IF you had a time machine which, with the flick of a button would transport you to an age of style, creativity and glamour, when every song on the radio was a classic and fashion pages of magazines oozed class and sophistication, chances are you’d whizz straight past the Eighties.
The Nineties probably wouldn’t inspire you to linger long either.
No, the Tardis would blast on, heading for the glamorous Fifties or the quirky love fest of the Sixties. But the Eighties or Nineties? No thanks.
And yet soon clubbers will embrace the eras which many of us might prefer to consign to the bottom of the list, when Lothian Road welcomes its newest yet somehow “oldest” venue.
Club Tropicana – there’s a fairly obvious clue in the name – will embrace all that is memorable about a time perhaps best forgotten: the jolly pop tunes, the sparkling disco ball, the white stiletto heels, the big hair and the even bigger cans of hairspray.
The club, which is due to open on Friday, is the brainchild of one-time gig promoter Tony Cochrane, for whom the Eighties and Nineties were something of a blur spent rubbing shoulder pads with some of the era’s biggest – and also least well-known – names.
Sinitta, Bros, Bananarama, Sister Sledge, Natalie Imbruglia, Take That, before their hair went grey, and, er... Amazulu and 2Unlimited – he brought them all to the Scottish club scene.
“It was a good, fun time,” recalls Tony, now 55. “Some of the music might not have been to everyone’s taste, but there were far more individual characters in the business.
“I think there was a really good music scene then, rap was starting, house music was getting big, Northern soul was huge, the Eighties wasn’t just pop stuff.”
Tony, who runs Club Tropicana venues in Aberdeen, Glasgow and Dunfermline, brought acts like Ant & Dec and Peter Andre to clubs across Scotland. But while Take That – who were paid a tenner each for their gig – were mobbed by girls driven from show to show by their mums, other artists were less easily recognised.
“I remember Vince Clarke from Erasure turning up at one venue and the bouncer wouldn’t let him in without paying,” he says. “Vince said ‘But I’m here to perform’, and the bouncer just shrugged and said that he’d have to pay his £3 entry like everyone else and if it turned out he was performing, he’d refund him the three quid.Vince had to hand over the money.”
The Lothian Road club will open on the site of Karma which, in an earlier life was Subway. But while some might want to forget the era of legwarmers and Frankie Says Relax, according to Evening News fashion writer Lynne McCrossan, now is the perfect time to be revisiting the Eighties and Nineties. “That whole time is very ‘now’,” she insists. “It always seems to happen in the early stages of a new decade that there’s a look back to the decade 20 years earlier.
“And that’s happening now. We’re seeing a lot of Eighties and Nineties style coming through – the Versace-style prints which artists like Jessie J are working just now are huge.
“Oasis-style parkas – the olive green ones with bright orange lining – are flying out of vintage shops just now.”
Nevertheless, Eighties Edinburgh saw every style crime possible, from roller skates, ra-ra skirts and leg warmers at Coasters, in Tollcross, to bleached stretch jeans and Miami Vice pastel jackets at Outer Limits.
Former television presenter Stephen Jardine recalls one particular Eighties night out that he’s been trying for the past 30 years to forget.
“I was a student living above The St Vincent Bar [or Coconut Tams as it was then known],” he says. “For putting up with the vomit and public urination resulting from proximity to Cinderella Rockerfella’s, we used to get free tickets stuffed through the door every so often.
“On one such night, studying late for exams, my flatmate Fraser and I decided to pop out for a closing time pint. Our Cinderella voucher included free entry and a free drink so off we went. It was in the heady days of Radio 1 and Peter Powell was on the DJ decks wearing a fluorescent tracksuit.
“After several pints deadening the pain of listening to Sinitta songs, I went to the loo and was in mid flow when Pete burst through the door – at the head of a conga.
“I’ve never been able to hear conga music since without feeling I need to go to the toilet.”
Cinderella’s is also etched on the memory of photographer Mark Johnstone, whose striking images of Edinburgh are currently on exhibition at the Art Library at George IV Bridge. “My most vivid memory of the club scene was watching Cinderella’s burning down. My cousin had a flat overlooking it and we sat having a few pints, watching it slowly disintegrate,” he says. Of course though, as the Club Tropicana song goes, the drinks were free. Not quite, says Tony. “Not free, but we will do a nice 80s Pina Colada,” he grins.
• Club Tropicana, bar and club at 23 Lothian Road, opens on Friday at 8pm.
WHERE were you in the Eighties and Nineties?
A generation today has fond – or, perhaps, frightening – recollections of Coasters/Outer Limits at Tollcross, Styx in George Street and Bobby McGees in Rose Street.
The Amphitheatre nightclub in Lothian Road held some 1500 dancers on its Greek temple dance floor – all greeted at the door by toga-wearing staff. Tiffany’s in St Stephen Street was a one-time dance hall turned gig venue, where sweaty youths congregated to watch the likes of Adam and the Ants, Madness and Stray Cats. By 1982, it was reborn as Cinderella Rockerfella’s, a venue which was always going to struggle to live up to its posh name.
It was an age that revelled in the most aspirational names possible for its venues, conjuring up glamour, glitz and style in a single word. Take Valentino’s in East Fountainbridge, and La Sorbonne in the Cowgate – which was actually as far removed from glitz as glamour as possible – and La Belle Angele in Hasties Close off the Cowgate which in 1994 played host to an up and coming young combo called Oasis only to later be lost in the Cowgate fire.
Queues would form to get into Buster Browns – later Club Mercado – in Market Street well before 9pm, while the subterranean Mad Dogs in George Street seemed to be permanently packed.
Eating out usually consisted of a very late-night pizza at Bar Italia on Lothian Road, or a baked potato smothered in cheese from Spud-u-like.
But it was in the world of fashion that the 80s and 90s really earned their stripes. It was the age of the supermodel, when Versace muscled on to the scene in lavish and opulent style and Corniche in Jeffrey Street became a mecca for fashion fans searching out designer labels. Men, in particular, who used to get away with jeans and T-shirt suddenly had to embrace sharp suits, quirky skinny ties made from leather and satin and designer label sportswear.
While the girls headed to Miss Selfridge, French Connection and Schuh for their heels and What Every Woman Wants for their bargains, the boys had Smith’s Menswear in Hunter Square, Cowan Tailoring on North Bridge and, eventually, the new Jenners designer menswear department.
• Castle Rocks Park Jam: Bringing beats, breaks and battles inspired by New York Bloc parties of the 1980s
• The Big Dance-Along-Movie: Dance Base brings Dirty Dancing to St Andrew Square Gardens
• Step in Time: The MGA Academy of performing arts takes audiences on a trip through the history of dance on stage and screen