Shining Brightly

I stumbled upon a news article about a best friend I haven’t seen for a very long time. It turns out that our life journeys continue to share similarities, even though our paths split. 

I read about the support he had put in place for his parents during their ill health, and his brilliant fund-raising for the charity that provided the support. He was always a brilliant shining star who lit up every room. Reading about him reminded me why I gravitated to him in the first place. It was a welcome reminder of the qualities in all of my friends, those still in my life and those that aren’t.

Looking at the photos in the news article, my friend hasn’t changed. There are signs of his continuous re-invention: a handle-bar moustache and spectacles that illustrate his tastes and interests, but it’s still recognisably him.  

I wondered if he still wore a hearing aid.  Being diagnosed with hearing loss at a relatively young age (no surprise considering the night-clubbing we did), he shrugged off the fear that a lot of us would have felt and decided instead to fully embrace it; make a feature of the new addition to his body; turn it into a talking point.

It was comforting to read that he hadn’t lost that determination to turn adversity and fear into hope. A brilliant shining example to us when going through similar life events.

My reminiscing ended on a less serious note as I chuckled about a one-night stand my friend once recalled, on the theme of hearing aids.  He had taken a member of the Deaf community home, only to be reduced to fits of laughter every time the lad got close to him, as the lad’s hearing aid emitted a high-pitched whistling caused by interference from the multiple metal piercings in my friend’s ears, nose and tongue.

No Sex

I came late to a lot of things in life. Alcohol. Trust me, it took years of training by my life-friend Liz to learn to love Whiskey, and just as long for close friends Paul and Geoff in London to train me to become an accomplished Guinness drinker.

Sex was another. For a long time, I just wasn’t interested. My close friend Paul had great fun with this. He loved a joke. We used to meet outside HMV on Cardiff’s Queen Street each Saturday mid-day – after ITV’s Chart Show had finished – to buy records and clothes, and he would hold onto my sleeve and drag his feet behind me at the most inopportune moment and make it look like I was his carer.

So, Paul had immense fun with the no-sex thing. He took it upon himself to try and set me up with men when we were out clubbing, determined to cause mischief. He would try anything. “He doesn’t do sex. He has an inverted penis. You should go on a date with him.” he whispered to me during one attempt, about a butcher from the valleys.

His most successful joke with the no-sex thing was his discrete declaration – while we were at the bar – that a lad I was talking to was a Christian and therefore didn’t do sex. Being of a Christian upbringing myself, this was music to my ears. I relaxed, rejoined the lad and invited him back to my place to continue our pleasant conversation when the club closed. Imagine my surprise when – back at my place and offering him a cup of tea – he was all over me like a rash, hands and tongue everywhere. An embarrassing phone call for a taxi later, I took myself to bed and prepared to give Paul a good telling off the following evening. But not too much of a telling off, chuckling to myself.

Rediscovering DJ Andre

I rarely see my DJ friend Andre these days. Our lives that were once so intertwined have taken on different paths, much as they started, although I understand he adopts dogs that need forever families.

Andre’s DJ sets were the best. He struck a perfact balance of house music and techno. He knew his dance floor, played it for hours on end, and developed a most loyal following. My favourite weekends were spent in London, dancing our way around the Market Tavern, Turnmills and the Royal Vauxhall Tavern until the next morning, and chilling later to recordings of Andre’s deeper personal sets that he recorded at home when no one saw him.

I witnessed Andre raid the record boxes of friends, pulling out twelve inch records that on the surface appeared main-stream, but homing in on unplayed dub mixes and remixes that strung together perfectly to make an Andre set, seemingly out of nowhere.

Years went by as I returned from London to focus on my career. I lost touch with where my friends were. When one afternoon, browsing the newly opened John Lewis store in Cardiff, I felt the deep thud of a bass drum, and I caught the flashes of bright colours coming from the lighting department. I had to investigate. The music got louder, the lights brighter, and guess who was there with a name badge behind the counter… DJ Andre, spreading some of his magic across his new path and mine.

