Thirty years ago this month a Saturday night started at a little club across from Preston Bus Station.
It was once the Piper and went on to become Barristers, but my fondest memories of this place with the sticky carpets, slippery dancefloor and leaking toilets was when it was Lord Byrons.
The club was run by Steven Lord and Byron Sharp and although the décor left a lot to be desired, nobody cared. It regularly pulled crowds of more than 300 on both Friday and Saturday nights.
There was an abundance of places to go out to in Preston in the early 90s. The country was in recession but everyone was partying hard. Friday was rave night at Lord Byrons and Saturday was indie/dance.
After a grim experience at a club in town when I was 16, Saturday nights at Byrons became part of my life.
Most Saturday nights from the beginning to the end of 1991 we were there, drinking cider and black, dancing to our favourite music and forging friendships that would continue for three decades and more.
I wanted to find out why the DJs Greg Butterworth and Pete Brown started the night, how the club and music changed over time and about some of the crazy stories from the people who used to go in Lord Byrons on Saturday nights.
“I had to finish DJing on Friday nights at Back Street, as it had closed for a renovation (it ended up becoming part of Tokyo Jo’s), I needed to find another way of making money,” said Greg. “So, a couple of weeks later I approached The Piper, which went on to become Lord Byrons, where I’d recently attended a Tuson College party. They said they couldn’t give me a weekend night, but would let us try out midweek, which I remember being a Thursday. We had more than 300 people in on the first night and me and Pete ended up DJing there for four to five years.”
“Greg was round at mine and Liam Milroy’s flat one night when a couple of our friends were taking the mickey about Greg starting a new night at what was then called The Piper,” said Pete. “I’d been doing a few band nights DJing at The Warehouse so I offered my services to Greg, for free might I add, to see if we could get it off the ground. We went on to do five years starting on Thursdays then onto Saturdays and student nights on Tuesdays. Karl Yates and Mark Whiteside used to go out for us with reduced entry flyers which helped us out a lot.
“The first night we did was actually on Monday 18 December 1989. I’m not sure when we went to Thursdays but it must have been in the new year of 1990. Thursdays proved very popular with the Newman College students. It was doing so well, me and Greg were pushing Byron Sharp for Saturday nights as well. Our first night on Saturdays was on 11 August 1990. That was the night The Wonderstuff played at The Guild Hall. I attended the gig and left Greg to start the night with the usual Saturday night DJ. I think Byron was worried me and Greg would upset his normal clientele hence keeping the chart DJ on. We’d advertised it as The Wonderstuff after show party as I knew Miles Malcolm and Martin from the band were coming along to the club later on. By the time I got there the club was rammed and the chart DJ had given up. People weren’t dancing when he put his chart tunes on but the floor was rammed when Happy Mondays’ ‘WFL’ was playing.
“Bang on 10pm when the doors opened in came the skater kids Frosty, Murray, Jay and Mark Sandwell with his Gorilla Biscuits and obscure American Hardcore albums, all demanding we play certain tracks. We would generally play what they wanted early doors.
“I used to get quite a lot of white labels from the promo company Streets Ahead. On one occasion I’d got a promo copy of ‘Girls and Boys’ by Blur three weeks ahead of any airplay, I stuck it on and it emptied the dancefloor, a few weeks later people were requesting it. On another occasion Craig Forshaw brought in an American Import of ‘Jump Around’ by House of Pain before it got released over here. It was an instant hit; in fact, I think I might have played it twice that night.
“I remember one occasion the dancefloor was getting pretty rough, probably during a Nirvana track, when I noticed a tall lad accidentally get his glasses knocked off, I instantly killed the music and got on the seldom used mic to make everyone look for them.
“We used to have an umbrella over the decks to stop the nicotine from dripping down from the ceiling onto our records. It used to get so hot in the DJ booth, we used to go out back to cool down or they’d open the back doors near the Robocop machine. When we weren’t DJing we kept our records in a little room, around the back of stage, there was just too many to take home. I had a record bag filled with dancefloor fillers, which I knew if I lost I would be scuppered. I went through my old records the other day, when I opened the box it smelt of Byrons.
