John Lee Bird is an artist/designer/musician and all around glorious human being. He is also one of the last people that I had imagined would have fond memories of Crash, a dance party held in South London from the 90s-00s (being a self-described ‘pale awkward goth’ type)!
I really enjoyed this interview, where John told me all about his time working as a barman during student life, avoiding the club’s dark room, and whacking sweaty men with bags of ice!
Find out more about John at his website.
John Lee Bird 00:00
We go out and the bank in the sort of stock cupboard sock, twice size of this room and things. And on top of the air filter type thing that’s where she kept the mirror. And she had this mirrored credit card she’d racked up. Huge fucking mind just go back to work.
K Anderson 00:28
I am K Anderson and you are listening to lost spaces, a podcast that mourns the death of queer nightlife. Every episode I talk to a different person about a venue from their past, the memories they created there and the people that they used to know. JOHN Lee Berg is an artist and collage artist whose work is defined by its distinctive use of lines. He first moved to London from Ipswich in the 90s and soon found himself working at crash, a late nightclub located south of the river in Vauxhall. We met up to talk about crash Tom Selleck and the Linda Carter version of Wonder Woman amongst other things.
John Lee Bird 01:44
I worked at crash for about a year and a half. can’t quite remember all of it cuz crash was so vague. I ended up working there because I was going out with Spanish guy, and his crazy Spanish mates were like, Oh, we Oh back in the cloakroom. And we all back at the bar me Do these. And come come work there, you get lots of tips. I’ve got a bit Mexican. And I was sick of working at HMV. I used to work at HMV the Trocadero and this is a basic move to London started college and carried on my HMV job from Ipswich. And yeah, I was doing that three nights a week. And not really earning much and then achiever. who’s won the Spanish makes mine terribly hard come work at crash, you know, it’s crazy. You can take lots of drugs and, and get paid really well. And you get a shitload of tips. So she got me a job working on the ball.
K Anderson 03:01
And so, can you describe what crash is?
And what it was
John Lee Bird 03:11
it was a club that I’ve never gone to in my life around that time because it’s a muscle memories, and that probably the star bed or whatever. And just like house music from, you know, 10pm to 6am and sweaty and hedonistic and a lot of fun, but I just wasn’t into fun. back then. I’m
K Anderson 03:38
still on. Yeah. Well, that and that’s, like, I must have known somehow that you worked at crash. But when you suggested to talk about this, I was a bit like, wow, like,
K Anderson 03:54
And this is like there’s a bit of a disconnect in my brain about you in that
John Lee Bird 04:01
but that you know, he But yeah, I didn’t belong there. I was.
K Anderson 04:08
You had to wear a vest. You had to
John Lee Bird 04:11
had to wear when you’re working there. Because like the whole club. By the time midnight had happened, everyone had their shirts off. And so we had to start off in a vest with the x overdressed
K Anderson 04:28
so with the expectation that it would come off
John Lee Bird 04:31
Yeah, my never came off it actually I tore up a T shirt and safety pin sleeves and this is why I was kind of popular as a barman
K Anderson 04:44
because I was because you had to leave. I was a freak. never took his shirt off. So what was a amenda was a men only venue.
John Lee Bird 04:55
No, but it was really cruisey a bit for me. But me and him were there as well. Okay. And on Friday nights there was this got all 490 BPM night called fish. And yeah, I basically work Fridays and Saturdays and fish was the hardest shift because you have like 20 year olds, completely drunk dancing to this relentless be 190 yeah and everything super fast you came out so praying to go into a coma. And then Saturday night was crashed and there Wayne shires who owned the bar, or the night club is lovely. And he is done other stuff is the mastermind behind a lot a lot of gay clubs from sort of the late 90s up until now it’s got placed in Hastings now. Nice is a bit older, so settle down bar. But he’s probably still wild and lovely as he was. But
K Anderson 06:11
so did you know him through the through your work there?
John Lee Bird 06:15
Yeah, I’ve made friends with him. Yeah, cuz that I sort of started as barman and then was quickly promoted to sort of bar manager for the weekend. Probably because I never took my shirt off. And I was a bit more sensible, sensible, together by the end of the shift. And is that the reason that you didn’t take your money? Now I just wasn’t that late You certainly you know, me. Being my a proper club was just something that wasn’t anything I was interested in.
