Rocky's First Club: Barbarellas, Balearic and Burgers

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Rocky's First Club: Barbarellas, Balearic and Burgers

One half of X-Press 2 rolls back the years.
July 7, 2015, 12:57am

My First Club takes us back to the beginning, transporting DJs and producers back into the depths of their memory, asking them to take us on a trip to those pivotal first nights in clubland. Following entries from the likes of Eats Everything, Herve, MK, and Shadow Child, we caught up with Darren Rock, AKA Rocky, AKA one half of seminal UK house act and Junior Boy's Own stars X-Press 2, for a walk down a memory lane that ended up in a drive-through.

X-Press 2 in action.

The first club I went to was nowhere near as glamorous as most of the others I've read about in this series. We lived in a little town on the outskirts of London and the nearest club to us was a 30 minute taxi ride away. There was another one a little further out, in a town called Uxbridge. That club was Regals, and it was a little harder to get into for the under-aged. So our venue of choice was Barbarellas, near Greenford, on the Uxbridge Road. Barbarellas was in a big old pub at the junction by the iron bridge. We started going around 1985. I was 17 at the time and vividly remember the worry of getting knocked back at the door the first time I went.

I'd gone with a bunch of mates who were a little bit older than me. I don't remember a great deal about the first night but we did go back regularly after that for the rest of that year. I remember lots of soul getting played. Loose Ends, the Cool Notes, things like that. I also remember Soft Cells' "Tainted Love/Where Did Our Love Go" getting played regularly.

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Around a year later I got my first proper DJ gig at another venue in west London. It was a night run by Simon Dunmore at C & L Country club. The night was all about soul, jazz, funk, hip hop, go-go and the odd house track. I warmed up and was so nervous that I could barely put the needle on the record. I got friendly with Simon and started going to his events regularly. He called me one evening and said he was going to look at a new space for a party and asked if I'd like to come and have a look.

It was Barbarellas. It was quite surreal. The place that I'd first gone to around a year earlier was now going to play host to my mate's party. Musically it was be quite a step away from what I'd listened to there when I'd first visited. I think Simon's night was called Rhythm Zone. I've still got a badge somewhere.

My DJ career at this point wasn't really progressing but I was loving going out and spent all my spare time either in clubs or looking for music. It was also around this period that I first met the other Darren (Diesel). We were going to the same events and clubs and started to go record shopping together. We embraced the whole acid house/balearic explosion when that happened at the end of '87 and immersed ourselves in the new scene.

In the summer of 1988, a couple of mates, Jon Jules, Glen Gunner and Jagz Kooner were starting a Tuesday night called Trance and were looking for a warm up DJ. Both Diesel and I were up for it so we came up with the idea of playing together and taking it in turns to spin two tracks each. The guys agreed and booked us to play the first night. Once again, the venue was Barbarellas. So for the third time in around four years I'd go to the venue and once again, musically, the place had been completely turned around. It was so different from what had gone before. The club was filled with smoke and strobes and the soundtrack was mainly house with our balearic selections warming things up. I remember playing Human League's "Being Boiled" and "Commando" by Front 242. There was also a live performance by Jagz and Richie Ferme. They had a band called Adrenalin MOD and did a tripped out acid set. I think the night lasted around a year. Amazingly, there's some footage of one of the parties on YouTube. It's pretty dark and grainy but you get the idea of the soundtrack from the clip above.

After Trance finished, that was it for my relationship with the venue that really started everything for me. From my first night in a club to the first night that would become a 27 year career in music. The venue was converted into a McDonalds around 15 years ago.

Barbarellas today.

X-Press 2's new single, "Sinatra", is out on July 17th via Skint.

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