When I first read Haden-Guest's The Last Party I was incredibly irritated by the term "nightworld". Why not just say "nightlife" or "clubland" or even "the entertainment industry"? But over time I've come to adore the term; it encompasses so much more than the others and is yet gorgeously specific. Ideas of the illicit and the unsanctioned can be wrapped up in such as term, whereas "clubland" smacks of working mens clubs and divorcee's dancing around a handbag circa 1992 (there's nothing wrong with that, but it's certainly limited as a term).
Whether the sites where disco, house, clubbing and liberation are actually important is a question that has never really been explored by the community. And given the current debates raging about the closure of Fabric and the death of Space, Ibiza at the end of this summer season the question is more pressing than ever before. Certainly, with the end of Space it's not surprising that Carl Cox's final DJ set at the closing party ended with a double hitter of Joe Smooth's Promised Land and CeCe Rogers Someday as a means to somehow mark the passing of such an important music venue. But it begs the question: are our spaces important? Surely, the fact we dance together is the most important thing? And the music must be incredibly influential, yes? But what effect does the space have? Could that room be any other space? And what happens to creativity when our spaces close? Sheryl Garrett's thought's on creativity in clubbing are certainly worth a diversion.
In November I undertake the last large scale part of my data gathering. To do this I'm heading to NYC and Chicago for a few weeks to conduct interviews, meet with people, explore the terrain, and go in search of lost locations from the history of Nightworld.
In a move subconsciously inspired by Jon Savage's The Things That Aren't There Anymore and the inclusion of Manchester's historical venue locations in the Joy Division (2007) documentary I'm exploring the sites where so much of house and disco's history occurred, recording as much data about them as possible (coordinates, photographic evidence, ambient recordings etc.) before even the addresses are literally forgotten. Simply finding the addresses or locations of some of NYC's most legendary clubs was not particularly easy and some debate even exists as to where certain buildings once stood as many are now buried beneath faceless tower blocks.
From my preliminary research I know that a handful of the venues still carry some of their original "look" (the Continental Baths and Tunnel are particularly well preserved on the outside), and others have been reconstructed or protected (Studio 54 and/or the Stonewall Inn). But the majority of the sites don't exist anymore, many places have been replaced by glass and concrete office blocks or homogenous apartment buildings. In a strange way I'm glad I know this now before going in search of them. The disappointment of walking up to the Paradise Garage's infamous ramp and discovering it's now a FedEx depot would have been too much to bear. The fact many of these spaces have passed into legend or have been forgotten about altogether is surprising when other spaces have been so well preserved. Remember the anger when CBGB's was finally closed? Where was the protest when Better Days became a Brazilian restaurant? Or the outcry when the Palladium became an athletics club? Just what is it about some spaces that make such an indelible mark on history and others drift into obscurity?
In Anthony Haden-Guest's aforementioned book he quotes the invitation sent out by the mononymous Rudolf (Rudolf Pieper, nightworld magnate) to the opening of the infamous Tunnel club. It's not surprising that, for Rudolf, the Tunnel's unique architecture and history were it's USP. And that there's an intense connection between the physical surrounding (heavy machinery) and personal experience (golden chambers). Professor John Schofield's recent work at the Berghain supports this idea. He believes there's a connection between techno's relentless kicks and artificial sonic palette, and the industrial (literal) powerhouse of the Berghain. So why not between house music and the industrial aesthetic on the edge of the extensively gay meat-packing district? Gay place, gay music.
Maybe nightworld can only happen in certain spaces, dark spaces, or forgotten/revitalised spaces. Is there an aesthetic link between the music and the space? I'd say yes with some certainty, but with regards to these spaces that FoH is concerned with: I'm tempted to say the space was less important than the people. These were small, intimate, inexpensive, communal spaces, easily accessible by "the queens, and the queers, and the quiet ones" (Mike Garry, 2015) who created disco, and created house, and often create the new in dance music. Is the memory what happened in this spaces important, precious, and revolutionary? Yes. Should we be precious about some bricks and mortar? That's a much more difficult question.
In the spirit of the night...