SUIT YOURSELF INTERVIEWS
PAUL HALLAM - CO CREATOR AND RESIDENT DJ OF THE FAMOUS LONDON CLUB NIGHT - SNEAKERS.
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I've been sitting here trying to write an introduction to this piece which I normally do when we interview people, I normally start with things like 'We are super proud to bring you something special' or 'We've interviewed some amazing people... (and we have)' and other great opening sentences but in this case I'm drawing a blank so instead I've been sitting and wondering why I can't open this feature with another captivating line or two and then it struck me.
The reason I'm struggling to find that all important string of words is that no amount of one line fanciness would be enough to give this interviewee the credit he deserves! And the reason for this......The undeniable and profound effect that the subject matter has had in my own life.
Let me explain without making it about me but giving you an insight my own journey within the mod scene, it started in the early 80's in a London overspill town called Bracknell in Berkshire where me and my pals grew up relishing all things mod, we started our own modernist scooter club, did all the local events, dressed the part and generally thought we were the bees knees. We also visited the big smoke, London and sucked up the sights, sounds and coolness of the big city but we were, and it has to be said still a bit wet behind the ear, finding our feet and learning the rights and wrongs of the cool sub culture that would change our lives forever.
In our quest for the ultimate in cool we visited London tailors, shirt makers, coffee shops, record shops and indeed clubs all in an attempt to out sharpen the average Joe. We lived it, loved it and breathed it and to this day we are all still best of pals. We all followed different paths, my own being in the music industry but each of us taking the modernist view of life with us that inspired us from when we were young and when we get together it's like we've not aged a day, still with the same values and still with the same outlook on life.
One such youthful experience for us upstarts with a thirst for the ultimate in sharp was to visit one of London's coolest clubs - Sneakers. This Sunday night get together was something to behold for us out of towners. It was where the real 'In Crowd' were hanging out, the coolest of sounds were played and the sharpest of people would check each other out from their clothing to their dance steps. Our visits to the legendary club night had a profound effect on me and my pals and we tried to replicate the Sneakers ethos in our own events back home in Bracknell. We would like to think with some success.
Ultimately my visits to Sneakers and the inspiration it gave me turned me into a promoter and since those days I have been lucky enough to promote 100's of events and start up a little brand called Suit Yourself which in one guise or another celebrates its 30th anniversary next year!
I have a lot to be thankful for with those hedonistic young visits to the club, for me I have travelled full circle with this interview. My visits to Sneakers have led me to incredible places. DJ'd with amazing people and done fantastic things which have left me pondering, without it those visits some things may never have happened and Suit Yourself and this website may never have been born and you my friends would not be reading this interview - Heavy stuff I know but it's the reason I can't come up with an obvious opener....
One thing I can say is that through my peers I have been able to do all the above and there were a lot of peers who visited Sneakers that still effect my life today. Two of the biggest influencers who would have never known it at the time were the guys behind the legendary club night Paul Hallam and Richard Early. Along with Tony Class they turned a back room of a pub in Shepherds Bush into the stuff of mod legend not seen since the Scene club in the 60's. Their fantastic club night has now become a thing of wonderous memories for some, life changing for others. Its coolness replicated across the country at the time and can still be felt in the scene today.
So you see dear friends why I'm having problems finding my opening gambit. Paul Hallam, along with Richard Early and Tony Class effectively changed a young man's life and I wouldn't be sat here today pondering on an opener for our interview with Paul, the only thing I can say is that I feel very blessed to be able to bring this interview to you and extremely blessed that we have been able to bring out a range of T-shirts to celebrate the legendary club night that means so much to so many people.
So without further ado - Our interview with Sneakers co-founder, DJ, promoter and all round mod legend - Mr Paul Hallam.
(Words - Cris Davies)
Hi Paul, can you tell us a little about yourself, where you grew up and how you spent your mis-spent early youth.
I was born and raised under the flight path of Heathrow airport. My introduction into music was in the early 70s when all my friends were loving Slade and T-Rex and I was listening to Tommy Steele records on my sisters old Dansette. Im not sure why Tommy? I think my mum had taken me to see Half A Sixpence at the Cinema one half term and I loved it (and still do) - I wanted to learn to sing and tap dance and I loved his stripey blazer. This may sound very cool now when Im nearer 60 than 50 but back then it was a curse and I wouldn't be able to join in any of the chats with the cool kids about TOTP etc.