K Anderson 06:58
Yeah, yeah. So when it was first suggested to you, then you go get a job there because you’ll make more money. What was your reaction?
John Lee Bird 07:11
Oh God, I hate muscle Marys. Why the fuck would I want to do that? But let’s give it a go.
K Anderson 07:17
Oh, okay. Yeah.
John Lee Bird 07:18
So and basically achiever and sister. Were just really enthusiastic about it. And I say I was at college and I want to just earn money at the weekends because that way, during the week, I would go out and do my own thing. And go and see live music and be the indie nerd that I was. So yeah, yeah, fuck it. I’ll endure two nights of house music. And sweaty man. Enjoy sweaty man. sweaty man. My stomach could just turn since since the tops came off. My favourite thing of the whole period of working it crash in the hole. Yeah, the best thing was during the ice run. So basically, I’d go to the stockroom. Basically the bars weren’t set up makeshift bars, and you’d have to carry huge bags of ice to the crowds. And take a shitload of delight just rubbing, you know, walking into sweaty muscle Marys and like rubbing the bag of ice on their backs and just, you know, suddenly hearing their voice go a bit natural, a bit natural as it’s suddenly squeal. These huge, hulking, sweaty, there is nothing wrong with a squealing hulking, sweaty man, as long as they’re screaming at the right time. And so do you remember your first time going? Yeah. Yeah. Well, I never went there. As a punter. I’ve only worked there. Yeah. And yeah, that turned up and met Wayne met Carrie, who was the sort of weekend manager when was when was around, but it wasn’t really. Yeah, he actually enjoy the club on the weekend. Yeah, and I’m just shown to the middle bar, there’s three bars in the venue like is under the arches in voxel three bars young, the entrance bar that was always quite tame and near the toilet, and the office. Then the middle bar. And the back bar was the main dance room where they think he actually had draught beer. All the other bars are sort of just bottle beers and spirit messenger bags and I worked on the middle bar originally and I was introduced to to possibly the loveliest man I’ve ever met in a non dating or friend going away like you’re just a balmy and he was Aden shores boyfriend the porn star.
K Anderson 10:19
Oh, can’t like O’Shea. Is this like some author that
John Lee Bird 10:27
does right as well. Um, but yeah, boyfriend Ken was honestly, fucking dawn it’s just overwhelmed, I’d be on my garden in eight hours working with this really handsome fucking bloke who had a heart of gold and like he showed me the ropes or like how to I’d never worked in a bar before. And he showed me how to run a bar.
K Anderson 10:57
And so So were you intimidated? Is that what you’re saying?
John Lee Bird 11:00
That’s a bit intimidating. But Ken, even though looking like a fucking god was really down to earth and really lovely. And I think he liked the fact that I was this sort of indie nerd suddenly sort of dropped in this. You know, my idea of a hellhole. I think he knew that I was just there for rent and money. Yeah. And he wants to make me feel sort of comfortable. Yeah, that sounds a bit sexual was not sexual. I should be suffocating. Like,
K Anderson 11:36
I say, How old were you when you started? 2122 20 No, no. Yeah. might have been 21. I like super young. Yeah. Because I had that you. You had worked for quite a while before you went to college.
John Lee Bird 11:56
Yeah, and I saw Yeah, late 22. Actually, nearly 23 I’m just getting my dates wrong. I worked there. I don’t think I was 24 this is what working on I was working in clubs. Because Because Yeah. Although I kept level headed that took quite a lot of things. So
K Anderson 12:19
on the job yeah, complete. Okay, we’ll get to that. But But what can we do kilos of cocaine
John Lee Bird 12:26
the night could go on into Kirstie Alley. See that show in the age of the night. Kersey McColl died because small who was that the smallest house engineer straight caretaker. What her job was, like she’s dealt with all the tech of the club. She was really good mates, Kirsty MacColl. And we were really sad to have been the best house
K Anderson 13:04
was there anything else to explore there? Or was it just lots of drugs?
John Lee Bird 13:09
It just lots of lots of drugs and lots of jack daniels and and yeah, you know, I’d still be catching up really well, at the end of the day. Yeah, catching up and in stock taking runoff sheets.
