It is amazing what memories are stirred when someone dies.
As if their name is the passcode to a vault in the mind. That will only open upon hearing of their passing. Releasing a torrent of images, names, venues and long forgotten memories of times where everyone is smiling.
The sadness of the moment transformed by the joy on the faces of the people. Now but a distant memory.
I guess that’s what happens when you are no longer on Facebook.
The untimely news of Keith Flint’s death (covered very briefly in yesterday’s post – Wind It Up) took me back to a time where it was hard not to smile. Of being 16, going on 17. Standing on sticky carpets across multiple venues in West and South West London.
It was my introduction to clubbing. Through suburban venues where bouncers would laugh at your fake ID but still let you in. Then “grab” you that little bit harder when they threw you out for being a dick. We had let the bouncer down.
Those faces are all from sixth form college. Two groups of friends. Two separate failed attempts to try and get the A’ Levels I needed to keep my Mum happy. I approached further eduction in the same way I approached school – late and without any homework to hand in.
These were our nights. Not about super clubs or branded bomber jackets. About finding venues to let us in. To drink. To dance together if that was what we wanted to do. No matter what the music choice was.
The genre wars of the late 90s were still someway off. The 1991/92 clubbing season was all about shared experiences.
So we went to places that had something for all of us. Party anthems for the pop fans. Soul and early era R’n’B for the future garage/new jack swing heads. Kiddy Rave – Charly, A Trip to Trumpton and Sesame’s Treat – that were crumbs for those of us exploring the darker corners of Saturday night.
It was on the dance floors of The Gin Palace in Acton Town or Ritzy’s in Kingston where we started to become the people we are. Transformed as a group once we crossed the metal rod that marked the boundary between the wooden dance floor and the sticky carpet. Dancing and smiling as one.
It was also where we learnt to drink. Sol with a wedge of lime in the top – to keep off the flies in a sweat-soaked bar in W3. American spirits and fizzy pop to show our cultured side. Or the exotic Blue Bols and Lemonade at the £1 a drink Student night, on a Wednesday in Kingston upon Thames.
The last hour at Ritzy’s was always a bit frenetic – both on the dance floor and at the bar. It seems bizarre now, but having spent three hours dancing to Indie, party tunes (people actually ran on to the floor to Come on Eileen) and disco, the DJ somehow thought this was the right crowd to drop late hardcore/early jungle and Drum n Bass on the crowd.
It was the only reason we went.
We quickly picked up on the way those nights would end. When the DJ started playing The Grid – Swamp Thing or Marradonna – Out of my head, we knew it was time to load up. So with our last fivers in hand, a couple of us would beat our way to the bar and order five Blue Bols and Lemonade in a pint glass. No more wasting time at the bar for another drink as the last hour ticked by. Thanks, Dad, for that valuable life lesson shared.
With illuminated drink in hand, we’d cross the boundary and liberally spray folk with our booze, as we danced the remainder of the night away.
On a Ragga Tip, Infiltr8 202, Out of Space, The Helicopter Tune, Valley of the Shadows, Searching for my Rizla. Tunes that would come to shape and mould my future existence, but seemingly out of place for a crowd bellowing out the chorus to ‘I will survive’ not five minutes earlier. As the opening sample to the Andy Weatherall mix of Primal Scream’s ‘Come Together’ filled the room, we knew the night was drawing to a close. So we necked whatever was left in the glass, slowly stumbled off the dance floor, and found the friends lost to the moment a few of us had just shared.
In the winter we got cabs home. In the summer we walked. I would more than likely miss double geology on the Thursday morning.
The memories are still strong, but the bonds are long broken. Some for a reason, most to time. University drove us apart – I squeaked in – but it was the fact that we ended up wanting something different from a Saturday night. That is what stopped us coming back together.
By now I was drinking Becks. Blue Bols was what the kids drank.
Those memories aren’t necessarily always within reach, but when they come back, they are cherished. For even when they are stirred by the sad news of someone dying, in the memories, everyone is smiling.
That’s how it should always be.