Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Night at Le Beat Route

We Can Be Heroes by Graham Smith (not to be confused with the novel of the same name by Catherine Bruton) is a book celebrating in photographs the youth culture that most people would know by the Blitz Kids. On Thursday, a mass of people congregated at Le Beat Route to listen to DJs such as Jay Strongman spin the sounds of the scene and launch the book.
As punk was petering out in London, New Romanticism was beginning. The whole idea of individual style and empowerment through looking unique and different carried on and young people (particularly from the industrial parts of Wales and the UK) dressed up and partied to their hearts' content to celebrate their defiance of the 1980s recession.
The most famous club was probably the Blitz; I went once but couldn't get into the 'standing and looking at each other' vibe; it was a fashion-based scene and I wasn't keen on a lot of the music that was played (too much mushy Eno).
However, Le Beat Route was a different kettle of fish altogether.
It was run by a guy called Ollie and my friend Stephen Mahoney, who was a bit of an angel to me in those times. I was between bands (The Chefs and Helen and the Horns) and Stephen and his then partner Richard Ostell, who was a fashion designer, used to cook food for me, buy my drawings and generally have a laugh.
Every Friday Stephen used to let me and my pals (Treacle, Charlotte, Ruth and Claire) into the club free. We came down early, all with big black hair in a cloud of hairspray and glowing red lipstick, and partied like mad until the early hours. Other people posed for photographs and looked splendid; we ferried drinks from the bar, danced and laughed in the background, heading home at 3 a.m. on the Kilburn night bus that stopped off at the all-night Kentucky Fried Chicken and dropped everybody off at the end of their street!
Jay used to run a 1940s-1950s-style stall in Kensington market called Rock-a-Cha with immaculately tailored trousers and jackets, and was also the lead singer in a band called the El Trains (they had a female drummer called Max whose long and lustrous red hair was a legend in itself).
The El Trains were one of the bands that The Chefs' guitarist, Carl, used to transport around in our van.
The club was full of people wandering round in a daze, remembering the past and greeting each other enthusiastically. Lots were dressed up (Boy George was there in a fetching outsize green hat) and others were just there for the vibe. I talked to a woman who had worked behind the bar back in the day, and to a chap who was just about to do The Knowledge (that's the London Cabbie's exam).
The details about the book are here:
I've still got the membership card somewhere.


Anonymous said...

Carl took us to the Beat Route when Spandau ballet filmed their Chant Number One Video...Just forwarded your comment about Max's lustrous red hair to her - she still has it!

Pete Chrisp

Helen McCookerybook said...

What a place! Say hello to Max; glad to know she still has that amazing hair.