The Boat Club.....surprisingly enough was and still is exactly as the name suggests...a rowing club. But it was also the musical centre of Nottingham for anyone who appreciated rock music, and then later on punk.

It was a small club nestled on the banks of the Trent at Trent Bridge, right next to Forest ground. The ground floor was a storage space for the boats and upstairs were a couple of rooms, a bar and a balcony. At one point I spent every Saturday night there, listening to the music if it was a band I liked; sitting on the balcony taking in the view with a bottle of Newcastle Brown if the band were below average. I developed a healthy taste for live music of any sort from those nights...I'd still rather see a band in a small club than any other venue.

To see all the bands who were on at the Boat in the 70s click here

The stage was tiny and when the lead singer raised his arm or microphone stand in the air he could quite easily punch a hole through the polystyrene tiles above the stage.....and a lot of them did! And the disco after the band always included Faith Healer by Alex Harvey and always finished with Genesis - Watcher of the Skies....try dancing to that!

There was a healthy rivalry between the Boat, The Union and the Brit clubs as all three were practically next to each other but specialised in different music. The Boat was strictly long hair and denim while the Union was "smart"! In fact you could throw a glass (plastic and empty of course) from the balcony and shout abuse at those listening to that crap disco music in the Union next door! I don't think it hit you though did it Gabbie??!

The first time I ever heard about the Boat was in about the second year at school when there was great excitement amongst the sixth formers that Led Zeppelin were playing the boat. This didn't mean much to me at the time but does now! The music was very varied although mostly it was some variety of rock music until the punk years. Generally we listened to whatever was on...if we didn't like it we listened from the balcony overlooking the river, if we did like it we could get a couple of feet from the lead singer! The music didn't please everyone though - here's Bert showing his appreciation of Fumble, who were a pure rock and roll band. And they're still around! Mario Ferrari, the bass player left us a message on our guestbook to check out their website at

Here are some excerpts from the Boat guest list over the years -

  • 14th September 1969 - King Crimson
  • 18th March 1972 - Genesis
  • 26th November 1967 - Fleetwood Mac
  • 18th September 1966 - Jethro Tull
  • 15th February 1970 - Deep Purple
  • 3rd June 1980 - U2
  • 21st August 1976 - Sex Pistols
  • 15th June 1974 - UFO
  • 24th June 1978 - Dire Straits
  • 06th October 1979 - Iron Maiden
  • 23rd February 1980 - Def Leppard

The list also includes other notables like Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd........and remember this was a club that was the size of your front room! And then something strange happened....along came punk! The Boat opened it's doors on a Tuesday night for punk bands. It was really strange standing in there on a Saturday surrounded by denim and leather and then standing in the same spot on a Tuesday surrounded by tartan and bondage trousers but we saw some great bands. Siouxsie and the Banshees, Altered Image, The Dead Kennedys, The Cramps, The Members..... Here's some personal memories of the bands at the Boat during 1974 and 75 :

I think the first time I went there was 13th July 1974 and it was a band called Gypsy, although I know the others had been going there for a while to see Sassafras. The night Gypsy were on we took all the French exchange students from Toulouse who were staying with us. This was the week before the first Knebworth Festival ever, so we went from Gypsy to Tim Buckley, Alex Harvey, Mahavishnu Orchestra, The Doobie Brothers and the Allman Brothers!

On 27th July 1974 we went to Boat to see Trapeze, who we'd seen at Buxton Festival previously, but they didn't turn up. Instead we had Fumble who we'd never voluntarily gone to see as it was pure 50's rock and roll but they were excellent. This was the infamous Pernod night where we went back to Grats and drank Pernod, Gin and Whisky. Every time I drank water for about three days I was drunk again!

3rd August 1974 was the first time we ever saw Nutz at the Boat. We talked to them afterwards and all ended up in their dressing room....what a great bunch of lads and the first of many times seeing them live. In fact they recorded their Live album over two nights at the Boat - see the pictures above.

John Mylett, the drummer is displaying his prowess with some of the rowers exercise equipment in the dressing room on the right.

