These bands went on to become megastars, but it all had to start somewhere—and first gigs don’t always go as planned. Let’s go back in time and find out what went down at the first ever gigs of some of the biggest musical legends.
1960 – The Beatles
Although many believe their first gig was in the famous ‘Cavern,’ The gang of four played first in Hamburg as the ‘Beatles.’1 On their arrival they played the first of 48 gigs at the Indra Club. Tired and hungry, the Beatles played for four-and-a-half hours huddled together.
To makes things worse, a neighbor complained about the racket, and the band was forced to turn down their amplifiers.2
The venue: Indra Club, Große Freiheit 64, 22767 Hamburg, Germany
1998 – Libertines
Setting the standard for a career that can only be described as chaotic, the troubled foursome played their first gig in Carl Barat and Pete Doherty’s basement apartment.3
The debauched shindig was halted suddenly halfway through when the electricity ran out. To get the music going again, a hat was passed around to collect coins for the meter.4
The venue: The Delaney Mansions, basement of 236 Camden Rd, London, UK
1983 – The Smiths
Manchester in the 80s was grey and industrial, not a place where you would expect to find a bunch of guys in shirts making their live debut. But The Smiths did just that at the now legendary Hacienda nightclub in 1983.
Morrissey showered the shocked audience with confetti and then yodelled with his legs in the air.5
The venue: The Haçienda, 15 Whitworth St W, Manchester, UK
1986 – The Pixies
Alt-Rock legends The Pixies have been around the block a few times, but it all started in their home city of Boston in 1986 at the long-defunct club Jack’s.
They played to a tiny audience of family and friends and were hilariously mis-billed as “Puxies.”6
The venue: Jack’s Lounge, 952 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
1973 – AC/DC
On New Year’s Eve 1973, heavy rock staples AC/DC played their first ever show at the now-defunct Chequers Nightclub in Sydney.
Their wild set was way too to loud for the aging club manager, who cut the power every 20 minutes to get some respite.7
The venue: Chequers Nightclub, 79 Goulburn Street, Sydney, Australia
2001 – Sébastien Tellier
In 2001, the romantic multi-instrumentalist Sébastien Tellier began his touring career by opening for chillout pop heroes Air in front of a 3000-strong audience.
He didn’t exactly get off to the best start; his guitar amplifier exploded during the first song.8
The venue: Deep Ellum Live, 2727 Canton St, Dallas, Texas, USA
1985 – Depeche Mode
In 1985, the band that would become synth pop mega stars, Depeche Mode, started rehearsing at this school in Basildon, Essex.
Their first public performance was also here, delivered to an audience of 9-year-olds who were obsessed with the futuristic synthesizers and wouldn’t stop fiddling with buttons.9
The venue: Woodlands School, Takely End, Basildon, Essex, UK
From exploding amplifiers to power cuts, anything can happen at first gigs. Now you know what happened and where, why not visit the spots where history was made?
1 Lewisohn, Mark (1992). The Complete Beatles Chronicle: The Definitive Day-By-Day Guide to the Beatles’ Entire Career (2010 ed.). Chicago: Chicago Review Press. pp. 18–22
2 Beatles Bible (2017). The Beatles’ first performance in Hamburg. beatlesbible.com
3 Myers, Ben (2012). The Libertines were an accident at birth. theguardian.com
4 Denham, Jess (2016) Remembering the gloriously horrendous first gigs of the world’s biggest bands. independent.co.uk
5 Simpson, Dave (2012). How we made: Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce on the Smiths’ first gig. theguardian.com
6 Sullivan, Jim (2017). Pixies Lead Guitarist Joey Santiago, 30 Years Later, Still Doesn’t Want to Be A Rock Star. wbur.org
7 Cashmere, Paul (2017). Flashback: AC/DC Played First Live Show 40 Years Ago. vintagevinylnews.com
8 Barcode (2013). Sébastien Tellier. barcodezine.com
9 Depeche Mode Live (2017). 1980/1981 background info. depechemode-live.com