|The 40 In 40 Days Project.|
18. The Trade Years (1994-1998)
The Au Pairs
|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
E is for…energy, enthusiasm,
eagerness, effervescence, excitement, euphoria, elation. E is for
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
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
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
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.
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.