I wanted to be a Royal Marine - which had its failings as I cant swim and I'm rubbish at fighting. Then football took over my interests - Firstly Liverpool FC in 1973 (I liked Keegan and Toshack), then Walton and Hersham and by the end of the decade I was firmly into Millwall FC.
My dad was massively into motorbikes and wanted me to be also. He offered to buy me a trials bike so I could do under 12's motor X (then called Scrambling) but it was just too muddy for my liking and all that spark plug changing. I declined - much to the horror of many of my school friends.
My 2nd (and biggest music event) was in 1977. I was loving the Boys Brigade, Liverpool Winning the European Cup and the BBC re-showing old Horror films on a Saturday night in a thing Called "Dracula, Frankenstein and Friends".
I was allowed to watch the first film and some nights my mum would stay up with me to watch the 2nd (more scarey) movie. I LOVED Horror films. Luckily at the same time the Beatles released the live album recorded in 1964 and 1965 at the Hollywood Bowl. The TV advert had no clips of the Fab Four but clips from the Universal black and white films from the 20s and 30s. I was hooked. 5 seconds of Bella Lugosi is better than none. I watched the adverts and quite liked the sounds I was hearing. My sister was and still is - 12 years older than me. I asked to borrow some of her Beatles collection. I became obsessed with the band the same day. And for the next 3 years this was my life. I bought every album - and most of the solo albums. Got my parents to drive me to George Harrisons house in Henley. Had a very bad Beatles haircut and waited patiently for the group to reform. In between this I went to a few Millwall games, saw Paul McCartney and Wings live and attended a few cider drenched teenage parties having very little success with girls.
Can you tell us about your first introduction to the mod scene, when it was and how it happened.
In the summer of 1980 a distant cousin of mine moved down from Wales to work in London. I had by this time widened my love of music from JUST THE Beatles to many of their contemporaries. I liked The Kinks, The Stones, The Hollies, Bob Dylan and owned a Manfred Mann album, that changed a LOT. I asked my mum to buy me the Greatest Hits album - Semi Detached Suburban - for my 14th birthday but she got me what she thought was a bargain. A sort of Hits of theirs but it included a lot of the raw RnB type stuff. I'd heard the Stones but this was different. What Exactly was a Watermelon Man? I got Time for Action for my 14th birthday and had my own Cider Crazed party at my parents house. But I wasn't sure bout this mod revival malarkey. It all seemed a bit too punky for me.
Barry - the Welsh one was sposed to stay at my parents for a few weeks - which turned into 5 YEARS. He was 21 and had the best musical knowledge of anybody i'd ever met. His passion was Bowie - tho his collection covered everything. He was working for Ealing Tax office (same one as John Entwistle had worked at nearly 2 decades earlier. I was forbidden to play Taxman by the Beatles when he arrived as it might upset him. So I changed tact and played Sunny Afternoon by the Kinks instead - The Taxmans taken all my dough. My parents missed the reference and Barry asked what other music I was into. I said the Beatles and he said. "Oh have you got Taxman? Does it sound much like Start by the Jam" - YES!
We bonded over music and he pointed out my taste was a tad.... White.
Not a single black artist in my collection. I said I didnt know about good black music and the following week he went back to visit his parents in North wales and bought back some Motown Albums - Cooley High plus the 20 Mod Classics. And a Phil Specter greatest hits cassette.
This was interesting and I knew some of the songs cos the Beatles had covered them. This was a new development but I was still holding out for a Beatles re-union.
Then on December 8th 1980 everything changed. Lennon was shot dead. My mum woke me up early to tell me the news. It must have been a mistake? I put on the radio and it was full of people talking about the Beatles.
Please let it be Ringo I remember thinking.
I went through phases of which member of the group I like liked best. And this month it was John as I had just bought his Double Fantasy Album. I got ready for school and wore a black armband (from my boys bridgade days) over a black shirt. A few people at school were kind to me. Everybody knew of my love of the band. A few were less kind - Tony Stevens pretending to fire a pistol at me Bang Bang. Very funny.
