Sit Down! Listen to This!: The Roger Eagle Story

Written by Bill Sykes
Empire Publications, £12

Legendary North West music promoter profiled in excellent biography

Reviewed by Richard Lewis

A giant of the Liverpool music scene, in addition to bringing some of the world’s best bands to the city to play at The Stadium and later Eric’s, Roger Eagle influenced a generation of the city’s music fans.

Written as an oral history by debut author Bill Sykes, Sit Down! Listen to This! The Roger Eagle Story flows as a seamless collection of anecdotes from friends, relatives and those who worked closely with the DJ/promoter.

Making his mark in Manchester in the early 1960s with his soul and rhythm and blues based DJ sets at the Twisted Wheel Club, Oxford born Eagle almost single-handedly created what later became Northern Soul.

The book rounds up all the key figures from the various scenes Roger was part of, offering up a people’s history of the North West music from the 1960s to the 1980s, an era that saw huge changes in music and society with Roger keeping pace with all the various movements.

A close friend from the mid eighties onwards, Sykes is especially good at describing how Eagle gradually segued into music promotion after winning huge acclaim for his DJ skills.

Bringing the blues legends who comprised his record collection across the Atlantic to play at the Twisted Wheel and later The Magic Garden, (Little Walter, John Lee Hooker, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins) Roger proved to be a natural at promoting shows.

Moving to Liverpool in 1971, he set about becoming the in-house promoter at The Stadium and showcased in a breathtaking run of acts. Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Captain Beefheart, and David Bowie and scores of others played at the venue over the course of five years.

A founder of Eric’s, alongside Ken Testi and Pete Fulwell, Roger caught the mood of the times perfectly as music shifted from Underground and mainstream rock onto Punk and New Wave. With Eric’s, the ideal venue to indulge his passion for DJing, the eclecticism he brought to playlists at the 200 capacity club (dub was a particular favourite) was incredible.

Something of a lone wolf, despite a huge circle of friends and associates, for much of his life Roger lived alone in rented flats, his material possessions largely seeming to consist of his music collection and his record player.

Despite many suggesting that he could have gone on to become the equivalent of Harvey Goldsmith and promote gigs nationally Roger seemed disinterested in becoming a fully fledged businessman, preferring to work at venues and with bands that appealed to him.

Setbacks such as the brutal police raid of Eric’s in 1980 which effectively called time on the club and the agonising theft of his entire record collection not long after speak volumes for his resilience as his dogged determination to continue in music comes to the surface.

In addition to providing a rounded portrait of the subject, Sykes sets straight several unchallenged myths that have grown up about North West music, stressing how almost uniquely Eagle had his feet planted firmly in both Manchester and Liverpool, cities that many commentators have sought to unite through music.

Mancunian music industry figure Elliot Rashman who contributes a Foreword to the book at the launch event held at The Picket dismissed the constant need to define the cities as vastly separate entities, shouting from the back of the room ‘Never mind all this business about ‘This is Liverpool’ and ‘This is Manchester’, it’s called The North West!’ to considerable applause

Roger’s ability to be in the right place at the right time happened yet again with his move back to Manchester in the mid 1980s as he found himself at the onset of the city’s musical resurgence, putting on gigs by The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays.

The gig listings section at the conclusion of the story across the five venues Roger principally operated in is stupendous, a run of shows that any promoter would be hard-pressed to emulate.

After his tragically premature death at 57 following a long battle with cancer in 1999, Roger’s passion for music survives in those he inspired to form bands, become DJs and promoters or those whose minds were opened up to music they had never experienced before.

An inspiring study of a true one-off, packed with anecdotes and compulsively readable.

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