I still have an old flyer from 1986 for Spats Hip Hop Club in London; what is effectively a tatty piece of paper with a permanent crease across the middle. But the flyer’s design brings back such huge memories. If Spats was the Hip Hop Hadron Collider, the breakers were its particles pushing the laws of physics and the DJs its soul sonic force; all which created a big bang in the UK, paving the way for UK Hip Hop as it is now.
Along with friends, I would follow the well-trodden route of hundreds of teenagers in London on any given Saturday in 1986: checking out the graffiti in Covent Garden, lunching at Quick Burgers in Leicester Square, visiting Groove Records in Soho, before heading to 37 Oxford Street: Spats.
Getting older, I’ve realised Spats would have been the kind of place you’d end up in after work on a Friday night – desperately drunk, dancing badly and trying to get lucky with the hot one from HR. But by midday every Saturday, Spats had cleaned up its act, dusted itself down and transformed from seedy basement bar of embarrassments to the London Hip Hop place to be. The club rang out with the latest in UK Hip Hop and future rap classics spun by DJs Fingers and Tim Westwood, with freestyle jams provided by Family Quest. The fashions were exciting and of the moment: Adidas, Puma, Ellesse, ski jackets and hats, tracksuit tops; the break dancing simply amazing.
It was a good lesson in life as I was growing up – to be amongst such a range of people in the capital city. Let’s face it, my home town in the eighties (Exmouth in Devon) wasn’t the most culturally or ethnically diverse of places. Whilst I didn’t know or find out much about the other kids that were at Spats (their backgrounds and lives), everyone brought their own unique style: be it rapping, dj-ing, breaking or graffiti writing.
There’s a great film on You Tube that shows the sheer energy of Spats, with kids having fun and just doing what they enjoy: breaking and popping, and all to the sound of loud Hip Hop. One shot in the film shows Tim Westwood, a long acknowledged Hip Hop pioneer, looking geeky in his spectacles; a nerdy scientist let loose on the Hadron Collider’s control panel, advancing the laws of Hip Hop and taking it to another level.
Listen to: UK Hip Hop pioneers, Family Quest