Rum Runner (nightclub)
Originally a casino, by the 70s, the Rum Runner became more of a conventional club. One of its first 'house' bands, playing the cover versions of the day, later went on to become Magnum featuring Bob Catley and Tony Clarkin. They left the club in 1975 to play their own material of melodic rock. Occasionally other live acts played such as Quill and Jigsaw.
Regular late night clientele were Black Sabbath, Roy Wood, Bandylegs, Quartz and other notable Birmingham bands calling in after local gigs before going on to the legendary 'greasy spoon', across the road in Broad Street 'The Tow Rope'. Also there were many visits from actors and staff from the close by Central TV studios where Crossroads and The Golden Shot series were recorded.
Record shop owner (RGS Records Walsall) DJ Paul Anthony was resident DJ from 1974 until 1981 before moving on to Liberty's nightclub on the Hagley Road. Working six nights a week the music policy was basic funk/soul/disco, soft rock and top 40, an eclectic formula which worked very well. The highlight of the week was the Saturday 'Crazy Night' where lots of crazy party games and stunts were participated in and on the stage and dancefloor which involved copious amounts of crazy foam, ice cold water, soda syphons, flour and spray string. 'The Dying Fly' from TV's TISWAS was a firm favourite. Subtle it wasn't.
Sound & Vision: evolving the club for the 80s
Paul and Michael Berrow, sons of the club's founder, relaunched the club in the late 1970s, and overhauled its style and sounds, based on ideas drawn from a visit to Studio 54 in New York. Mirror flex, pink neon flashes, moving lights and palm trees, were in. Pint glasses were taken out of service in an effort to deter laddish beer drinking - and musically, eclectic power playlist took over.
Resident DJ Paul Anthony was told to throw away his microphone and concentrate on New York style disco mixing - the technique of synchronising the beats per minute (bpm's) of one record into another. Subsequently, Paul Anthony became Birmingham's first New York style mixing DJ. And DJs Shaun Williams and Dave Till which were strongly influenced by New York's Chic power disco.
Dedicated weekly jazz and funk nights were launched, presaging what would become common practice later into the 80s; and a regular midweek David Bowie night drew stylish fans together - and DJs would compile eclectic mixes, gathered together musics related to, or inspired by, Bowie himself. By bringing together such incongruous styles as Kraftwerk and glam rock, Iggy Pop or Velvet Underground, these alternative, forward-thinking playlists would coalesce, giving rise to what commonly became known as new romantic.
A real milestone in the history of the Rum Runner was when a newly formed group of musicians called Duran Duran brought in a demo tape. There was an instant mutual appeal between the Berrows and the band, and the brothers offered Duran Duran a place to rehearse.
The band became involved with the running of the club - with Roger Taylor working as a glass collector, Andy Taylor polishing mirrors, painting and cooking burgers for cash, John Taylor working the door, and Nick Rhodes deejaying for £10 a night. Duran Duran became the resident band at the club, going on to play venues and arenas all over the world, including a 1983 charity concert at Villa Park. After this event they held a "homecoming" party at the Rum Runner. In 2006 John Taylor and Nick Rhodes released a compilation album entitled Only After Dark, featuring their favorite songs from the Rum Runner playlist.
After many months, Michael and Paul Berrow signed as Duran Duran's managers. The Berrows and the band then formed the Tritec Music company (named after the triangular-themed bar inside the club). The label used the Rum Runner office upstairs from the club as its official address. Michael mortgaged his house to make funds for their supporting act roll for Hazel O'Connor's UK tour.
In developing the club's musical identity the Berrows also gave free rehearsal space to bands like Dexys Midnight Runners and UB40, with The Beat filming a video for their song "Mirror In The Bathroom" taking full advantage of the many mirrors that walled the club.
As time went by, they opened even more different evenings (one of the residents was DJ Dick, who later went on to form Rockers Hi-Fi and who now hosts the city's main Funk Acid Jazz night Leftfoot, situated at The Medicine Bar), Nick Rhodes - who took over DJ duties on the Bowie night, would achieve a more widespread fame as Duran Duran took off. And notable denizens included De Harriss, Mulligan, and Marlon Recchi of Fashion, Martin Degville and other members of Sigue Sigue Sputnik, fashion designers Kahn & Bell, managers Nigel and Jimmy, bouncer Al Beard, and the socialite Liam.
Ironically, a branch of the 1980s-themed club chain Reflex - named after the Duran Duran hit of the same name - is now situated roughly opposite from the old site of the club (in the former building of The Crown pub).
- Steve Bradley (May 6, 2013). "I slung Ozzy Osbourne out of my club for looking scruffy, says former Rum Runner boss". Birmingham Mail. Retrieved 24 August 2014.
- "Magnum". Retrieved 24 August 2014.
- "The Rum Runner nightclub". Retrieved 24 August 2014.
- "Remembering nights at Birmingham club the Rum Runner". Birmingham Mail. May 12, 2006. Retrieved 24 August 2014.
- Duran Duran party at the Rum Runner
- "How we opened the door to the 1980s", The Telegraph