Book: Venue Stories
Chapter: In Memory of the Standard: Classic Rock in East London
In the early noughties, Ilford was not the best place for a teenage girl obsessed with classic rock. UK garage blasted through the school corridors and Burberry prints were more plentiful than band t-shirts. Luckily, I didn’t have to go too far to find my people. On Friday nights, I dragged my friends onto the 123 bus in search of loud guitars. Our destination? The Royal Standard in Blackhorse Road.
In its heyday the venue hosted a diverse mix of artists, but by the time I found it the roster was mainly cover bands. Dirty DC, Being Jovi, Whole Lotta Led and Guns 2 Roses – this was where I could hear the music I loved. A whole new world opened up for me in that sticky, smoky venue. It was here that I developed my enduring passion for both live music and boys in bands (the former has served me better than the latter.)
The closure of the Standard in 2011 felt like the end of an era to me. In reality though it was just another chapter in the ill-fated history of rock and metal venues in London. The legendary Intrepid Fox in Soho (now a Byron Burger), Ruskin Arms in East Ham (birthplace of Iron Maiden) and Big Red in Holloway are just a few of the rock and metal venues that have bitten the dust since I last wore fishnet tights. The wave of gentrification marches on and I’d struggle to know where to go for some Jack Daniels and a decent jukebox these days.
In this chapter I’ll look back on the glory days of the Walthamstow Standard, speaking to locals and bands who launched (and ended) their careers at hard rock venues across East London that no longer exist. What happens to a community of music fans when the places that shape us are stripped away? And what does this mean for the music?