by Jennifer Cairney
Just the sound of that tapping hi-hat brings it back to me – dry ice, condensation on bare brick walls, music building slowly, pushing you to a point where the sound and the response of your body become a single sensation. Faces, serene and gleaming with sweat, appear in your line of vision, arms brush, bodies bump, speakers throb, and the music is within you – an urgent, irresistible beat topped by a dreamy vocal, oozing soul…
1993 was a dressed-down, bare-faced, plimsoll-shod year, decades away from the false-eyelashed, platform-soled parade of the Primark generation. Down in the East End of London where the best clubs were – have always been – we danced till dawn. Dancing princesses, wearing out our slippers night after night.
Spilling out onto the wharf at dawn, our breath white in the chill air, we waited for cabs and listened to the water slapping against the old stones. Ears still pulsing, the sounds of the natural world seemed muffled and unreal. The mist swirled in from the river bringing with it the cry of seagulls, the smell of wet rope and – on one memorable night – the sight of a fully rigged sailing ship, bobbing gently on its mooring, canvas slapping gently and mast creaking. The music still ringing in our ears, sweat still drying on our necks, we roar off home to love and bacon rolls and sleep at last. The gold lettering of the ship’s name catches the morning sun for a moment: Cutty Sark. Well done. Well done indeed.