What should I do now? I can't hang around waiting for a re-union. Then It came to me. I'll go to Feltham Football Club Mod night. Loads of kids at school said they had been there - but hadn't. I asked around and I was told if I wanted to go. Meet in Ashford by the Black Dog pub at 7.30pm on Thursday. I borrowed a fred perry from Nigel Mitchell one of the Sunbury skins. Put on a pair of tassle loafers and walked the mile and a bit to the meet up. We were told a big white van driven by one of the bigger boys would pick us up at said time. I walked there faster than normal partly due to excitement, partly down to being scared I might bump into a random skinhead. It was OK when I was just a Beatles fan but now I looked a BIT Mod things might be different.
7.30 came and no van. Then 7.40 and I was about to give up and go home and then the van turned up! I jumped in the back. It was dark with no windows. It smelt of cheap aftershave and teenage testosterone.
Ten minutes later we were at the venue. No issues getting in. No issues buying a pint of cider. I snuck into the shadows and watched and listened. I knew quite a few of the songs that came on - Few Stones, and some of the Motown tracks from Cooley High. I was hooked. The van took us back to Ashford and one of the guys on scooters who had driven behind the Van asked if I wanted a lift to Sunbury Cross. Bonus. I went to bed with a head full of target shaped dreams.
In the morning I woke up. Went to school and announced to whoever would listen that I had turned Mod!!!
How did that first experience effect you?, like most of us did it have a dramatic change in your life?
Like most things once I get into It I REALLY get into it. I was still only 15 and didn't go to another club til the following Spring - 1981. But I desperately read up on anything and anything Mod related.
I was still playing the Beatles but sticking to the early stuff. I bought a life changing Bootleg Cassette of their BBC sessions. That had covers of people like Arthur Alexander and Chuck Berry that interested me. While my friends were buying Richard Barnes Bible. Cutting out the photos and sticking them to their bedroom walls. I was reading the words over and over again. What did Snooks Eaglin sound like?!?
Can you tell us about the earliest places you visited in the scene, clubs, rallies etc.
So my journey started at Feltham football club December 1980. I went back there again in the Spring of 1981 then nothing til later that year. When somebody at school had picked up a flyer in Carnaby Street for a club in Richmond called Cheeky Petes. A Sunday evening mod night. We made plans to go and waiting for the 216 bus were 10-15 local mods. Amongst them my school friend Ronnie Diamond - later to become known as Ronnie the Mod Plumber. There was a big queue to get in and I never thought we would make it. But we did. Within 5 minutes a face that would become familiar and would go on to be a big part of my life appeared.
Blues. 4 for a quid? Id never done anything but drink cider and the odd can of Newcastle Brown ale before.
I asked my friends and we put in 25p each and necked a pill each. Now I had never danced before but all of a sudden I had the legs of Tommy Steele. I danced non stop til 10.30pm and then got the bus back to home turf. I remember going to school the next day and saying - Yawn. Im so tired. Took speed last night and couldn't sleep. Even the bad boy skinheads were impressed with that. We did Richmond a few more times then it shut. I think I'd picked up a flyer saying about this chap called Tony Class who had opened a Saturday night club in Shepherds Bush. One easy bus journey away. So that became our new destination.
At the time the GLC did really cheap fares if you lived in Greater London. I lived bout half mile outside. So we would walk to lower Feltham to take advantage of the cheap fares - 25p saved would buy a pill after all.
The bus to the bush went through some scarey places. Hounslow (skinheads) and Brentford (beer boy rockers) who went to see live bands at the Red Lion. But as the weeks went on. More and More mods would get on the bus on our journey. Many of them I later found out to be the Twickenham Mods - who I would become very very close too and involved with later on that year.
What or who inspired you to start playing music and can you tell us about those early experiences as a DJ.
I always wanted to be a professional footballer or a musician (preferably in a band as big as the Beatles). The down side of that was I can't kick a ball or play an instrument or sing.
I started collecting mod sounds in earnest and labels like Cameo Parkway were my favourite. I did and still do fucking love the Orlons. So when people would visit my house I'd take over my parents music centre and put records on in the order I thought they would sound good in a club.
