This is fiction, only based on fact. A Second Summer Of Love hangover. Names, of course, have been changed.
We`d often be the first ones in Flying. Me and Jo. I hated queuing. Since I was usually already high. Having necked-up on the bus to Brixton, on the way to pick Jo up from her silverfish infested council flat on the Tulse Hill Estate. Where we`d ready ourselves with Rimmel and Red Stripe, respectively. Listening to Rampling on Kiss. Danny`s voice embodying positivity. I couldn`t see the point of going somewhere else, and running the risk of being knocked back. Of missing the night. We`d do the same for Ophelia, in Covent Garden. Get there early. Though sometimes I`d pop across the street to The Nag`s Head. To stick the gear in my socks. The drinks might be a bit more expensive in the club, but the music was sure to be good. Early doors we`d hear stuff like Seal, Mad Jacks Feel The Hit, Flowered Up`s It`s On. Ariel`s Sea Of Beats (1). The Aloof. Tunes full of drug references, and crazy people wanting to fly, that stoked the urge to get out of your boat, and go all the way. Trippy gated vocals over piano street grooves. Cosmic Rock covers turned Manchuian chuggers. Peppered with sampled Timbale rattle. I`m not sure who used that sound first, but it fast became a staple ingredient of everything Weatherall did. Farley and Heller playing at Chic playing with Carly Simon. Setting 303 squiggles, The Human Beatbox, and Captain Willard skanking together. Lofty`d spin that Frankie Knuckles Hallucinogenic mix of Chaka Khan, and me and Jo would be the only people there (2).
I met D in the queue for Flying. He came up to me and Jo, and asked, “Mate, can you get me in?” I told him that he looked like the guy out of Smith & Mighty, with the dreads and all, and he said, “Yeah, everyone says that.” He stood with us, and as I flashed my membership card, I passed it to him. D quickly became key to the night, and it would be all back to his, where he`d hand out the blotters. “No thank you”, was not an option. D told me how, on his seventeenth birthday, his dad had given him a nine-bar. Told him to make himself some cash. It was D that taught me that if you`re carrying any kind of weight, take a taxi. Then, if you were stopped, you could chuck it to the floor and claim ignorance. Jay had got busted with five ounces of speed under his driver`s seat.
I bumped into a few faces I`d met at The Downham Tavern, like Jack and Scott. But mostly it was new friends to made. Jay, Greer, Ruth, Dominik Double-Barrelled, Luke, Eamon, and Norman, who never took his coat off. Big Ben and Justin. For all the open bonhomie, the room was divided in half. Short-hairs on the left as you entered. Long-Hairs on the right. Sean from school was there, running up a coke tab, and an ill reputation, and due to his crop I never even saw him. He blended in with, and kept to, the other boys who`d moved on from scooters, fishtail parkas, black bombers, and The Jam. Ben was fucking huge, and so was his smile. He crossed that divide – the dance floor barely contained him – and for a while it seemed that I was his crew`s ringleted mascot. Trax, on Greek Street, wouldn`t serve `em – “Sorry mate, sold out” – so they`d send me in with a list of the vinyl they wanted. That medley of Divine`s Native Love and Carol Jani`s Ask Me springs to mind. It was Ben that convinced me to sell a pill for thirty sheets in The Gardening Club. Left to my own devices I`d have probably given it away. He told me that, one morning, in training he`d gone up to head the ball, and it changed colour. Flickered through a fluorescent rainbow, which he simply stopped and admired. The coach deciding, then, that enough was enough, and taking him to task.
A lot the music we frugged and hugged to was Italian. Ethereal Beat (3), Kwanzaa Posse, Mr Luthero, and Paradiso. Mash-ups of Fela Kuti and Jimmy Castor. Herb Alpert and Mikey Dread. Rush-Inducing crowd noise, which meant you were never alone. Even if partying at home before breakfast, as weekends stretched from Wednesday to Tuesday. Cheeky remakes of Afro / Cosmic classics, on hand-stamped bootlegs straight outta Berkshire (4). Where axe solos made way for “dreamy” spiralling pianos, beloved of those in altered states, in love with themselves and everyone else. Alternative stairways to heaven. Labels that bore the guarantee “Hear No Evil”. Hi-Power ripping off chart-toppers, Snap. Raimunda Navarro`s stop-start porno Funk had to be the filthiest version of Chakachas` already fairly filthy Jungle Fever. I`d keep asking Dean for Beautiful Ballet`s Energy. After playing it twice, he`d crack-up laughing, and tell me to “Fuck Off”.
