The Slammer

The Slammer

We believed in Miracles. “A Staffordshire Terrier dogs ear into a silk purse“. They said it could not be done, not in Gravesend, but we did, we created great music nights and more, we left golden memories that will never be repeated in our home town Gravesend because the world has changed so much now. I’m talking pre-mobile phones or before the internet. When people danced as one instead of looking at their phones every 2 minutes. The spiritual home of The Slammer was The Red Lion in Crete Hall Road, Northfleet, Kent.

The Red Lion pub and live music venue hall, was built on the bend of a huge industrial estate surrounded by the massive factory’s of the IPM Paper Mills, AEI Cables, Bowater Scotts and Blue Circle Cement Mills, employing thousands of the local population on shift-work, in an uncompromising, always dirty, area by the River Thames that seemed forever damp even in the summer..

As a young teenager I used to cycle past The Red Lion from 1971 to ’73 every night Monday to Saturday on my Evening News paper-round gig after selling newspapers around those factories and it was always run down looking like a place forgotten with one light bulb left on through the grime. A dark old building with filthy windows covered in cement dust and dirt from all the lorry wheels sloshing through the ever present puddles.

A pub that was occupied by sinister dwellers it seemed. I’d cycle past there real fast too on dark winter evenings not looking back for fear of the door opening and being grabbed by one of the Walking Dead strippers still there from their lunchtime session. (A busy mind for a 13 year old).

In the 80’s it became a Hells Angels hangout due to the rock bands playing there every weekend. Motorcycles outside and that intimidating menace of “don’t even think about coming in here”..

Well we did more than that, we sprinkled dance music magic on the place, with one of the best nights ever to be run in Kent. Our music policy – strictly underground house and hip hop played LOUD. We banned the local riff raff and the town’s notorious beer boys too. We took the place over opening up a second room downstairs, which was a beer-barrel storage area. Made it into a Jazz/Rare Groove Room for dancing by painting it black, screeding the floor whilst Terry Lee, the landlord built the bar with his chippy Father.

Terry was no ordinary landlord he was also the proud owner of the Boss Sound System blasting out reggae 7 inch dub plates from the famous Jamaican labels Trojan and Studio 1. “Bingo” we cried (and not just because Terry had a little Staffordshire called Bingo – I bought one of her pups and called him Winston). We had a landlord who loved sound as much as we loved it.

I had just bought the legendary Froggy’s DJ Decks from Tong, which took two to of us carry them, nicknamed ‘the coffin’ because they were so heavy and soon they were up on stage with Terry’s Boss Sound System. But it wasn’t enough, no, the nutters we were, we decided that ‘that’ Sound System should go downstairs into the Jazz Soul room so the DJ’s down there could blast their music properly too.

Upstairs in the House room we had the LGD Sound System used at all the Prestatyn Soul Weekenders, courtesy of Sean Martin and Steve – we meant business. When ‘we’ dropped a new House or Hip Hop or Rare Groove tune in the main room the town was going to hear it and FEEL it..

“We” – well that was Paul Oakenfold, Nicky Holloway (the innovator), Pete Tong, CJ Mackintosh, Colin Hudd, Kev Hill, Johnny Walker, Jeff Young, Aadil, Dave Dorrell, Tim Westwood, Antz, Gilles Peterson, Norman Jay, Chris Bangs, Bob Jones, Maggot, Craig & Marcus and EG. Like a who’s who of UK dance culture now with a few MBE’s too..

Tickets could only be bought if you had your Slammer membership in person at time of purchase and they came from Hertfordshire, from London, from Essex, from Sussex, Surrey, Middlesex and all over Kent. It worked on ALL levels musically, it worked in fashion, in attitude and in the press with the 1987 Kent Club of The Year award – not bad considering we only ran once a month.

It was a fantastic night to run with video screens featuring all kinds of silent movie action, bespoke Banners adorning the walls and ceilings turning the room into a harem (the famous Slammer banners are now over 35 years old and with me here in California.

I used to get so hyper on a Slammer day I couldn’t eat until I got home after the gig around 4am I was buzzing so much. It was a personal dream to have all these beautiful people loving the great music of all kinds from the most cutting DJ’s of the time. I’m perfectly serious when I say those gigs changed some people’s lives, it turned them onto DJ’s like Gilles Peterson and music that they will still cherish in their homes today.

My eternal view of life, ‘give people room to express themselves’, drove me to move the monthly Slammer night from its spiritual home at the Red Lion in Northfleet to a purpose built weekly club in the High Street of Gravesend. My goodfriend, Howdi Binning owned a venue on two floors called The Soul Bowl (named by me) and wanted to sell it so I got him a buyer, renamed the venue as The Slammer, went to Court to get the venue a 2am Music and Dance Licence under my name as the Licensee at 28 years old. Thankfully Terry Lee at the Red Lion forgave me for my ambitions and we are still good buddies over 30 years later.

My personal mission then was to leave my hometown with a local venue for the music fans to go to every weekend. It was a mission completed too. Not the glitz of Stringfellows or Flicks you understand but musically it featured large in the lives of the town’s dance music fans who would go religiously to see the likes of Tim Westwood play Hip Hop or Fabio and GrooveRider playing Drum and Bass. Ian & Rob play Jazz on a Sunday. It was to be a leaving present from me to the town that loved me, grooved and grew me. I moved to London soon after to learn how to produce music in the captial city’s best recording studios, Townhouse, Olympic and PWL.

My life has been a pattern of seeing potential, creating something from nothing with that vision then moving on, leaving the newly built stage for others to climb on and enjoy or take to another dimension.

