So here you are again, another Friday crammed into a sweaty club while the reggae beat pumps through speakers as big as mum and dads wardrobe. Bass so loud it is sending waves of sound threw your suit jacket. The smell of Brut and cigarette smoke and stale Red Stripe creating an intoxicating aroma. The three wouldn’t seem as though they would be the sort of mixture that you’d happily wake up smelling of tomorrow morning, but that’s exactly what you know will happen.
Many would probably say your interests weren’t necessarily meant to be a mixture that melded together so well. Button down shirt from America, tunes from Jamaica and the attitude strictly British. But it all somehow makes sense.
You’ve seen the fakes come and go. Just a few years ago, fall of ’68 to be exact, you had started this journey. An older lad, one of the few your sister dated you ever liked, had shown up round your house looking for her. Jeans and button down shirt both in the most fascinating colors you’d seen. Later found out the jeans were Levi’s and the shirt an American import. Blue and white stripes.
Harrington jacket in putty green. Bass Weejuns shined to the point they doubled as mirrors. And the haircut. Far shorter than anyone could ever dare up until that very moment. It wasn’t long until you were very likely proving to be an annoying little twat. Ten millions questions asked at a million miles an hour.
Soon you were down at The Ivy Shop buying your very first Brooks Brothers button down. Oxford cloth, a pale blue. Treated yourself with a bit of saved up birthday money from Mum and Dad, Aunt Margaret and Uncle Harry. Trying it on was life changing.
That, a pair of Levi’s and your sheepskin on and you felt like King of the Jungle. And you were. Around that time you’d been clued up to a record shop over in Tottenham, Dykes and Dydens. Went down there and the shop keeper was playing something a bit, risque.
Truth be told you had giggled a bit about the lyrics before you asked him what it was. Lloyd Terell was the performer, the track “Bang Bang Lulu’. Played it for your mates while your parents were out of the house, down at the market or something like that. It wasn’t just the lyrics though, it was the beat too. First ever 45 you’d purchased, wasn’t it now?
In the course of the next year you had seen what had always seemed your little secret explode across England. You knew something was up when Manchester United showed up with a load of what had become known as skinheads near the end of the season. If those northern mugs had figured out what was going on, the gig was up wasn’t it?
As disappointing as it all was you never stopped. These kids didn’t get it did they? Hair shaved down to the skull, big boots and aggro their only interest. Not that you were ever frightened by that. When you and a load of mates had gone down to the Tottenham Royal, chatting up some new girls, a gang of Yids took offense to a couple of West Ham’s finest chatting their birds up. Claret everywhere, you’d given them a kicking.
But it was never just about that was it? That’s what they didn’t understand. So you’d continued to head down to Dykes and Dydens, started going to Sheperds Bush Market to sort out tunes. A couple of journeys over to Brixton as well. Dad telling you that your wages were wasted on all that plastic. But you’re on a apprentice brickies wages, soon to be bumped up.
What wasn’t spent on blues and records was spent on clothes. You didn’t have a lot, but what you had was quality. Figured it was more important to have a little quality over a lot of shit. Today you’d been down to pick up your latest suit from that Jewish tailor. He always did a great job.
This one was no different. Blue tonik and you’d sprang for the Dormeuil. 4 button, six on the sleeves. Five ticket pockets in total. 12 inch center vent. It was a work of art it really was. You had on that shirt you’d bought years ago, still in great nick.
Pulling on your Royals before heading out you’d stopped, admiring yourself in the mirror one last time. It was still as smart of a look as ever. The hair might have been a bit longer, something said about “suedeheads”, but you still looked the dogs bollocks.
And here you were now. Four Aces in Dalston. You had to travel a bit if you wanted to hear the best reggae sounds. You also had to be willing to look past the stares from the Jamaicans when you and your lot first showed up. After a few Red Stripes or rums and everyone was accepted. You weren’t drinking though, slowed you down from dancing.
Just a couple of blues and music so loud you were practically ingesting it through your skin. Older Jamaicans playing dominoes in the back room. “Doris, where da pill” echoing throughout the room now. Utter ecstasy, another track from the master of rude reggae.
The spoken intro finishes and the bass kicks in. Heaven. Pure heaven. Lloyd Charmers doing the trick again.