Or “I got bored of rock in 1988.”
Part two: in which toes are dipped into the world of club promotion.
It is a Saturday sometime back in 2000. I – along with my friends Ricky Miller and David White – am in Camden Market, perusing the dodgy bootleg CDs on a market stall. I’m on the hunt for bootleg recordings from the Beach Boys’ legendarily unreleased (at the time) Smile album, and any unreleased Radiohead material. Before the October 2000 release of their Kid A album, there is a lot of this floating around. A young mod kid perusing the racks spends a couple of minutes trying to get the attention of the chap behind the counter, who is playing some old funk records and enthusing about them to a colleague. Finally, the young mod seizes his window.
“Have you got any Oasis?” he asks.
There is a deeply uncomfortable pause. The stallholder takes a big theatrical breath, then launches into an extraordinarily patronising tirade slagging off guitar music in general and Oasis specifically that goes on for ages, building from humble foundations to a mighty tower of rudeness, punctuated with another dramatic pause before culminating in a bold and incredibly specific statement:
“I got bored of rock,” he said, “in 1988.”
Dave, Rick and I smirk to ourselves and take note. All three of us think we should use this phrase at some point.
Deborah and I were writing songs and searching for band members, but I had decided we needed our own club night. Inspired by all the books I was reading about Joy Division, New Order and Factory Records, as well as all the nights out I was having, I had come to the conclusion that I wanted my OWN club night. Our as-yet-untitled band with no members and maybe one finished song tops could maybe even play it, if we were ready. It’d be amazing.
Sometime circa 2001, my younger brother had sold me a pair of record decks, a simple mixer, an amplifier and some speakers. Before Deborah came back on the scene Andy Smith and I had been mixing up our writing and demoing sessions with DJ practice. Andy was more about funky house beats and ‘proper’ beat-matching. I was more interested in blending textures and bizarre, anything-goes juxtapositions. At least that’s what I told myself. Erol Alkan’s Trash was my favourite club in the whole world at this time. Trash was an indie club that had become ‘cool’, which meant that you had to dress up or you weren’t coming in. It was proper poncey, and then when you did get in everyone was a preening, posing tosser. I loved it. We all slagged it off – we went to indie nights so we didn’t HAVE to dress a certain way – but secretly we were kind of buzzing on the fact we looked cool enough to get in. And early doors you’d often get a set of amazing über-miserable classics that you just wouldn’t hear anywhere else outside of your bedroom. Proper, impossible-to-dance-to gloom like Suede’s The 2 Of Us, The Beach Boys’ ‘Till I Die, Leonard Cohen and so on. As the night wore on, they would mix the indie stuff with hip hop and amazing dance records all back-to-back. It was an exciting time: electroclash was seemingly on the up – Fischerspooner’s Emerge was obviously going to ram raid the charts, sell millions of copies and transform pop – and, while their actual records weren’t much cop, Soulwax DJ mixes were hip, so obviously I was desperately keen to rip all of this off.
A friend of mine wrote online sometime last year that buying magazines when you’re interested in something as a child is an early sign of an obsessive personality. Um, yeah. Not only did/do I buy magazines, but I hoard them too. I’ve always been a bit like this. Hell, the band-in-progress was a testament to this. Whatever I became obsessed with – and my mother can give you a list stretching all the way back to my discovery of Transformers when I was 4 – I wanted to know everything about and, where possible, get involved. When I was 8 years old I became obsessed with Doctor Who, so immediately I decided I wanted to be an actor so I could take over from Sylvester McCoy. Aged 12 I got heavily into comics and changed my mind: I would become a comics artist. Then at 15, my schoolfriend Trevor Baker – the only indie kid at my school – introduced me to Britpop. Within six months I owned a guitar and the life-changing guitar tablature book Play Guitar With Pulp and was writing chord sequences and terrible lyrics. My first was was inspired by the video to Peter Andre’s Mysterious Girl, and was utterly, utterly awful. “I flash my pecs/make the girlies scream” it went. “11 year-olds love me/I’m a pre-pubescent dream.” FAIL/cringe/etc.