I need to thank a few people here for their contribution in a now a local legend of a night, gig, moment in time. It means different things to many.

So thank you Terry & family inc Mandy, Big John, The Red Lion Bar staff, ALL the DJ’s, Linda Forsyth, Wolfie, Tongy, Craig & Marcus, Nicky Holloway for sharing his ideals, Damon Kroonsberg (RIP) for the legendary Slammer Banners (the Marilyn one below too), Steve & Sean for the Sound, Chris ‘Goughie’ Gough (RIP mate I can still hear you laughing :), The Pop Boys, Tim Redsall for the logo, Linda PDC for the artwork/flyers, Judge Dread (RIP sir), Image Clothes, Paul Kindred, Jason Green, Micky Thompson – the crew, the Slammerites and Gravesend Council Road Signs for giving us somewhere to put our yellow dayglow Slammer logo stickers to lead everybody right to the venue. Mind you on a Slammer day all you had to do was put your head out your car window and follow the sound – “brothers & sisters, bring the noise”, “Rakim a say ‘Follow The Leader”….

The Slammer Update 2019

“Some feelings are so passionately real that nothing can bring them back as powerfully as music when recalling our memory’s of good times with friends.”

I learnt a valuable lesson late in life, one that Iʼll share with you because its very relevant to the memories of The Slammer.

The lesson – “In life people donʼt really remember what you say to them or often what you do with them, but they do remember how you made them feel”. Like your driving test, you wonʼt recall the instructions from that day but youʼll still be able to feel your apprehension from the situation or your best concert you wonʼt remember the song order from the night but you will easily re-visit the excitement you shared with friends. The Slammer lives on in this manner – the way it made people feel amongst like-minded music fans from all corners of the South East of England, all buzzing on the music and collective feeling of being at something out of the ordinary that was built on the spirit of the people attending. The Slammer gigs won awards as Kentʼs Best Night of the Year two years running, ʼ88 and ʼ89, in the county press and Radio.

The Slammer was widely written about in the music magazines of the time including The Face, Blues & Soul, Mixmag, Time Out and IDJ plus helping the careers of many DJʼs who are now internationally renowned including Oakenfold, Tong, Giles Peterson, Norman Jay MBE, Westwood, The Scratch Perverts. Other big names who also graced the decks included Jeff Young, Colin Hudd, CJ Mackintosh, Trevor Nelson, Grooverider, Nicky Holloway and Danny Rampling.

It had an attitude that grew from an inspiration of an idea into something that helped inspire the underground UK club dance scene which went on to sweep around the globe from Gravesend to Ibiza to Bondi to Thailand to South Africa to Hawaii to Goa to Rio and Dubai amongst the planets most exotic places as well as the less fashionable countries stretching from Poland to Russia, I know because Iʼve seen it buzzing in those places and every time watching I knew where that seed had started, at The Slammer.

In the mid to late 80ʼs when there was a huge shift away from the beer drinking chrome and mirror venues with tin-pot sound systems and jokey-chatty DJʼs into the venues where the sound system took preference over the disco lights, the DJʼs played ground-breaking music both old and new, the dress code was be ʻimpressʼ, people could dance to express themselves and meet similar new people, the door-staff were there to keep people from coming in who would ruin your night – not to throw you out for dancing like your life depended on it or sneer at your individual sense of fashion.

In a word it was liberation. (eh Craig and Marcus 😉

A reactive expression of liberation as a result of the eraʼs suppressive economy. And yes, its happening again – the economy has lost its abundance and so music fans want to go out and feel free to liberate themselves from the gloom and depressive media by getting together to dance. Dance to the music that made them feel so good, with the people that felt it with them, at the venue where that very special collective seed of history began. Liberation is the right word too because a group of dance music fans started a night at the same venue using that name, the exact same ideas, decoration and music policy. We liberated their creativity and they flourished taking the mantel on to another new generation of music lovers and DJs including Steve Reeves and Jez Preston, still pushing forward..

left to right Gilles Peterson, Craig Mineard, Marcus Muktarsingh and Dr Bob Jones at The Slammer after a night of spinning rare tunes.

One of my proudest memories from those Slammer days was seeing Craig and Marcus grow in confidence as DJs then promoters themselves. The Slammer was enriched with their contribution, the passion they had for the gig, the music they played and the wonderful new generation of young people they brought with them (photo below) really added to the success of the events. With my head in a whirl-wind of responsibilities in those days it was years later when I looked back and fully understood their contribution. I was a lucky guy to have them in the team. Thank you both wherever you are now..

You know, the original seed of that revolution never leaves you, all you need is to hear a track like Ralphi Rosario’s “You Used To Hold Me” and whoosh you’re amongst your friends again, all full of the joy of life dancing next to you smiling and grooving away..

2022 the spirit is still alive thanks to Ian & Rob from the Medway towns, still DJing like the harmony of their lives depend on it. Amazing, the seed of music, pass it forward..

See you all again, best wishes from California. Eddie Gordon

The Slammer club changed my life too because an A&R guy called Adrian Sykes from MCA Records came down from London and said “if you can create this kind of momentum in this town you should be promoting records for MCA too.” March 1988 I was at MCA Records and within 4 months in New York remixing Bobby Brown’s “Don’t Be Cruel” hit. Thanks Ada – we are still great friends 31 years later. That’s Adrian (far left next to Obama) with Carole King, Michelle Obama and Emili Sande at the White House. Our generation really went for it, most of the time with nothing but our own self belief….

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