One of the best London night clubs that I’ve ever been to was Smashing. It used to inhabit Eve’s club on Regents Street in the early 1990’s. It opened in 1991, and by 1994 was was considered by hipster journalist Alix Sharkey, writing in The Times, to be “London’s fabbest, silliest, unlikeliest and most exhilarating Friday night”.
Smashing had its roots in the London clubland of the 1980’s (as defined by Leigh Bowery and Taboo). Smashing‘s host was Matthew Glamorre, who in fact played with Leigh Bowery in Minty (they played occassional gigs at Smashing). Matthew remembers this time in an interview with the alissongothz.com.br website, here. Matthew was the perfect arch and funny host. For a year or two he turned the club into probably the coolest place on earth.
Smashing pre-empted one aspect of the 90’s music scene. It didn’t act as the meeting place of fans of a new type of music as many of the previous great night clubs had done, from the Hacienda in Manchester to Ronnie Scotts in Soho, but was rather a meeting place of fans of all the great music that had come before. The club was for people who were into the club experience and wanted a, well, smashing good old time. They wanted great music, not necessarily new and fashionable music. They were young, skinny, out there and wanted to have fun. They wanted to drink (etc) and to dance. By the 1990’s there was so much great music from the past to explore.
The music was pulled from all over. Alix Sharkey described it as “Bowie’s ‘Queen Bitch’; the Beastie Boys’ rap cacophony; the Barbarella theme song; the Happy Mondays’ narcoleptic white funk; or the Smiths’ ‘Panic’, dissolving into throbbing acid house. What kind of music do they play? The only kind. Indy rock? James Last? Grunge? Sammy Davis Jnr? Sixties soundtracks? Si, si, senor. Glam? Punk? New Wave? Disco? Pinky and Perky? Tick them all off, and anything else that comes to mind. Do your bowels clench at the sound of Weller’s warble? Mine, too. But don’t worry, a good record will be along faster than you can say: ‘Sham 69? Puh-leese.'”
By adding the ultra-cool London night club mentality to this magpie plundering of the musical past, Smashing was a breeding ground and blueprint for Britpop, which itself raided the past for its look and its soundtrack. And the club became the favourite haunt of the young Suede and Blur and Pulp as they began to break through into the charts.
Pulp filmed their Disco 2000 video at Smashing. It gives you a flavour of what the place was like. By this time, late 1995, the club had just about run its course. In 1996 the club closed, the scene was over and Britpop London split in a snowstorm of cocaine, ego and money. 1997 saw both the opening of the The Met Bar (where Gallaghers mixed with Page 3 girls) and New Labour’s Cool Britannia. The silly fun of Smashing had mutated into bloated self-importance of that is recorded in John Niven’s excellent novel Kill Your Friends.
What a great dance floor! And that handsome young man in the video? He’s my brother. He was a Smashing regular and DJ’d occassionally.
You can read all of Alix Sharkey’s The Times article on Smashing here.