“We were lucky as we went through five different genres of music in the five years we were there. We went from late 80s early 90s Grebo, straight into the Manchester ‘baggy’ scene in 1990 to 1991, which incorporated a lot of dance music, then into Grunge from 1992 to 1993 and then finally Brit pop in 1994. By 1994 people were moving on and Byrons had gone through three different sets of management. That year I decided to move down to London with the band I was in at the time, Pronoise. I never went in there after that.
“I was lucky enough to meet loads of great people through Byrons who are still good friends to this day. I could give you a list of 50 names of people who just used to come up to the DJ stand and hang out all night without even dancing just shooting the breeze. Great fun. We get asked quite a bit if we’d ever do a reunion but I don’t think it’s ever going to happen as we both think me and Greg would like to preserve those memories. Luckily at the time I had a camcorder so there’s a few videos on YouTube if anyone cares for a bit of nostalgia.”
Pete’s Byrons Top 5 (in no particular order)
– Soon – My Bloody Valentine
– Mistadobalina – Del Tha Funky Homosapien
– Waiting Room – Fugazi
– Sabotage – Beastie Boys
– Wrote For Luck – Happy Mondays
Pete’s Byrons Bottom 5 (in no particular order)
– Sit Down – James
– Sheriff Fatman – Carter USM
– Any – Pulp
– Parklife – Blur
– Shiny Happy People – REM (“I love REM but not this”)
Flyering for Lord Byrons
In the early 90s you found out about a club either through word of mouth or via a flyer. Karl Yates recollects his time spent at Byrons, flyering for Pete and Greg on Saturday nights.
“These are my recollections as best I can do,” said Karl. “If anyone can correct any of it, that’s fine, I may misremember much of it. I’ve worked in Preston nightclubs almost exclusively for 30 years DJing four or five nights a week. It’s all become one long night.”
When did you meet Pete and Greg?
“I met Pete when he came to see my band play at The Lamb. We were both in similar bands and when mine split up, he and Simon the other member asked me to join their band, so I did. Pete and I moved into a house together a couple of years later and ended up living together like The Odd Couple in numerous houses for about six years. I think I met Greg at The Exchange, which was a pub that is now Kuckoo in Fox Street. The Exchange was the popular place to go in the mid to late 80s before going to The Warehouse or Raiders as it was then.”
How did you get involved with flyering for Byrons?
“Probably got roped into it by Pete. In fact I think I did the same for Greg’s previous club night at Back Street, which was originally called The Tudor Rooms. It was the little club room above Clouds that is now Evoque.”
Where did you leave the flyers?
“I handed them out, generally starting in The Welly, then Exchange, Fighting Cock and Adelphi. The flyers didn’t say it, but you got 50p off entry with them so I’d walk into a pub and get mobbed. This comes as no surprise seeing as people spent half the night in the club minesweeping drinks. Everyone was skint, I blame Thatcher.”
Who designed them?
“I think it can be safely said they weren’t designed so as much as cobbled together. No idea who by – may have been Greg?”
Did you have any other roles at the night? Pete said you used to work behind the bar.
“That seems to be a popular misconception, in fact I spoke to someone recently who insists I served him drinks but I have no memory of working behind the bar. The barman was called Michael, he made incredible cocktails and would try them out on me and a few mates. Theywere never in measures less than half a pint – it’s no wonder I remember very little. Michael was an incredible dancer who would stand in front of me and roundhouse the cap off my head, which is still quite an achievement despite my diminutive stature… but no, I had no other roles. Oh, I stood ready to press play on a turntable once or twice when Pete needed the loo. He always came back in time saving me the job, which is ironic as DJing is all I’ve done for nearly 30 years.”
What did you like about Greg and Pete’s nights at the club?
“Great people and great music. It was a mix of indie, post punk, shoegaze, Madchester, ‘funky-rap-metal’ (as Greg would say) and all stops in between. Everything from Dinosaur Jnr to some dodgy band called Dreamland who are now residing in the ‘where are they now’ file. There was quite a cross section of people and ages but everyone there had one thing in common and that was they didn’t want to go to the town centre clubs and listen to rubbish music. Everyone that went to Byrons didn’t fit in with town centre clubs. It was your classic collection of misfits.”
What made the Saturday night so popular do you think?
“We’d all been going to The Warehouse for years; it was time for something new. I think it benefited from being one large room rather than two or three small ones. Maybe the music was better, I don’t really remember, maybe it was just that it was our mates’ night, but then again it was other mates that DJd at The Warehouse – I think it was just good timing. There was a great local bands scene and the national music scene was eclectic – there were a lot of young people getting into bands so the scene was vibrant. The Stourbridge scene and Madchester helped. This was before BritPop came along and made everything sound like a Beatles B-side.
Could you share any memorable moments?
The first thing most people will say when you ask about Byrons is, don’t wear white. It was a MILLION degrees in there and decades of smokers had coated the place in nicotine that dripped down on to your clothes – it was rank. The floor was soggy, there were holes in the plaster and the furniture was ripped and falling apart. None of that mattered of course. The men’s toilets flooded every night and would flow out onto the carpet. The lads into Baggy with their flared jeans would have piss-stained bottoms – not a problem for those of us in shorts. You never got charged the same price for a drink twice (if you paid, I never did), not even on the same night. The bar staff just made it up. I think they served food from the hatch at the back but my only real memory of the kitchen is being carried in there by a bouncer after I got knocked out by some dude that sucker punched me outside when I was holding a girl I was seeing’s hair out of her own sick. I don’t know what I did to deserve it but I will have deserved it. The ensuing riot outside was probably the only time there was a fight. A girl I knew tried to hit a guy but she seemed to forget she was holding a motorbike helmet and knocked herself out. I say it was a riot, but it was just a bunch of pale indie kids on skateboards.
If you hadn’t have gone to Byron’s, where would you have gone?
Clouds was the big alternative club for us but it had finished by the time Byrons started and turned into a neon nightmare called Easy St, which was awful. We would probably have just gone to Raiders (The Warehouse) and no doubt sat around and complained that there was nowhere else to go. I remember Raiders increasing the door charge and everyone got pissed off to the point that one night a few benches got dragged to the grassy knoll and we all just sat outside in the summer heat, refusing to pay the increase. We sometimes ventured to Jilly’s Rock World in Manchester but there’s only so much Motley Crue you can take. Other friends started club nights and there were other nights at Lord Byrons after Pete and Greg stopped. I was involved with some of those nights especially from the mid 90s onwards when I had my own club nights.
I grew up in Byrons – people who went there share their memories
Cathie Carr, Preston, Lancashire
“I went to Byron’s from about 1991 to 1996. We went because it was simply the best place to go for an indie-loving student at the time, even though we knew how grim it was. A Saturday night consisted of drinking ourselves silly in the Fighting Cock and then trooping over there at last orders en masse. Many memorable moments, we used to go over with Mark, the landlord from the Fighting Cock, loads of us, and with the dubious excuse that we worked for him in the pub so we all got in free. You’d never have got away with this with Ken and Freda, but Mark got us in Arabella’s with this tactic too. We ended every night arm in arm singing ‘Daydream Believer’ on the stage, happy moments. Uniform was always para boots, stripy tights, denim skirt and always some tie dye on the top. I was so desperate to wear para boots like everyone else but my feet were too small so I had to wear five pairs of socks. I have fond memories of all sitting down to James’ ‘Sit Down’ and dancing madly to ‘Killing in the Name Of’, among many more. I made some of my best friendships that exist to this day in that amazing hovel, drips from the ceiling and vomit in the toilets notwithstanding! I met my first love in there too. I remember bringing a friend from university in Birmingham home for the weekend and telling her I was going to bring her to the best club ever. Her horror was hilarious! She still reminds me of it to this day. There will never be another club like it, though I may be looking at this through nostalgic goggles!”
