Hits and memories: 9
Soul II Soul, Club Classics Vol 1 (1989, Virgin)
The late 1980s/early 90s were a pretty wild time for me (and everyone else it turned out). I’d returned to Sydney from Perth in 1987 to start a Communications degree at UTS, bored to the teeth with mannequin painting and looking for a change of direction, or at least to find out whether I could write.
I was sharing a house in Paddington with Andrew (who’d moved from Perth and The Australian and was now working at Choice), and Robert, whom I’d met in 1983, my first year of living dangerously in Australia with Jed. Robert had won my heart with his impersonation of a surfie chick at an exhibition at the old Sydney College of the Arts campus in Rozelle, where he and other friends were studying.
We’ve never looked back. Well, we have, but not in anger.
We were the Miserable Club – all single and singular, feeding our various neuroses with schnitzels so big they dwarfed the dinner plates at Una’s on Victoria Street, or on mammoth mixed grills at The Balkan on Oxford Street. From what I remember, the only requirement for membership was having experienced a New Year’s Eve at some point in our lives so tragic and depressing that we’d been scarred for life. While we all found each other (and the world around us) hilarious and stimulating, we were not exactly party people.
I’d met a couple of incredible young women at uni, who were straight out of school – and who, despite the 12-year age difference, were absolutely my kind of people. I never really warmed to the mature student thing – probably because I wasn’t that mature, and most definitely not as earnest as the other mature students there, most of whom I found tediously adult.
Nerida and Tegan swiftly became honorary Miserable Club members and together, we laughed and talked and quoted Billy Bragg and Woody Allen and Pee-wee Herman. The three of us also did a fair bit of writing and making the odd shudder-worthy, pretentious film. Tegan and I even had a weekly comedy spot on the breakfast show on the university’s radio station, 2SER. Giddy times.
Nerida shared a house with her friend, Penny, a model so beautiful that she glowed in the dark. The three of us would go to the Soho Bar in Victoria Street and she’d be swarmed by desperate suitors, while Nerida and I stood talking intently at the bar, rigid with fear and disdain in equal measure, and defying anyone to break through our barrier of insecurity.
And then along came Ali back into my life – fresh from a break-up with Gem and a sojourn in Melbourne as a tram conductor – complete with porkpie hat and a tall, thin and very handsome friend called Stuart.
Ali invited Nerida, Andrew and me to this friend’s 30th birthday party at his house in Ultimo, where the three of us stood mortified in a corner, while the other guests, in various states of intoxication and undress, were having more fun than we’d experienced in our combined lifetimes. When a woman, wearing not a lot, started rubbing herself up against a stricken Nerida, the Miserable Clubbers scarpered, vowing never to return.
Ah, ecstasy – who knew?
Not us at that point, obviously.
But, against plenty of odds, a month later, that tall, thin and very handsome man and I got together – with a fair amount of persuasion on my part, and a large amount of alcohol on his – late one night at a club called Spagos on Crown Street in East Sydney.
And that’s when I became a party person.
RAT parties, Mardi Gras parties, Sleaze Balls – the fast crowd I was moving in (and they were seriously fast – and loud – and so not Miserable Clubbers) went to them all. We’d meet at Karen and John’s – fondly known as the King and Queen of Paddington – two diehard socialist teachers with a penchant for loud music, travel, rugby and thrilling excess – for drinks and whatever else worked at the time. Then off we’d head down Oxford Street, a swaying, shimmying, shouty rabble in leather and rubber, ankle boots and hair gel.
Just as fun were the after parties at our friends’ sprawling share house in North Bondi. We’d all end up there and party on, hanging out in the garden around an open fire as the sun rose, drinking and smoking and dancing to a soundtrack of Soul II Soul, S'Express, Salt-N-Pepa, New Order.
That first year or so of Stuart's and my relationship was a fortnightly round of all-night parties interspersed with a week of bronchitis. God knows how we’re all still standing 32 years on, let alone dancing.