Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Smile like you mean it?

I was reminded of something by Nephew #2 on Saturday night when we were at a family party.

A few years back I took him and his fiancee R to see the amazing Detroit band The Dirtbombs at the Garage. Their support act that evening were a band called The Killers.

What can I say? They were haircut rock of the most appalling kind. I remember saying to my mate, 'they're like a third-rate Teardrop Explodes cover band'. They looked atrocious. They were getting heckled by the crowd (including me). N#2 reminded me that they said back to us, 'Oh, but we're big in Vegas'. They wished.

Millions of albums later, I still haven't changed my mind about them.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

What goes up must come down

In the early part of this century, I had a favourite club night or two. The most favourite of these was Impotent Fury. This was primarily held at the 333 club, with a late transfer to the (inferior) 93 Feet East.

I first heard about Impotent Fury from Olaf, a friend of a friend. When I first met him he was wearing a Bros T-shirt: a kindred spirit, you could say. Being Scottish and having lived in Edinburgh, Olaf had frequented a precursor of IF called Misery. This was a high concept club par excellence. The big idea was that your evening was made miserable for you. Terrible music would be played. Students paid double the admission fee. The theme even ran through to the cloakroom, where you’d pay your money and your belongings would be thrown onto the floor. The DJ at this club was a Londoner called Fred Deakin. Olaf mentioned that Fred was back in London and had set up IF, and it might be just the thing for me, as a fellow lover of kitsch and the esoteric.

Impotent Fury was a reaction against the club nights where you ended up dancing to the same thing all night. The idea was simple. Every half an hour, The Wheel of Destiny would be spun by a glamorous lady from North of the Border, Saucy Sal, to determine the musical genre/artiste that you heard for the following half an hour. This was ideal because Fred's taste was pretty catholic, so it made for a refreshing night out. You’d find yourself groaning when the wheel landed on Country & Western, then inexplicably doci-do-ing to Ruby, don’t take your love to town within seconds. P-Funk, Madonna, Heavy Metal, Two Tone, Stevie Wonder, Drum ‘n’ Bass (with live toasting), Goth, Children’s TV themes…loads of stuff was covered.

When a break was needed from dancing, you could wander downstairs. There would usually be karaoke, which was run by a pissed and belligerent Scottish man. The first time I encountered him he was dressed as Mr Blobby and was duetting with a drunk girl on Ebony and Ivory. I sang twice, both times at 93 Feet East (I Want Candy by myself, and a disastrous duet on Islands in the Stream with toocool), which I think was the night we saw Fred himself singing Total Eclipse of the Heart, his face painted like Spiderman.

There were other diversions. ‘The Joy of Fax’, which usually involved faxing obscene, badly-drawn pictures to Wallpaper magazine, or the Deputy Prime Minister. There was always a rail full of musty second hand clothes to bedeck yourself with. Other props, such as blow up guitars, would be thrown to the punters (always fun for the Rock half-hour). New Romantic Face Painting – which, as you can imagine, started off well, but ended badly by the time the people applying the face paint were drunk.

Fred had a day job – as a graphic designer. The flyers, badges and animated visuals for the club were created by him and his colleagues at his design agency Airside. He would flash an animated logo up that said Lemon Jelly from time to time. It wasn’t until Lemon Jelly started getting featured as incidental music on Spaced (and seemingly every ad on TV) that I made the connection.

When the band stuff took off for Fred, Impotent Fury nights petered out. We would await their announcement in Time Out with anticipation, but they came round much less often. As I hinted previously, the move to 93 Feet East didn’t really work for me. We had a couple of pretty duff nights there, if I’m honest (despite a gorgeous chap making eyes at us, see here). Toocool recently recalled the last one we went to, where rapper Gold Chains played (he was rubbish), and an associate of hers lost her credit card (which she’d been keeping in her knickers, for some reason). We left feeling disappointed and Esther left feeling poor.

Some great Impotent Fury memories

Fred giving grief to two drunk/drugged up guys who tried to fix the wheel by holding it, during the last half hour of one particular night. They wanted Masters at Work. As punishment, he gave them the theme to Fireman Sam.

Dancing to Never Let Her Slip Away by Andrew Gold – played during an AOR half hour. A most unlikely thing to happen in Shoreditch.

Wigging out to an ecstatic 12" version of hi-NRG classic High Energy by Evelyn Thomas. This song, along with Electronic's Get the Message, never fail to take me back to this time.