We also went to a party at Mapperley hospital afterwards which started a spell of being invited to nurses parties up there, including one surreal night when the fire alarms went off, there were fights all over the place and the inmates were all being led out onto the grass in the dark. "The lunatics are on the grass"...I wonder if Roger Waters was there!

10th August 1974 - Sam Apple Pie! A night to drink on the balcony as was the following week when the Winkies were on! And the following week it was GYGAFO, who were memorable for their name which stood for Get Your Gear and F... Off!

7th September 1974 and it was Quicksand. Apparently I was there with a 14year old called Sue from Burton Joyce who was very nice, and went to a party where I met some people called Stonehenge and Alvin Lee's friend!! And the following week was Crosby Stills Nash and Young at Wembley...

19th October 1974 and it was Sassafras who were also very friendly and used to talk to us after their gigs. A bunch of welsh lads except for Terry Bennett who came from Carlton. We used to see them all over the place - my diary entry for March 23rd 1975 says "bumped into Terry Bennett and Ralph Evans at the garage over the road from my house". We have one of our very bad recordings of a live concert at the Golden Diamond, Sutton in Ashfield. Electric Chair....Electric Chair....Electric Chair!

They have their own website and are still playing live

Wheelin and Dealin and Riding High has just been released on CD as a double. Check for details.

....and pictures of their gig at the Boat April 12th 2003

Who were Gypsy anyway? I saw them again on 21st December 1974 and it was their last appearance come I can't even remember them?

And on 28th December 1974 it was UFO who were very good - Doctor Doctor etc!

January 11th 1975 - String Driven Thing who I remember were excellent and we saw them a few times. Were they the ones who sang "take me to the circus...I want to see the lion...I want to see the tiger.....I want to see the chimpanzee!!"....or am I just making that up! Then February 15th was the Steve Gibbons Band...maybe it was him who sang about the chimpanzee?

March 29th 1975 - Jack the Lad whose gigs used to culminate in the entire audience doing a jig in a conga line around the club....out on the balcony and back, up on the stage! April 19th - Hustler with that great song "out out get outa my house, you'd better take your trenchcoat daughter of mine's going out with an hippy or a scruffy little bleeder like you!" We were those scruffy little bleeders with trenchcoats!

1975 continued with Nutz....UFO....Sassafras.....and then....oh my god....August 30th....went to the Union???? I can't remember that? Obviously a grave error of judgement! Ah thats OK, back to see Nutz again on September 6th!

And what exactly was bunny hover? We used to play it after we'd been to the Boat, in all sorts of strange places and I remember it involved a lot of waving of hands but can't remember what happened next!

If Hank, Dennis, Deke, Hodgie, Geoff or Paula are out there please let me know what it was!

That is a very bad picture on the right of us under Trent Bridge where we played Bunny Hover...I can only imagine it involved drinking somehow!

They went on to have punk bands later on and I remember getting a call from my friend who worked next to the Boat telling me they were unloading gear marked "The Banshees" when the band appearing was supposed to be Janet and the Icebergs. I ran down there after work and half of Nottingham seemed to have discovered that it was Siouxsie. I managed to get in and had a wild night where it was so packed that no-one could get to the bar, the wooden floor felt as if it would collapse, and every time everyone pogoed in unison the speaker stacks wavered from side to side threatening to collapse. And the support band played under the name Janet and the Icebergs and was in fact Altered images with Clare Grogan.

And when the small mod revival came in the late seventies the Britt became a mod club. We were attacked coming out of the Boat for being long haired rockers by a group of mods from Leicester who hit us once and then went off singing "we are the mods, we are the mods" . It's a good job we didn't run as the only place to run to was the River Trent! And spookily I was chased in a park in Tamworth exactly a week later, while on the way to a David Bowie concert, for being a punk! I wish these people would make up their minds what I am!

And the good news is - the Boat is still around! I've still never quite worked out how a rowing club gets to put on this calibre of music, for so long, but I'm glad they have, and a big thanks to everyone that's been behind it all these years!