan and former music manager, John Hughes, the tour will visit existing well-loved venues such as The Louisiana and The Fleece, as well as making stop-offs at former go-to hangouts such as The Lacarno and The Granary.
The walking tour will be an opportunity to celebrate all the legendary venues that had such a prominent impact on the cities music scene and which hold so many cherished memories, as well as celebrating the venues of today that are such a vital piece of Bristol’s culture. Find out more about John and the Bristol Rock ‘n’ roll walking tour in our latest #BackstageWith Q&A.
Could you tell us a little bit about your background working as a Bristol-based promoter and manager?
My first role back in 1989 was as an agent, and then manager of popular local act Terry Tinsel and The Spangle Boyz. I was very naive and wet behind the ears back then, but I learnt a lot during the time and loved every minute, and the band became very popular.
What inspired you to get into the music industry?
I had organised a few charity events with my close workmate Terry Morris (the Arthur Daley of Bristol!) and after an event we did with Terry Tinsel, I offered to buy the bands merchandise for them which eventually led to me becoming their agent, and then manager.
What would you say is your favourite thing about Bristol’s music scene and what makes it different from other cities?
The best thing about the Bristol Scene is the great diversity of venues and free festivals, and I pray most will be back after lockdown.
What inspired the idea of the Bristol Rock ‘N’ Roll walking tour?
I have been running the "Haunted and Hidden Bristol Walk" for 16 years and came up with the idea during the first lockdown having done a similar walk in London many years ago. I want to celebrate the classic venues of the past as well as promoting the current great venues that we still have and try and give guests a fun and informative afternoon out.
Which venues, past and present, can attendees expect to visit and hear about on the tour?
We will visit many classic venues and locations in over 20 stops, including the legendary Dug Out on Park Row where in the mid-80s, the Bristol Music scene started with Wild Bunch, Daddy G and others began their careers. We also visit the Hippodrome where we highlight Frank Sinatra's weeklong residency in 1953, the famous Granary sweatbox venue where over 1000 acts played over 20 years, alongside current important venues like The Fleece, Thekla and Louisianna. The tour also covers some Banksy locations, hotels where bands have stayed and some misbehaved! We will run Sunday afternoons once lockdown ends.
Do you have a favourite Bristol memory or story you can share from your career as a music promoter and manager?
My favourite memory was promoting a charity gig at the Fleece back in 1992 with Les McKeown's legendary Bay City Rollers. A lot of venues didn't think it would work but luckily Simon at the Fleece did and on a wet Monday night we had around 400 people in. The walls were dripping and even the Seven Stars next door was packed. There are some classic funny clips from the day on YouTube.
Do you have a music venue (past or present) that holds a particularly special place in your heart and what’s the reason for this?
From the past, The Tunnels at Temple Meads which was run really well by Gareth Chilcott and his family, and now the brilliant Zed Alley in the Centre which is a very similar venue with totally lovely staff.
What’s the first gig you went to, your most favourite gig, and a future gig you hope to attend?
My first live gig was seeing The Glitter Band (without GG) at the iconic Marquee Club in Soho. Memorable gigs include Sinatra in Las Vegas and Sparks at The Empire in London. I’m looking forward to seeing a gig anywhere in Bristol after the past 12 months with a glass of red wine in hand!
What does it mean to you for Bristol to finally be getting an arena of its own?
Bristol has needed a venue like this for so long, with the size of the City and its music history. It will be pure joy not having to travel to Cardiff, Birmingham, etc to see acts.
Finally, could you share an all-time favourite song so we can add it to our YTL Arena Backstage Pass playlist?
It has to be "Shang a Lang" by the Rollers after a memorable gig at The Fleece!