K Anderson 13:24
And so so you’ve talked about the three bars? Were there different rooms with different music? Or is it all the same music throughout
John Lee Bird 13:31
the front two bars differently? To be honest, I really couldn’t tell the difference in the music lights to me it sounds like the same song for Al
K Anderson 13:40
sounds this same.
John Lee Bird 13:42
indicated indicated and suddenly sort of dropped into banging house and techno and I mean, that’s when I first met Jim Stanton from Mozambique disco and all that Jim is coming DJ and he’d play music the slightly different and he’s always really lovely. Anyway, so he’s one of the few people on light that used to turn up. Otherwise I was just being like, really charming as a barman.
K Anderson 14:11
Okay, and so when you say that you were charming. Were you just really aloof and you’re thinking that it was charming.
John Lee Bird 14:21
I think they kind of like because most people are sort of off the tits are really drunk because you know the club didn’t start get get started till midnight, at least because and Saturday’s people came after Ducky when she’s finished at one so you’d have like the muscle married crowd who were there earlier and then Ducky crowd would come into the crowd have got a bit more mixed was nice and out of add a few shots by then so yeah, by then I was charming and anger and sort of hinting at Tip
K Anderson 15:02
Did you get lots of tips? Yeah.
John Lee Bird 15:06
I think he’s getting paid 70 quid a night. And yeah 70 pounds for 100 quid a night in tips as well, which is great and people would give you money. I think Wayne is let us have a bap for drinks free as well, because he wanted the whole thing to feel like a pie crash. Well, you know, the it was like trashing your mate. So I guess that’s the idea of it. And to help Did everyone was jolly merry and a bit Mary.
K Anderson 15:39
So, so is that why it’s called crash? I have no idea. Oh. Oh, that’s how that’s why I associate it with. Yeah, I’m not sure if I’ve thought about it. Um, but so that’s a lot of money, the game like that. So
John Lee Bird 16:02
it was better than working three nights at HMV. And I do I did the graveyard shift. Trocadero shift was sort of 4pm or 5pm till midnight. And doing that three nights a week when you’re
K Anderson 16:16
studying full time and all the thankless people in that part of town,
John Lee Bird 16:20
and having to fucking hum the number one song from Michael Barrymore every came upstairs. What what? out those people just come in took zero and let you always be able to what what’s that song that goes doo doo doo doo doo. And you’d have to sort of try and fill in the blanks with them. But Michael Barrymore used to always sort of come in and latch himself on to me, and I’ll be stuck showing Barrymore ran the bloody musical section as well. Are you
K Anderson 16:50
do you just have the thing that you think everyone fancies? You
John Lee Bird 16:54
know, as with any fantasy, I think it’s just people just like talking to me. stupid face. People just chatted to me a lot. I’d get stuck with people I’m too polite to say fuck all four to politely politely flip my tactic to avoid that and over chatty customers. I need to go and do the ice run. I can’t say I need to do an ice run now. No, that didn’t work.
K Anderson 17:26
Well, I mean, you could my mind at work.
John Lee Bird 17:29
Yeah, I’m doing a Photoshop design for you. But I need to do a nice run.
K Anderson 17:35
Especially in this code, midwinter. And so how long did you work there? That year and a half, I think, oh, not very long.
John Lee Bird 17:46
No, it wasn’t very long. But it’s sort of time to end. We’ve got sort of proper electronic tills by then so part of the reason I really loved the job was catching up at the end of the night, we’d sort of sit amongst all this mess of what had happened. I there was a really odd sort of half hour where, like, everyone be then getting the bus, the shuttle bus to trade.
K Anderson 18:15
And there was a shuttle bus to trade.
John Lee Bird 18:18
Yeah, so yeah, people who club until 6am.
K Anderson 18:22
And so what’s the difference between crash and trade? Just the times that they’re open? Yeah, thanks. Okay. Yeah, okay, sorry. So I never I never went to trade.
Oh, yeah, yeah,
John Lee Bird 18:35
I was a clubbing shite. I’m not gonna get on with the more Yeah, so yeah, there was no real need to for someone to cash out and all that anymore. I think because it was all electronic.
K Anderson 18:50
Be until you were saying that one of your favourite things was to sit around, around catch up and light as
John Lee Bird 18:56
the lights came on. The last people left the club Light Railway arches and suddenly all the walls the black gloss, painted walls would just come alive. And all the cockroaches from the tunnels would just come up and just swarmed the walls.
