We Will Rock You: A Brief History of Music at the QMU

Entertainment is an awkward word to define, the main difficulty being, that some fail to appreciate what others call entertainment. – Marcia Mackeand, QMU Convener of Entertainments 1961-62. (DC240/5/2/6)


Queen Margaret Yearbook 1958-1959 (DC240/5/2/3)

Since its foundations in 1890, the Queen Margaret Union has offered students a means of escaping the stresses of student life. The Entertainment Committee have long ensured that there is something available to entertain every student, from fiercely intellectual debates, Christmas Balls, and the ever popular Cheesy Pop Night.

While the Archives try to capture as much of their illustrious history as possible, it can be difficult to accurately document the entire chronological history of events hosted by the Union. Last month a mysterious photo from the QMU collection – filed simply as ‘QMU disco’ – was tweeted by the @GlasgowAlumni twitter account:Twitterpic

A couple of eagle-eyed alumni were able to identify the image as being of Dave Murray, guitarist for Iron Maiden. In 1980, Iron Maiden were part of the ‘Metal for Muthas’ Tour, which consisted of up-and-coming British metal bands. The virtually unknown Iron Maiden, who had not released a single record at this point (their first single Running Free was released six days later), played the modest stage of the Queen Margaret Union to a crowd of 300 students: the venue’s maximum capacity!


Iron Maiden (DC240/7/99)

From humble beginnings, throughtout the 1970s and ’80s the QMU’s repuation as a top music venue continued to grow. Among the most famous of these must be Queen, who played the QMU’s ‘End of Term Extravaganza’ on the 15th of March 1974, for the princely sum of £328.09:


QMU Entertainments Committee Minutes 1969-1976 (DC240/2/8/2)

The Glasgow Guardian hardly spared much print space at the time to promote them, however:

Queen 14-03-1974

The Glasgow Guardian, 14/03/1974

Unfortunately for male students, the QMU had female-only membership at this time (as the GUU had male-only membership), so male students had to be signed in by a female member in order to watch the band. Despite an initial false start (the band had brought so much equipment with them that they fused the power throughout the building), those students lucky enough to attend would have found themselves watching a band – on a stage only a foot high – who would go on to sell out arena tours around the world.

Nirvana’s performance at the QMU in November 1991 caused one of the biggest demands for tickets ever seen by the Entertainment Committee. Nirvana had just released Nevermind – which would go on to be their most successful album – and for an evening of musical history, students paid a mere £6 for tickets.


The Glasgow Guardian 27/11/1991

The archives of the QMU show that Iron Maiden were not the only virtually unknown band that the Entertainment Committee took a chance on. Local bands such as Biffy Clyro and Franz Ferdinand all played the venue before landing their first chart successes.

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In fact, by the late 1990s the QMU had gained such a reputation as a musical venue that artists such as Frank Turner were playing the open mic night in Jim’s Bar. Stuart Murdoch from Belle and Sebastian has also been known to have gleaned inspiration from the QMU, and could often be found writing music in the third floor laundry room during his student days.

The Ones That Got Away

The Entertainment Committee haven’t always managed to spot ‘the next big thing’, however. In 1968, it was decided that The Who were too expensive, as they would have cost the Committee £800. In the 1990s, they turned down bands such as Blur and Pulp. Ash, who even sent a demo tape in the hopes of playing Jim’s Bar, were denied the opportunity to join the hallowed names who have played the venue. Oasis were decided against for Freshers’ Week 1993 as the convener thought they “were going nowhere”… They did, however, have the foresight to book NOWAYSIS, the Glaswegian Oasis tribute band, for Freshers’ Week 1997.

Do you have any #MusicalMemories of your time as a student at the University of Glasgow? Tweet them @GlasgowAlumni, or, if you have any memorabilia you would like to donate to the QMU collection held by the archives, contact us @UofGlasgowASC or archives@glasgow.ac.uk.

Categories: Archives and Special Collections

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1 reply

  1. Interesting that you mention Stuart Murdoch as being influenced by music at the QM. In a sense it was the reverse – Stuart was the regular Thursday night DJ for a time in the late 80s (at a guess around 87ish). Thursday nights at the QM were regarded as the most indie-centric of the week, and Stuart very much set the tone with his music selections during that period. He had one fantastic record collection, and Thursday nights were the highlight of the week for many at the Uni at that time.

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