Collecting Glasses

Kristian was a happy accident courtesy of my mum. Puzzled at my lack of enthusiasm for a night out one Friday evening, mum resorted to her drug of choice and encouraged me out of my shell with a Valium. It had kicked in by the time I was in Club X, and gave me an assured and confident air in a way that alcohol could not sustain.

I was introduced to Kristian through friends of my friend Wayne, ‘down from London’ for the weekend, with Kristian in tow. We formed a large group but for some reason Kristian talked with me and we hit it off. Not that I was into casual encounters, but being in an assured and confident mood, and enjoying his company, I told Kristian that he should stay at my place that night.

When mum brought me my cup of tea the next morning, and saw Kristian in the bed next to me, she barely skipped a breath before saying “Would you like one too?” I guess she felt at least partly responsible for this inaugural sleep-over.

Soon after, Kristian returned the favour by having me for a sleep-over at his place. I caught the train to Woodley in Berkshire to spend the Friday night with him. He settled me down to read the latest issue of The Grocer while he got changed, then drove us into London as it was only 20 minutes away and I would love a pub called the Royal Oak.

He bought me a pint and disappeared, leaving me to stand alone feeling slightly exposed. But no fear, he soon returned, collecting glasses. When I challenged him, he brushed it off saying he was just doing a few hours for some extra cash, and told me to talk to people.

I was still painfully shy back then, and it wasn’t long before my natural shyness attracted an Irish lad, who introduced himself as Kyle and offered to buy me a drink. I was naturally mortified at the thought of a stranger approaching me (note the absence of Valium). I made my excuses, found a payphone and called my good friend Abner to complain about the situation I was in. Abner did what Abner does best. He told me to stop moaning, get back to the Irish lad and go for it.

Being easily influenced by good advice, I got myself back to Kyle and got him to buy me a large whiskey, following which I got him to give me a good snog near the payphone. Half way through the snog and nearing closing time, he asked me to go back to his place with him. But I couldn’t, I would need to leave as soon as Kristian had cleared all the glasses. Kyle reassured me that it was no problem, he lived on the next street and therefore it wouldn’t take long. I made my excuses but was sure to finish the snog first.

Finding Jon John

I’d spotted Jonathan John some time before introducing myself to him. He’d been standing in the Golden Cross with a likely looking bunch of older chaps whom I immediately assumed to be in some kind of group thing with him. My head on a Saturday night: not a savoury place to be.

I must have been with Blanche and Phil because I discussed Jon with them, rating him out of ten. But that’s another story.

At the next sighting, I was stood in Exit with some piece of trailer trash in a white vest hanging off my right arm and swaying to the music because I’d made the mistake of smiling at her at the precise same moment her pill kicked in. I had immediately become her new best friend and had to do something drastic to reverse the situation. Jon came swanning past with a chap that turned out to be his Sister Paul, and I made eye contact. A flash of inspiration later, and Jon became my perfect excuse to get rid of the trash.  I told her something along the lines of having to excuse me because I needed to go and chat to that gorgeous bit of stuff in the corner if it was the last thing I ever did.

With that, I walked over to Jon, put on my best pulling smile (it never failed), and issued the immortal killer line that gets them every time: “Hi, I’m Scott.” As if he had spent all his life trying to find out who I was. It was the most important thing he could acquire knowledge of. Jon returned the introductions. Having successfully dumped the trash, I had to follow through with what I’d started, so I asked if Paul was his boyfriend. Jon politely informed me that he wasn’t, and that he didn’t have a boyfriend. So all that was left for me to do was to ask if he would go on a date with me sometime.  The date offer is a safe bet too, and this occasion was no exception I’m pleased to say.

Following Pete Burns

I think we’d been to see Pete Burns do two or three songs at the Red Cap in Camden, the night I met Rob Dakin. We were certainly at the Red Cap, but I’m struggling with the performer. It may have been Lola Lasagne but I think she came later. So let’s go with Pete Burns because at that time Martin and I were following him around London via Ministry of Sound and G.A.Y, forming a part of his very loyal fan base, which amounted to about 20 people in total back then.

Pete had done a set consisting of a handful of songs, which was short but something, and we were about to leave as we were all due in work the next day, so it must have been a Thursday night and the weekend had just started. I’d made eye contact with Rob during the performance. A few pints later, as we were about to leave, that old devil called lust rose in me and I strode back towards Rob at the stage, and invited him on a date. The good old fashioned date offer. It works every time.