K Anderson 19:13
yourself elaborating here
John Lee Bird 19:14
I’m really not like the walls moved. And once the lights came on, like all Actually no, basically they weren’t scary and they was coming down to the cockroaches that were probably lining the walls would suddenly just disappear disappear. We hide from the light weight so
K Anderson 19:36
what so when the when the club was on and people were dancing, the cockroaches were hiding or whatever, probably
John Lee Bird 19:43
like out there partying as well as
crashing to take in a line for casting. Yeah. Yeah. But it’s kind of nicer just sitting there catching up in
John Lee Bird 19:58
the relentless noise Yeah, the the some of the other bar stuff there was a pool table at the back of the bar stuff go and play pool because we’re all sort of waiting room sort of students really so waiting for the first tube to start which didn’t start till about quarter past seven. So I’d have sort of an hour half hour 40 minutes to sort of catch up and always do it in on on the sort of middle area and just sort of look at the mess there was one night where I sort of turned off putting the tills down and sort of turn around the there’s a rat in a used condom suffocated on the dance floor and so on I pulled the rat Oh, but yeah and cockroaches became friends really
K Anderson 20:54
became your friends Yeah, cuz it was just there is life raft.
K Anderson 21:08
so let’s say let’s talk about that closing because I’m really interested in finding out a bit more what time did it close?
John Lee Bird 21:17
Finish six. Oh, okay. But I think the shuttle bus to trade used to arrive at like 530 so bulk people go there and by then clubs winding down yeah. Yeah. People have either cut off or passed out more and ended start crystal meth as well. That started coming in so like some people would just pass out and we had some sort of go go dancer really awful gogo dance experience one night where this Go Go dancer fell down the middle stairs because all industrial sort of layout that only stairs and sort of smashed all these Lego. We’re still going yeah, I’m having fun. And it was being sent off in an ambulance. Shared.
K Anderson 22:08
Shared. And that was the end of his gogo career. I’m assuming he’s probably back the next weekend. double dose. But there’s nothing quite like that feeling when a club closes like the end and all the lights come up. Yeah. What? Like, did you then hang out with the other people that you worked with? Or was it just kind of like
John Lee Bird 22:41
a ball on sort of catch up and put everything away? Yeah, and then we’d have like a couple of shots and things and sometimes the join in playing pool was never very good.
K Anderson 22:56
And therefore you hated it or
John Lee Bird 22:58
no. I loved having a bash but um, yeah, it’s always just nice and getting the Juve home quite often. flatmate and boyfriend at the time would come and meet me that have gone to Ducky so they’d come meet me at crash flatmates always been a bit of a lightweight so she’d be throwing up her re into the bins something and my boyfriend, Chandra Cheever in the cloakroom for the whole night. I think I’m not figuring either ways they take me home and I’m like, Nah, yeah. cash out. And then just the usual wait just for a second first tube. And it’d be really messy to journey home from voxel to East ham
K Anderson 23:44
because of other people on the tube or because that because
John Lee Bird 23:47
we were just feeling really messy and I’d sort of I’d have been knackered by then as well. Suddenly everything would have worn off and I’ll be sort of sobering up Sunday more early Sunday morning people and you see the people from like, the hobbyist and things also getting on the trying to get the first tube and every sort of outlet winks. We know what state you’re in, as well. Solidarity club is
K Anderson 24:17
Yeah, for the this matter of South London. Which reminds me because you said that the place was quite cruisy. Did it have like a cruising area?
John Lee Bird 24:28
Yeah, I think there was a room upstairs that I never actually went even when bar manager and I never went up there. There was a dark room bit upstairs. And this guy spike used to do this cruise night because it was called magical septum and it’s bunk or something. So every so often it’d be sort of camouflage netting up and the leather daddies would be in there and prancing around in my vest in safety pins, they’re not coming off.
K Anderson 25:11
What like say the whole place would become like a sex night? A sex night in that sense?
John Lee Bird 25:17
Yeah, I never mind. I didn’t make contact lenses and I walked around blindly and just got on with my job.