Helen and I had taken to drinking in a pub in Kingston called the Fighting Cocks. She was living nearby, it had a great jukebox and it was almost always deserted. I was drinking there one rainy night with my friend Mark Milan when suddenly it hit us. The Fighting Cocks had a back room that would often host club or band nights. They were almost always empty. Emboldened by booze, we honed our pitch and threw it at the manager. He seemed up for it, so we booked a provisional date and – not feeling that we could do this alone – asked Andy and my friend Dave White if they wanted to get involved. I quickly designed a flyer that arrogantly featured caricatures of myself, Andy, Dave and Mark with no indication of the type of music we would be playing other than the strap line “A night of aural pleasure” and distributed them all around Kingston. We were convinced it would be spectacular.
David White (long-time friend and We Got Bored Of Rock In 1988 co-promoter)
I’m pretty sure Steve came up with the idea of us becoming massively successful club promoters, based on the premise that we spent quite a lot of time in other people’s clubs, and that we could make as good if not an even better job of it ourselves.
We even had a fiendish twist up our sleeves. Instead of an evening consisting of one indie standard after another, which Steve, me and Mark would be responsible for, for one bone-jarringly, crow-barred-in quarter of the night Andy would play what I believe was known as ‘dance’ music. Brilliant. Why weren’t more people doing it? Pure gold.
I’m pretty sure (again) that Steve came up with the venue – The Fighting Cocks in Kingston, Surrey. An untapped hot bed of modern culture, waiting with near crushing indifference for a club night lasting until midnight in the back of a predominantly rock and metal pub. I say again. Couldn’t. Go. Wrong.
Being in a rock and metal pub, we obviously called the night ‘I Got Bored of Rock in 1988’. Catchy. There was a story behind that name, involving a boorish bootleg stallholder in Camden, but it was a story only me and Steve knew and everyone else didn’t really get. We stuck with it though, adamant that it was a winner. I seem to remember thinking it was ‘quirky’, possibly even ‘fun’. Hmm.
All of us apparently being of the opinion that we’d rather be four hours early than one minute late, for the launch night we met at Steve’s then-girlfriend’s house about four hours early. I’d been out somewhere the night before, and had a disproportionately large hangover. I was also genuinely nervous, so volunteered to go on first. Get it out of the way, and then drink heavily for the rest of the evening. A flawless plan.
We were all paranoid about being late and looking like dicks in front of the hordes of strangers bound to come, so we picked up the decks and met at Helen’s early as it was down the road and we could make sure everything worked and, more importantly, that we knew how to work it. Deborah joined us as, although she wouldn’t be DJ’ing, she wanted to get involved in some way. Getting involved at this point basically meant greeting everyone as they arrived and charming the chap who ran the venue. It was pretty quiet at first, but some of our mates started to turn up. Eventually.
I don’t think I was expecting Deborah to be there four hours early, or to come to the Cocks to help us set up, but she was very positive about everything, and was therefore a more than welcome distraction to my headache, hot flushes and nerves.
Needless to say, we took it extremely seriously. Well, I think we did. For our opening extravaganza we had something like 40 minutes each to thrill the masses with an intricate blend of the entire musical tapestry the world had woven to that point. So I played Primal Scream, David Bowie, and Belle and Sebastian. I’d worked out my set almost to the second. There would be no deviation from the setlist. When the landlord of the pub asked for some New York Dolls, I breathed a sigh of relief – it wasn’t on the list, so I couldn’t play it. If it had been on the list, I might have had to change the order, and that would have been chaos. I ignored anyone else who came near me – well, any of the four or so people who wandered into the near empty venue and back out into the pub – earnestly concentrating on one of the many dials on the hired cd mixer that I was terrified to touch. I finished, handed over to Mark, and started drinking, heavily.