Going to IF with a huge pack of friends in the autumn of 2000. This was also the night of the Mitsubishi/Maxell ad incident. If you’ve never heard this anecdote, ask me. I have some photos of that evening somewhere which I’ll post as soon as I can locate them.

The Scottish guy who ran the karaoke, dressed as a vicar and drunk as a lord, wailing Rock n Roll Suicide at the close of the night.

Walking into the club at about half ten as some punters were coming out, saying 'this place is shit'. The first genre of the night was 90s Pop and Fred was playing S Club Party. Oh dear...

I gathered recently when I was looking to link to a page on the web about the club (any page!) that Fred had done a one-off night back in February, sans wheel (it’s broken, apparently). I was sort of gutted that I missed this. Never mind.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Out in the streets

On Thursday evening I spent some time with PL, Mr Huke and Ms Forsyth (as well as Ms Clough and a new beau, briefly), in London's fashionable Shoreditch. I must say I had a fantastic time chewing the fat, laughing, and generally catching up on things. I hope we don't leave it a year to get together again.

I got the 55 down Old Street to get myself back to Holborn, then home.

It must have been the Modelo Especials I'd been drinking, or maybe the way the night was falling slowly, or something else altogether, but I felt an overwhelming nostalgia.

I thought about the nights I had gotten a night bus into the West End at 3 in the morning with toocoolforschool, after a night at the 333,

looked towards the Honorable Artillery Company, where we used to have our opulent work summer parties (before the cash began to dry up),

looked over at St Luke Old Street, the church in which my mother's ancestors were married and baptised (it now belongs to the LSO and is beautifully light up at night),

glanced down Whitecross Street and remembered my nights drinking with Mr Johns and his flatmate Andrea in their local,

noticed that the crossroads where the Society for Genealogists is has been spruced up, and recalled trudging up and down Goswell Street in the short period of time when I was a penniless family history researcher,

realised that the 24 hour garage round the corner from Clerkenwell Green is closed - previously our lifeline for cash and chocolate while in the queue for the Heavenly Social,

cast my mind back to all the times I have walked up the Clerkenwell Road and back, past Leather Lane, up to the Yorkshire Grey, bought forbidden slices of cake from Konditor and Cook, wandered over to Jockey's Fields for lunch,

past Holborn Library, a hidden gem,

the Fryer's Delight, the newsagent I used to buy the leaving cards for my staff in, one of my old locals, the Queens Head (now boarded up),

Lacon House, where I spent so many years working.

Losing memories is becoming a problem. Sometimes I find myself grasping for a name or face, and that sort of thing never used to be a problem. Total recall, that was me. There's just too much stuff in my brain now. I'm not saying that's a bad thing. It's just there are so many fun times, warm people, beautiful places that get forgotten and it's nobody's fault (before you say it - I still will not use Facebook). I felt very happy on Thursday evening to recall some of those times, people, places once more.

And now work as well as home is in the suburbs, I find myself missing town very much.


On an unrelated note, what the fuck is Sharleen Spiteri doing ripping off The Shangri-Las Out in the Streets on her new single? Don't any of you dare say talent borrow, genius steals - in my opinion, the SL's are untouchable.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Club foot

On Friday I spent an evening in the company of Mrs West and her sister Mrs Stewart, whom had come down from Derby for the evening, at a club called XFM First Friday.

A few observations:

Alex Zane is about the same size as Kermit the Frog, and about as credible.

Karaoke with a live band is terrifying: I salute the ladies for having a go but there was no chance on earth that I'd do it.

When we arrived at about 9.45, some of the people coming into the club were barely able to stand. Now I'm all for having a drink before arriving at your destination, believe me, but that seemed excessive.

Early on, we witnessed a pretty disturbing event with a very drunk girl which unsettled Mrs West to such a degree that she asked security to deal with it. The details are pretty sordid so I won't go into them here.

Best song of the night was Justice vs. Simian, by a mile. It was the only thing that made me want to throw myself about with abandon.

Indie clubs are no longer the place for shy, be-fringed blokes in over-sized jumpers who stare at their shoes. Instead, they appear to be populated with packs of lads with untucked shirts and gold chains. I assume this is because what was once known as indie music has crossed over to the mainstream in such a big way. Another factor may have been that the beer was very cheap, what with it being a beverage-sponsored venue. That leads me onto this...

