twelve months later. it’s friday night, and i’m back in heaven with dean, whizzed up as per usual. we don’t bother so much with upstairs any more, except maybe as a warm-up; downstairs is three times the thrill.
dean has done e a couple of times over the summer – oh, neil, you’ve got to try it – but i can’t see the point in taking that sort of risk when the whizz works so well. c’mon, who really needs anything more?
i’ve got a couple of friends over from sweden, so i’ve dragged them down here tonight, expecting them to be bowled over. except they’re not. in fact, they look distinctly uneasy, hovering on the sidelines, hardly dancing, hardly smiling, barriers firmly up. oh well, whatever.
high up on the raised bit to the left, there’s a skinny man stripped down to white shorts, jigging about on his own, every spare inch of skin below his neck covered in long, thick, sprouting fur. human yeti. i see him out quite often. bit of a fixture, i guess. hey, takes all sorts.
below him, near the stage, someone is lurching about with his t-shirt pulled up over his head, covering his face. he stays this way all night. lost in his own world. nobody bats an eyelid.
meanwhile, this seriously gorgeous shirtless french guy is all over me, full of hugs & smiles & affection. when the crap erotic cabaret starts up – boys in g-strings writhing about in cages all down the middle of the main floor – he all but jizzes.
oh WAOW! zis is AMAAAZING! i didn’t sink zis would be so GOOOD!
well, chacun à son gout.
we wander off and sit down. my shirt’s hanging wide open. he keeps trying to pull it off – come ON, let me SEE you – but i’m having none of it. he’s so beautifully slender and defined, and i’m all scraggy and scrawny, and the last thing i want to do is put him off.
he asks what i’m on; says he’s had an e. you aven’t tried it? is vair nice! we talk clubs. his favourite is trade. as he talks about it, his eyes shine with evangelical fervour.
you AVE to take your friends zere tomorrow! is like nowhere else!
as we get up to dance, he tries to pull my shirt off again. he’s so insistent, and i can’t realistically keep refusing him all night.
alright alright alright, have it your way. off it comes. first time for everything.
he checks me up and down – shit, that’s blown it – then locks eyes with me again, smiling broadly.
over his shoulder, i can see dean widening his eyes and giving me the thumbs up.
doesn’t feel so bad, actually. can’t believe i’ve been keeping the damn thing on all this time. silly, when you think about it.
i definitely said 9 o’clock in the village. so where the fuck are they, then? mind you, the swedish guys have been in a funny mood all day. i dunno, you try your best to be a good tour guide, and all they want to do is stomp around, eat crisps, and smoke fags on street corners. there’s something not quite right going on there.
well, fuck ‘em. if they’re going to stand me up on a saturday night, then i’m fucking well going to love muscle without them. still plenty of time to get over to kudos for the special bus. anyway, it’s not like i’ve never been out on my own before.
(turned out they went to g.a.y, hated it, had a blazing row, stormed out early. ha ha, karmic justice.)
four o’clock and i’m spannered on the whizz again – topped off with hefty blasts of poppers which i keep handing round to anyone who looks over, like a demented hostess at a cocktail party. all my residual anger has converted to manic energy – and i’m in no mood to stop.
flashbacks of that french guy, smiling and gently nagging.
you should go to trade. it’s not how you think it is. look at me – i’m not a muscle queen, and i go all the time. it’s relaxed, there’s even a coffee bar.
fuck it, i’m going. i’m fucking well going to trade. wa-hey!
the queue’s massive, it’s hardly moving, and i’m actually trembling with nerves. er, don’t you have to be with a member here? what if i don’t get in?
the studiedly jaded queens in front of me are muttering crossly to each other. that BITCH didn’t let me in last week. anyway, i got some flyers from outside heaven this time. we should be alright with them.
fuck, i didn’t know about the flyers. well, i’m here now. might as well try.
are you a member?
clipboard clasped against her chest, the woman in the black nylon jacket is brusque, stern, and terrifying.
no, it’s my first time here. friends of mine inside are members, though. i can give you their names if that helps?
