75 years of Wolverhampton Civic Hall
[gallery] For 75 years it has played host to the biggest names in the entertainment world.
Pioneers of rock n roll, legends of the stage, comedy greats, music gods – the list of acts to have appeared at the Wolverhampton Civic Hall reads like a who's who of British and international superstars from the best part of a century of live entertainment.
From Britpop to hip hop, soul to heavy metal and dance to jazz, the Civic has seen them all.
Pioneers of musical genres through eight decades – Bob Marley, Nat King Cole, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, Diana Dors, Elton John, Oasis, Chuck Berry, Nirvana, The Who, Radiohead, Lulu.
The names trip off the tongue like a list of acts from Madison Square Garden.
But the Civic, in little old Wolverhampton, has attracted the very cream of the crop despite it having a capacity of just 3,000.
It is all a far cry from the inauspicious surroundings when the Civic was born, 75 years ago.
This year the likes of Stereophonics, Status Quo and Kaiser Chiefs have blasted people's eardrums and had audiences jumping and sweating like there was no tomorrow, but back then civic speeches and hymns greeted the Civic's grand opening.
In 1951 the Civic launched rock n roll and became one of the first venues in Europe to do so.
International stars came and went and local bands had their day too, with a special night for local acts every Monday night. Future music legends appeared there before they hit the big time, with Elton John playing a solo show to a half-empty audience in the 1970s.
During the gig he gave one of the first ever airings of Candle in the Wind, which two decades later would become the biggest-selling single since records began. Just a week after the solo gig Elton returned with his band – to a sell-out show.
The hall never quite heard a noise like when local favourites Slade were in town, though.
The band started off at the Civic playing the Beatties staff dance and appeared alongside Glenn Miller-style big bands.
But as their reputation grew and the band become one of the must-see bands on the 70s they progressed to full capacity shows headlining their own bill.
As guitarist Dave Hill said, the shows were 'chaos' with the Noddy Holder-fronted band who enjoyed a unique and special relationship with the delirious and frenzied Civic crowd.
Slade topped the charts six times in three years in the early 70s and had 12 top 10 singles in a row, and those Civic dates were always a homecoming to remember.
In 1988 Morrissey – having recently split with The Smiths – chose the venue for his first ever solo gig.
Reports are varied but it is estimated that 20,000 fans turned up to try and get in, with admission supposedly free to anyone wearing a Smiths t-shirt.
The rabid audience virtually pulled him and his PA off the stage and he threw his clothes into the crowd, who tore them to tiny little stitches.
Set-lists and mementos from the gig are now priceless artefacts for staunch fans and are just a big a part of the iconic singer's history as the Civic's.
The Pogues had the stage literally shaking when they played at the Civic – the stage extension moved to the left and right as the crowd jumped, with security guards having to jump over the stage legs.
Nirvana are one of the most iconic bands of all time but amazingly they played at the Wulfrun in 1991 – one of their last ever shows in the UK.
Seats were laid out in the audience but when the opening strains of Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam blasted through the speakers the audience certainly we're sitting anymore.
Britpop exploded onto the scene in the 1990s and Oasis and Blur went head to head in the charts and both played at the Civic in 1994.
Both were sell-out shows and have gone down in folklore.
Oasis actually played in the Wulfrun that night and did so with a beefed-up security team by the side of the stage as Noel Gallagher had been attacked during a gig in Newcastle the night before.
In the hours before the gig he was cheerful enough though, answering the phone in the production office and telling callers it was a Chinese takeaway.
Blur loved the Civic so much they have returned five times since despite being able to sell out places 10 times as big.
In 2000 the venue hit the headlines when Slipknot's Sid Wilson clambered onto the 20ft high balcony and stage-dived into the crowd, breaking a woman's leg.
The audience clambered towards the scene but not to help – to mob the band member.
And as it celebrates its 75th anniversary the big names keep on coming, with Gary Barlow kicking off this year's celebrations with a memorable winter performance.
The big names may come and go but the Civic has stayed the course throughout eight decades.
It has been and will continue to be an infectious, soulful, rocking venue, where bands and artists want to play and where crowds want to go.
Here's to another 75 years.
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