K Anderson 25:25
But the floor didn’t become slept here or the eggs
John Lee Bird 25:28
always slipping because I’ve been bashing the ice or the muscle memories and melting. Yeah, yeah, it’s crazy. I’ve never really noticed the craziness so much. I never went to the toilets at the bag. I went to the toilet near near the near the office. Normally with security guard because I’d sort of drop the till would have to sort of empty the cache every couple of hours. I do that and then escorted to the train much escorted to the toilet as well. And obviously drinking shots of jack daniels something all the time so it wasn’t it was glugging beer and need to pass every 10
K Anderson 26:13
minutes. Okay, so I thought you were gonna say so I was really sorry bear with something and no just really wasted that together. But so you just you were just oblivious to any sexual shenanagins
John Lee Bird 26:27
I just never really know I knew stuff was going on but I never really saw him
K Anderson 26:31
and he never like went to look No. boyfriend I was being really happy you can still work
John Lee Bird 26:40
but in my eyes I saw the rat in the condom that was in these be like sort of like you’d occasionally have like live sex shows. I think Wayne was friends with thing he ran fest as well and fis was another nightclub in London Bridge. I think it was 10 somewhere in imagine but Yeah, that’d be live sex shows and then sort of like sales obviously fucking happened on the dance floors as well because well, yeah, it was condoms all over
K Anderson 27:17
the full penetration. Yeah, dance floor. Yeah.
John Lee Bird 27:20
I never witnessed it. But you know, flatmate and everyone would just like wow, I think that’s one of the reasons that might throw up in the bin it was all a bit too much for a young girl coming up on an E flat me on say a name but let’s let’s keep out Oh wow. But also you know having lovely chats with people yeah. People like chicken and stick he was a club kids that they started come to crash because it was one of the few sort of after our places that even the freaks felt comfortable because even though it’s cruzi there was still a party sort of fun. Yes.
K Anderson 28:15
And so it wasn’t like that cliche of that back kind of he talked about muscle memories before so it’s not that cliche of like everyone looks the same and everyone is topless. There was a big a better mix.
John Lee Bird 28:30
There was a bit of a mix enough of them there was enough of mixing it out how that’s cool for me to say there a year and a half Yeah, cuz I say the freaks would turn up. I say freaks I’m one of the freaks but and I suppose we’ve got the tail end Ducky crowd as well. Yeah. I said I did just feel comfortable. Even for someone who’s completely out of their element. Being an overdressed and I think that one of the things that Wayne Yeah, the organise and promote a club owner, I guess. What is really great is making places that everyone can feel comfortable in to succeed. Even for this old Ruby golf.
K Anderson 29:33
But So wait, were you actually a golf?
John Lee Bird 29:38
I don’t think I ever saw the sun and that’s not just because I worked. Yeah. truven I bet.
K Anderson 29:44
But like, is there photographic evidence of you know, this this bit of a, there might be a punk Kesh photo. Oh, okay. I’m not interested in that.
John Lee Bird 29:57
Now Probably a little bit more like sort of john Taylor from Duran Duran, but with leopard print jeans and shit. In the
K Anderson 30:07
1000. No. Was this the 90s? That would be the early 80s. When No, God I’m getting confused.
John Lee Bird 30:19
I was working at crash, probably I think it must have been sort of late 97 early 98 to about August 99. I worked a crash.
K Anderson 30:35
And you guys
John Lee Bird 30:37
you’re skinhead, and scrawny skinhead, scrawny, hairy and pale, pale.
K Anderson 30:44
Yeah. And so you had a boyfriend at this time? How out were you? I was out with all my friends. Okay. Yeah.
John Lee Bird 30:58
Yeah, always been out my friend. not been only recently out with Eric.
K Anderson 31:06
How is that? Fine. He said convincingly. Yeah. Until you’ve always been queer like that. You’ve never had a period have
John Lee Bird 31:24
never had an inkling to do anything else. One of my earliest memories is looking at and floral bedroom curtains.
K Anderson 31:38
And having an epiphany
John Lee Bird 31:41
through curtains and and sort of imagine Patrick Duffy as man from Atlantis. And he was clearly sort of diving into a rock pool and like, the flowers with the rocks and things. And
K Anderson 31:54
yeah, and that’s when I knew is that
John Lee Bird 31:58
pretty much, but that’s about 30 years old as well. My third birthday I asked for a Wonder Woman though, and I was super trooper album. Just come out.
