The 40 In 40 Days Project.

18. The Trade Years (1994-1998)

Main Index

The Au Pairs
The Step-stepfather
The Simulated Wank
The Toy Store
The First Single
The Queeny Put-Down
The First Hissy Fit
The First Gay Club
The Rent Boy
The Heterosexual Phase
The Lifestyle Switch
The Empty Floor
The First Poem
The Amsterdam Weekend
The First Time
The Perfect Moment
The Year In Berlin
The Trade Years
The First Memory
The Anniversary Party
The Incompetencies
The Pricking Of The Bubble
The Club Residencies
The "Tales of the City" House
The Musical Epiphany
The Worst Thing I Ever Did To Anyone
The Royal Procession
The Parental Disclosure
The Concept Albums
The Romantic Obsession
The Failure
The Apotheosis of Queer
The Shove From Above
The Interrogation
The Professional Rut
The Rebirthday
The First Boyfriend
The "Catharsis Of Joy"
The Funeral Address
The Falling In Love

Chronological Index

troubled diva

From the back end of 1994 to the back end of 1998, the after hours London gay club Trade played a hugely important part in my life. In just about every respect, it was completely unlike any other club I had been to before, and from my second visit onwards, I was passionately in love with the place.

There is a huge amount that could be said about this period in my life. It was the best of times, but in some ways also the worst of times. It brought out the best in me, but also – undoubtedly - the worst in me too. So originally, I planned to write a harshly analytical, sharply critical piece. Maybe, another time, I will do just that. In fact, I almost certainly will do just that. But, d’you know what? Right now – this very moment, sitting here – I find myself in the mood for celebrating the place.

So, in that spirit (and with all due apologies to David, who did it first and best with the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, and with a lot more thought and effort than I’m about to expend), here’s….

An A To Z of Trade, 1994-1998.

A is for Alan Thompson, the first DJ of the night. Nowadays at Trade, the line-up of DJs varies from week to week, but in my day, the same crew of six regulars would appear in the same time slots, every single week. This meant that every night had a pre-defined - and amongst the regulars, well recognised - musical shape to it. Put very crudely, things started light and housey, and got harder and faster as the morning wore on. So Alan was the warm-up man, for that first hour or so when the lights were still up a bit, the dancefloor not so crowded, the heat not so intense, the shirts still on most people’s backs, the Trade Virgins all thinking “Hey, this place is much more laid back and normal than I was expecting…”

B is for Birthdays. If you were a Trade member, the club would always send you a birthday card, and a queue jump ticket giving you free admission, and your friends reduced admission, on your birthday weekend. So birthday weekends were always a bit special. You briefly felt like a VIP, swishing past the queue with your mates as the door staff wished you Happy Birthday. Nice!

C is for the Coffee Bar upstairs. Everybody’s reality check, away from the noise and the mayhem, where you’d all sit with mugs of sweet tea, smoking like laboratory beagles, and talking for England.

D is for Disco Tits. A veritable sea of nipples. Trade was the only club in the world where I would happily shed my shirt on the dancefloor. With all that toned and buffed perfection around me, it could have felt oppressive – but actually, it felt egalitarian.

E is for…energy, enthusiasm, eagerness, effervescence, excitement, euphoria, elation. E is for Euphemisms.

F is for Fluid, the chill-out session round the corner, next to Smithfields market. Back out on the street in broad daylight at one o’clock on a Sunday afternoon, you needed somewhere to ease gently back into the real world. Fluid did just that.

G is for Give Me Love by Diddy – the Tony De Vit remix, of course. A tune which exploded into life in the Spring of 1997, and which went on to be one of the all time Trade anthems. For me, it will always be the Trade anthem. I remember one time, early on, when it came on for the second time that night. People around me simply stopped their conversations in mid-sentence, and without a second thought, stampeded onto the main dancefloor for a communal, hands-in-the-air, we’re-all-in-this-crazy-ship-together “moment”. Oh, I can hear that piano riff now…

H is for Hoovers. Hoovers were big at Trade. As in: tunes with huge, scary, completely mental whooshy mechanical noises in them, that made normal people cover their ears in horror, and Tradebabes squeal with delight. H is emphatically not for Hard House. The music didn’t have a name in those days, and was all the better for it.

I is for Ian M. After Tony De Vit, before Tall Paul Newman (and subsequently, Pete Wardman). For a long time, my favourite of all the Trade DJs – his sets were more musical, more emotional somehow, even though he played hardest and fastest. King of the hoovers. The only one of the DJs I ever got on speaking terms with. Genuine, approachable, unassuming, totally down-to-earth. A real nice guy, in fact.