Most of the rest of it came from the UK. Dean lending his hands to a remix of Ian Dury`s Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick, and Frances Nero`s camp sing-a-long vamp on Sister Sledge. Adding an O`Jays bass-line and Go-Go-Not-Go-Go to Ragged Jack (5). Jagz took on the Italians at their own game. Creating a loved-up Tarantella out of Gwen Guthrie, Fonda Rae and Stacey Lattisaw`s Jump To It. Steve Spacek teamed up with The Grid and complained about the weather. Punching brass synths in and out of a clip-clopping beat. But, it was all about Johnny Marr`god-like guitar. Pete Wylie`s Shoom favourite, Sinful got revived (6). It also got a remix which made him sound like The Alarm. But the original, what with Wylie being a scouser, and its shouts of “Hey Jo!”, was an private anthem for the two of us. Rampling took another piece of Shoom treasure, Razzy`s I Hate Hate, and turned its Northern Soul into a Euro-dance maxim (7). A Man Called Adam sung an introspective Pop House hymn to E.
“It feels so good, so right.”
Which could have been a love song, but wasn`t. Samples from the San Sebastian Strings, a souvenir from the Cafe Del Mar, had Rod Mckuen putting a seashell to his ear, and have memory come flooding back. Which sort of summed up my record buying. I thought by owning the soundtrack, I could have those feelings – so good, so right – those nights, safe in a box. To hold and relive whenever I liked. I consumed it all, and didn’t really question anything. Until I came out of hospital to a flat full of iffy records and a drug habit.
Lyrics ranged from being high and horny, to unity and bucking the system. But there were also words of caution about the way back down. Which, to be honest, only served to taunt “cranked up” self-destructive impulses. Sensuround stole from Run DMC, Go-Go, and Riders On The Storm. I couldn`t find a copy in London, and in Eastern Bloc, Moonboots told me that the geezer had wanted eight quid each for the whites, so they`d told him to do one (8). Dave had got a copy from Jeff Barrett. Dave was at Plymouth Poly, and DJing at The Sea Angler`s, where Jeff had also been a resident. Dave knew I was desperate so gave it to me for my birthday. Accompanied by a drawing of me in John Richmond. With the designer “Destroy” down my arms replaced by “Destroyed”.
When Flying had Weatherall as a guest, the line would stretch up to Charing Cross Road. He`d cause riots with tunes like Ecstasy Express. Whacking the cross-fader between Madonna`s Vogue and his Apache-break-borrowing take on James` Come Home. When he premiered the ON-U-esque remix of Primal Scream`s Come Together, the whole club held hands. Set this against the back drop of my mum running off with a bloke at work, and my dad submitting to a version of Apocalypse Now that screened in his head. I felt like I`d found somewhere I belonged. Somewhere I was liked.
Flying had a couple of Christmas dos. The one at The Soho Theatre was ticket only – no queuing – You felt like a VIP, and it felt like the best party I`d ever been to. Maybe it was. All the cooler bods had nicked off to Boys Own, so only the loons were left. I`d been in the shop – “the purveyors of bespoke stereophonic vinyl” – during the day, and Brandon had shown me a bottle of vodka that Chester had told him he had to down if he wanted a ticket. Which, of course, he did. On the night, he didn`t seem any more worse for wear than anyone else. Eren`s bootleg of Frankie and Jamie`s Your Love was a highlight. But old Soul tunes, like Central Line`s Walking Into Sunshine, had everyone cheering. When Dean sneaked in The Temptations, the place went mad.
