11. Rockshots & the Club Scene in the 80s
In the early 1980’s a Club called Scamps on Waterloo Street, was bought out & renamed as Rockshots. This Club then went forward to become the city’s main & best ever Gay Nightclub.
Scamps & the birth of World Headquarters
Scamps was the first Nightclub we ever went to as kids, having visited it when we were just 15 at the tail end of the global Disco explosion.
Soul was always our thing growing up, Northern Soul especially & it was Soul, that led us to Disco.
As we walked in the door of Scamps that first night, this record came on & from that one, single moment, we were straight on that dancefloor & our lives changed forever…
We didn’t know at the time, but this was the actual moment that World Headquarters, as we know it today was born.
Share it again, with us now & feel those hairs on your neck stand up on end..!!
Utter, liberated, sexy, political Disco driven audio magic…
Having just popped that tune into this page & heard the intro we are now properly welling up with tears… We can if we like.
So we will just take a moment…
(Editor’s note: Get a grip!)
Right, we’re back in the room.
That is the power really great music has, to mark, map out & influence your life.
Music is so, so important & this record, in that moment, with it’s powerful sentiment…
Truly changed the entire course of our time on this Planet.
‘Let’s find a place they say, somewhere far away… With no Blacks, no Jew & no Gays.
But for the grace of God, there go I…’
Utterly timeless & totally nails it – Perfect.
We had no idea at this point, that to find the antithesis of that place Machine were singing about…
We were gonna actually have to build it ourselves.
High energy takes hold
We loved Disco & we bought & sold records at school & we had all the big tunes by bands like Chic & Mcfadden & Whitehead. We were nuts about it, mad collectors & dancers.
Around this time as the 80s dawned, Disco was starting to morph into a more Hi Energy kinda sound…
Scamps was great because they played all the big tunes.
It probably wasn’t actually the case, but as we remember it now, looking back, the really massive Scamps records all seemed to have been recorded by someone called Patrick…
There was Patrick Juvet with I love America, which still sounds fab today. Then the biggest tune of the bunch back then, was Born to be Alive by Patrick Hernandez.
It maybe hasn’t dated quite as well, but that was a massive Scamps classic, we were 15 & we were totally all over it.
As the High Energy thing really took hold, we skipped to the Arcade, Delby & Senate scene. But it wasn’t long before we were back in that infamous Waterloo Street building, now housing the legendary Rockshots Club.
It became our second home, that we promoted in, span tunes in, grew up in, led a totally liberated lifestyle in & made a living in.
All whilst playing amazing records in there, for many, many years to come.
The early days of Rockshots
By the mid 1980s, Rockshots was the main Gay Club in the City & as we saw it, the only place tolerant enough to let people on our scene in.
Colour didn’t matter here, not even slightly, the Gay Scene just embraced us.
A guy called Adrian owned it & Audrey ran it. Adrian owns & runs Bars down in the Gay quarter these days & is someone we respect greatly.
We often went to Rockers on a weekend after we had been working in the Trent, as we loved the freedom & decadence of the Gay Scene.
We also went regularly to two midweek ‘straight’ nights that they hosted. One was a Black Music night called ‘Echoes Club’ that was on a Thursday & run by a couple of our pals, Micky & Rick, who drank in the Trent.
They span all kinds of Black Music & it was right up our street.
We went religiously every week for a more than a year & it was really great.
The other which was on a Tuesday, was called ‘Rathaus’. This was more of a floppy fringe of a job, where it seemed everybody took themselves a bit more seriously. It was a child of the New Romantic, post Punk & Indie scenes.
A lot of the music they played wasn’t really to our taste, but we went anyway, as some of the other stuff they spun was good.
These nights were the two main underground nights in town. In truth, Rockshots overall groove was at the epicentre of everything that was great about hip Clubbing in Newcastle at that time.
The rest of the Club scene
On the other side of town there was one other night of note in a little basement Club called Manhattans. Here there was a Wednesday night called ‘Fever’ that we really liked too.
