Reading the recent Quietus article about Divine has precipitated another small bout of historical jealousy. To be honest, I never really realised, despite living in the west of Scotland all my days, what an institution it was. I somehow never really twigged when it was on and, I guess, never felt part of it. Given my time again, I'd probably be a regular at the Vic Bar and would no doubt have discovered a load of the good stuff earlier but I wasn't and I didn't. That article got me wistfully pondering over which club nights meant the most to me and without doubt the first Friday Street in the fairly dingy pre-refurbishment basement of Blackfriars was the best club night I've ever attended. I went on my own in my new red and white gingham Ben Sherman button-down (buttoned right up, of course - didn't want to show too much Daz white flesh!), black Levi's and a single breasted grey sports jacket (4 buttons, 3 on each cuff). As I walked in a stranger said, "You look like a young Andrew Loog Oldham". I wasn't quite sure if that was meant as a compliment as I'd never really seen a picture of the chap. Still, I smiled back and got a Diet Coke and sat down at an unoccupied table. Early in the evening the music was just incredible. It was like the DJ had a Dansette stacked with the 50 best female-voiced Northern Soul records I'd ever heard. As the place filled up the dancefloor got ever busier. It was pretty exhilarating. Maybe a third of the way through the evening, a chap in a green bomber jacket approached me saying that he was from the Mad Monks Scooter Club and that if I was on my own I could join them. Of course, I was way too shy to and politely declined his kind offer. I guess the word 'Mad' in the name of his scooter club scared me more than a little. As the evening progressed, however, he came over and asked me once more to join them and I felt that it would be rude to turn him down again so I went over and sat with them. Everyone was so friendly and so passionate about scootering, Mods and Northern Soul. I got bombarded with questions as they sized me up:
Mad Monks: What's your favourite Kinks record?
Brogues: Er...I don't know. I don't own any.
Mad Monks: Do you like The Small Faces?
Brogues: Only the odd tune here and there and I kinda hate all that "Lazy Sunday Awftahnoon-ah" stuff.
Mad Monks: You must like The Who, then. What's your favourite Who album?
Brogues: Um...not sure...I don't think I've heard any.
By this time the guy who'd invited me to join them was a little nonplussed so asked why I was at Friday Street. When I told him that I'd wanted to hear Northern Soul and that I'd never been to soul/ Mod night before he and the rest of the Mad Monks took on the role of educators and I was deluged with advice on what records to buy and what nights/events to attend next. It transpired later that a bunch of them were into Sarah Records and The Field Mice, in particular. When he heard us talking about The Field Mice, one burly former steelworker even started quizzing me about "The Waaaaah cd". I certainly wasn't expecting that! They dug The Pastels and The Jesus and Mary Chain, too, so there was plenty common ground. As they and the rest of the clientele got tipsier, the dancing got wilder, the jokes got funnier and the night climaxed with old and young - Monks included - atop tables, arms aloft singing along to The Small Faces. It was completely glorious. I couldn't help comparing it to the unsatisfying indie nights that I'd recently attended at which nobody smiled at you never mind spoke to you. As the lights came up I was invited to scooter bashes and rideouts and get-togethers that I knew I was too bashful and, frankly, too square to ever attend but it was just nice to be asked. The Mad Monks' enthusiasm was genuinely moving and more than a little like that of evangelical missionaries seeking new converts. Over the years I've been to a fair few Friday Street evenings at its various city centre venues and have always had a champion time. I still feel like an outsider as I'm not the sort to join a club and adopt a way of life, but I never feel uncomfortable and, if I'm on my own, somebody always reaches out. From what I gather, by coincidence, the last Divine at the Vic Bar the other week also ended on The Small Faces. Part of me wishes I'd gone to that but a larger part of me is glad that I didn't as, well, it would've been akin to going to a football Cup final when your team gets there without having attended that 2nd round tie in Brechin on the dank second Saturday in January.
Here's the song I associate most with Friday Street having heard it there first. If it's played late enough in the evening, you can guarantee folks'll be frugging wildly whilst windmilling like Pete Townshend to it! It always comes back to The Who...