K Anderson 32:07
Yeah, nothing weird about third birthday.
John Lee Bird 32:10
I forgive my parents for everything because they did actually buy me the wonderwoman doll.
K Anderson 32:16
But not not super duper.
John Lee Bird 32:18
And yeah, my own in uncle club together and got me that superduper um, it’s your favourite song on that album? I can’t even remember how you know very well.
K Anderson 32:29
What’s the one that’s got two for the price of one cuz that’s
John Lee Bird 32:33
really bad. I really like to have his first album. Because there was a song called eagle on it.
K Anderson 32:39
That’s not their first album. It’s on it’s on Abba. The album.
John Lee Bird 32:44
Yeah, but that’s that’s not the first album The album then. Face Off. Yeah, so Eagle. I used to borrow my mum’s sort of red silkies shawl. And this is some two and a half three haha. And where the shoreland sort of run around the front room. Eating mini cheddars or no, chatters. There weren’t many. Few and yeah, running around in the ritual. Singing he tend to be an eagle and singing Eagle. Yeah.
K Anderson 33:21
Yeah, but that’s like to what you saying that you’re totally gay a little bit. I think that’s perfectly normal. Yeah. Superhero gay. Super gay. So Wonder Woman as that, um, what’s her name? Linda Cartier, Linda Carter. Yeah. See, look, my mum had the same hair. She had the same sort of like, you know, and performed as well. She’s sleep with a roller to get that sort of curly bit at the front. I like watching girls fight. But everything was there much fighting in that TV series. Tie people up and do a bit of a slap and then gain her pain and then get her invisible plane. Right. Yeah, really weird how they came up with that from the source material. Like we don’t have a budget. How do we make this work?
John Lee Bird 34:29
Otherwise, play with the Wonder Woman doll and my brother’s action man. The action man was sort of Tom Selleck to me. So I’d have Magnum and Wonder Woman
K Anderson 34:42
hanging out and shopping and thing and was Magnum wearing clothes.
John Lee Bird 34:52
The Tom Selleck obsession still carries on.
K Anderson 34:55
What is it about Tom Selleck?
John Lee Bird 34:57
I don’t know. It’s just It’s just that seven He’s hairy man thing. After being someone who complains about muscle marries and sort of clones and things of that contradiction,
K Anderson 35:14
who’s the one that did the centrefold for playgirl? Is that Reynolds? Oh, Burt Reynolds. I think that’s who I was thinking. I need to look it up. And the story that I was gonna tell you, which isn’t is probably not as interesting, because it’s Burt Reynolds and not Tom Selleck, is that we, when we were on the road, like, no, I went on a road trip to the US with two friends that I went to high school with
John Lee Bird 35:45
smoking the band, isn’t it. That’s Burt Reynolds. Isn’t that Reynolds since making the band to me, that’s how the road trip but there’s a car involved?
K Anderson 35:56
We, he has he used to have? Let me just make sure this is right. Yeah, he used to have a museum, the Burt Reynolds museum. That is like, just his, like his memorabilia and crap. And we said we were so excited about this. I mean, I don’t even know who he is. Because we were so excited. And we got there. And and went in and they were like, no, it’s permanently closed.
What have you.
K Anderson 36:35
It’s really sad. When we get to go to the Burt Reynolds fan museum Isn’t it? Isn’t an official museum? No, I think no, as is the official No, because it was like from his archives or so I don’t know. I don’t know like what you call it. But the reason that the person that we saw knew that it was like that There used to be a museum there and that it wasn’t there anymore, is because the building was now the Burt Reynolds performing art school. So it was like it was his museum. It wasn’t just like someone who really likes Burt Reynolds. Put together a thing. of the music of like inside Yeah. Like, and there’s like some car, some black car. He wasn’t Knight Rider. Was he? I think he was smoking the bandit. I carry What else? Burt Reynolds did actually. What is smoking? Is that TV show? I think was it a TV show the field? two films, I think. And what is it a cowboy film?
John Lee Bird 37:43
About a cowboy hat. But in a call to probably not official cowboy. Not cowboys. You know? We had a cowboy hat. I think it’s just a fashion thing. Okay. I don’t think we had spurs because that had gotten in the way but the brakes putting accelerated down.