That night was really out there, especially for the times. It was run by two guys who were both called Matt. Matt Rice & Matt Higgs.
They were cool student guys with a really good & original take on the groove.
Salsa Sean played here too & went on to work with us once we eventually opened WHQ.
On the quayside there was Julies Club, which also played Black Music, but was the kind of place the footballers went. We saw it as being a little ‘old geezerie’ & not really our kind of vibe.
Back then there were also 2 guys called Shaun & Ray who ran a night called Mr M’s on a Saturday night.
This was in the back room of Tiffany’s Club.
(Editor’s note: formerly the Oxford Ballroom, then later called The Studio, Liquid & then LQ, before it’s current incarnation, as a building site for the new student, city centre hall construction epidemic).
We had gone to the same school as Ray & though we didn’t go to Mr M’s often we knew it was a cool night & was pretty mad at times.
Ray was a Soul fan & he & Sean were far more entrepreneurial in their approach to Clubs than most people. You could tell they would do well & we were always well aware of & liked them.
We’re not sure what Shaun does now, but these days Ray is involved with running one of the North East’s biggest alcohol wholesalers & also the Fat Buddah Restaurant outlets.
Indie music had always been strong with students, but now with Rockshots going on, Rare groove & World music were also big in underground Newcastle. Hip Hop & really early House type beats, were just ever so slightly starting to creep in & take a bite, now too.
Friends of the hustle
We were really friendly with the Rockshots management & staff, as we were always in there.
Running the Trent, we always sent loads of people down to Echoes & Rathaus from our own little bar scene.
We were really great pals with Ian (lights) Peter (lights) & Sally (Rockshots Resident Dj) too.
Ian was great, he was so funny! He love the tune Wicky Wacky by the Fatback band & we gelled like crazy on that.
Peter was just wild, he always had the most amazing female companions… He was a popular, popular lad, a deep thinker & always great laugh.
(Editor’s note: Here is Peter with his Brother Scott, who many of you will know from his amazing events over many years)
Sally was probably the finest mixer of vinyl we have ever met. He moved the Gay Scene in Newcastle forward light years with his skills. What a fella!
Here he is out with Ian, buying tunes… Yet again.
Sal also turned us on to Let the Music Use you by the Nightwriters, so that says it all…
(Editor’s note: A record which is mentioned again on this site, as the first ever tune played on WHQ’s current, game changing Soundsystem of Dreams)
Vests & lessons…
Early morning & it was off to the flats opposite the Club on Waterloo street after Rockers closed, for insane all night parties – where the fact we were not actually wearing a string vest, should have made us really out of place fashion wise…
But in terms of how we all saw life, fun, freedom, music & respecting other people, we were one.
We were really gutted, but then honoured, when Sally passed recently & we were asked to be custodians of his extensive vinyl collection, on behalf of all his many friends in the Community.
We said yes & it is a privilege.
We are sorry to say, but in fact all these three dear friends have passed now & we still think of them often. They were exceptional, each of them that rare blend of live wire & gentle soul…
Men who lived free – Ian, Sally & Peter – Laugh, play records & have a great time.
The ultimate Rockshots lessons, that we will never, ever forget.
Dawn of the hustle
Over time, we gradually saw both Echoes & Rathaus start to get a little stale & then saw their numbers drop.
We knew the Club’s management saw that too & weren’t that happy about it.
Over a long period of time they came to the conclusion (with plenty of input from us), that we could run both the Tuesday & Thursday Club nights they had on, better than the guys they already had doing them.
They knew our reputation & that of the Bar, from the parties we put on & also knew fine & well that it was a safe bet, that we could pack the place out.
We’d done underground parties & we now had to get into running Clubs.
As it was the top underground Club in the city, then the place we did it had to be Rockshots. It was simple maths…
(Reader’s voice: Now that, was an exquisite drop..!)
It was what the management of the Club wanted & as an opportunity such as this coming up was so rare, it was what we wanted too.
All our record collecting & Amsterdam experience meant we saw Clubs very differently to how other people in Newcastle did.