The other was a gig by The Farm gig, at The Astoria. I`m pretty sure it snowed when they played All Together Now. This was after Ibiza 90, and before the falling out. Before the newsletter, sent to members, asking them to have nothing to do with The Farm or their records. Which seemed serious since the band had been tight. Remixed by Farley, Rocky, and Diesel. Their fanzine, The End, the kick up the arse that inspired Boys Own. I never found out what happened. No one spoke about it. Not even a whisper. Dean was on stage, dancing. Chester upstairs, with the West Ham chaps. Ali grinning, with a whiskey and orange in each hand. The Italians still ruled. With ultimate Scream-Ups like DJ H and Stefy`s Think About! and arms-in-the-air moments like FPI Project`s remixes of Orchestra JB (9). Its harmonica half-inched from someone, and subsequently half-inched by everyone else. But there were bootlegs abound, and old stuff, like Ben Liebrand`s overhaul of Taja Seville`s Love Is Contagious, rocked the foyer. Where Cloud Cuckoo Land used to be. Again, I couldn`t get copies of these in London, but picked them up from Eastern Bloc. Stopping off on the way to see Jo, who was staying with her folks in Formby for the holidays. When her mum and dad went out the first thing I did was put the records on. Well, not quite the first thing.
Flying also ran a monthly night at Dingwalls, in Camden, called Gosh. Me and Jo would be the first in line, as usual, and amongst the last to leave. It was a bigger venue, with a back room, and larger main, that lent itself to live PAs. Deeelite performed there (10). Kindred spirits like Deep Joy and If?, from Wigan and Sean McClusky`s club, The Brain. Eve Gallagher from Boy George`s More Protein collective. The New Yorkers stayed and partied afterwards. Deep Joy got remixed by Weatherall (11). Who gradually built a drum assault under a hypnotic piano repeat and wah-wah guitar. He also employed their honking sax-player to help him rim Elvis on Big Hard Excellent Fish`s Imperfect List. My sister called Eve Gallagher`s Love Come Down “old people`s music”. I was only twenty-five. Boy George assumed the moniker, Jesus Loves You, and got NYC Disco legend Bruce Forest to transform the Country & Western demo of Bow Down Mister into a Hari Krishna Gospel stomp (12). A plea for understanding and inclusivity, it was a cheesy as fuck, but it rang with the optimism of the time. We were momentarily, chemically, united. Banging shared tambourines. Once I woke up and my hands were so bruised that I couldn’t bend my fingers.
Rock & Roll John would turn up. Dressed in a fur coat, with a harem on his arm. He`d later lose his taste for it and stay at home listening to Dub LPs. The Upsetters` Blackboard Jungle was a favourite. We`d compare bad teeth, and I`d feel embarrassed about not having any tattoos. Gosh is where I met Bobby Gillespie, there with Miki from Lush. I entertained them both with a near unrecognisable rendition of Velocity Girl. Prompting large grins, and head thrown back laughter. Al and The Lizard had finally finished University. The Lizard with Honours. Al with a Pass. I took them to Gosh, and gave them their first E. I had these tiny, little, white ones, that were too strong. They made me black out. I had a half, and gave them one each, and watched them spend the night hanging off the curtains. D once gave me a bag of about two hundred to hold, while a couple of rival dealers tried to shake him down. I was too scared to dance, for fear of losing them.
Weatherall would open a set at Gosh with Jah Wobble`s Bomba. The Miles Davis fanfare and shout of “Musicaaaaa!” a call to arms for Andrew`s devoted followers. We`d be at the bar, and Jo would roll her eyes and sigh, as I`d shrug, squeeze her hand, and leave her with a promise. I wasn’t the best boyfriend. I`d just wander off, and expect to find her there at the end. I`d be in the middle of the dance floor, throwing my hair about, showing off my mane. Snogging smiling strangers in hot pants and thigh-length leather boots, while ASHA screamed their tribute to Janis Joplin. Weatherall cleared the floor once. Road-testing his mix of Love Corporation. Dancers disorientated, began moving back. Lining the walls. As if someone had let off a tear gas grenade. Fleeing its ten minutes plus of gunfighter chimes, New Age choirs, and distorted, buzzing Kosmische electronics. Bad Acid fractals and a huge sub-bass drop, set to a loop from Paul Simon`s 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover. Suffering swarms of scary synths before the more friendly piano riff kicked in. I had this kind of Space Odyssey moment. Where I could see time as an object. A tunnel. I could face forwards to the future, turn and look into the past (13). Everyone else behaved like the power had been cut.