By this time I had my Vespa 100 and had Met Richard (shirlee) Early along with the Twickenham mods. He had the best RnB collection I'd ever seen. And I was impressed. I wanted to hear more of these sounds in mod clubs. I'd started going to more events other than Tony Class ones. But none of them were playing what I wanted to hear - by this time I was only going to clubs in West London and the odd few in SW postcodes.
How did this manifest itself into promoting?
So at the age of 17 years and 7 months I opened my first night. I didn't want the usual flyer with Northern soul record labels or a badly photocopied photo of Chubby checker Dancing. I wanted a minimalistic flyer listing the record labels we would be playing at the club. It didn't even include Tamla Motown cos I thought most of the motown records we would be playing would have come out on London or Oriel or Stateside. I went to Margate Easter of 1983 and gave out 1,000 flyers. Most people read them and put them in the bin. But on that opening night April 12th 1983 around 150 people came to my night. I insisted that the first record I played should be I Got A Women Part 1 - by Jimmy McGriff - which incidentally enough was how I started my last ever DJ set in 2019.
A lot of the crowd wanted to hear Out On the Floor or Footsee but I stood firm.
One of the Feltham lot got the raving hump when I played a Bo Diddley track and Shirlee and a local Psychobilly had a dance off . "Why are you playing Rockabilly rubbish but you won't play Northern."
I asked my then mate Chris D to be the warm up DJ until he played Fire by Arthur Brown. "Chris you cant play that it came out after 1967 and we have to have boundaries". He ignored me and played it so I sacked him on the spot. We dont talk anymore...
Can you tell us about any early promotions you did before setting up Sneakers.
One of the clubs I did attend every Wednesday was the Dolphin in Kingston. It was only 15 minutes by scooter and the DJ Tony Sheene looked like a short Tommy Vance from Radio 1. He was REALLY into his modern soul and was probably the first person I heard play things like It Takes Heart.
Every Wednesday was press day at the newspaper I was working for. I had to start early and got to finish early. So each Wednesday I would head off to Mr Waxy record shop in Chertsey to spend 20 pounds on records. He had known me from my Beatle buying days of the late 70s. And it was from him I bought my copy of Buzz With the Fuzz for £20.00 in 1981 - that was 2 days money back then from working at my fathers motorcycle shop. Once a week I would head off there. He would put aside a pile of records for me - some he got right some very wrong. Id head home for me tea at 6pm. Get ready and be at the Dolpin for when it opened at 8am. I would drive poor Mr Sheene mental with each weeks new records. Play this one early on Tony please. And he did. Not many others there wanted to hear what I had purchased that week but a few did. Tony went on holiday for 2 weeks in the August of 83. And asked me to stand in for him. He said I HAD to play all his modern rubbish but I could at the start of the evening play my selection.
When he returned he asked me to do the first hour playing what I wanted. Within a month I was doing the first hour and last 45 minutes. RnB 1 Modern Soul 0. We put on a great night at the Dolphin around the end of 83.With Fast Eddie and the Alljacks. That night was really packed and the first time I met a lot of the East London in earnest.
One other HUGE thing that happened to me in the late Spring of 83 was meeting Tony Reynolds from Birmingham. He had appeared at the Bush on Saturdays to do a set of 3 songs. I think him and the Brummie mods were down for the 100 club alnighter and had stumbled upon Tony Class club. I couldn't believe the songs he was playing. Coming Home Baby - Mel Torme. Ready Steady Go - Prince and Princess and Jimmy Reed Shame Shame Shame - my request. I must have given him my business card and out of the blue he rang me and asked if I would DJ at his Outrigger Allnighter in August of that year. I was not even 18 and I was djing next to Wigan Legend Brian Rae. It was one of the best nights of my life. I went up on the train. I didn't even have a singles box. I had a cardboard box in a plastic bag. For the next 2 years or so I would visit and DJ in Birmingham at least 6 times a year.
Could you give our readers a sense of what the scene was like in London at the time.
Fragmented. People in W postcodes went to clubs in W postcodes unless it was something big like an Ilford Palais event. When me and Ronnie the Mod Plumber went to the Regency Suite in September 83 I only remember 2-3 other people from West London being there. Clubs in the west end might attract people from all corners of the capital but that would also attract tribal rights and violence. I think by the time Sneakers started the scene had contracted but was healthy and people were more than happy to travel.
