David Bowie at the Toby Jug


Now we have already established on this blog that Berrylands and Surbiton are rock n’roll hotbeds that have only the Cavern Club in Liverpool and maybe LA as serious rivals.

But here is a real big one. David Bowie launched Ziggy Stardust in Tolworth.

Yes, Bowie unveiled the alter-ego that made him famous at the Toby Jug pub on the Tolworth roundabout, on 10 February 1972, along with the Spiders from Mars – Mick Ronson (guitar), Mick Woodmansey (drums) and Trevor Bolder (bass).

On the “Ziggy Stardust Companion” website, Stephen King reviewed the gig: “The Toby Jug Pub, Tolworth had for many years been a venue for up & coming bands…and  it was well established as a local pub gig.

“I had persuaded a couple of friends from work to come along and check out this David Bowie who had suddenly appeared all over the media.

“The pub itself was fairly small and the venue was just an ordinary function room. I don’t recall having to queue for long to get in. We paid our entrance fee and got our hands stamped so that we could get out if we wanted and be re-admitted without hassle. There was no support group – just a DJ.

“About 9pm the house lights were switched off.  I think a taped introduction from “A Clockwork Orange” was played and Ziggy Stardust (with his trademark red hair) and The Spiders from Mars then took to the two foot high stage. While he used a pianist later in his concerts – on this night it was just Bowie and The Spiders.

“There were about 60 people in the room, mostly aged between 17 and 25, and we watched the concert standing.  There were a few tables and chairs at the back of the room but people only used them to stand on for a better view.  We were 10 feet away and the energy was just incredible. I had never seen or heard anything like it before.

King remembers that the sound on the night was excellent – as was Bowie’s own light show. The songs played that famous Tolworth evening  included “Port of Amsterdam”, “My Death”, “Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud”, “Space Oddity” and “Andy Warhol” – as well as  “Hang on to Yourself”, “Suffragette City” and “Queen Bitch.”

Bowie, then just beginning to come to national attention – he had already been interviewed in Melody Maker and been on the Old Grey Whistle Test – went down a storm. King said: “I was completely blown away. I was just entranced by the entire performance.”

Alas the Toby Jug has now gone, demolished some years ago, and where it stood is now just derelict wasteland surrounded by hoardings.

The Scribbler can well remember coming home from school past the pub, and hearing bands soundchecking there.

Among the other big bands that played there were the John Mayall’s Bluebreakers, Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin (yes!), Traffic, Jethro Tull, Joe Cocker, King Crimson, Black Sabbath, Hawkwind and Fleetwood Mac, and Squeeze. But the Scribbler can remember several punk bands playing there in the late 1970’s, like the Vibrators and Cortinas.

The Scribbler


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3 Responses to David Bowie at the Toby Jug

  1. John Steinmetz says:

    Radio 2 yesterday morning had a call in from the young lad serving behind the bar that night – it was apparently his Grandad’s pub. He said Bowie wasn’t particularly stressed up, just wearing army fatigues that night. Apparently he had a brown ale before the gig whilst Woody, ronni and Trevor all had Jack Daniels.


  2. Pingback: On Louis Wain and Why I Write Poetry – Matthew Paul

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