The rest of the evening is a bit of a haze, but I remember people came, it was reasonably busy (it wasn’t a big place), and the overall feeling was a sense of a job well done – so well done in fact, that we should do it again.
I was well chuffed. I’d never seen The Fighting Cocks look so busy. Though to be fair, I’d never seen the number of punters in The Fighting Cocks hit double figures. Andy’s funky house half hour had kind of cleared the room for a little bit, but we recovered after. I went on last because, well, this whole club night thing had been my idea. It went quite well, I think. Well, we all danced. The set was all over the place, but that was the point. The only genuine fail was the discovery that however much Dave and I loved The Rolling Stones’ She’s A Rainbow, it has the amazing ability to empty even the busiest dancefloor. A second night was quickly put in the diary.
For the second one, I wasn’t as nervous, so I went on a bit later. My sense of confidence took a knock though, when a man with a beard bared his anus at me, possibly whilst I was playing some Duran Duran. Not as many people came. It probably wasn’t as much fun the second time. Deb was still very positive though.
Deborah was ALWAYS positive.
The man with the anus was the boss at the hairdressers I used to go to. Lovely bloke, but the one time he cut my hair he ballsed it right up.
We were frustrated by the management of The Fighting Cocks. Despite us bringing in the punters twice – TWICE! – they just weren’t up for any of our promotional ideas. Well, promotional idea: free shots for the first 20 people!
It was clear (clear) that we’d outgrown Kingston, but where to go next? All of the places we frequented were proper night spots with established nights on most days of the week, and wanted paying for the use of the venue. Far too rich for our blood.
Then, one afternoon I got a call from Steve. Deb had been pulling strings, and had got us a night at the Vibe Bar, in London’s Trendy East London. This was a game changer. We hadn’t hit the big time, the big time had hit us. Deb had got us a Monday night and if we did a good job, we’d get a monthly Monday and maybe more. That ‘maybe more’ was clearly world domination, riches, and popularity beyond our wildest dreams, and it was now within our grasp. This was easy.
As we were making the big step up to Monday night in London’s trendy Fashionable East London, we – well, Deborah – decided it was time to rebrand slightly. So I Got Bored Of Rock In 1988 became the more “inclusive” We Got Bored Of Rock In 1988.
By now, Mark had got us a couple of second hand separate cd decks, the type you’d get in a stereo set-up, as we didn’t want to spend all our money hiring decks all the time. For some reason, I looked after them. I used to carry them around in a big sports bag that bulged alarmingly at the seams when they were in it. They were large, heavy and rectangular, and whenever I transported them I’d collect a nice array of bruises up and down the outsides of my legs. On the first trip to the Vibe Bar, I nearly crippled myself and several people on the tube.
We got as many people as we could muster to come to the first one, and it was a relative success. It wasn’t exactly rammed – not many people want to dance to 99 Red Balloons at 7.30pm on a Monday night, even in London’s Trendy East London – but it went down well with those who were there, and we were all enthused.
(It’s worth noting that Andy had dropped out after the second and final Cocks. The dance section of the evening wasn’t working – who’d have thunk that? – and it wasn’t really what he wanted to do, so Deb stepped in as his replacement. Which with the whole Vibe Bar thing made complete sense anyway.).
The Vibe Bar became our Monday night hangout for a while. It was GREAT. We were given Monday nights with the promise that if we were successful enough on a Monday, we would be promoted to another night later in the week. Maybe even a Wednesday. Sadly, this never happened: we didn’t even get a Tuesday. What we did get was somewhere to get smashed on free beer and play some records before fucking off to Trash. By the time I started a temp job at City University I had settled into a routine of We Got Bored Of Rock In 1988 at the Vibe Bar, then on to Trash, followed by Bar Italia on Frith Street for post-club coffee. I’d then find somewhere to sleep, get up still drunk and go to work powered by the almost amphetamine qualities of a Burger King Chicken Royale for breakfast. I would always crash around mid-day, but all I had do to fire myself up again was pop out and get another Chicken Royale and BANG: I was ready to take on the day again.
