When Alan McGee walked into King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut in Glasgow one May evening in 1993, he didn’t have any idea that his life was about to change. The Creation Records boss was there to watch a friend’s band play; he’d never heard of Oasis, a Manchester act at the bottom of the bill.
“It was unbelievably good,” he writes in his autobiography, Creation Stories. “Liam could sing, he was a natural star. And Noel was a hell of a guitar player. I said, ‘I think I’m going to sign them’. Then they played ‘I Am The Walrus’ and that made me absolutely certain I wanted to sign them.”
It was one of the biggest moments in King Tut’s storied history, but not the only one. Founded by promoter Stuart Clumpas in 1990, this humble club on St Vincent Street—a few minutes’ walk from Hotel Indigo Glasgow—has seen a remarkable number of the world’s most popular musicians: Radiohead, The Killers, Pulp, Florence and the Machine, The Manic Street Preachers and The White Stripes all playing here before they made it big.
It’s still going strong today, and still showcasing the best up and coming acts. The musicians that have played here are all recorded on the steps that lead from the U-shaped bar area up to the low-ceiling, 300-capacity room that has helped to launch so many careers. ‘Quite possibly the finest small venue in the world,’ the NME once called it, with good reason.
King Tut’s may be special, but it’s just part of Glasgow’s strong musical culture. Over the past 25 years, this city has become perhaps the UK’s music capital, producing bands like Belle and Sebastian, Mogwai, Franz Ferdinand, and many more. This has not gone unnoticed outside the city; in 2004, Time Magazine called Glasgow “the secret capital” of pop music, and it was named a world centre of music by Unesco in 2008.
It’s got a long tradition of great venues, too. Perhaps the most famous was the Glasgow Apollo, where the atmosphere frequently crackled with energy. All of the best acts of the day played here between its opening in 1973 and the day it closed in June, 1985, including The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, David Bowie, Elton John, Johnny Cash and Diana Ross.
AC/DC, the Scottish-born, Australia-raised rockers, were regular visitors. In 1978 they appeared for their encore kitted out in Scotland football kits in the lead-up to the country’s ill-fated 1978 World Cup campaign; the gig was later released as a live album, If You Want Blood, You’ve Got It.
That tradition is kept alive today by the Barrowlands, a venue in the city’s East End, and, of course, King Tut’s. The club hasn’t changed too much over the years, although at least one element has disappeared: the original King Tut’s sign was given to Noel Gallagher when the club was being refurbished in 2001.
“They gave me the sign which was on the back of the stage at King Tut’s,” Gallagher told the Aberdeen Evening Express in April 2018. “I still have it somewhere, it is huge! It is amazing to think it all came from that night in Glasgow.”