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Friars website introductions

 

David Stopps

Friars Founding Father and Friars Promoter
 

It was in the summer of ’69 that Robin Pike approached me to see if I would be interested in starting a music club in Aylesbury. I remember replying that maybe it would work in High Wycombe but Aylesbury? 

The long and the short of it is that we opened on 2nd June 1969 at the New Friarage Hall in Aylesbury with Mike Cooper and Mandrake Paddle Steamer. The second week we booked The Pretty Things and the third week Free. 

The rest as they say is history. For the next 16 years pretty much everybody played Friars Aylesbury. The amazing atmosphere that existed at the gigs endeared the place to so many bands that played there. Friars was a club so members felt a sense of belonging. Life membership was 25p….and still is! 

We got through three venues during those 16 years; Phase One (New Friarage Hall 400 capacity), Phase Two (The Borough Assembly Hall 700 capacity) and Phase Three (The Civic Centre – 1250 capacity). Phase one saw bands such as Black Sabbath (Fee: £25), Genesis (Fee: £10), Argent, King Crimson, Mott the Hoople, Edgar Broughton, Blodwyn Pig and the Groundhogs. Phase Two is considered by many to be the golden era. Bands included Fleetwood Mac, David Bowie, Lou Reed, Roxy Music, Hawkwind, Steve Harley, Dr Feelgood and Queen. Phase Three was really a who’s who of the 1975-84 era bands. U2, The Ramones, The Clash, Blondie, Talking Heads, The Specials, Stiff Little Fingers, The Kinks, The Jam, Peter Gabriel, Howard Jones, Marillion, Tom Petty, The Police, Dennis Brown, Can, Squeeze and Motorhead amongst hundreds of others. 

In 1982 I became manager for Marillion, and then Howard Jones who I still manage today. In 1983 Howard’s career exploded worldwide and I just couldn’t continue to give Friars the attention it deserved. The club closed in December 1984. The front-page headline of the Bucks Advertiser was ‘The Day the Music Died’. I hoped at the time that someone new would come along and start a new club in Aylesbury with a new name and a new style but for some reason it just didn’t happen. 

For the next 25 years those legendary Friars gigs were talked about endlessly in Aylesbury pubs and elsewhere until one day in 2007 a real Friars devotee Mike O’Connor asked me if I would have any objection to him starting a website dedicated to Friars Aylesbury. The result is this absolutely astonishing and detailed website containing band line-ups, interviews, photographs, posters, flyers, tickets and anything else you can think of.

Mike’s enthusiasm inspired us to put one more Friars Aylesbury gig together to mark the 40th anniversary of that first gig back in June 1969. We sought out three  bands that were still touring that we had presented back in that first year and amazingly we found three of the best. The Pretty Things, The Edgar Broughton Band and the Groundhogs. So it was that on Monday 1st June 2009, almost 40 years to the day of the first gig, Friars Aylesbury rose from the ashes. My biggest worry was whether or not that famous atmosphere would be re-created 25 years on. I shouldn’t have worried…it came back just as before. It was an astonishing night, which marked the Friars Aylesbury twenty-first century rebirth. Since then we have presented Stiff Little Fingers, Kid Creole & The Coconuts and an astonishing night with Paul Weller in June 2010 which marked the last ever gig at Friars Aylesbury Phase 3 before the Civic Centre was demolished. So I guess that was it….but not quite….. 

On October 8th 2010 Friars Aylesbury Phase Four was born at Aylesbury’s brand new 1600 capacity Waterside Theatre with Buzzcocks, Eddie & The Hot Rods and 999 and what a night that was. 

I want to say an enormous thank you to Mike O’Connor for his tireless work and enthusiasm in putting this website together. The amazing thing is that it continues to evolve and expand as more and more archive material emerges, not to mention the continuous stream of new interviews that Mike has and is conducting. It is a wonderful and detailed record of an institution that I would like to think had an effect on British music culture and particularly within a 50 mile radius of Aylesbury.

How many Friars guys and gals got together after meeting at a Friars gig? Who knows but it must be a great many. 

Which was my favourite gig? There were so many but if I had to pick one it would have to be the Kinks on 6th August 1980. The ultimate universal rock/pop/punk/folk band. Was ‘Waterloo Sunset’ the greatest pop song ever written? I’ll leave you to judge, but when they played it that night time simply stood still. The emotions of a lifetime packaged into 3 minutes and 12 seconds.

 I am still working on the Friars Aylesbury book. It will come out one day. 

Thank you for the days.

David Stopps  

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