Call me antisocial, call me a boring old fart, but I've never really been a great one for Clubs. Perhaps it's to do with my dreary old paranoia about not fitting in. Perhaps it's to do with the fact that I'm no good to talk to, no good at dancing, and have always responded to being obviously visible by being either awkwardly withdrawn or embarrassingly exhibitionist. Then again, perhaps it's just to do with the fact that I find most Clubs to be depressingly banal and
extraordinarily devoid of charm and artistic merit. Even supposedly hedonistic behaviour seems simply dull and predictable.
Which maybe means the ones who say it's my age must be right.
I tried doing it myself. Organising a 'Club' in town bars, town 'discos', wherever. No-one cared. No-one wanted to understand. It was just another example of the town misfit being isolationist, and only a hardcore of fellow misfits ever came along on our Thursday nights. It was in that respect very much like a real 'house party', a real select club. We may as well have played the records in someone's living room.
The group Fire Engines had an LP called 'Lubricate Your Living Room'. It was all discordant clanging, grazing guitars and funky (a)rhythmic bliss. It was intentionally background noise for active lives. Funky punky spiky disco for the parlour.
The Living Room was the best titled club ever. London, early 1980s. Being a geek teenager in Scotland at the time I never went there, but I have images of it in my head. Romantic images no doubt far from the truth, but that's imagination for you. I see sofas and armchairs,
standard lamps and coffee tables. I see walls covered in Warhol wallpaper or Factory silver foil. A surrealist Pop wonderland, like Postcard's 'Fin De Siecle' nights at the RAFA club. I also know it was surely a grimy room above a pub.
The very best Clubs always exist in your head, unless you have very simple and unimaginative demands. This much should be obvious. This much you know from your forays into the heaven that is your bedroom booth. This you know from the walkman compilations that scatter in your trawls around town, to school in the cold of January blues, to
work in the heat of July. I've never heard say, Dave Wallace's 'Expressions', T-Powers 'Turquoise' or Dobie's 'Original Heads' in a Club, but they have each accompanied me on trips through the landscapes of Devon and of my imagination.
Why share it with those who do not believe the dreams? Why give it away to those who mistreat and mould to ugly new patterns the dizzy designs from your gardens of technological delights?
Because you want to be famous. You want to be rich.
Because you're human and you want to be loved.
Morrissey hit a nail on a head when he sang about that club where you'd like to go and... blah blah... stand on your own... blah blah... go home... blah blah... cry and want to die. You know the line. Every bedroom loner has lived it in some moment of their adolescence, which
is why the line raises smiles of delighted bleakness. But the moments existed before the Smiths, they exist today beyond them. Somewhere someone feels that way right now and they're listening to drum'n'bass. It's probably me again.
Not everyone wants to be surrounded by crowds of people. Not everyone sees the appeal of large tribal gatherings in the hills of Wales to hear Pete Namlock or Autechre play chilled out techno blips. Some are happiest grooving to the Lisa Carbon Trio at 8pm in their dining
room, flicking through sketchbooks, or drinking coffee at 4am listening to the jazzed out soundtracksounds of Snooze or The Lee Curtis Connection. To some The Gentle People make more sense in front of the fire with a cat for company than in front of a tacky projection with hippy chicks all around.
Not everyone wants to attend the massive post-rave 'Clubs' such as Cream or Renaissance with their Hyper-Capitalist corporate ID make-overs. Not everyone finds such events exciting and 'sexy'. I wonder if the ideas of art and creation, alienation and loneliness ever creep into
the heads or the hearts of those ever so beautiful people who apparently live for hedonistic pleasure and who leave all the woes of the real world behind, buried in House and Mixing heaven. Do they simply crave the comfort of being a number in the immense crowd, knowing that they are safe in the confines of their global House-Loving Generation-E?
