Rediscovering Marley’s Hidden Gig: The Night Reggae Came to Southampton

A largely forgotten gig in a packed, sweaty Southampton nightclub in the early 1970s by reggae legends Bob Marley and the Wailers has been commemorated. The Jamaican band members were yet to become global stars when they were booked to play the now-demolished Coach House Club, in Swaythling, in May 1973. Dave Poulton, the club’s DJ, recalled how the “mesmerising moment” came after Marley sat in his caravan – a makeshift dressing room – complaining about the cold.

Dave Poulton and Milton Geddes were at the Coach House Club in 1973

The gig was remembered when a Black plaque was unveiled at the adjoining Fleming Arms Pub as part of Black History Month. Promoters Avenue Artists paid the Wailers £75 for the gig, on 29 May 1973. In his early 20s at the time, Mr Poulton said: “It was very primitive. Bob Marley was sitting on my bed, complaining about being cold and the air was thick with the smell of ganja. It was something completely new for Southampton. We were in awe – we didn’t realise how big he would become.”

Around 50 or 60 people were thought to have been packed into the Coach House Club that night. They were mostly students who have long left the city which may explain why the gig had all but disappeared from the Southampton’s music folklore. Melton Geddes, who was 22 at the time, was one of only a handful of Southampton residents in the club.

The Southampton story is featured in the BBC Documentary “When Bob Marley Came to Britain”: