Tuesday, 29 March 2016

80s Glesga Nightclubbin' , Wumin - Romance, then and Now?

I wonder what the hell it is like to go on the ran-dan lookin' fir a lumber noo? Jockissimo writes-

Back in the late 80s it all seemed a bit like falling off a log. There were different social strata in Glesga's night scene. At one end, The Savoy Centre club while at the other there were exclusive clubs. From neds, through 'plastic' to classsy 'cruise crowd' of "Newton Den" as we called the posh crowd from the collective northern and southern better-off-'burbs. My pal Kenny Dobie, used to salivate over the leggy burds going into Follies, surely the moat architecturally impressive club - some may say archaelogical based on its more mature clientell. The Cotton Club, Roof Tops, Charlie Parkers,(Cardinal) Follies , Panama Jacks, Tuxedo Princess, Tiffany's, Joe Papparazi's,  The (renfrew) Ferry.... Mostly 'handbag' or 'plastic' we called them.

There was the gay, sorry, LGBTG - clubs, club X and The infamous Bennets...both with hetero legends of wandering in 'straight night', pulling a pair of "hot dykes" and having a wild night in the sack. A myth of course, but it fuelled the midweek late night student and minor celebrity drinking on Tuesdays ( bennets) and Wednesdays in these clubs.....then there was the celebrity and footballer frequented clubs Tin Pan Alley and of course Victorias, both attracted old firm heroes, rich cocaine dealers, media folk and glasgow's younger gangster villans. Rooftops had allegedly a rastafarian following. Bikers even had a club, or adopted one, down aloing the Broomielaw, name escapes me, pls leave it in comments- perhaps became the firast Viper in the 90s.

Most of all though there were the cool indie clubs and off peak indie nights at mainstream clubs, but thwey were often a flop come third week into term. Where as saturdays for 90s students meant the Garage or more up market private clubs, our more modest attitude to use of grant and loans held most students to their Unions, and often bands would be playing anyhows. The two Glasgow Uni unions had a turn, in the QM you could at least revert to the massive indie juke box, and endure the hilarious confusion when the goths put on a Jesus and Mary Chain single which was actually swapped for "I've got a brand new combine harvester' by the Wurzels.

The biggest, baddest student saturday night was Level 8 at the refurbished Tech union (strathclyde- it had been a polytechnic in the 60s and 70s), where I almost gave myself alcohol poisoning on Lowenbrau ( aka laughing brew) and tequila shots. All the college and Uni card holders, plus a guest, could get in and it was rachaus for music in a huge top floor in the block, towering over George Square and the Merchant city, but with a dark, basement feel to it.

There were just a couple of clubs which weren't too fussy about who got in - in the west end it was Cleopatras, known to all and sundry rather affectioinately as " Clatty Pats". I never remember being there until maybe 1995, but I must surely have gone up the mirrored stairway to 'heaven' one pils fuelled eve'  in my time at the 'varsity. (?)

On the indie side there was my favourite 80s noire " Fury Murray's " which was a designer basement bar for Lloyd Cole Cole wannabees from "Bears Mairns"  ...once on getting to the front of the queue i heard the guys right behind me getting turned down "sorry, you're too smartly dressed" to the toned down Wegie Crocket and Dibbs who saw the funny side too. You entered a dark basement which with a decor, boothed table arrangement and night watch lighting which just as easily have seen Humphrey Bogart as propreitor and sam on the ol' diana as blastin out the proto brit pop and jangle rock of the day.

In a rather sad attempt at reviving student romance post graduate malaise of the car-wash summer job, i took the most beatiful girl i will ever date there and she snogged the hell off my lips in a booth there for at least an hour, us in a dark illumunated only by small bauhaus movement metallic hanging laterns, like the lures of deep sea creatures at the depths of mid ocean trenches or something from a secret Nazi control bunker. My babe then was just starting her uni - or RADA- adventure , me just ending it before working two years and getting back in for a second dose of headukayschun at the "Tech" aka Strathclyde Uni. So i got to experience the change over from 80s student life to 90s in te dear, green place.

By 1992 Glasgow had gone from big for clubbing to being totally massive, with more clubs in the central square mile than any other European city. Tunnel, Sub Club, Volcano, Velvet Rooms, Trash, Tin Pan Alley, Archaos, Reds , the viper club, The Arches..... The list went on. Had there been cheap flights then, no doubt Glesga would have become the favourite destiny for eurotrash by 1993- a mecca for the pre-rave generation of club-fashion-cogniscenti. Many clubs went upmarket while some more specialist clubs appealing to a select clientel opened - Madame Gillespies with the S&M crowd, hidden away out in the industrial units at Finneston. The up side of so many new clubs was that there was a lot less of 'regulars only' as long as you split your male groups up a bit, acted sober and dressed up a bit- or a lot if you were going to Madame Gillespies I suppose.....

For students entering the 90s, the old dance hall, cheese disco Mayfair (prev Raffles? or shuffles and stud? ) also a good concert venue at the west M8 end of Suachiehall St was reborn as the Garage. Still there last time I looked 24 years later. Many a night out in the late 80s early nineties involved the Garage, with a warmer at either the variety bar or Its newer neigbour- Nice n' Sleazy,  run by the fabulously christened Ariki Porteous and her Pixette side kick. Out the west end, we finally got an alternative to Clatty Pats, with the arrival of The Volcano at the tail end of Byres road, which was used for the club-scene in Trainspotting, btw big man.

Romance revolved around clubs, or so we all thought, and that meant both ends of the gender polaris were flung together in a dark, defening, packed out concentration camp of lust and drunkeness. Some clubs became heaving masses of folk moving twixt bar, loos, dancefloor and whatever limted seating there usually was. If you stood still just out of this malstroem current then you could spot little camel trains of girls,mwqlking round endlessly like clueless poilgrims, trying to on one side avoid unwanted attention from lads, while on the other checking the talent out and seeing who might buy them a drink. Maybe some never found their way out and live in a limbo of perpetual motion and indecision.

By in large then, clubs were and are far from ideal for meeting the right partner, but at least in an 80s indie club night you could dance to the Smiths or the Pixies and have an idea that the print pattern mini dress clad babes with the 18 hole Doc's were into the same music and you may be able to shout into each others ear to express that commonality and ask to buy her a drink. That could take 15 minutes often, in a bizarre and inverted game of chinese whispers, ending up virtually shouting at each other from point blank ear range.

More dancing, a quick bit of ladies loo comparative consultancy, and a snog would ensue usually mid dance on a jam packed dance floor "Panic" ringing out....or when you both tried to ball into each others ear. The coincidence of physical contact resulted in requited erm, fancyingness and a state of vacuum like snogging as if you wanted to create a single black hole to whisk you both away from the noisy nightmare that courting demanded in the 80s and pre-internet 90s.

A last big, often cheesy or folky ( 'Come on Eileen' by Dexy's' a regular floor filler end of indie night) dance track and boom¡ the lights would go up and music die like the first millisecond of a ten megatonne nuclear burst. Ears ringing, eyes stinging. Usually the young lady of your affections would be chaperoned away by her gaggle of most often unsuccessful and speccy-chubby girl friends- kind of like those scenes from flood disaster movies where the love interest is drawn from the finger tip grasp the hero had on her by the current in the midst of the debris, never to be seen again. The wise guys followed their watches, plan to get ahead of the taxi scrum,  and came with 1am offers to the girls, of parties or unopened bottles of tequila to lure the fly into the centre of their web on the other side of Glasgow.

Our own gang of pals' collective pulling rate was however, far better at concerts, often at venues like Mayfair ( Garage) , Fury Murrays, The varios Unions and of course the greatest of them all, The Barrowland aka Barra's. At a band you usually had some quiet interlude or at least you could hang out at the back if you were 6'2" like me, where a conversation could be held. Furtive glances were exchanged, eye lashes fluttered, wry smiles arose. It seemed much easier to spot body language and get eye contatc than in a dark, heaving, deafening club. Like a first date at a movie, at least you had something to talk about , objectively. In truth I don't miss clubbing much, but I sorely miss the opportunities I had for rock and indie concerts that 80s Glasgow offered in the days before metallic sheds on old industril land as concert venues.

The more drunken clubbers and the older (25!) veterans of Sausageroll Street or Argyll St area clubbing would move to the fast food shop. Here your ears could start to recover and you were in better lighting, perfect for an evaluation of attractiveness, hot bodiedness ( not always hand in hand in scotchlandshire) and drunken vulnerability or sobered approachability that the fairer sex in display had to offer. The queue in the chippy, 'bab shop or street side van was like a cross between feeding time at the penguin enclosure and an aweful zombie cat walk. Jedi level skills were needed to position and gain some kind of eye and mind contact with young ladies keen to soak up their Gin n bitter lemins, Diesel or Velvet Sledgehammers and make up for a dinner not eaten midst make up and vodka colas back at the flat. In my early, fitter days I never made that pavlovian dog salivation between end of licensing hours and onslaught of junk food as a nocturnal meal time. Hence never I a jedi in the chipper in the wee small hours.

