You always remember the first club you ever went to. Stood in the queue doing your best to be chill, look like you've been there before, maybe share a little joke with your mates, don't make it too bait though, don't wanna look like kids. Oh we're next in line? Hadn't even noticed. We're always here. "Alright mate?" Look up to the bouncer with a sniff and a nod.
I still remember that feeling well, around 2003, stood in the car park of Walthamstow Dogs, queuing for Charlie Chan's.
Chan's had previously enjoyed a decade of unrivalled prestige in the area, attracting the cream of the '90s East London glitterati: the gangsters, the Page 3 girls, and the footballers, before tumbling spectacularly down the social ladder and landing facedown on its own sticky carpet roughly around the time that I started to go. To some, the club is synonymous with high grade coke, Gucci loafers and Teddy Sheringham, but Chan's to my generation was an altogether different experience.
The glamour had faded, but it was a place to call our own and a rite of passage for anybody in the area. Shit, but we loved it. The interior had remained untouched since its heyday, looking like a Hall and Oates video shot in Tony Montana's bedroom. Think red and black faux-Oriental decor, plastic plants and a grand piano, all slightly worn but still in tact. All that kitsch decor would probably make some Dalston stylist dribble with excitement nowadays. At the time just it felt like a party in a Chinese restaurant.
Then there was the music. UK garage may have enjoyed a major revival in clubbing circles recently, but out in our forgotten corner of London it never went away. '90s Dreem Teem and Sticky productions were still on heavy rotation, punctuated by the odd commercial house track. Garage had been ubiquitous around East London since I'd started school - in every shop, on every radio station and from every car that drove past, and while the mainstream had moved on, our 2-step roots weren't shifting.
There was an air of innocence about it all. Despite the sickly smell of burning plastic bags lingering in the dark corners of the dancefloor reminding you of some of the unsavoury characters you were in the company of, and granted it was unusual for a night to pass without a stabbing in the car park, the majority of us were there for a laugh.
Chans was the kind of place where it was still deemed unacceptable to wear trainers in a club, but black socks worn over the top of your Reebok classics were fine. It was a place where dolled-up girls from Loughton, Chingford and Buckhurst Hill would mingle with groups of estate lads puffing weed in the corner. A place where a fiver would get you two radioactive alcopops before half 11, and where every five minutes a group of girls would be helping their dishevelled friend back on to her skyscraper heels after tripping on the stairs to the dancefloor. Somebody would usually be doing their best to save dignity in the corner while vomiting their dry white wine onto the monogrammed carpet, while the taxi queues at closing time would buzz with the word "Warehouse?"
The unfortunate but unavoidable truth was that the club was already in its twilight years by the time we arrived. After a few years of keeping the wolf from the door, the smoking ban struck like a powerful left hook and took it out of the game completely. Since then the site has been a building site as the future of the entire entire dog track remained in contention, but for all of its sins, there's not much I wouldn't give for one more night in Chan's.
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Top 6 Chan's Tunes
Amira - My Desire
Kele Le Roc - My Love
NnG - Right Before My Eyes
Armand Van Helden - My My My
Praise Cats - Shined On Me
Jaheim - Just In Case ( Dub-A-Holics Roller Revival Mix)