We carried on doing monthly Mondays, occasionally getting a mention in listings (another clear sign that we were smashing this club promoting game). I bought some smaller CD separates that wouldn’t endanger my mobility into my later years, and we geared up for the inevitable success that would no doubt follow.
Except it didn’t, really.
We were making a decent go of it, we were getting paid (at least I think we were, I never really saw any of the money), but Mondays were limited and we wanted a crack at a night later in the week, even (in whispered tones) a Friday or Saturday. But that never came. I can’t remember exactly how long we did it for – could easily have been a year, but at some point it was decided it wasn’t really worth doing any more, so we jacked it in. In fact, I think I pulled out before the end, and Steve and Deb and possibly Mark did a few more without me. Yep, that sounds right.
Somewhere before that, though, Mark sorted us out a trial night in a bar called the Funky Munky in Camberwell, near where he lived, and ideally positioned to take advantage of the local art student population. It was different to the Vibe Bar – London’s South London not being as Trendy as London’s East London. It was smaller, and it was also prone to the odd lunatic/s coming in – but I thought it was worth carrying on with. Steve and Deb didn’t feel the same way – 586 were starting to get going, and I don’t think they wanted to put their time into something they weren’t into – so me and Mark carried on with it on our own. Which come to think of it, might have had something to do with me stopping doing the Vibe Bar early. I don’t remember anyone falling out, though, so it must have been all quite amicable.
I remember exactly when I decided I would never DJ in the Funky Munky again. It was getting towards the end of the night and Dave or Mark had put on (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack. The Munky was rammed, and everyone was dancing and singing along, arms in the air and thoroughly enjoying themselves. They were wankers, all of them. I hated each and every person on that dancefloor and I hated this fucking lowest common denominator shitty tossrag of a song. Angsty, wannabe-artsy, 20-something me had not gotten into DJ’ing to play I’ve Had The Time Of My FUCKING Life to these wankers.
I did do a couple of them though. The first one was quite good, but more of that in the next entry.
We (Mark and I) ended up doing weekly Thursdays in the Funky Munky for something like eighteen months. It was reasonably successful, some weeks a lot busier than others, but the main attraction was we got paid, and we had an unlimited bar tab which we used to take full advantage of. Our slot was 9pm to 2am, and we used to concentrate as much on drinking as we did playing records. How I managed to keep my job through that time, I’ll never know – I used to turn up on Friday mornings having had about four hours sleep, obviously the worse for wear, and do nothing until I could go home. It’s possible they thought I had a genuine drinking problem, and in age-old fashion thought best to ignore it until it went away.
Then, after eighteen months of doing it, the management changed and the place started going downhill. People stopped coming, which must have been down to the management and not us – we were still playing Maximo Park, what more did they want – and all that would have been tolerable, but then they capped out bar tab as well. That was the final insult. We were done.
Bonus! We Got Bored Of Rock In 1988 Mixtape
My DJ skillz circa 2001 in mp3 form.
1. Super Furry Animals – Furryvision ™
2. David Holmes feat. Primal Scream – Sick City
3. Radiohead – Idioteque
4. Pink Floyd – See Emily Play
5. The Rolling Stones – She’s A Rainbow
6. The Strokes – New York City Cops
7. Fischerspooner – Turn On
8. Aphex Twin – Come To Daddy
9. David Bowie – Golden Years
10. Saint Etienne – You’re In A Bad Way
11. The Supremes – Nathan Jones
12. Ladytron – Playgirl
13. Le Tigre – Deceptacon
14. The Von Bondies – Lack Of Communication
15. MC5 – Kick Out The Jams
16. New Order – Blue Monday
17. The Isley Brothers – This Old Heart Of Mine (Is Weak For You)
18. Schneider TM Vs KPT.michi.gan – There Is A Light That Never Goes Out