We only lasted a few weeks through December 1995. Rob wanted something I couldn’t give him. At least that’s what he said when he was crying down the phone to me one night, drunk and drugged up. It was the night after I’d been to the Daniel Poole album launch party at Mr C.’s new club The End on West Central Street with Martin, and therefore I was very hung over and very embarrassed and had some apologising to do to the girls up the road, so I took what Rob had to say quite easily and said a polite goodbye.

Incidentally, I’d also just discovered Commander Tom’s Are Am Eye on the promo CD that they’d given us as we left The End (me in Martin’s arms, prior to projectile vomiting up an escalator at Liverpool Street Station). Martin had been trying to find out what that track was for weeks, so it my finding it helped with my apology. Although I don’t think it made up fully for my displays at The End, including security having to drag me off the dance floor, but it went someway, I’m sure.

Talking of Pete Burns, his autobiography angers me. He is full of bull! Having personally witnessed him slagging off Debbie Harry at the Ministry of Sound as an introduction to singing her song Picture This – “Has anyone seen the state on Debbie Harry lately?!” – I find it hard to swallow him coming over so nice about her in his book, saying no-one understands her.

Meeting Rollo

The night I met Rollo was so unlikely that I’m amazed to this day it happened. It was a Monday night, Faithless were booked to play their first live gig at the Camden Jazz Cafe, and I’d bought my ticket about four weeks prior. Come the Monday night, of course I was feeling ill because Martin and I had been caning it in FF the night before. But more than usual, I actually had the flu.

When I got back to the flat that evening, I really wasn’t up to going out again, but Martin convinced me. So I dragged myself to Camden for the advertised 7pm start, only to find that Faithless weren’t going to be on until at least 9pm. I had a choice: go home, which is what I felt like doing, or make like fish and hang around for Faithless. So I ended up in Comptons, supping Guiness and enjoying being eyed up by the tourists. Some pints of guiness later and my flu in remission, I headed back to Camden and took my place at the back of the venue, hoping to avoid the onslaught.

Regardless of what history tells us, there was no onslaught, and when Rollo strolled past me on his way to hide at the back of the venue, I grabbed him and told him how fabulous I thought he was, and we got chatting. He took umbrage at the amount of money I was paying for the promo versions of his records, and promised to put me on his record label’s mailing list. Then he introduced me to Sister Bliss.

Rollo made his excuses and hid at the back of the venue as his band came on. The gig was intimate and beautiful.  When I caught up with Rollo afterwards, I commented on the singers who had joined Maxi Jazz, and he proudly explained that his sister Dido had joined the band for the night (Dido famously was paid a curry for her work that night).

Meanwhile, I had been doing my usual ‘making eye contact’ with some guy who turned out to be one of Rollo’s best mates, and we ended up arranging a date before Rolle took me to the band for autographs.

The date happened but, unfortunatelty, didn’t go anywhere, mainly because I was so in awe of someone who was not only best mates with Rollo but also had shared a squat with Boy George and was best friends with Leigh Bowery… that I felt like I’d arrived at a party two hours too late and the best thing was to go home. So I did. Happy times though.

The First Rebirth

Jones & Stephenson – The First Rebirth. I must admit that I can’t remember actually hearing this in Club X one Friday night, but I must have loved it because the next morning Andre the DJ dragged me into Spillers Records and gave me a list of records that I had to have because I’d insisted the night before, and this was one of them.

I took it home and, having admired the simplicity of the Prolekult house sleeve, put it on the decks that Andre had loaned me, and listened to it over and over with a bottle of poppers up one nostril, and my boyfriend Buzz watching TV in the next room. Buzz kept checking I was alright. I didn’t bother trying to mix the record in with anything else that evening. Not only did I not know how to mix yet, but nothing else that I had would have justified it. It just opened up a whole new world of techno for me.

The twelve inch record that I got has mixes by Red Jerry and Baby Doc & The Dentist, and these artists were to influence my record buying for the next few years, and well into the London scene. That twelve inch is precious to me.