K Anderson 38:06
Okay, um, so do you remember any songs? No, nothing. It was all the same. Well, yeah, I remember the song that a year and a half
John Lee Bird 38:21
And yeah, so there’s a fade away. So at some point, oh, you’d like and then build. And then the cockroaches start to mariachi clapping
K Anderson 38:38
because the cockroaches are Mexican. Everywhere. All cockroaches are Mexican. Oh, really? Yeah. And how do you know that?
John Lee Bird 38:46
That’s where they get the rhythm. Is that all dogs are Spanish. They are Yeah. You speak to any dog in Spanish wherever you need called Spanish. don’t respond better. The Spanish voice Spanish tones. Ah. See, that wouldn’t work. If you’re an AA. It would work. Oh, okay.
K Anderson 39:15
So you moved to London in the mid 90s? Yeah. 97 I came to London. And what? And you would be like 20 some early something. 2222. Yeah, so you’re just checking my maths from earlier on? Does it Oh, does it?
John Lee Bird 39:35
Yeah. Let’s go to 16. Well, started a levels job to have a levels because I wanted to work in a record shop. Then lied to get the job in the record shop. So I became manager before I was 18. But when they found out that I was under a And the lovers guide had come out, it suddenly meant that I had to get my assistant manager to sell 18 videos for me is only an awkward sort of two three months. Let’s say lovers guide is what it was like the first sort of legal sex video you can by teaching people how to have
K Anderson 40:20
our okay sex.
John Lee Bird 40:22
You can buy it in normal shops like Woolworths sold out, I think in brown paper wrap or something ridiculous and what it was like a joy
K Anderson 40:29
of sex type thing. Yeah, yeah.
John Lee Bird 40:32
But you know, with actual penises, rather than sort of where they erect penises, but I never saw it I should have watched by name is like hip sexual stuff.
K Anderson 40:45
John Lee Bird 40:46
I mean, and what can you there was a gay version that came out, but I didn’t like the look of the people on the cover. So even we didn’t even watch it in the shop for a while for anything. Obviously not on the Christmas opening. Mrs. Mills type characters would be coming in the shop to buy Celine Dion albums.
K Anderson 41:04
What so it was like all soft lighting and yeah, real sort of Vaseline on the ladies crap.
John Lee Bird 41:11
So lighting in the 90s. The 80s and 90s don’t really look but different to me.
K Anderson 41:24
Really? I think they’re really distinctly different.
John Lee Bird 41:28
And well, 90s just becomes a bit of a tone down. 80s do you
K Anderson 41:35
John Lee Bird 41:37
Yeah, apart from extra trainers, and toning down the shoulder pads, but the 90s didn’t really do much for me. Oh, wow. I taught them on the indie scene where indie bands have appeared.
K Anderson 42:01
So there’s something that’s very distinctly different. Yeah. Yeah. So yeah, what are your first impressions of London?
John Lee Bird 42:14
Oh, I loved it. I’ve got I’ve come to visit, occasionally see gigs and things, but loved it, but just felt like a really little fish in a big swamp?
K Anderson 42:26
And is that a good thing or a bad thing?
John Lee Bird 42:29
Both really terrified. I didn’t even know I had to be gay even come from Ipswich wasn’t much going on? and didn’t know any of you have any gay friends at all, actually. Say had suddenly been in London, Ghana? Yeah, how do I have gay friend, hang on, there was a whole sort of two year period of just going this is never gonna work out. I’m never gonna have I want male friends that are gay, that hadn’t slept with or tried to sleep with. And I just didn’t know how to meet people didn’t really know where to go or what to do and to work in HMV. And just hanging out all I did was hanging out with lesbian mates who sort of typically club V and things and coffee. And I say hello, popcorn, heaven and things. But I never knew how to cruise or make friends. Really. Apart from that. I had this massive lesbian mate.
K Anderson 43:46
So why never met men? But why do you think that is? Probably because I just
John Lee Bird 43:54
didn’t know how to hang out. People really apart from the people I’d go out with in the first place. And because I was sort of mates, lesbians, I’d end up meeting their lesbian friends and just them. And so yeah, I think I was a token lesbian for like, two years, until I got outrageously drunk and did a forward roll in the club, and sort of smashed my head open. And then my who later became my Spanish boyfriend, he was one of the guys who picked me up off the floor, off the floor, and they asked me a bit. So for
K Anderson 44:41
anyone listening, we don’t endorse this way of
John Lee Bird 44:43
No, you can’t find it. Do yourself an injury and then might be someone who’s training to be a nurse or has some sort of soft side to themselves. You
K Anderson 44:54
might want a needle and thread in their back
John Lee Bird 44:56
or maybe you just need to sit down as well because you don’t Have a bit too much and want to sit down with someone who was dying or I gave him a rest.
