I’m too old to go clubbing now.
I realised this later than perhaps I should have done, but given that I didn’t start going “proper” clubbing until I hit 30, that’s no real surprise. (By “proper” clubbing, I mean the type of club where you are just there for the music and atmosphere, not one of the meat markets where pissed up lads would try and cop off after the pubs were shut.)
There’s no doubt about it, it was a mid-life crisis, but one that I embraced whole-heartedly, and not one that I reflect on with any regret or shame. In fact, it was regret which finally led me to go: I’d been a DJ at the college at the end of the 1980s/start of the 1990s, when the whole rave culture was properly kicking off, but did I engage? No. I turned my nose up at it, denounced it as “not real” music because it didn’t have guitars on it. Idiot.
One of the things I loved about clubbing – apart from the music – was how easy it was to chat to random strangers. If a tune came on that I wasn’t keen on, or didn’t know, or if I just needed a cigarette – smoking on the dancefloor was a definite no-no – I’d make my way over to the seats and spark up. Almost inevitably, someone sitting nearby would come over to bum either a cigarette or a light, and I was always prepared for such an eventuality, taking two packets of cigarettes out with me, several lighters, even a couple of packs of chewing gum, just in case. I probably could have set up a tobacconist kiosk. In any other setting once that transaction was completed, that would be it. But not here: in this world, this would usually just be an ice-breaker, followed up with either: “You ‘avin a good night mate?” or “Where you from mate?”
Nobody seemed to care that I was a good ten years older than everyone else in the club that night. Many of them just assumed that I’d been going since circa 1990, and I was happy to let our conversation continue with them under that misapprehension. It imbued me with some undeserved elder statesman kudos.
I made so many friends during the few years I regularly went clubbing, it’s incredible, many of whom I’m still in touch with, despite barely having seen them in the last fifteen years or so. Some I recognised from work but didn’t really know, some I’d never met before but would regularly hook up with or bump into the next time I was out in clubland, thereby sealing a new friendship. The occasional person I had no recollection of whatsoever. Maybe I’ll write about some of them, sometime. Names will have to be changed to protect the not so innocent.
I look back on those nights with a huge amount of affection, and wish I could go back there. But I remember the night I realised it was time for me to quit all too vividly.
Some mates and I had gone to a club which wasn’t really to my taste, but I’d been outvoted. It was all bright and shiny and polished and had mirrors on every wall, the very opposite to the dark and dirty surroundings of Cardiff’s now-closed Emporium which I simply adored.
I fancied a cigarette, left the dancefloor before remembering that the smoking ban had just come in. I couldn’t be bothered with the hassle of going outside, so I thought I’d just sit down for a bit, see who was around to chat to. Only to find there was nowhere to sit, so I ended up just standing, on my own, sort of near the dancefloor, looking around me at all the beautiful people.
And I suddenly felt very old and very out of place. When I was young and we went to a club, we used to point and laugh at an old bloke who was there on his own, probably just wanting an after hours drink, but looking like the archetypal dirty old man. Is that how I look to these people?
So I hung up my dancing shoes, and never went back.
So, for as many weeks as I remember to do it, a tune which reminds me of those days will appear here, sometimes with an anecdote, sometimes not.
Starting with this, which would often get aired in the final hour or so of the club night at the Emporium me and my mates went to the most: