Some time in the mid-Nineties, an NME letters editor commented wryly on his paper’s long-suffering and unacknowledged residual readership: gentle, uncomplaining but perpetually disappointed folk, who still picked up a copy every week in the hope of finding an interview with Medicine Head, or news of the latest Stackridge tour.
And so it is with Troubled Diva’s similarly unacknowledged clump of diehards from the old days, when reckless divulgences ruled the roost, fancy-schmancy I-iz-a-Writerisms prevailed, and no I was ever TM.
Cometh the hour, cometh the blog post. (My contribution’s at the bottom, but don’t you DARE skip past the others en route.) I may not have much to confess these days, but a man will always have his memories. Contains strong language and scenes of an adu… hello, where have you all gone?
‘Music Is Moving’ – Cortina (Mike)
Beware of false epiphanies. Especially dancefloor e-piphanies, of the artificially induced kind. Since that false dawn of December 1994, my quest for profundity through pharmaceuticals had undergone a steady process of mission-shrink, to the point where all that remained was a restless urge for transitory oblivion. Weary of chasing rainbows, disillusioned by diminishing returns, and rapidly approaching my sell-by date (Malone, the hedonistic figurehead of ‘Dancer From The Dance’, Andrew Holleran’s fictionalised memoir of gay clublife in 1970s New York, had staged his disappearance at the age of 37; I was four months shy of entering my fortieth year), I knew the game was nearly up.
For the past six years, the London after-hours club Trade had been my Shangri-La. It was a unique subterranean melting pot, where artists and academics rubbed sweat-slicked shoulders with pumped-up ‘roid-ragers and off-duty rent; where the fuck-off-I’m-fabulous queens checked their attitudes at the door; where Cupid and Psyche necked beneath the strobes, before noshing each other off in the bogs. It was equal parts heaven and hell; salvation and damnation; Plato’s Symposium and Dante’s Limbo. It could unfurl your inner eye, or it could hollow out your soul.
I loved it.
I feared it.
I had to haul myself clear.
On the weekend of Trade’s tenth birthday party, we completed on the cottage: a bucolic bolthole on the edge of a national park, with an oil-fired Aga and a funky rustic-modern makeover. Seagrass on the stairs; Farrow and Ball stripes in the bathroom; rare-breed cattle grazing over the road. An eagerly awaited lifestyle paradigm shift, that would save us from the reductive cycle of Saturday night excess and Sunday evening regret.
But fuck all that for now; I had a ticket in my bag, and unfinished business to conclude.
It was the perfect grand finale. All the old faces had turned out, willing the club to recapture its glories: before the death of DJ Tony, high priest of the eight-to-ten slot; before the raid; before the hubristic global branding; before fucking ketamine; before the music even had a name.
It was a night of mwah-mwah-how-are-YOU breast bumps, of oh-my-God-it’s-THIS-one fist pumps, of wall-to-wall, back-to-back, solid gold, all-time-classic Trade Anthems. ‘Let’s Rock’ by E-Trax. ‘Marmion’ by Schoneberg. Vincent De Moor’s ‘Flowtation’ and Armin’s ‘Blue Fear’. The Tony De Vit mix of Diddy’s ‘Give Me Love’.
“Are you all READY?”
“WHAT would you like to hear again?”
“BRING the beat back, BRING the beat back…”
“BRAIN is the weapon! That’s what I TOLD you!”
And in amongst the classics, a single new tune – or at least new-ish, for I was already losing my trainspotter’s touch – had been placed on near-hourly rotation: a catchy, fluffy, piano-driven, almost handbaggy confection called ‘Music Is Moving’ (fast forward to 2:00 for the good bit), which was evidently working its way through the ranks, and heading towards the canon of greats. With each successive play, the whoops of recognition got fractionally louder: just like that night in ’95 when ‘Hooked’ was breaking, or that night in ’97 when ‘Give Me Love’ brought the whole club together for one of those unsurpassable we’re-all-in-this-crazy-ship-together moments, or…
Well, I wouldn’t be around to witness its progress. Six years on from that false dawn, I was finally standing on the threshold of my – and, crucially, of our – true new beginning. And while the Trade juggernaut might have lumbered on for a few more increasingly undistinguished years to come, this was where I visualised the end credits rolling, the slowly fading refrain of its final anthem wrapping around itself again and again and again.
True to my pledge, I never returned.
“Closure“, as the kind-eyed stranger in the middle of the dancefloor put it.
“Like being unchained from a lunatic” – Sophocles, via Molly Parkin.