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SUBCULTURE

The Energy and
Freedom of Youth

SEPTEMBER 2020

The Fred Perry x Raf Simons collection is printed with photography taken from the book 100 Club Stories, which celebrates the iconic venue and its 75th anniversary. With their photographs featured throughout the collection, the club kid and punk queen ​of Soho pay homage to London’s nightlife.

Nightclubbing

Words by Iain R. Webb

‘I know when to go out, know when to stay in’.

 

Given the strange times in which we find ourselves, the opening lyric of David Bowie’s ‘Modern Love’, c.1983, sounds ominously prophetic.

I became a club kid when I arrived in London in 1977 to study Fashion Design at St Martin’s School of Art, the legendary art school situated in the heart of Soho. Hailing from a tiny village in the wilds of Wiltshire - #notwild - Soho offered all manner of thrilling distractions afterdark, invariably discovered down a shabby staircase. It is telling that the vast majority of nighteries are subterranean. An underground realm, both physical and philosophical, that American anthropologist Ted Polhemus once likened to ‘Dante’s descent into Hell’. 

Nightclubs have always been a haven for those who live on the edge of society, the outcasts and outsiders, the other, somewhere to escape the mundane realities of everyday. In the 1970s and ‘80s we lived in squats and low-rent, high-rise council blocks in less than salubrious parts of town, so after-dark working class boys and girls in dead-end jobs, the unemployed and arty dreamers could become star turns on the dance-floor. Gay clubs offered what would now be termed ‘non-judgmental safe spaces’ and although the clientele was pretty much the same, each club retained its own idiosyncratic look and mood. From the glossy Studio 54-lite vibe of The Embassy in the heart of Mayfair to the drab, downbeat, cavernous garage that was The Copacabana in far flung Earls Court. There was the bedroom-sized White Trash and the two-storey super club Bang. My favourite was El Sombrero where the light-up dance floor, no bigger than a dining table, was orchestrated by Emilio Fariña aka DJ Rudy.

For me, music and fashion are cut from the same cloth so I would also hang out at music venues like the 100 Club, Hope & Anchor and Music Machine to see bands such as Siouxsie and the Banshees, Buzzcocks, Black Slate, Magazine, Elvis Costello, Wayne County &The Electric Chairs, Iggy Pop and, of course, Bowie. I wore a trashy blue mohair jumper, plastic sandals and badly dyed hair.

Eighties club kids, the infamous Blitz kids (of which I was one), were a direct reaction to punk, which lost sight of its original DIY ethos and took on an ugly uniformity. Blitz kids wanted to dress up. Flamboyance acted as a wonderful V-sign to the establishment that seemed to be doing everything it could to suppress personal freedom and original thought. Going out became a way of life. Nightclubs were a breeding ground of creative endeavour and provided a mutual support system that was both inspiring and protective. The political, social and economic landscape at that time was particularly gloomy (sound familiar?), so we danced and drank ourselves dizzy in the face of despair.

We dressed as if every day were a photo shoot and every night a party (it usually was). Working out what we would wear to the clubs was of paramount importance, the emphasis on looking individual. We did not want to be labelled by our clothes. Making stuff during class and hours spent getting ready was all part of the experience, even if your outfit might not survive till sun-up.

That same sparkling, startling, messy narrative has continued down the decades and is still alive and swell in London’s East End nighteries such as Dalston Superstore, Vogue Fabrics and The Glory. And, while the Covid-19 pandemic might have shut things down for now, there will come a time soon one hopes when the mirror-ball will start spinning again. Nothing can stop a club kid with a major lewk, a fantasy to play out and a face-full of glitter.

Good times will return. To quote Bowie and Pop’s anthemic Nightclubbing: ‘We’re what’s happening’.

…Still Proudly ‘Punk & Disorderly’

Words by Bev Elliott

 

The 100 Club holds a very special place in my heart – it’s always been my favourite gig venue ever since I first snuck in as a 13 year old and saw George Melly, if my memory serves me well! With my ‘Punk Queen of Soho’ crown on, it’s been a punky, spiritual second home – and YES I was at the legendary two-day Punk Special in ’76!

It’s largely thanks to the 100 Club that I became a professional music journo, a natural progression from the ‘sines and other publications I worked on for beer money. Initially for Sounds – I’d gone to see a gig there as was my nightly norm in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s, but a handwritten note on the door declared the gig was ‘sadly cancelled’ at the last minute. Imagine my surprise and chagrin when I read a review of this gig as if it had happened in the following week’s issue! After calling them out on it, I got offered the ‘Punk & Disorderly’ column and the rest, as they say, is (a very blurred) history!

Though fair to say if you cut me open, I’d ‘bleed punk’, my music taste is varied and spans many genres – from trad and New Orleans style jazz, reggae, ska, blues, metal etc – and this wonderful club that’s a true cornerstone in our British music heritage and history has delivered them all to me over the eons.

Personally I feel it’s a natural and perfect combo of two cult icons – the joining of the 100 Club and Fred Perry – a (game, set and) match made in music heaven!

Being half Irish and half Cockney, the latter half of my birth-right ensured a classic claret and blue ‘Hammers’ was my first Fred Perry shirt – though these days, you’re more likely to see me strutting my stuff in my beloved Amy Winehouse dress (I still miss her badly).

I’m so proud to be long-associated (since childhood) with these two wonderful institutions and truly feel a family member of both... long may they reign ‘til way after my final death rattle!!