THE FRAT SHAK DIARY - The Frat Shack Shakedown - A Potted History
THE GORILLA GOGO - UG AND THE
CAVEMEN - 31/03/89 - 3rd Street, South Ken.
THE GROOVE TUNNEL - THE COYOTEMEN
- 08/03/97 - 333
The FRaT ShacK Shakedown - A Potted History
OK folks this is something I¹ve always wanted to do, before my wrinkly old brain goes completely, as much for my benefit as anyone else's. A madcap journey through the murky past of... RED HOT BAZOOMAS EXOTIC ENTERTAINMENT:
With the WILD WEEKEND looming, it seemed like a good time to track back over Frat Shacks past and examine briefly what makes the whole thing tick. That's besides copious amounts of alcohol, gorgeous go go dancers, rip roaring rock'n'roll, well over the top bad taste crap decor, well over the top bad taste crap cabaret, sick sideshows, great bands, rampant punters, (most Frat shacks make the current fetish scene look decidedly poncy), and non functioning toilets....
For those who don't know The Frat Shack is an irregular rampant retro party/night club that's been running under some form or other for the past eight or so years. It always seemed that the shows and clubs going around the mid to late 80's were decidedly mundane in the decor and atmosphere departments. No one on the garage / punk / psychobilly scene seemed to be doing much exiting visually, unlike the burgeoning "house scene"(crap music). Both the dreaded BatCave and Alice in Wonderland seemed to have the right sort of ideas, but were a bit limp wristed musically, and there were some very visual live bands (King Kurt, The Cramps, The Medics, Zodiac Mindwarp) but not many clubs, The odd forays I made into the Rockin' and Mod scenes, who both played great music, were met by intimidating door policies and stares as blank as the walls of the clubs. As Iggy said it was "No Fun". It was about time to nick the best tunes from both these scenes and spice it up with lots of glitter, raunch, and devil may care punky trashy craziness...
The first event we organised was 'The Gorilla GoGo', a bamboo, leopard skin and banana filled orgy of trash and rock and roll starring the legendary "Ug and the Cavemen" at 3rd St. (a club later busted for it's rampant swingers nights). It was a success especially memorable for the peeled banana go go outfits and gorilla door attendants, and set the pace for more teen excitement in the years to follow. We took over my college bar (50p admittance 80p pints!) for the next few 'Gorilla' events that mainly featured 'Los Easy Lays' as the house band, though in various disguises, a trend that continued well into the early Frat Shacks at Rails.
I remember a couple of real disasters where one go go dancer got electrocuted in a collapsing cage and another fell off drunkenly and broke both her wrists, though didn't notice till the next day! Luckily our cage construction improved dramatically and our dancers have been safe ever since, though drool covered stages are still a common safety concern. One great gimmick in 'The Gorilla After Life Experience' was having a Butch Lesbian, St Peter on the door judging the punters and sending them to 'Heaven', a quiet cloud filled room where the bar was, or to 'Hell', a flame and noise filled inferno where the band 'Sodom & the Gomoras' played in devil outfits. The go go dancers had horned brassieres and hairdo's whilst the guys had skirts of shrunken heads!! Or the 'No Gravity Disco' where we suspended an array of floating planets and space debris amongst the people on the dance floor, which resulted in some spectacular bumper-car style dance routines.
Later after obtaining studio space at Toerag with Babzotica we had room to really go for it and start the Frat Shack proper, you need a lot of room to store and build all the sets and props!. Luckily Paul and Robin at the Zombie Club, were up for it and on the evidence of the Toe Rag opening party gave us our first date which was rapidly expanded into a couple of years of toe tappin entertainment. Rails in Euston Station concourse proved a great home and the nights were often packed well over capacity. The Wild Western Rooms at The St John's Tavern in Archway proved an ideal hunting ground for likely Frat bands, and we were able to showcase the riproaringest garage bands of the era, in the usual stupid surroundings.
The small space provided a great platform for bands like Thee Headcoats, The Eugene Reynolds band (of Rezillos fame), The Kaisers (their first London Gig) and from abroad The A-Bones, Squares, Phantom Surfers and Mummies, as well as a whole host of great local bands, especially during our regular Xmas extravaganzas where we crammed a maximum possible showcase of no-talent onto the stage!
These shebangs were always total chaos a state totally encouraged by our drunken preparations and tendency to fill the tiny backstage room with huge costumes and at least five bands! We also started having our regular snowball fights where you soak wadding and sponge balls in your beer before tossing them at whatever abomination was onstage, usually something that was throwing them at you in the first place. The snowballs are a miniature work of art some of them have survived the last five years intact! sort of...
The nights were always livened up by whatever dodgy act we could dream up in the pub the week before. I remember Liam, as a Mermaid being chased by the Twistin Sea Dalek, Titten Helga's disappearing Cucumber Act (which was so disgusting someone followed us home, screamed "heretics" at us and smashed our windows!), Archie Archaeologists nude Mummies (ever seen stripping Mummies with boners?), or Sexton Mings multi Breasted Sexy Camel. Whatever the theme we would think of some unsavoury act to match it. Many of these made it into film and are featured in the Frat Shack Shakedown video series such as Windy Kitty The Farting Stripper (she blows her clothes off!) or Voodoo Annie (she likes her men reanimated!).
