Bill Exley

466 South Street, Corner of South Street and Maitland Street


My name is Bill Exley. At the beginning of the 1970s I played in The Nihilist Spasm Band on Monday nights in The Bucket of Blood at the Victoria Tavern in what they call Soho today – but they didn’t call it that then.  We’d been playing at the York Hotel before then, but they didn’t want us there much anymore. Some of us were worried about the stories of people being killed in the place, but we thought we’d try it out anyway.

Our band was starting to get known outside of London at the time, and we attracted to the Vic a lot of new artistic people, and I don’t think the locals knew what to make of it.  They didn’t mind Mr. Peanut, an artist from Vancouver, whose real name was Vincent Trasov, dressed in a peanut shell like in the Planters Peanut ad, walking around introducing himself to all the tables of drinkers, because at least he seemed familiar, and they probably thought they might get some peanuts from him.  But they didn’t know what to make of Peter Gzowski, who came from CBC Radio with his recording equipment for his national morning show, This Country in the Morning, which was quite popular at the time.  We answered his questions after he had recorded our performance, and he finally turned off his microphone after I had begun to recite some long passages from John Milton’s poetry and didn’t seem to be ready to stop any time soon.

The only violence I ever experienced at the Vic came not from the locals but from a member of the London arts community. He came up behind me while I was making annoying sounds with one of the Vic’s squeaky chairs – while we were listening to another band, and he started to press violently on both my shoulders, and he wouldn’t stop when I asked him to.  Ron Martin, a tough-looking London artist, who later became quite famous, stood up, stood beside the bully and yelled very loudly into his ear, “Stop doing that to him! He’s my FRIEND.” That threat worked right away. And that’s the closest I came to violence at the Vic.