Jay Carlisle, Chengdu, China
“I felt like Byrons was home. At that time, all the other clubs in town, except Raiders, were full of idiots in white shirts and being an alternative eccentric sort Byrons was the place for me. I used to go on a Tuesday, Friday for a rave up occasionally and on Saturdays. Lived for it. Pretty sure it essentially made me. The first time I ever went I was 15 or 16 and I told my mum I was staying at a mate’s house. She knew I wanted to go but she wouldn’t let me. Anyway, at about half one I was snogging this girl, then Pete or Greg came over the PA… ‘could Jason Carlisle go to the front desk, his mum is on the phone’. Mortifying. I remember them playing ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’, ‘Groove is in the Heart’ and Faith No More. I went in drag once dressed as a goth woman. I formed a band with four other lads, partly via meeting people in Byrons and also because we hung around block 10 together at Preston College. We called ourselves Thyroid Explosion. Jim Philimore was on drums, Mark Allen on lead guitar, Mark Wilson on bass and we occasionally had Alywn Talbot on rhythm. I can’t sing and I was the singer, well bad shouter. We had three gigs, all of them terrible. We played at The Ship on Watery Lane, Worden Arts Centre and at a pub at the bottom of Church Street, which has closed down now. We got barred from that pub because they didn’t like the excessive swearing in our lyrics, and also because we were very, very bad. We did some grunge and punk covers and some of our own, absolutely awful, original tracks. We had a great time doing it. Met most of my best and oldest friends at Byrons and we’re still friends to this day.”
Lisa Lewis, Melbourne, Australia
“I started going in Byrons around the end of 1990, beginning of 1991. I just liked the atmosphere in there, always felt safe and at ease, everyone was really friendly. It was part of our life, we went for the music – all the Manchester stuff; Happy Mondays, Stone Roses, my favourite was Candi Staton ‘You Got the Love’. They played ‘Groove is in the Heart’ and Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ a lot too. It was rave on a Friday, indie on a Saturday. I remember us going to Afflecks for our outfits. We used to make up random names and stories about ourselves, got chatting to loads of people and it was good for people watching. We used to drink pints of sass, or a green monster cocktail made with Midori! Shoes used to stick to the carpet.
“I met David in Byrons on 17 August 1991. I was going into my second year at college and he was doing his third year of a bricklaying apprenticeship. He kept winding me up before he asked me out. We went to the Fighting Cock for our first date the Sunday after, I remember thinking ‘what if he looks bad in daylight?’ and we started going out from then. It was strange, he lived round the corner from me, worked part time in a garage opposite our house, we went to schools next to each other and his mum and dad drank in the same pub as mine but we’d never met. I don’t think we would have got together if it hadn’t been for Saturday nights in Byrons. We got married on 16 May 1997 and now have two sons aged 22 and 16. Great memories.”
Ste Wells, Darwen, Lancashire
“I went in Byrons from 1990 to 1992. The first time I visited was for the acid house night which was held on Fridays, summer 1990. I stood next to the little stage and didn’t leave that spot for the next four hours. Just danced! I used to go on Fridays and Saturdays, just for the music and the people. I was lucky that I enjoyed both indie and dance music, still do. I remember Pete and Greg playing Blur ‘I Know’, The Shamen ‘Move Any Mountain’, Stone Roses ‘She Bangs The Drums’, My Bloody Valentine ‘Soon’, The Charlatans ‘Everything Changed’, Fugazi ‘Waiting Room’ and Mudhoney ‘Touch Me I’m Sick’. Lord B’s was ideal for us really. Was a nice relaxed vibe with very few idiots and zero violence. Tokyo’s was the place for that sort of carry on. When I first started going I was on a YTS course, I got booted off that, went on the dole for a few months then enrolled at Preston College to study media whilst working part time at Andy’s Records in Preston town centre. Looking back, I was too busy having a good time to be worrying about work! At the beginning I used to dress in the ‘baggy’ look of the time, flares or parallels, hooded tops, oversized band t- shirts, love beads and long, centre parted hair. We would usually meet in Gastons or the Black Horse, occasionally the Welly or Fighting Cock. When the club finished at two, I would get picked up a lot of the time by mates who had been elsewhere and we would drive over to Blackburn, avoid the police and look for the convoy to lead us to the rave. I’d like to think that being amongst a group of kids who were all into different, non-mainstream stuff opened my eyes a bit. I’ve always been pretty liberal thinking… experiences such as Lord Bs and the company I kept probably made me a look at the world slightly different than if I’d been in the local Tory club supping a pint of mild every Friday and Saturday night. Greg and Pete played great tunes, we had a good laugh and nobody took themselves too seriously. Hard to believe that it’s 30 years ago. Ace times.”
