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Before It Was the Tower Theater, It Was Clubland, and Rocks Off's Friend Worked There

Monday's news that the Hollywood Video located in the old Tower Theater will soon shut down has put Rocks Off on one of our periodic nostalgia kicks, and this one actually comes with a personal connection. Before the Tower was one of Houston's main mid-size music venues in the first half of the '90s, it was known as Clubland. Mainly a disco, Clubland also hosted periodic live-music events. Shortly before Rocks Off moved to Houston, we sat down with our good friend David L. Thomson III to talk about the early days of Emo's for our Austin Chronicle "TCB" column on the occasion of the Austin club's 15th anniversary.

Remember, though, Emo's started in Houston before branching out into the capital city, where it remains one of Austin's flagship clubs. It turns out Thomson and his future Emo's partner Eric "Emo" Hartman met each other when both worked at Clubland - the actual plans to start their own club were hatched more at Lola's, but that's a story for another time.

When we found out about Hollywood closing, which presumably puts the Tower building back up for grabs in today's oh-so-lively real-estate market (could it become a live-music venue again? naah...), we reached out to Thomson via Facebook to see what he could tell us about the Clubland days. He remembered the Beastie Boys and Julian Lennon playing there, among other things.

See what else he had to say after the jump. Take it away, Dave...

"Since it was mainly a disco, but a very large theater, we had bands, plays and special events there. The two acts that stand out were the Beastie Boys and Julian Lennon.

"Beastie Boys were great, despite the fact that they were performing to pre-recorded tracks so it was not the multi-instrumental 'live' show they put on now (may have been pre-Paul's Boutique...not sure). I remember thinking that these guys were a 'gimmick' and not real hip-hop. (Boy, was I wrong. Ha!)

"I think I was working the bar next to the stage, so I had the best seat. Not real crowded as I remember....but I think I got laid that night, so my memory is clouded about the show. Ha.

"The next act I really remember was Julian Lennon. The show was better than I expected. And I believe his hit "Valotte" had just come out so...lots of chicks and older people who wanted a glimpse of 'John Lennon's kid.'

"I remember wanting to meet him because of his dad but was stopped by overzealous security, as this was not too long after hid dad was killed and Julian was extremely skittish when it came to strangers or fans (according to his security).

"I did finally get to meet him as he was leaving, and he looked a little sad and afraid. Not the confident, cocky figure his dad struck. I was a little sad for him. Still, it was a good show.

"I can't really remember more bands playing there. Clubland was a 'video disco' club. So lots of dance music and a 'Solid Gold Dancers' troupe that performed on stage to the music. And a "host" who occasionally dressed up as "Batman" since the Michael Keaton/Tim Burton movie had come out that year.

"But out of that crap came Emo and me. We changed the nightlife landscape in Houston AND Austin (not counting the Dallas club as it was... ehhh, NOT Emo's) We were right on the horizon of 'Grunge/Alternative' music and its 'creatures of the night' that we catered to. Fun times.

"And the rest is history..."

Thanks, Dave. Rocks Off is currently compiling a year-by-year list of artists who played the Tower until the property was sold and the theater shuttered in late 1995. We'll have that for you tomorrow.

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Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray