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Celebrating 50 years of live music at the Queen Margaret Union

To celebrate 50 years of live music, the QMU are keen to hear from anyone who attended a gig as a fan or as a musician to help establish an online repository of memorabilia that can be enjoyed by everyone. Ticket stubs, pictures from gigs and memories of seeing any of the amazing artists hosted over the past 50 years will be welcome.

On 30 November 2018, the anniversary of the legendary Nirvana gig, QMU, in collaboration with Glasgow Glam Rock Dialogues, will be hosting a specially commissioned event to celebrate 50 years of live music. Hosted by David Archibald and Carl Lavery, the night will explore the legacy through a mix of images & song featuring bands that have played over the years, with images sent in by the public used as the backdrop.

Those submitting stories, images and gig ephemera via the link or the hashtag #qmu50 will be welcome to attend t0 see their contributions exhibited.

Shane MacGowan & Spider Stacy 1986: thanks to LS Monaghan photographer

The Queen Margaret Union has been at the heart of music in Glasgow for 50 years in its current location in University Gardens. Opened in March 1968, the venue has seen some of the most notable names in music take the stage over the past 50 years.

Originally established in 1890 as the ‘Women’s Union’ at the University of Glasgow, the Union soon outgrew its original location and established itself in the brutalist building in the heart of the West End of Glasgow.

The first major music act to appear was The Move in April 1968. The band played to around 700 students who each paid 12 shillings (60 pence) entry with the venue allowing a bar to run until 10pm.

All types of musical genres have featured including psychedelia, progressive rock, folk, punk and heavy metal. These ran alongside more traditional ‘dances’ also held at weekends.

Some of the more notable acts who have appeared include The Smiths, Nirvana, Motorhead, The Who, Thin Lizzy, Sir Cliff Richard, Sigue Sigue Sputnik, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Queen, Garbage, Franz Ferdinand, Billy Connolly, Biffy Clyro, Coldplay, Wet Wet Wet, Orange Juice and Belle and Sebastian all packing out the 900 capacity venue.

Rezillos 1985: thanks to John McGowan photographer

Discos were introduced during the 1970s with DJs such as the Radio Clyde legend Tom Ferrie and former STV presenter Paul Coia — even John Peel did sessions at the venue.

Music is still very much to the fore today with around 26 acts booked to play between October 2018 and March 2019.

Mata Durkin, President QMU 2018/19 said: “The QMU has an amazing musical legacy that has seen some of the biggest bands playing its stage over the past 50 years.

It has seen well known acts as well as rising stars appear and we are incredibly proud of the part the QMU has played in helping to move these bands on in their careers.

The Colourfield 1985: thanks to photographer John McGowan

It’s our intention to collate this material and present it online in early 2019 and we intend to keep it open so that future gig goers can share their favourite memories and experiences.”

Duglas T Stewart – BMX Bandits

I have many great memories of shows at the QMU. I think the first show I saw there was Marc and the Mambas in 1983, that was a side project for Marc Almond of Soft Cell. I was big Soft Cell fan. He is such an electrifying performer and I thought it was the best thing I’d ever seen. The venue was just perfect for the show. The next year I saw The Smiths there. It was the time of their first album and it was an exuberant and joyous affair.

Marc Almond 1984: thanks to John McGowan photographer

In the 1990s I have fond memories of going upstairs to say hi to Kurt after the Nirvana show. We talked a bit about music that we liked and I gave him a BMX Bandits T-shirt which he put on.

Big Star played their first Scottish show there. The band had become so important and influential on Scottish music and so the show was a real event. The group’s leader Alex Chilton had become a friend but was also a big musical hero. As I walked into the hall their soundcheck was in progress and Alex started singing a song I had written with my friend Norman Blake. That was such a thrill. Both Alex and Kurt aren’t around anymore but I have good memories of them and some of those special memories happened in the QMU and so it will always have a special place in my heart.

Garry John Kane bass player – The Proclaimers and Button Up

I have been lucky to watch bands and actually play on that great stage at the QMU. My stand out gigs were The Redskins (1986) the Strypes (2016) and the Fall last year which was emotional for all Fall fans. The Atmosphere at the QMU is up there with the best of them.

My second ever Proclaimers gig was at the QMU and the noise from the crowd was deafening. Great venue and happy 50th anniversary QMU.

The Fall in 1985: thanks to photographer John McGowan

Andy Bollen (who supported Nirvana at the QMU and went on to write On The Road with Nirvana – A Tour Diary)

I have great affection for the QM. My first gig, on stage, was with Bathgate’s finest, Goodbye Mr McKenzie when I was around 19, my band supported them in 1986. They were on the verge of making a huge breakthrough having just released ‘The Rattler’ on the Precious Organisation. My second gig was a surreal evening, when my pals required a drummer in an emergency. I helped out, and, in effect, actually auditioned on stage in a gig when Captain America supported Mudhoney and Hole. I must’ve passed the audition, as three months later I was touring the UK with Nirvana on their Nevermind Tour. The Glasgow show was roughly around the central date and the band were at the peak of their powers, nervous, so much so, they were still soundchecking when the doors should’ve been opening. The Nevermind Tour was eventful, emotional and exciting each night but the Glasgow date at the QM was a bit special, Nirvana were tired yet somehow raised their game.

Tickets for the show were £6, I think I may have got about 40 people in for free. I later became a writer and it’s then your job to look for a narrative, a thread. In 1986, Shirley Manson was in Goodbye Mr McKenzie, later Big John would join them. They would both go on to be part of the Nirvana story when Butch Vig formed Garbage and Big John played his show and was guitar tech with Nirvana. Mudhoney were hugely influential on Nirvana and Courtney from Hole married Kurt.

Gary R Brown – President QMU (2006 – 2007 and author of Ladies First: A History of the Queen Margaret Union of the University of Glasgow ).

Queen Margaret Union and its legacy in the music industry of Glasgow and Scotland are legendary. At least they are to those who experienced an event there. There is something magical about hanging on every note at the stage front or dancing the night away on the balcony as your favourite unknown band sings their future hit singles. I was told that I would “be QM” when I was 16 by my music teacher. Once I announced I was going to the University of Glasgow she made it clear that my future path was already chosen. She remembered fondly her time watching gigs she would barely recall and yet they had made such an impression on her. It was like the King Tuts Effect where something amazing is happening but you can’t quite explain it afterwards. I knew from her enthusiasm that she would not be wrong.

Yet, it seems, that I haven’t seen that much at QM Union myself. I mean, the year I was president saw some great acts that would become bigger than they could have imagined. The Cold War Kids have gone on to bigger things and The Dykeenies went on to blow the Scottish music industry apart for a while. I do remember watching the crowd during The Automatic and admiring how they enthralled the audience despite each person really only knowing them for one song they had yet to delight them with. Maybe it’s the QMU Effect that does this. I was a bit of a dance music maniac in the 90s and so when DJ Sash!, 2 Unlimited and N-Trance were all headlining various different Freshers Week and themed club nights, I just had to go along. No amount of miming, ageing or missing band members could have ruined the evening for me – the fact it was Queen Margaret Union seemed to be enough. It was, after all, magical.”