Mixmag: Disco of my Mind
"For revels, dances, masks, and merry hours,
Forerun fair Love, strewing her way with flowers."
Shakespeare: Love's Labour's Lost.
From CJ Stone's Mixmag column, 1996-1998.
An earlier column had me stuck in the crummy 1970s disco-of-my-mind. This column finds me stuck in an actual 1970s disco. It was the Starsky and Hutch night at the Bunker bar in Bagleys near Kings Cross.
Well it was a puzzle for me. I mean: the 1970s was my era. I was 18 in 1971 - 27 in 1980 - so the whole era is so entangled for me with my own sense of confused growing up that I have difficulty in getting a focus on it. Not that I remember very much about Starsky and Hutch. I was a cool, dope-smoking geek at the time, immersed in my own sense of self-importance. I never watched TV. The only things I vaguely remember are as follows:-
2. The dark curly-haired one used to wear these chunky big cardigans with toggles instead of buttons.
3. That they drove round in an unmarked police car, but that when they were chasing villains one of them would get a red flashing light from under the dashboard and stick it on the roof.
4. That David Soul was a heart-throb at the time, and had some single in the charts, though I have no idea what it was called.
5. That they made being cops a sexy young thing to be.
And that’s it. I don’t even remember which one was Starsky and which one was Hutch. But I do remember one Xmas being round Tom and Elaine’s place. They were cool dope-smoking friends of mine. Elaine had bought Tom a brand-new chunky big cardigan with toggles instead of buttons. She said, “for heaven’s sake don’t mention Starsky and Hutch when you see Tom.”
“Hi Tom,” I said, when he came in, wearing this hairy-ape thing with a floppy collar. “I like the cardigan,” I said. “It’s just like the ones that Starsky and Hutch wear.”
He gave me this terrible dark look as if I’d just wounded his soul.
So how did it happen? How did I step out of the crummy 1970s disco-of-the-mind into this actual 1970s disco taking place right here in 1997?
I was due to meet Gilly and her friends at the Cross bar in Kings Cross. Well I was imagining all sorts of things about the Cross Bar before I got there. I thought it must be a pub with a bicycle theme. I pictured a “Pannier-room”, maybe, with bicycle panniers from around the world all over the walls; and a “Saddle-lounge”, where all the seats were bicycle saddles (Ouch!) I thought perhaps you’d get your drinks in those plastic containers like baby’s bottles that Tour-de-France cyclists use. But I was wrong. It was this stark, metallic, high-roofed bar with gloomy corners selling Guinness at £2.50 a pint. It’s only called the Cross Bar because it’s in Kings Cross.
I was wearing my police trench-coat with the collar up. I looked exactly like an undercover cop from a Starsky and Hutch episode. I was sidling round the bar looking into the dark corners to find my friends. They weren’t there. People were giving me funny looks. Obviously my “street-bum” image wasn’t working. They could see I was on a case. I left. After that I was wandering around Kings Cross trying to find Bagleys. There was a guy outside the station shouting about Jesus through a megaphone. The megaphone was so distorted (and his voice was so harsh from all of that shouting) that I didn’t understand a word he said. All I managed to pick up was the oft-repeated name “Je-sus” (like that, in broken syllables) like the mangled cry of some desolate marsh-creature. In the distance I could hear the wail of a police siren. You could imagine Starsky and Hutch themselves coming screeching round the corner any second and then leaping out to engage in some lethal fire-fight. Kings Cross is like that. It’s permanently stuck in a 1970s gothic cop-movie.
Well I never found Bagleys. Not till later, that is. I went in a pub. It said “Dancers” in big letters outside. Now what did that mean? When I got in I found out. The place was full of half-naked women. “Dancers” means “strippers”. But the guy behind the bar was so engrossed with something else (I can’t imagine what) that he forgot to charge me for my pint, so I was quite happy really. After that I went back to the Cross Bar and met Gilly and her friends.
Gilly said, “We’ll go early to avoid the queue. I know it’s not the cool thing to do, but I hate queuing up. Anyway, we might even get a table.”
But when we got there there was already a queue. Gilly said, “it’s the new thing, this queuing policy. They create a queue so it looks like this is the place to be. You have to ring clubs up beforehand to find out what their queuing policy is.”
Well I hate queuing too. I’d rather go to the place not to be, than be bothered with hanging round in a line just for the appearance of it. I mean: I don’t mind queuing if it’s necessary (in the Post office, for instance, to collect my Family Allowance) but when the management create a false queue on purpose, holding people up and only letting them in four at a time, just as a promotional technique, then this simply seems rude and unnecessary. I decided to blag my way in on the back of Mixmag. I spoke to the bouncers and they introduced me to one of the organisers, and he agreed to let me and Gilly in. “VIPs,” the bouncers called out as they let us through the gate.
“VIPs! Did you hear that Gilly? They called us VIPs!” It was the first time I’d ever been called a VIP in my life. I still haven’t got over it. I’m thinking of changing my name. No more CJ Stone. You can call me VIP Stone from now on.
Once I was inside I started thinking about this queuing policy thing. You see, it’s in the nature of capitalism to turn wants into needs. We didn’t need cars and washing machines and CD players at first; we wanted them, that’s all. But if you create a lack, then wants do turn into needs. These days the world is all covered in motorways, so we do need our cars to get out into the country. And we need our washing machines to give us time and our CD players, maybe, to give us mental space. But who on earth could ever have imagined that we’d one day need Starsky and Hutch theme nights? I sometimes wonder if it’s me who’s going mad, or if it’s just the whole damn world.
Anyway - whether I actually needed it or not - I have to say that I had a bloody good time in there. For once I actually recognised all of the songs. And the atmosphere was so tacky it was almost sublime. Guys with wigs and stick-on side-burns. Women with wibbly-wobbly bubbly patterns all over their jeans, with feather boas around their necks (that was Gilly). Nobody gave a damn. There were latter-day Starskys and late twentieth century Hutches running in little conga-lines all over the place.
I tried to chat someone up. I said, “I’ve seen you in my dreams.”
Arrrggghhh! It came out just like that, the cheesiest chat up line you can imagine. I was running away before she had time to answer.
So I was definitely stuck in a Starsky and Hutch script now. There were Starsky and Hutch lines coming out of my mouth, Starsky and Hutch thoughts bubbling about my mind, a Starsky and Hutch look of charismatic charm straddled across my face. I looked down and I was wearing this chunky big cardigan with toggles instead of buttons. I’d stepped into the TV time-vortex and now there was no way out…. The disco-of-the-mind goes on forever!