K Anderson 45:08
But but so that meeting him didn’t solve your problem of finding friends that you didn’t sleep hadn’t slept with?
John Lee Bird 45:16
No, it did actually. Because he in Spanish Isaiah, and basically he seemed to know the whole of Spain. And, you know, his friends got me the job. And then we started in mind or either friends to take over the jobs good. Most people didn’t last more than three, four months. Yeah, in a club.
K Anderson 45:37
John Lee Bird 45:39
Yeah, it was a real sort of fleeting job. You sort of did it to fill in gaps in you know, to have one point, it did feel like we’ve sort of taken over because all our friends work and it’s about 12 really close mates. Yeah. Working together.
K Anderson 46:02
And we with him the whole time you worked here.
John Lee Bird 46:04
Yeah. Yeah. So as well as my flatmate thrown up in the bin, he’d be thrown up in the bin sometimes and I’d run this whole shift and have to carry everyone at home.
K Anderson 46:16
I mean, they did it in the beam so you didn’t have to mop it I suppose. Looking at it maybe.
John Lee Bird 46:24
Yeah, and I always got one of the one of the other staff to carry the bins out by doing your boyfriend’s vomit while I’m working I don’t want to get my I only had the one vest because I hadn’t bothered cut enough sleeves off other t shirts. So one invest I will for the weekend
K Anderson 46:51
that you couldn’t get ROM on
John Lee Bird 46:55
as you didn’t mount on a Saturday because we had to recover six days Yeah. So anything else crash started to change towards the end Lam because I was there just before whole with facts he called me rave was going on new Raven electric clash started going out 99 I think so. That was the end, it started getting a bit more fun for me rather than just the house and techno stuff. And we started getting a load of PhDs in so that’s how I met crazy girl who’s now grand Dame Tiffany Guinness, amazing artist. She did a PA there, Scotty and Buster who used to perform as your mom, your dad who ended up running and social they start forming there. And it was that whole change of you know, coming out of the gloom of the 90s where nobody seemed to be doing anything. There was nothing for the alternative crowd and then suddenly a whole need of help of newt whole load of new sort of performers started appearing Yeah, and yeah as we started have more sort of guest PhDs that weren’t sort of you know, dancers just stripping and yeah fucking to fucking glory gain in numbers.
K Anderson 48:36
John Lee Bird 48:37
Yeah, especially when you got your lenses you can’t see what’s going on. Yeah, so trash was a place for vessel live ppas towards the end of my time. I don’t think it lasted much longer after I left anymore I think anyone on for about another two years.
K Anderson 49:03
Do you remember hearing about it shedding?
John Lee Bird 49:05
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Because I think either ASIO will I achieve it? We’re still working the cloakroom? And they’re like, Oh, she got we gotta find somewhere else but Wayne found this place around those three are kind of box this box something I can’t help but do having this new venue around Old Street and some of the people moved on there. Okay. Yeah, remember closing? What would What did you feel? Oh, it’s a shame but I never went there. So sorry. I’ve been thinking Oh God, because trade is gone as well had gone by then. And just thinking what the fuck do those where a muscle marries do where do they go? You know, like the cockroaches do. They just they just disappearing into the night with nowhere to go.
K Anderson 50:06
Did you ever go to crash? Well, if you did, I would love to hear from you. If you have any photos or stories from that time, please do share them through social media. You can reach me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, with the user handle K and music. And you can also find out more about john at his website, www dot john liebhard.com. Last basis is not only a podcast, but a concept record as well. I’ve been writing songs about queer venues and the people who used to live their lives there. And we’ll be releasing songs over the coming year. You can hear the first single Well Groomed Boys which is also the theme tune to this podcast right now on all streaming platforms. If you like this episode, I would really appreciate if you subscribed, left a review or just told someone who you think might be interested in finding out more. I am K Anderson and you have been listening to lost spaces