We moved out of Rails for an interesting one off in a newly excavated cellar under Spitalfields market for the 'Journey to the Centre of The Frat Shack'. The toilet was four floors up a near vertical rickety staircase, which provided some minor disasters and some superb 'up the skirt' views. Cowboy barns shook his beer maracas whilst Simon Marks in true camptastic form tripped his way through the Barry Orbison songbook as "Raider and the Reveres". Sexton Ming was too drunk too stand up, but still managed to play a set in a fetching gold ball gown and stockings! The proceedings were livened up when a Sinclair C5, found abandoned in the cellar was drag raced up and down the dance floor by all and sundry.
The Garage on Highbury Corner was the venue for a couple more Xxx-mas specials and a surf special with Dick Dale. One time Richard Armitage Shanks played Santanstein, after being revived by Allstar Garage Weirdo's "The Other Way". He roamed the audience violently bashing people over the head with presents. Another great Christmas classic was The Featherly Brothers a two bird double act doing acoustic Everly Brothers numbers (every band must always do at least one X-mas song, the least practised the better), then Turkey Lurky was thrown into the audience to be plucked and basted as a bewildered Jos Hutton struggled with the suits controls. The person with the most feathers won the prize!
We frequented a few venues during this time, the Forum and Arts Depot both huge spaces to fill and decorate, the latter where we held in conjunction with Hangman Records 'The Mighty Caesars at The Frat Shack Toga Party'. This spawned the one and only Frat Shack single: a Mighty Caesars give away with Tracy Emin on the cover! Togas were compulsory and we had a fine selection at the door for any miscreant who had come inappropriately dressed. Lions got in free, and so was most of the beer due to a licensing cock-up. The band were towed on and off stage by semi naked slaves pulling a chariot fit for the Gods themselves, and there were constant Gladiator fights breaking out all night! At the Savage Safari, the Wilde Beasts kicked ass as poor Jos again took part in "Crack the Coconut', placed inside a giant nut with loads of presents. People were supposed to wait for the music to stop then have a go at cracking him open for his goodies. Instead he was immediately set upon by the masses and stomped to a pulp!
We launched the Perv Parlor in an Art Gallery in Underwood St, with spectacular Tom Jones Medway cover band 'Atomic Jones' playing. This was our first collaboration with the 'Bedazzled' crew. I then took the fiilm on tour with the Lightning Beatman Gang and their 'Bad Taste Rock n' Roll Revue'. An impressive travelling circus of crap that greatly influenced the development of future events... Haunted Harlem took place in the same venue, and was filmed for late night TV program "The Big City".
Next Alan from 'Strange And
Blinding' persuaded us to share a 3 floored venue in Stoke Newington,
that used to be owned by the Kray Brothers, but was now run by two of
the dodgiest characters we were yet to encounter: the amiable but completely
untrustworthy Danny and his permanently drunk and extremely unreliable
side kick Milton. Between these two and a crumbling semi dilapidated,
unsound, wreck of a venue we had our work cut out for us over the next
year. The bar would always open about an hour after we opened and would
often run out of all beverages except the dreaded Dragon Stout. On our
first venture the lighting bars collapsed (admittedly we did try hanging
an enormous Tiki mask off them), and a reporter from 'Harpers and Queen'
was mugged at knife point in the ladies! During the last one 'Loon Arama'
the lovely Lynn having wandered through an unlocked door walked out onto
the ceiling promptly bringing a large portion of it down. No one was hurt,
but I remember witnessing it, and dismissing as hallucination the reports
of someone scrambling back up through the hole, blaming it instead on
the fairy lights taped to the same place! It was only a couple of days
later, after a terminal argument with the proprietor that Lynn shamefully
confessed and I
Two days before the 'Bad taste Sleazeramma', 'Trenz' (as it was daintily called) featured on the news as there had been a viscous shooting on the pavement outside. This resulted in our security staff turning tale and a harrowing few days of reassuring people we had nothing to do with it...
Despite all this the parties were all mentally wonderful and well attended by the maddest mixture of people we had yet witnessed. We used to share the venue with Bedazzled in the Basement, we had the top floor ballroom and bar, whilst the ground floor was hosted by guest clubs: Space (northern soul fanatics), Exotica (weird and wonderful Gothotica), The Karminsky Brothers (famed Groove merchants), and the terminally suave Club Montepulcianno (crazy cabaret capers, who had none other than Lenny Beige performing!). The bands all kicked righteous ass, especially Dr Explosion, a true party band, 'Lulu's Marble', drop dead gorgeous Japanese chicks with a rough Sonics style sound, and the tremendous po-faced Quakers, in full religious garb complete with over size bible, they performed numbers such as "An Empty Church (is full of empty pews)" and "Christ I think I love you" to the tune of "Why".Wow!
After this finding a willing host in the 333 Club on Old Street within spitting distance of Toe Rag was a real blessing. At last a venue with a descent sound system, lights, projectors and urinary facilities!! The gods were indeed favourable. But it was with some trepidation that we embarked on trying to fill a venue that size. But with the help of 'The Flaming Stars', the premiere of 'Pervirella', a good revue in 'Time Out' we were away for another few tremendous shebangs!
With a dingy basement go go bar for all the souly groove type stuff, a top floor gallery snack bar and cinema, and a pub style ground floor for bands and boozing the club is perfect for our increasingly eclectic and OTT nights, and it runs all night ! We hosted shows by the Cave Four, Lightning Beatman (with a naked Jorge Explosion skate boarding whilst playing the guitar!). Thundercrack, The Unexpected (from Spain) and the legendary Kings of the Wilde wob out themselves: Andre and the Giants. As I write we eagerly anticipate the arrival of the Dukes of Hamburg at the looming Wild Weekend our Fortieth Bash. And what a Bash it will be... with all our favourite bands, and freaks turning up from all over the place see you there dadio...!!!!
Josh Collins - April 2003