Simon Murray, Sydney, Australia
“The toilets were flooded every week, I remember falling over on the dance floor cause people had spilled drinks on it, playing Street Fighter II, eating chips from the food hatch, handing out flyers on a Saturday night for £5 and a ‘staff drink’ (when I was 17), top nights, top mates, nowhere like it. I can smell it now.”
Rob Butcher, Corris, Wales
“I remember the time they painted the toilets a horrible deep purple colour and the extra layer of paint wedged the cubicle door shut on me. Had to break out using a discarded paint brush, the leverage from prizing the door open snapped the brush in half.”
Leona Mae Marsh, Preston, Lancashire
“There is lots I don’t remember about going in there every week, other than drinking pints of Blastaway! But one thing I do remember is that it was definitely of its time. So many long-standing friendships were made in there. Everyone knew each other. It was like one big happy family. And I’m glad to have been a tiny part of that.”
Amy Hannan, Neston, Wirral, Cheshire
“Oh Byrons, where do I start! So, the first time I went, I was underage to say the least. I’d been to see The Wonderstuff and Ned’s Atomic Dustbin at The Guild Hall in August 1990 and Malcolm Treece bought me a drink and I snogged him. I was so proud! What was the doorman called? He was ace! So, I quickly learnt not to wear anything that would show the nicotine sweat globules. I remember dancing like a nutter on and off the stage, classics that I remember were Jane’s Addiction, Chili Peppers, De La Soul, Nine Inch Nails, Rage Against the Machine, Nirvana, Pixies, Del the Funky Homosapien. You always knew it was time to go when, ‘Daydream Believer’ came on. It was so hot and singing every word! Massive ‘pile ons’. Drinking cider and black until I was sick. Pre-loading Mad Dog 2020 (the irony) down Asda tunnel. Oh, those toilets, I have a vague memory of trying to go in the urinals, it was better than swimming through the ladies, ‘swimming around the dancefloor’. I met some of the best people I know. When living in other places, I’d try to describe it and new friends just didn’t get it. We were very lucky to grow up there and I have the best memories.”
Sarah Willers, Preston, Lancashire
“Byrons on Saturday nights were the best of times. The drippy ceiling, terrible drinks and crazy dancing. I recall being told many times by Pete Brown (politely of course) not to ask for Inspiral Carpets again and I suspect that when I requested other songs that he disliked, he’d tell me he’d already played them. Much love for Byrons and all the lovely folk I met there.”
Steven Lord (joint owner of Lord Byrons early 90s) Preston, Lancashire
“I can’t remember the toilet thing very much. I wouldn’t do anything different I enjoyed it completely as it was.”
Around the end of 1991, I started going to Lord Byrons on a Friday, to The Gatsby on Saturdays and nights further afield. I have such fond memories of my time spent in the club on a Saturday and still keep in contact with many of the people I met there.
The I Grew Up in Byrons Facebook group is dedicated to reminiscing about Saturday nights in Lord Byrons.
Many thanks to Greg Butterworth, Pete Brown, Karl Yates, Lisa Lewis, Cathie Carr, Jay Carlisle, Jim Phillimore, Ste Wells, Lucy McElhinney, Lisa Bellamy, Rob Butcher, Simon Murray, Leona Mae Marsh, Amy Hannan, Sarah Willers and Steven Lord for sharing their memories. This article couldn’t have been written without you!
This article originally ran on Lisa Brown’s website.
What are your memories of Byrons? Let us know in the comments.