ONE of the former owners of the Liverpool nightclub Eric's today described plans to reopen the venue as “foolish and cynical”.
Ken Testi said it would “at best be a pale imitation of the venue, at worst another pisspot for Mathew Street”.
His remarks came as Jayne Casey, who was part of one of the venue's best known acts, Big In Japan, said she imagined another founder, Roger Eagle, would be "turning in his grave” at the news.
The club, which opened in 1976, is to begin trading later this year as "The World Famous Eric's".
It will operate under the auspices of city businessman John Lynch, former owner of the 051 nightclub on Brownlow Hill, and his team who are said to be “hard at work researching every detail of the original club”.
Eric's showcased the early talents of the Buzzcocks, The Clash, Elvis Costello, The Jam, The Police, The Sex Pistols, The Stranglers and U2.
Founded by Eagle,Testi and Pete Fulwell, it became synonymous with the punk-rock era and helped launch the careers of Echo and the Bunnymen, OMD, Dead or Alive, Pete Wylie and the Teardrop Explodes, while members of Big in Japan spawned Frankie goes to Hollywood, the KLF, The Lightning Seeds and Siouxsie and the Banshees.
'Eric's is dead. If you want to celebrate it, lay a gravestone in Mathew Street, put flowers on it if you want, but don't dig it up' - Jayne Casey
But despite closing 31 years ago, Eric's' star has not diminished. A successful musical about the club was commissioned by the Everyman for Liverpool's European Capital of Culture year in 2008, an exhibit on the club is to feature in the new Museum of Liverpool and its name regularly crops up in books and articles referencing the period.
Now there are plans to re-open its doors in time for the 35th anniversary of its birth, in October.
Mr Lynch, along with musician Ethan Allen and promoter Lee Butler, radio DJ who runs dance club nights in Liverpool, today said he would like to get original bands who played there, like The Stranglers, back on the stage.
“Eric’s is part of Liverpool’s musical heritage and we want to return it to its former glory. It’s being recreated in the image of the original venue but we’ll have to bring certain things up to date. The venue will have air conditioning and there will be showers for the dressing rooms. Just like the old Eric’s we too want to provide a stage for talented local bands so Eric’s can become part of their musical history,” said Mr Lynch.
Mr Allen added: “Craig Charles (who was 15 when Eric's closed, ed) got his first break there by reading poetry between the acts. We want to make Eric’s special again.”
Jayne Casey, however, told Liverpool Confidential she was horrified at the plans.
“There is nothing wrong with celebrating a past culture, either in books or plays or in film, but that's very very different to appropriating a culture,” she said.
“Eric's is dead. If you want to celebrate it, lay a gravestone in Mathew Street, put flowers on it if you want, but don't dig it up.”
Ms Casey, who among achievements was artistic director of the Liverpool 08 opening event, added: “One night, in 1977, Roger Eagle had a really serious conversation with myself Ian McCulloch and Pete Wylie. He told us we must never listen to The Beatles; that it was vital to the future of the Liverpool music scene that a new generation with a new sound emerged.
“He made us solemnly promise and none of us have ever broken that promise.
“Liverpool today is known as a music city, but it could have easily ended with The Beatles because in reality their achievements could not be surpassed.
“Performers, musicians in this city still suffer to this day because it is stuck in the shadow of what went decades ago. That's what Roger was getting at.
“We have to ask ourselves seriously if we want to be just a big museum. Is the future of Liverpool based on trading on its past?”
Mr Testi added: “Eric's was a thing of its time. We were outside of clubland and we didn't showcase local bands, we grew them.
“This is a foolish and cynical attempt to misappropriate a valued part of city culture. Eric's worked because it was not a part of anything.
“I am mystified that the local media is almost unanimously greeting this as a good news story.”
*For further reading, see this from 2009.