The old riot grrrl climbs onto her soapbox
As a woman, it was usually the case when you went out to clubs that there would be a certain amount of drunk men, trying to badger you into conversation and invading your personal space. These aggressive tactics don't tend to go down well with many women, yet this behaviour persists, probably because most women don't confront the men who are pestering them. Why would we? Usually, the last thing we want is a scene, we just want to get away from the person who is hassling us and get on with having a good time.

There was a lot of the wrong kind of attention coming our way on Friday.

You may be thinking 'this is a person who has been in a relationship so long she has forgotten what it feels like to be on her own and looking for someone'. To that I say, back in the early 90s when I was several years single and wondering if I was going to end up alone in a hovel surrounded by cats, I still didn't welcome the hassle I received. There is a difference between attention that is sought out and attention that is unwanted. The factor that changes this is alcohol. Add in a few pints of lager, and where is the line drawn? Am I seeking out attention by dancing? By leaning on a bar? By standing at the edge of a dancefloor, with my hand resting on my hip (while scowling)?

I can see that this is neither well-argued nor leading to any kind of satisfying conclusion and I probably sound like an ancient old Tory, sat in a winged armchair, smoking a pipe while chuntering about national service. I'm also fully aware that women can be as bad when they hunt in packs (look at the behaviour of any girls you might see on a hen night).

To be frank, I didn't enjoy being at the club very much on Friday. On the plus side, it was fun to see the ladies and have a good dance (even if a lot of the music wasn't really my thing).

In future posts, I'd like to take a look at a couple of the clubs that I consider to be the pinnacle of my going-out experiences. More soon.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

It's all coming back to me now

I was reading this blog and realised that the band who supported MBV last time around were Moonshake. Who were actually pretty good. Thanks, Bonham C.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Norfolk 'n' chance

Going back to last weekend...

I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with toocoolforschool. We had a good old natter and a curry on the Friday, and the following day she took me to visit her pals A and W in Bethnal Green at their new flat to discuss all sorts of things, including America's Next Top Model and fraudulent psychics/TV psychologists. A further attraction was their cat Dave, who spent a lot of the time eating a bamboo plant and making 'rowwww' and 'prrrrraa' type noises, as if joining in the converasation. We then had a splendid time at MBV. The following morning we recovered with a continental brekkie and about two hours playing games on the Wii. That's pretty much a perfect weekend, as far as I'm concerned.

The lady also told me that a few years ago we often used to pitch up at the same places as Julian Barratt, but I had no idea about this at the time. On three separate occasions he was present at the same events as us (once at 93 Feet East at Impotent Fury, he was laughing at us dancing ludicrously to Uptown Top Ranking by Althea and Donna; once at an Earl Brutus gig at the ICA [described a couple of posts ago]; finally at a New Romantic-flavoured comedy show in Camden). I wish I could say that I noticed him, but he wasn't even vaguely on my radar at that point. Instead of thinking 'who is that tall, oddly good-looking and no doubt exceptionally talented gentleman who is clearly from Leeds?' I was almost certainly thinking 'where is my pint?'.

Back to reality. We spent this weekend at an idyllic B&B (highly recommended) in the North Norfolk coastal town of Cromer. It truly was a lovely break. I arranged it as a surprise for JJ's birthday and surprised myself by managing to get a surprise right for once, because I am generally bad at buying gifts and bad at surprises overall. The mark of a control freak, I would guess. JJ once put on a surprise 30th party for me, and it just made feel stressed (it didn't help that the first people to arrive were his workmate, her boyfriend and toddler, whom I'd never met before). We spent our time in Norfolk wandering about, firstly enjoying then getting annoyed by the affluent surroundings of the Georgian town of Holt, and eating very large and delicious breakfasts.

So what else is new? Well, we almost put our flat on the market, having seen a house we liked towards the river. We've had a change of heart and will be staying put. I'm not heartbroken, but I do feel a little forlorn. I love the flat we live in, but there isn't much space, and we can't stay there forever.

I caught up with PL yesterday over lunch. It was very pleasant. We got to talking about a mutual friend who I no longer speak to. I'm sure that makes me sound very childish, but there are some very valid reasons for not doing so. It was kind of odd to go back over that ground again, but it made me relieved and thankful that I have some truly fantastic mates. And all without signing up to Facebook, how novel is that!