Death Of Marquee Club, Reading Festival Founder Harold Pendleton

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Guns and Roses
Photo: Paul Natkin/WireImage

Tributes have been paid after the death of music industry legend, the founder of Reading Festival and London’s Marquee Club, Harold Pendleton.

The news broke over the weekend that Pendleton had passed away on 22 September after a short illness. He was 93-years-old and is survived by his wife Barbara and son Nick who ask for donations to be paid in his memory to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

Entec Sound & Light, the huge company he started that would go on to provide live production services to some of the world’s biggest acts, posted a lengthy tribute to Pendleton – hailing him as: “a promoter, manager, club owner, publisher, festival owner and innovator”.

“Throughout his 60-year career, Harold fought to establish platforms for showcasing new talent and helped shape popular music culture,” the tribute reads. “He was at the centre of a unique period in music history, both prompting and witnessing the impacts of the jazz, rock and punk revolutions in the UK and beyond.”

Current Reading & Leeds organiser and Festival Republic boss Melvin Benn told the NME: “I am sad to hear of the passing of Harold Pendleton.

“Having worked together on Reading Festival in the early days, I can truly say that Harold had a lasting impact on our much-loved event, he continued. “And Reading Festival would not be what it is today without his original vision. His passing is a great loss to us all.”

Pendleton took over jazz nights held in the Marquee Ballroom on Oxford Street in 1958. Between then and the time when he gave up ownership of the club in 1987 after it had long relocated to Wardour Street, it was at the forefront of rock music, jazz and R&B. Throughout the 1960s and ‘70s, the venue hosted era-defining performances from David Bowie, The Who, Pink Floyd, Cream, Jimi Hendrix Experience, Led Zeppelin and Rod Stewart, as well as the first UK gigs by the likes of Metallica, Guns N’ Roses and R.E.M.

Harold Pendleton started the National Jazz Festival in 1961. Over time, it would expand in to a range of different contemporary genres and would go on to become what is now known as the legendary Reading Festival. The event’s line-up concentrated on progressive rock, blues and hard rock during the early and mid-1970s, then became the first UK music festival to embrace punk rock and new wave in the late 1970s, when The Jam, Sham 69 and The Stranglers were among the headline acts.

Nirvana - Lithium (Live at Reading 1992)

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The festival’s attempts to cater for both traditional rock acts and punk and new wave bands occasionally led to clashes between the two sets of fans at the end of the 1970s, though the festival gradually became known for focusing on heavy metal and rock acts. In 1987, Reading attracted a record attendance at what was considered by some to be the last of the “classic” rock years of the festival, with headlining acts such as The Mission, Alice Cooper and Status Quo.

Harold Pendleton remained involved with the festival until 1992, the year of Nirvana’s legendary performance, and the last in the UK. During the period he oversaw the festival, he would oversee a number of innovations that were revolutionary at the time – such as having more than one stage, flushable toilets, video screens, backstage showers and even festival security wristbands.

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