Jimi was once a regular at The Speakeasy in Margaret Street, around the corner from Oxford Circus
“The Speakeasy in Margaret Street, where bands like the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Deep Purple and Thin Lizzy were regular turns,
and where The Who’s Pete Townshend famously met Sex Pistols Steve Jones and Paul Cook in 1977, telling them they were the only hope for rock”
In 1973 the four-night, sold-out stand at London’s hip Speakeasy club offers a humble but powerful Bob Marley on stage.
This string of concerts offers a glimpse at his first British tour for Island in the Spring of 1973. It followed the release of Catch A Fire, the Wailers’ Island debut.
THE SPEAKEASY CONCERTS: AN INTERVIEW WITH LAURIE O’LEARY
(by Marco Virgona from Bob Marley Magazine)
Dear Marco, Bob Marley has some great memories for me. My friend Chris Blackwell was the first person to really introduce me to Bob & the Wailers. Would you believe it! I was against having Bob in the Speakeasy, “Not our scene Chris, we are a progressive music club” was my initial reaction, how wrong was I? Being the manager and sole agent for booking the entertainment in the Speak’ Chris persevered and the rest is history, they were sensational the crowd of an eclectic mix were spellbound with the rhythms of sound never before experienced; Chris wanted a week in the club I gave him an unheard of four consecutive dates, the only artiste ever to have had that option in the ‘Speak’.
I had a group that I was managing Heavy Metal Kids by name and expecting good things from on a residency, and had the audacity to keep their date in at the expence of another night of ‘BOB’.
I believe fate took a hand in that as Bob said to me after the last night there, “it’s meant to be man you did right by us” and was pleased with the reaction from the nearly all famous musicians from well known groups, Eric Clapton, from Jeff Beck, The Who, Deep Purple, among others. I have tried to get copy of a pic’ of Bob in the Speak for a book I’m writing from Dennis a nice young kid that Bob spoke to and allowed into the club, after he had asked me, in fact I spoke to him on a radio show a few moths back and he promised to get in touch, I’ll check the publishers.
Would you believe that I also managed at one time Junior Kerr/ Hanson/ who I noticed playing in the Wailers for some time?
I have sent the original contract for the Bob Marley gig at the Speak to Christies for their auction in April 2005, four nights @ £250 with a thank you letter for my assistance from Island records. Marco I hope that you’ve not been bored but those nights still figure as strongly in my mind as when I was tour manager for six weeks to the great Marvin Gaye in 1976. May your God Bless You mate
Laurie has experienced a long life in the Music business since the late 50s He managed firstly a group named Mickey Finn and the Bluemen who had a hit with a Bluebeat rocking melody from Jamaica ‘Tom Hark Bluebeat’ / ‘Pills’. He went on in 1963 to manage a part of the Kray twins Knightsbridge Club ‘Esmeralda’s Barn where he booked as an agent groups as:
Bo’ Street Runners (Mick Fleetwood), A Band Of Angels (Mike D’Abo), Casey Jones & Engineers (Eric Clapton). Then in June 1966 Laurie was requested to manage a club in Mayfair ‘Sibylla’s’ with George Harrison ,Alan Freeman, among the directors. The clientele being at their height of fame, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, a most exclusive London club, Frank Sinatra, Richard Harris, and a host of famous faces. with the highest quality of entertainment, Tim Hardin, Chuck Berry, Family, Gonzales, Joe Cocker, José Feliciano among others would appear on the small stage of the club.
Again in 1968 Laurie had a change of direction to manage the famous ‘Speakeasy Club’ as a promoter and publicity manager, the club was to become the leading club for the music business with everybody attending nightly, Members of The Beatles, Stones, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton regularly appeared and jammed on the stage frequently.
Elton John, Bob Marley, & other bands as Cockney Rebel were launched at the ‘Speak’ where Laurie remained for Ten years. A time was also spent by Laurie as tour manager to another bunch of Superstars this time from the world of Soul, Marvin Gaye, Martha and the Vandella’s, Edwin Starr, Otis Reading, Chuck Berry, The Chilites, The Drifters, were just a few of the stars. In the world of Country Music were, Glen Campbell, Charlie Rich, Charley Pride, & Hank Locklin. Attending the Royal Command Performance in 1980 at the London Palladium as tour manager to the lovely Miss Peggy Lee. On the bill Laurie had the opportunity to meet James Cagney, Pat O’Brien, and Sammy Davis. Being introduced to The Queen Mother and Prince Charles backstage was another highlight of his successful career.