well, it’s almost true; there is this couple i know…
she pauses, looks at me hard, then flicks her head towards the door. i must have passed some sort of test. anyway, i’m in.
i’ve only got as far as the coffee bar, but there’s already something utterly different about the vibe here. like i’ve crossed a border into another reality. everyone has this subtle but noticeable intensity about them – you could even call it commitment. i can see this isn’t somewhere that you just pop into for a couple of hours at the end of the night.
in fact, it’s not an end to anything. even if you’ve been out for hours, it’s still a whole new beginning.
downstairs, through a bar area bedecked with dayglo polystyrene mobiles in acid reds, yellows and greens, packed solid with flesh. a bar, yet not a bar, because everyones swaying and shuffling to the music … and yet it’s not a dancefloor either.
squeezing through the damp, naked torsos, eyes fixed on a larger, darker zone beyond … which opens out onto a raised area over a sunken dancefloor. again, divisions are blurred – everyone’s moving, even if only slightly. no-one’s standing still. no spectators, only participants.
feeling like i’m here under false pretences, i pick a spot. hey, this isn’t so bad. in fact, it’s quite civilised. the lights are brighter … there’s space to breathe … and the music is a lot lighter and housier than i expected. actually, this track could almost be an instrumental dub of crystal waters: 100% pure love.
oh, and so could this one. and this one. and this one.
…back to the middle and around again…
…and around again…
…and around again…
on the edge of the balcony overlooking the main floor, i’ve made a new friend … nodded at him in love muscle earlier, in fact. once he makes his position clear – if you’re looking for a shag, then i’m afraid you’ve got the wrong man – we become quite chummy. but then, he is on e.
well, i expect they all are. except me.
my friend has this little notebook with him. every now and again, he takes it out and jots something down … to help him remember what’s been played, what tracks he needs to chase up during the week. sheesh, and i thought i was a trainspotter.
over the past couple of hours, the music has been getting imperceptibly faster and harder, without me ever quite realising. now, the rhythm stops … yielding to the also sprach zarathustra theme from 2001: a space odyssey.
baaam, baaam, baaam, baaaaam…
bomp-om bomp-om bomp-om bomp-om
all of a sudden, the bpms have taken off and gone into mach 5 … insanely fast, brutal, thumping, devilish, delirious. meanwhile, the crowd have gone mental, cheering and whooping and throwing their hands in the air as the lasers kick off in earnest.
way, way too fast to dance in my normal style, or in any style that i can think of … in fact, too fast for anyone in their right minds to dance to. what the fuck is going on?
i throw a quizzical look at my friend, but he’s away with the fairies. unable to decide whether this is fantastic, or diabolical, or both, i simply burst out laughing at the madness of it all, rocking my body backwards and forwards as best as i can.
still the only spectator in the room, but an enthralled one. rooted to the spot, jaw hanging open in disbelief.
time becomes a loop: the same few seconds, repeated over and over and over. i feel like an anthropologist who has stumbled over some secret tribal ritual … which leads me into a long private reverie on the nature of tribal rituals … after which i snap back into focus and burst out laughing all over again.
five minutes later, or thirty minutes later, or four days later – but in reality, almost certainly two hours later – the 2001 riff comes back in again. more cheers, but this time they’re not so much anticipatory as valedictory.
my friend scribbles something else down. i’ll be buying that tune next week … there’s this shop in north london. tell you what: give me your address and i’ll do you a compilation tape, yeah?
although i didn’t know it at the time, i had just experienced my first set by the soon-to-be legendary tony de vit. trade’s new hero, still unknown in the outside world, who had taken over the main set a few months ago and turned the whole place around.
i stagger out around 11am, the sudden daylight freaking me out, and make my way over to my sister’s place for lunch. by the time i get to leytonstone, my back is killing me.
an hour later, i can barely move, not even to pick up my mug of tea.
not yet knowing you were supposed to take regular breaks, i had been dancing non-stop for nearly twelve hours. twat.
i stayed off work for the next four days. bed-bound and in severe pain.
perhaps it was an awful warning.
i didn’t listen, of course.
(oh, and i never got the tape. but then you already knew that.)