Fave 5 with Nicky Tesco
Nicky Tesco’s life has taken him down some strange side roads.
After helping to found The Members in 1976, leading to a punk-and-reggae-adjacent hits like The Sound of The Suburbs and Working Girl, the singer-songwriter bailed in 1983 for a free ranging life of movie roles (Leningrad Cowboys Go America), brief musical alliances (most notably with hip-hop maverick J Walter Negro), journalism and radio. A long struggle with rheumatoid arthritis has severely cut into Tesco’s love of live music, but he does get out on the odd occasion when he can. Here’s a list of five venues, most long-shuttered, that he’s enjoyed playing or catching other bands at over the years.
Editor’s note: Nicky Tesco passed away shortly after giving this interview. Our condolences to his family and friends.
The Edge, Toronto
The Edge was one of the venues we would play on our early tours in North America. What I really liked about it was the stage was very low, the room small but also magic. I have a great memory of staying at a nice hotel, where I watched the movie Alien on television. It blew me away, so that night I just talked about it all through the show as part of my stage banter, which I think might have confused the audience. Places like Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto were fun because people were supportive and just wanted to have a good time. It was always just relaxing.
The Marquee, London
This was when The Marquee was on Wardour Street (1964 to 1988); it later moved to Charing Cross Road (where it eventually closed), but when it was at Wardour Street it was fantastic. You had the rhythm and blues boom of the ‘60s there, with the Stones and the Kinks and all that. It was also small, and we had to bring in industrial fans because it was so hot when we played there one summer. I was coming off stage from that gig when Marianne Faithful threw her arms around me and gave me a huge kiss. My God, she was so beautiful I thought my life would end right there.
Mudd Club, New York
The Members always did really well in New York, and that city was fabulous in the ‘70s. Whenever we arrived at our hotel, which was usually the Iroquois, we’d get a phone call asking if we wanted to play a warm up gig at the Mudd Club for a $1,000. I mean, we never had money in our pockets and this was straight cash. It was a great place where everyone was welcome, whether gay or bisexual or trans. We would loosen up and kind of jam it a bit more into a little more dubby reggae. The music would spin out and float around, and because of this we were a lot more relaxed. Obviously we probably got ridiculously stoned because they were always very, very, um, generous.
Main Street, Auckland, New Zealand
I don’t think it exists anymore, but Main Street in Auckland was so much fun. We were the very first British punk band to play in New Zealand, and originally we were going to be at the Auckland town hall. We arrived in New Zealand after spending the flight drinking Jack and Coke, and there were these record label people with a fucking fleet of limos. They told us we were going to do two sets, but that wasn’t something we did, so instead we agreed to do a matinee for kids. The shows were insane; I looked up at the balcony and everyone’s jumping up and down. On the second page of their most prestigious broadsheet there was this huge picture of myself and the guitar player. I’m holding my microphone up and you see these kids crashing around us on the floor. It was wild.
Southbank Centre, London
It’s really disabled friendly, so I enjoy going to the Southbank Centre just to see shows. If you’re in a wheelchair, the person who pushes your chair also gets in free. We saw Henry Rollins doing his talking thing, and Randy Newman doing his one man thing. My favorite gig was going to see the reformed ESG (Emerald, Sapphire, & Gold) there with my daughter. They didn’t come on trying to be Destiny’s Child or anything, they just fucking cracked into it, and it was immense.
Check out some of Nicky Tescos’ music videos below.
The Members: Sound of the Suburbs
Nicky Tesco as the Leningrad Cowboys’ lost cousin, joining them for a version of Born to Be Wild.