When Paul Weller was 17, long before he bored us all with endless, pointless drones about 'real music' and hanging with the oasis boors/bores, he said something about being Away from the Numbers. Not much later, The Pop Group said something about dancing inside. Those are ideas that would probably be anathema to the Renaissance generation. Would
probably sound ridiculous to a geared up ragga-junglist immersed in the culture of Greensleeves discs and city-street cruising. Which is fine to a point of course. It's just that life can be so much richer when you go beyond those points
For those who do care / dare to go beyond those points however, those sentiments make perfect sense. It is a mood which is empowering to those who do not share what is still the prevalent mood in too many of todays Clubs. Those who feel strangely threatened by the supposedly 'loved up' generation whose opinion it often seems to be that you can only be having a good time if you are 'havin' it', are wearing the right gear and who, in David Toops words, elevate the DJ to heights of Shaman instead of recognising them at their best as no more and certainly no less than fine artists of bricolage. Who miss opportunities for exploring the rich musical foundations from which the best Djs such as Coldcut pick the colours and textures. It makes sense to those who have no 'right' dress code. Who have no 'right' haircut. Who have no 'right' record collection. Who have no 'right' friends and contacts.
What irritates me most about clubs is the need for categorisation. The need to fit a description. Choose from the House night, the Rock night, the Indie night, the Headz night, the Jungle night, the Dub night. Well I'm sorry, but I'm afraid my life doesn't work that way.
My life is more complex. Of course that upsets promoters, who like to keep things simple, but that's the way it is. I don't want to hear 4 to the floor beats all night, and much as I have a penchant for drum'n'bass, I don't really want to be subjected to hours of blistering
breakbeats without an, ahem, break so to speak. I want a collage of sound that is adventurous, surprising, bizarre and extreme. Stick the Ramones next to Studio Pressure, Omni Trios 'Shadowplay' next to Joy Divisions. Bootsy Collins and Edwyn Collins. Jumpin' Jack and
Grandmaster. It's like Kevin Pearce said in his Heavenly book 'Something Beginning with 'O'', 'Take the best - forget the rest.Ó A sentiment that Heavenly perhaps took to heart if their Sunday Social has been anything to go by. A club that took some of the Freestyle Sounds spirit from Pearces own shortlived Deeper club to new heights of 'success'.
The Sunday Social was of course not the first club to trumpet the joys of eclecticism, but in recent times it has been perhaps the most visible and audible, and in this trail there is a new mood of pioneering risk taking that is to be applauded and enjoyed. A sense that perhaps
there is something of an atmosphere of intimacy creeping into the clubs. Something warm, something like going round your friends house to play records and drink the parents gin. The Living Room thing again.
The Rumpus Room is a club which seems to have such an attitude.
The Rumpus Room is a great name for a club. Visions of 1950s/60s american dream homes with their basement family rooms. The Brady Bunch gathering for a boogie in the Den. Douglas Coupland would love it.
Johnny Davis hates it. He seems unable to pass up any opportunity to slate it when he lifts a pen for The Face these days. Which is puzzling considering he heaps so much praise upon what he insists is the 'legendary' Sunday Social with it's apparently similar freestyle
eclectic mix. Perhaps his problem is that the Rumpus Room takes eclecticism too far, and for sure, playing the Cure goes beyond all questions of taste and style as far as I'm concerned, but can't we at least play the trustworthy Irony card here?! Then again, perhaps Mr Davis'
life is just too dull, too rigidly structured by what the fashions of the moment dictate as being acceptable to praise. Perhaps he is too scared to take the risks that alone can bring rewards of excitement and of learning. He probably wouldn't understand that Pop Group thing.
You see, one of the things I've learned over the years is just how many of the people who are creating and moulding the events around which the interesting 'clubs', labels and niches form are in fact the outsiders, the ones who live within themselves. There may be a collusion of individuals who are on similar courses through life that merge for a moment and which creates a spark, but it is essentially the obsessions and visions of the individual that make the best statements, the best noises, the best art. It is the drawn up and out need to
express and create that matters most.
Passion will always rise above fashion.
And I'll continue playing out my top tunes in the living room and club of my mind.
Alistair Fitchett. 1996.
The Rumpus Room LP featuring cuts by T-Power, Scanner, DJ Food, Jake Slazenger, Dr Rockit and others is out now on NINEBAR records.