We’d hung out in a different culture & weren’t so bound by the types of music that were ‘allowed’ in any particular scene. We had a far more open musical perspective & realised that most artists, in all genres, make at least one great record.
We didn’t have a problem with breaking down the established Rockshots Club cliques & playing all those other great tunes as well. It was simple maths indeed…
So with months of planning (yet publicly, seemingly overnight), we pulled a coup, ousting first one, then both sets of promoters & taking over both nights.
Both were such established & cool nights, surely no one could possibly have the front to take them down?
Who would even think to dare..?
The answer was simple – us & it was the last thing anyone in Newcastle ever expected…
So, these takeovers were pretty acrimonious, as we knew most the guys who got the boot, but we couldn’t let that stand in our way.
Actually running Club nights for a living, back then, was something that the guys we took out, couldn’t get their heads around us wanting to do…
We knew we could run those nights in a way that would deliver more diverse music & more success to Rockshots.
Rockshots knew that too & music was changing – If it hadn’t been us taking over these nights, in time it would eventually have been someone else.
So we went for it…
Our takeover of Rockers was massive news in the city & no one had ever pulled a move like this before. People were stunned, everyone had an opinion & the grapevine went into chit-chat, gossip rumour overdrive…
We were really close to the Echoes boys, but Rockshots presented us with an opportunity that we just couldn’t pass up.
With the Rathaus boys it was slightly different. They weren’t Soul Boys like we were & we didn’t really know all of them well.
With going every single week, we’d just got bored of the scene they had going & we genuinely thought we could get the Club twice as full.
At the time, they saw us as being cut throat, while we saw them as hobbyists, who had confused running Clubs with combing your fringe & playing records with jacking off.
This was a really harsh way to view them, as until they got a bit complacent, they ran a good night, that added a lot to the city.
They felt their kind of post 70’s Punk scene thing was sacred – We didn’t. We were making a move & that was that.
This was the 80s, music was expanding, Nightclub culture was developing & so we were set on expansion & development too.
We had a plan & we wanted to turn both nights, into something that would last & complement & expand on our multiracial Trent scene, effectively locking Newcastle down.
Initially, we had to ride out a couple of weeks of outrage, feint grumblings & mini ‘fringe boycotts’ as we expanded the music policy of both nights & broadened their appeal.
Then, within a month, the numbers in both Club nights had almost doubled & bingo! It was on…
With the Tuesday we commercialised it slightly, bringing in a great new young Dj called Alan Clark to give it mass student appeal.
Alan was really on point & the key to our team unlocking & then rebuilding that scene.
We also persuaded a guy called Ian who’d been in the Rathaus crew, to join our gang. He was well cutting edge for the times too & had a really positive input.
We played along side them, all feeding musically off each other.
We learnt the indie bands & got the groove, even though it was initially, totally alien to what we were into.
A tune’s a tune & once we were up to date & in tune with that indie scene, it was a done deal.
Thursday’s were an easier fix. We knew Black Music inside out & it only needed to be musically re-centred, rather than torn down & rebuilt.
We played ourselves & broadened the remit of quality Black music that was played.
We dropped white tunes too & took care to always play to the crowd, as well as getting the rarer tunes across.
Using guests from our circle of cool, musically switched on pals, the musical base broadened further.
We didn’t want loads of head nodding boys, so we always played to the girls. We hyped each night to the max & instantly blew right up, to become massively successful.
We kept the majority of the regulars from both nights & delivered loads more extra people to the Club too.
So despite our detractors, we vindicated the perceived ruthlessness of the move, with the success & musical diversity we delivered to Rockshots & the fact that people were properly having it.
Overnight, underground Clubbing in Newcastle changed. This was a totally new page & no one cared about what had gone before – our groove was simply a lot more fun.
Thursday Rockshots shaped how we approached playing records forever & formed the blueprint for the World HQ Uplifting Groove shows, that we play at weekends in WHQ today.
We now had control of the best Bar in the city, it’s two most successful cool Club nights & we were running all straight aspects, of the region’s best Gay Club. That was Newcastle locked…