At the end of the night, the lights`d come up, but the “converted” continued to dance. Spine-tingling synths and diva deliveries. Dub bass-lines and fuck off drum breaks. Boots of Bobby McFerrin singing about chocolate. Less Stress combining Antipodean Pop with Sound System culture.
“Hey now. Hey now.”
Me and Clive had the floor to ourselves to the tune of Archie Bell & The Drells` bittersweet, orchestral Philly finale.
“Don`t let love get you down.”
Jo was sitting her law finals, and eventually wised up to the all the errors of her ways. She`d stay in cramming, but, hooked, I`d go out alone. Disappearing from Friday till Monday. I was in the Milk Bar one Sunday night, with D`s brother. I think we`d cadged a lift back from Full Circle because it was Ruth`s Birthday. Trashed, he`d fumbled and dropped a couple of pills on the ground, and before he noticed, trodden on them. The Psychedelic Rock freak-out of Kiss AMC`s Circles was spinning. Fit-inducing Acid Test strobes blazing. I have to admit I was shocked when he poured a bottle of Becks on the powder and started to suck the carpet. Blind lemons lost to a big beat.
- Ariel were the pre-Dust Brothers Chemical Brothers.
- Steven “Lofty” Harper and Glen Gunner were the DJs I remember warming up at Flying.
- Ethereal Beat “covered” both Renaissance`s Can You Understand, and Hong Kong Syndikat`s Samba Olec.
- The bootlegs were rumoured to be the work of a now ex-pat DJ who`d hosted a legendary Berkshire rave, and set off for Disco Pui in search of vinyl, after being knocked back at Trax too many times.
- Farley had used the same For The Love Of Money bass-line on his remix of Happy Mondays` Rave On. Ignorant of the OJays, to me it was The Funky Four Plus One`s King Heroin.
- Wylie was also responsible for Cafe Del Mar favourite, Fourelevenfortyfour.
- Razzy was revived at Shoom, I think, by Dr Bob jones.
- The Geezer was John Robb, journalist and musician with The Membranes and later Gold Blade. Blind Faith did eventually get released on St. Etienne`s Creation Records off-shoot, Ice Rink – but in a radically remixed form (by Dean) – minus all the samples.
- Orchestra JB were also behind Downham Tavern favourite, On A Love Groove.
- Towa Tei is now my neighbour.
- Deep Joy were engineered by Dave Harrow, ex- of ON-U Sound.
- Bruce Forest was the DJ at Better Days, taking over from Tee Scott. He has had a hand in too many Disco classics to list, but in this context it`s worth noting that he produced THE versions of Thrashing Doves` Jesus On The Payroll.
- I still feel like this listening today. Looking at the future, my wife, my kids, and Japan, while remembering a very different past.
Blvd Mosse – Can`t Escape The Hypeness
The Aloof – Never Get Out The Boat (Farley & Heller Mix)
Ethereal Beat – Can You Understand
Ariel – Sea Of Beats
Sensuround – Blind Faith
Orchestra JB – Free Spirit (FPI Project Mix)
Mad Jacks – Feel The Hit
Ian Dury – Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick (Flying Mix)
Kwanzaa Posse – Wicked Funk
Raimunda Navarro – Jungle Fever
Beautiful Ballet – Energy (Rudy`s Remix)
Pete Wylie – Sinful
Jesus Loves You – Bow Down Mister (Grid Mix)
Audio Deluxe – Sixty Seconds
Ragged Jack – Party`s Over (Flying Mix)
Deep Joy – Fall (Let There Be Drums)
Mr Luthero – Rotation
Kiss AMC – Circles (Blind Lemon Mix)
La Camour – Tarantella
Paradiso – Here We Go Again
DJ H & Stefy – Think About
Stex – After The Rain
Sound Of Shoom – I Hate Hate
The Temptations – Ain`t Too Proud To Beg
Eve Gallagher – Love Come Down
Frances Nero – Footsteps Following Me
A Man Called Adam – Barefoot In The Head
Love Corporation – Give Me Some Love (Weatherall Mix)
Less Stress – Don`t Dream It`s Over
Archie Bell & The Drells – Don`t Let Love Get You Down