This is the sooooound of my sooooul

7 Mar

How you have changed…

I arrived towards the end of 1988. Number one in the charts the week I was born was Enya’s Orinoco Flow. I don’t know if anyone has noticed, but this is not particularly cool. But it’s okay. I was five weeks early, it must get a bit better if I use my actual due date. Oh wait, that was Mistletoe and Wine by Cliff Richard. For fuck’s sake.

Anyway, this reminiscing about a decade I can’t remember ended in me listening to Capital Gold’s album, Eighties Legends, that I nicked out of our CD cupboard (also containing a PlayStation I loved for about a week when I was 13 before realising I wasn’t a boy) and put on my iTunes.

I was supposed to be working, doing my old job that is now moonlighting while I temp giving Johnny Foreigner the chance to renew their visa, but instead I was taken back to being sixteen and carefree (HAHAHAHA. Sixteen is never carefree. However difficult and shit life gets at least you’re not a teenager. Though you’ll never be that thin again), when my best friend Charlotte and I used to go an 80s club in Soho.

We had gone to see a comedy set at the Soho Arts Club and our friend Tom was meant to be picking us up in a cab to stay at his in Vauxhall on his way back from another friend’s sister’s engagement party (and breathe). We left the comedy thing and waited. A tramp called Barry sat down and chatted to us. He took off his beanie hat to swish out his waist-length hair. Which was nice. It was cold so after admiring Barry’s unkempt locks we headed to the restaurant next door. Being sixteen we were poor, so we shared a plate of chips and a bottle of house wine. Being sixteen we looked about 25 so this wasn’t a problem.

A guy called Richard was playing guitar in the restaurant that night, with his drummer, Jamie, covering songs. Once we were installed just next to them they only played our requests and Richard told one of my favourite jokes:

How do you make a duck into a soul singer?
Put it in the microwave until its bill withers.

So we ate our chips, drank our wine, and still no Tom in a cab. Eventually we got kicked out of the restaurant, because, it turns out, waiters want to go home. So we were back on the mean streets. By this I mean the same section of Frith Street that we didn’t leave all evening.

We sat back down on the pavement – teenagers! Give me a break! – and waited. It was cold. Suddenly a car appeared and Richard and Jamie asked us which way we were going. It was completely the opposite direction to them so the offer of a lift was quickly retracted. We sat some more.

Taking pity on us the Arts Club bouncer told us to go in, on the house. We wandered down the stairs into a small, crappy room full of men in their 30s and suits that didn’t fit trying to grind up against women completely out of their league, swaying to the dulcet tones of Heaven 17.

Being unaccustomed to drunk grown ups and due to the place being utterly packed we hid near the door, shouting into each other’s ears about how cool this club was. Then, suddenly, Richard from the restaurant appeared, clutching two hot chocolates that he had gone down the road to buy us to keep us warm.

Eventually Tom turned up in his cab and we headed to Vauxhall, but that evening started a short love affair with the Soho Arts Club’s 80s night, which started at 11pm on a Friday. After that we’d drink cheap booze at Charlotte’s or mine and then head into town, where the bouncer would always let us in for free and we’d buy him a packet of fags from the machine and he’d buy us a few drinks. We’d dance with men about 20 years older than us, get hideously pissed and then never be able to find the night bus home. It was bloody brilliant. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed fending off sweaty bankers (if only that were the case now) and falling off my shoes into the bar. We stopped going after I got too embarrassed after trying to get off with Rodney, the DJ, after he let me choose and press play on a load of songs. Because they were all done off CDs.

Years (not that long, I’m only 23) later I headed there with a colleague and a boy I was trying to get off with. Since I was 16 they have revamped the whole place. We turned up, found out it was a tenner to get in (a TENNER!) and went to leave. Then I recognised the bouncer. In no way was I trying a cheap trick to get us in, we were already half way out the door, but I told him I remembered him from when Charlotte and I used to illegally drink there and he gave me a hug and let us all in for free. The boy I was trying to impressed was impressed, but had a girlfriend, and there’s only so much impressing you can do.

The whole place looked a lot fancier, and no longer smelt slightly of wee. I had a great time and danced my arse off, something I rarely do. Next time I go on a Friday date I may just suggest it.

A few weeks after my first adventure in Soho, Jamie, the drummer from the restaurant asked me out. I turned him down by telling him I was 16. It turned out he was the drummer of the Noisettes. But obviously I wasn’t shallow enough to have been kicking myself years later for that.

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3 Responses to “This is the sooooound of my sooooul”

  1. mattdupuy March 7, 2012 at 11:22 am #

    I’m old enough to actually remember the 80s. They weren’t all that. Some good tunes, though, as you point out. West Ham’s 85/86 season was also pretty special.

    I have similarly fond memories of a pub in my hometown called Fleetwoods, It was a bar where literally everybody knew your name. The route to the toilets went between the entrance and the bar. It once took my friend Per nearly an hour to make the 7ft journey from door to bar, as people he knew kept walking past him to go to the loo, stopping to say hi, and then stopping again on the way back. I celebrated my 18th there, despite having been a regular for at least two years by that point, and met my first girlfriend there. Best jukebox in the world, too.

    The place where it used to be houses a cleaning company now. I still sigh every time I walk past.

  2. Anna April 18, 2012 at 11:54 am #

    I am also old enough to remember the 80s and I loved it, would go back in a heartbeat. Great music, great people before everyone got paranoid and weird. Fashion was so-so but I am amused to see it all again in the shops now (mint green lace blazers with push up sleeves?) I went to the Soho Arts 80s night a couple of weeks ago and behaved abysmally, dancing with a guy who had hair like Robert Smith (could it be those tea pots). I would do it all again.

    • Sarah Duggers April 18, 2012 at 11:57 am #

      I LOVE it there, so glad you enjoyed it. There is no other way to behave at the Arts Club apart from abysmally.

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