J is for the Jitters of anticipatory excitement I would get in my stomach for the whole day, if I knew a Trade visit was coming up that night.

K is for when it all started changing, for the worse in my opinion. K is for horses, not human beings!

L is for Light Stick Man (Kenny), a permanent fixture against the railings overlooking the main floor, every single week, without fail, lovin it lovin it lovin it. Part of the fixtures and fittings. Master of ceremonies. Club mascot. L is not for the Lite Lounge (the second, gentler, housier dancefloor), ‘cos I never really bothered with it. Hey, I can do melodic and housey any old time, any old place. So gimme hard and gimme fast!

M is for Muscle Alley. To get to the main dancefloor, you first had to run the gauntlet of Disco Tits. This was a narrow space running alongside the main bar, crammed wall to wall with shirtless Muscle Marys. The lighting was helpfully bright too, so everyone could freely admire your handiwork. Now, contrary to popular myth, the majority of Trade’s clientele were never of the amply titted variety. However, if you did have the boobs for the job, Muscle Alley was definitely your territory. There was a kind of unspoken rule – if the tits didn’t fit, you chose another, more darkly lit, patch in which to lurk. M is also for Malcolm Duffy, the second DJ of the night, and my least favourite of the residents – his sets always seemed a bit flat and directionless to me.

N is for Neck Massages On The Dancefloor. Ooh baby, that feels so gooood….

O is for Over-familiarity (see also N above). Hi, look at you, my my, aren’t you looking gorgeous tonight? Hi, my boyfriend’s just dumped me, I’m on anti-depressants and I’ve just had a dose of crabs, is it alright if I sit here? Hi, can I just say that those are the BEST tattoos I have EVER SEEN?

P is for Paul Newman (Tall Paul) and subsequently Pete Wardman, DJs for the final set of the morning. When your brain had died and gone to heaven, but your body just had to keep on a-jumpin’ and a-pumpin’ till the bitter end…

Q is for Queuing. An essential part of the ritual. Nowadays, you can more or less breeze straight in. Back then, you had to earn your entry to Turnmills (the venue which hosts Trade). Thirty minute queues outside were the norm; my all time record was a ninety minute wait on a bitterly cold New Year’s Day 1995 (but then that was for FF, Trade’s even more hardcore-bonkers Sunday night cousin). Then even when you got to the door, there was no guarantee that you’d be deemed worthy of admission – if you weren’t a member or bona fide guest, getting in could be a tough business. However, all of this nonsense meant that once you did get inside, it felt all the more special that you had made it through. No pain, no gain, or something.

R is for Regulars. Each with their own little spot within the club, where you knew you’d always find them. The Cambridge professor, slap bang in the middle of the floor. The IT director who flew in from Germany every weekend, down the far end. The unreconstructed socialist from Brighton, up there against the railings. Hi, mwah mwah, nice to see you, can’t talk now, bit twatted, later yeah, have fun, mwah mwah, bye!

S is for Steve Thomas, DJ number three. The “bridging” set whose job it was to link Duffy’s US house with De Vit’s bouncy full-on mayhem. Steve’s set is where the energy levels would start noticeably rising, the lights darkening, the whoops and cheers starting up here and there, the atmosphere building, up and up, ready for…

T is for Tony De Vit. The Don. The King. The Hero. 8am on the dot, every week, without fail. The moment he came on, the whole club knew it. Hands in the air. Massive smiles on everyone’s faces. Huge shrieks of delight. All RIGHT! Here we f***ing GO! After Tony’s death in Summer 1998, closely followed by the temporary booting out of the club from Turnmills, Trade was never quite the same for me again.

U is for Underneath The Arches. Nuff said.

V is for Volume, Velocity, and Va-Va-Voom. ‘Cos Trade was loud, fast, and fabulous.

W is for “What Would You Like To Hear Again?” by Dyewitness – the Ian M remix. Seemingly played every single week for at least two years, and always by Ian M himself, funnily enough. Simple and effective. Possibly the all time “hoover” anthem. “Hey babe… hey babe….hey babe….you – are – WRONG!”

X is for X-rated moments in dark corners, if you were very careful about it. Security weren’t always so keen on that sort of thing. One heard cautionary tales of amorous couples being dragged up to the office for a telling off. Humiliating, and not nice.

Y is for You’re a really special friend, do you know that, I’m not just saying it ‘cos I’m off my face, I really mean it y’know?

Z is for Zopiclone. For ZZZ on a Sunday night.

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