Late night parties were kind of a marathon which I rarely had the stamina for. A detour for drink stashed at your own digs often lead to bed. At a party scabbing drinks was rude, but a smile and a joke could get you a long way with someone who had extra cans or a half full 75cl Sambucca. If i Did after-bar party then it was only ever Woodlands and as far as Partick and Hyndland. Invites to further extremes or the bermuda triangle that was the South Side, were shunned due to logistical concerns and the worry that the party would have been forceably dissolved - 'sorry,no party, the pigs broke it up at 12' .

An acquaintance, " Big Ross frae Kinross" in a  'huff cut' state once believed he had pulled at the insalubrious " Clatty Pats" ( Cleopatra's Night Club off Gt Western Rd) and on the agreement he would cover some of the taxi, he went off in said jwet black charabang in good faith. Only to be the last one in the taxi as the girls poured out and ran like blazes away up a close an' o'er the midden at a block of flats in  Easterhouse. He was skinned for at least twenty quid on the threat of polis being called, and had to shanks pony it oot of the scheme and get the first possible bus home from parkhead.

The taxi sting was apparently a regular ruse of the skirt from The Hoose, Chateau Lait and the Bankies or Faiflies. Many a drunken sqauddie or naive student no doubt fell for that one. Which brings me onto economics and matters of class. Back then it was more the music you were into, your age and the corresponding pubs and clubs which kind of defined who you would meet and indeed be interested in. Clothes were cheap for most of us, ripped second hand jeans and docs making their first of many rounds of student fasshion mid eighties. Most students were dressed for ' unner a hunner quid' You didnt in other words judge someone by where they came from or how much cash they were wearing, excluding that is the plastic clubs and the cruise-crowd from Bearton Dens or wherever they came from. It never crossed your mind whether this petite, vivacious, black tights, plenty thigh and 'bovver booted' babe chatting to you was of more or less economic worth by family or by future profession. Equally good the sexy wee Ramones fan doing hairdressing at the 'dough school' as the sultry law student in her "the queen is dead' smiths t-shirt.

I guess though that outside of student-indie land my success rate was next to nothing. I looked like ine of those poor fools whonwent to uni instead of maybe making £80 a week on the tills, or a couple o' hunner as a shop fitting joiner on 12 hour shifts. Non student skirt wanted a lumber with the prospect of buying all her drinks next time out. Non student skirt was sceptical, in a single phrase  - an inverted snob. Without good reason. The 80s was actually a fantastic time for social mobility in Glasgow, with on the one hand the expansion of Uni places while on the other a life cheap enough to fully sustain on the stewdant-grant with a drop of housing benefit to boot. Working class students were two a penny at Uni's and the colleges were stapped full. Of course the 'under class' was unrepreseneted but also they are self excluding from social mobility. I had lab' partners from both Easterhouse and Drumchapel. Snogged birds from Faifley and Castlemilk at Uni.

These days? Do young folk treat each other like corporate mergers during their "winchin' "?  With turn over, leverage, profitability and long term market capitalisation more important musings than taste in music and common ground in sense of humour? After that is of course, swiping the weeks likely catch in a joint looks and economic triage mediated on Tinder and other dating or SM apps. I am not going to lament that. Of a hundred nights out a year as a student, maybe it ended up in a couple of two-weekers and one unrequited love? Easier to just seive down the gold nuggets from the comfort of your Futon. Also economically, are you going to go out with a naive financial catastrophy post Uni? Are you going to waste your time on someone who is going to be a bit of a charity case ( like me right now !) when post graduation reality-bites? Alternatively, are you either going to put your best foot forward wirth another highly qualified career type and go forth to build a solid, if dull,  life in your 20s and 30s or are you going to shag your way into a monied family with good connections?

In my own personal waterloo that the post graduation malaise became, I once met one of those hot bod, bit of an old nose on her semi goths who were grist to the mill just a year or two earlier at the student union or indie disco. We chatted a while, her a little half interested until we got onto the subject of peronl economics. I told her i was "a bit skint' to which her reply was "no mon' , no fun, hun". Perhaps romantic accounting was always a passion killer anyway.

Links and sources, when i am off the tablet and on a keyboars
Cardinal Follies

In the comments mainly -  a younger author of the actual article