Posted by: martinworster | June 28, 2011

Clubs – Fitness Centre, Southwark, London 91-92

Fitness Centre was in deepest Southwark, just south of the River Thames on Clink Street. This area – most of the southern section of the Thames walkway – is now very gentrified and upmarket. The rebuild of Shakespeare’s Globe, Gabriel’s Wharf, the refurbed Oxo Building, Tate Modern – all these were a long way off then, hard to imagine they were then derelict and disused buildings. Clink Street got it’s name from the fact that it used to be a location of a jail (‘gaol’) and hence lead to the phrase ‘in the clink’ for being banged up (imprisoned). An onomatopoeic reference derived from the clinking noise of metal key on iron bars. Back in the early 90s this part of London was still pretty rough and ready and was ‘sarf’ (south) of the river. A place cabbies in the north would never venuture. For us suburban ravers it was a different story.

In the pre-internet / mobile phone days – hard to imagine now, like the dark ages – we relied on pirate radio for advertising the clubs and finding out about the right nights. Not sure how we arranged with our friends to meet up or when, if anything went wrong with the arrangements considering there was no texting, we would know the location of others. Some of the early rave promoters had the first brick sized mobile phones which they’d use to advertise the whereabouts of nights via mobile phone message whilst playing a cat and mouse game with the police.

Since going to Fitness Centre I since found out that this venue was the same space for Shoom – Danny Ramplings era and scene defining acid house night in the late 80s where Paul Oakenfold DJ’d, all smiley t shirts and cries of ‘accieeeed’. An epochal night frequently referenced for successfully transporting the loved up Ibizan 80s vibe to London. Fast forward 4-5 years and the scene was very different. Early hard core was the sound. The room was small and filled with bass – in fact I can pretty much trace my tinnitus to that night where we used to spend half the night with our heads literally IN the speakers. The music was so consuming. It was everything. You’d try to hug the sound. To enter it. So integral was it to the whole experience – it was the experience.

The hardcore sound could be quite brutal – relentless walls of drums and bass attacking your synapses. Shrill speeded up chipmunk female vocal refrains on the breakdown. Baggy breakbeats. Synth tech stabs and breakdowns. Ragga samples and shouts. The precursor to modern drum and bass, jungle and dubstep. But it sure worked on the dance floor – on these nights you would dance all night to 6am. I remember they had good MCs at the event – I don’t know if they were anyone well known as I don’t know their names! Same with the DJs, I think Remarc might have been a resident. That was the thing about the nights about the Fitness Centre – it was just a small room with lots of noise, sweat and atmosphere a hardcore urban temple to the sound, a classic club.

Tunes of the night:

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