There are a lot of people who have issues with the Phoenix Society. I have many. But one thing it did DO WAS bring people from various parts of London together. I lived 30 miles from the Regency Suite and I would probably have not known about it had it not been for that piece of paper. It did help bring people together.
How did Sneakers come to being?, where did the idea come from?, who with and what was the idea/inspiration behind the brand.
I got invited along to a Phoenix meeting autumn 83. It was on a thursday and I went to print college on Thursdays up the road from the pub the meetings were held in - The Griffin Shoreditch. Then a proper old school pub full of printers and prostitutes. Now one of Hipsters hippest hang outs. And oddly enough it was opposite what became the Smersh Bar. The first bar I owned along with Ed Piller and Danny DC almost 2 decades later.
I was early and didnt really drink in those days so just hung around Shoreditch on a dark evening. There was much to do and there were hardly any pubs open after 7pm back then. The meeting went well and for some reason at the end Mark Johnson started talking about what a great set Tony Class had done at the Bush the week before? For the first time I spoke up and said "Its the same set that he was playing when I first went 18 plus months ago. Why cant we hear some new sounds and more Rnb." Shirlee backed me up and the meeting ended. The next one was in maybe 2 weeks? More of the same chat then at the end Tony Class asked me and Shirlee and Mick Mouskos to stay behind.
"Oh I thought. This could be trouble." But No Tony said he had heard my rant and thought about it and if we thought we could do better he would give us Sundays at the Bush and we could do what we wanted.
Gosh Really? I wanted to call it Le Chat Noir (tosser). Shirlee said Sneakers after High Healed Sneakers and within 2 weeks the flyers were done. The Pheonix list gave us top of the bill listings and on the first night the place was Packed!!!
The next week there were maybe 33 people there - even my then girlfriend didnt bother coming back for 2nd week. Then during the next few months it struggled on. I didnt expect it to last much longer after the new year but.... It did. And numbers started to rise. By Spring I think we were packing it out ever Sunday. People were travelling from as Far as Clacton, Coventry, Belfast (David Holmes), Cardiff, Bournemouth and Swindon. For a club night that ended at 10.30.
How long did it run for? We know it started at the now famous Bush in Shephards Bush but it moved to various venues, could you tell us a little more about these.
It started November 1983 and finished June 1987.
The Bush was the best. It moved from there Feb 86 I think. First to the Clarendon in Hammersmith. Then The 79 Bar in Oxford Street - which had been Tiles in the 60s and lastly The Green Man in Portland Street. There was a one week in another venue when the 79 club electrics failed and we had to find a venue in 21 minutes but even I cant remember where that was.
You and Richard were the resident DJ’s, could you tell us the styles of music played, did you have any guests and could you give us some examples of typical Sneakers classics which were broke on the dance floor.
I think one of the biggest honours in last few years was when Jazz guru Greg Boraman compiled a spotify Sneakers play list (see link at bottom). Over 10 hours of it. Bloomin heck! I think what I loved about Sneakers was the music constantly moved. In 1983 it would have been
Hit the Road Jack, Coming Home Baby, Kansas City, Watch Your Step - Spencer Davis version some nights and maybe some John Lee Hooker
In 1984 It was a lot of songs I nicked from the Outrigger. Berts Apple Crumble, Black Cat, Kiko
and by the end we were pretty much a Latin Boogaloo Club. How much Ray Barreto could I play on a Sunday evening?!?
Could you describe what a night in Sneakers felt like, what the crowd were like and the atmosphere that was created.
Its a long time ago. I always preferred the winter months. It was always busier and the Bush was always cold when you got there. Shirlee would be on from 7.30? til 9pm. Later on Tony Class would do 30 minutes. Then I would do. 9.00 til 10.30 I think? Maybe by the 79 club we could go on later but I dont think so. It did get very hot and sweaty in there. It was simply the best of times.
People travelled from all over the country to attend Sneakers, I bet the line up of scooters outside looked cool.
It was sometimes but many of the punters came by car or train. Nobody wants to drive from Swindon on a Lambretta in a neatly pressed suit. I think in the summer there were probably a lot more scooters.
Sneakers has been described as the smartest club of its time, could you tell us a bit about the fashions worn by the clubbers who attended.
That is a very kind thing to be remembered for. It was just a load of kids - youngest 15 (shhhh) going through to people in their early 20s. Having fun and wanting to dress up. A reaction to Frankie Says T-shirts that the public were wearing or the Army Greens of the Scooter boys. I think it was very very suit orientated in 84-85 and I seem to remember it being a bit more casual through 86 to the end. Still tailor made trousers but worn with a shirt and a pastel coloured jumper over the top.
I know there are probably lots but do you have any favourite memories of the club.
Oh I think that realisation around the spring of 84 that we were on to something here. The Face magazine came down one night - prior to the article about Clacton. I think that was quite cool and the journalist fancied me - always a bonus. The last night was pretty special too. Shirlee played all the singles from Richard Barnes Mods book and at the end I said Goodnight and thank you for the money. Or something equally stupid. I was still only 21 years old when it ended.
As Sneakers evolved so did the London mod scene, could you tell us about it, the clubs, night life and hangouts.
I would never say Sneakers was the Catalyst. People like Chad and Dell, and Ray and Ed and Andy Orr and Bob Morris and others were there long before Sneakers. But that time there was a catalyst. I think it was a meeting of minds. And very competitive. Paul Newman came to Sneakers one night with a copy of the Buddy Guy Junior Wells album and asked me to play Stomach Ache. It went down so well and the clock was ticking to get the album. By chance I found a copy within 48 hours. Get in there Hallam. The Crawdaddy clubs started in early 85. Toski was doing his stuff. It was just great times. I think the culmination for ME was Hayling Island 85. That was the pinacle. And history has remembered it so well...
During this time you shot loads of camera images of the scene culminating in a book, could you tell us about that.
My parents had an Olympus trip in the 70s - who do you think YOU are david bailey. They must have bought a better camera around 1980. I went on a school ski trip end of 81. Took some photos with it. Some were quite good. And when I started work in print in 1982 I thought it would be a cool thing to do a magazine about MY MOD scene - which would have been then Tony Class Bush saturday nights. So I took loads of photos in black and white. Then put the camera away for a year. And as things started to get exciting leading up to the opening of Sneakers - Westmoreland arms etc - I got it out again and started snapping away. It became a regular thing. I wish Id taken more. I took maybe 500 photos? Luckily into 1985 and one of the cool mods Paul Keating worked at a place that could develop them. So I didnt have to pay for that. Black and white was so expensive them. Fiver when I was earning £50 quid a week? I Then put them away in a tin and got them out now and again when people visited. In 2015 somebody - and I cannot remember who it was - contacted me on socialist media and said Channel 4 were doing a series on 80s youth cults could they use my photos. I said yes and next thing I knew the amazing and talented Ewen Spencer turned up in Cobham with a film crew. They filmed me talking about my photos and my mod days and the result was a 30 minute TV show about 80s mods and the like. Ewen who is a TOP photographer said he liked my photos and their naivity - I think that means they arent very good. And could he borrow them. So some stranger with a beard turns up and takes all the photos of my youth. He then said his Company CW wanted to publish a book of my photos along with Vice Magazine and C4. It came out end of 2015 and looks bloody brilliant. Following on from that I did quite a lot of radio. Some TV. A talk at the photographers gallery and an exhibition and party in Waterloo. The photos have been exhibited in Los Angeles. Moderna in Italy and a few events in Spain. Im a fucking Charlatan with an Olympus Trip!
Off the back of it I did a talk for Chivers Regal which went to Number 1 in the Itunes spoken word chart and got to make my own Hallam blended Whiskey. All a bit odder really.
The book sold 1000 copies and sells for £200 plus on ebay.
When Sneakers closed, it must have been an emotional night. Could you tell us a little about it
It was and it was like what to do next...?!?!
And what did happen next for you.....
So for 6 years my days have been filled with MOD. I went looking for cloth. For unknown tailors. For records. Sleep during the days so I could DJ all night and now a void....
Me and Shirlee opened the Limbo Line - which was even more Latin but it didnt really work so after about 6 months we let that be. MY sister had recently met and become romantically linked with my mod mate Jens from Denmark - who came over with some other Danish mods in a citroen 2CV in 1985. He loved football and wanted to go to a game so it was time to go back to Millwall!!!
That became a new obsession. 30 games a season home and away.
Then in the spring of 1988 I took acid for the first time. That became a BIG obsession. I wanted to make my own magical mystery tour. We had mad nights out - named Womble Hunts where we would go searching for the meaning of life on LSD. Chasing Dreams and Hunting Wombles.
Then in 1989 my daughter Emily was born
Then Acid House happened. Not my thing but I joined in and even danced now and again.
Oddly enough in the autumn of 1989 I got a call on my home phone from one of my heroes. Ady Croasdell. Ady is one of the greatest most humble people I've ever had the pleasure to know. He was playing Jazz Fridays nights at the 100 club and couldnt do that week. Could I stand in? I'd DJ'd at the 100 club twice in the mid 80s for Bob Morris Mod Allnighters.
I went along that Friday and played Jazz and some old Mod Classics. I think the band was Henrys Pencil.
Ady then asked me to do every other Friday for the next 8 years. I was also asked to DJ at some of the RnB gigs - I remember doing Jimmy Rogers amongst others. Then myself and Dave Edwards started a band oriented night called the Vault of Vibes. Then Club Popcorn in 1987 which ran for 18 months and embraced Brit Pop. I must have DJ'd at the 100 club nearly 500 times.
The scene eventually went more underground in the 90’s as people left to pursue other things leaving Sneakers and other London clubs as fond memories for a lot of people, recently there were Sneakers reunions. Could you tell us what that was like and how it made you feel.
Its funny cos I do publish books but I had nothing to do with MY photography book. I didnt even choose the photos. And the same with the 2 reunion nights. I didnt want to DJ. Just turn up and enjoy. Its amazing that all these people remember the club so fondly. There were people there who werent even born when Sneakers was happening. All this cos me and Shirlee wanted to play Arthur Alexander and Bo Diddley in the back room of a pub in W12 nearly 40 years ago.
The scene today is thriving again with lots of people returning from their oasis’ and more younger cooler people becoming involved. Do you think there is a place in today’s scene for another ultra cool club like Sneakers? And if so would it be something you and or Richard would be interested in being involved with?
For me No. I retired from DJing in 2019 in Brighton. I wont EVER get a better retirement party than that. When I was a teenager I didnt wanna see a bald bloke in his 50s behind the decks. It was a very emotional evening. I cried when I got back to Cobham. Richard loves the scene in 2021. He is happy to DJ and loves every minute of it. Looking back he was by far a better DJ than I ever was.
Bringing things up to date we have seen a lot of interest in the Sneakers brand with merchandise being released by Suit Yourself, do you have any other projects you are currently working on either on your own or with other partners.
YES but I cant tell you yet!!!! Possibly most exciting thing I've ever done in my life.
Looking back at that special time of being young and in the thick of the coolest sub-culture as a promoter and DJ. What advise would you give to a young modernist starting out on the same journey?
Just enjoy life. Do NOT be advised by any of us old people. If you think an item of clothing or a record is cool. So be it. I would NOT have wanted somebody in their 50s lecturing me at Sneakers. So why do people of my generation feel its OK to do that now? Mod is fluid. Mod is a massive part of my life. I have 5000 friends on facebook and if it were not for Mod I'd have 50. Its the coolest Youth Cult ever. Embrace it. It dont get any better.
Briefly, in your view what do you think of today’s scene?
I would be a fool to comment. If you want to ask me about the ultimate Millwall team 1987 to 1992 I can answer that cos I was involved in it. Ask me the same question bout this seasons team and Id have NO idea.
I am close to a number of people on todays scene. I love Callum Sammon and Jodie Richardson. I adore Lucas Gomersall and Katie Town - and not just because I got my chiwawa Lilith as a result of them. Jake Bonnici is cool and his dad was very kind to me in the early 80s. I'm really interested in what they like and are into. So much that Subbaculture mag ran a piece on them. Im fascinated why they are so interested in something that has shaped MY life. Im 674 months old this week. And I hope that in years to come they will feel as passionate about it as I do.
Cut me and Ill bleed Mod.
Lastly, Sneakers changed people’s lives, what’s the one thing it did to change yours?
Seeing My Grandson Isaac in a Sneakers T-shirt. Plus Nearly 40 years of friendship and love. Bonds that will never be broken. I hate to say it. But MOD in whatever form you believe in it. Really is THE way of life.
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