The System existed during what I think of as my ‘poly-clubbing’ stage, meaning that this was a time where I would choose a club from those that were around, rather than at other times in my clubbing life I felt loyal to one particular club or other. For example when I was an Eric’s kid my loyalty was such that no other club would do and, when Brady’s took over I refused to set foot through this pretender’s doors! Similarly, in the 90s I dedicated myself to Voodoo to such a degree that I shunned other clubs as much as possible and even on my rare trips elsewhere I tried to surround myself with as many other Voodoo-heads as I could.
But the mid - late 80s saw me shamelessly flirt my way around the alternative clubs of the time with an enthusiasm bordering on the sluttish!
There was MacMillans, for the cool crowd, playing a mix of Indie sounds with a jazz/soul slant. If Macs was a person it would have a beard and drink strange coffee. There was The State, a glorious, beautiful place that has the possibly uncool distinction of being Liverpool’s first laser disco (although at the time, that claim had a futuristic, almost Buck Rodgers type vibe to it), where indie with an electro feel was in order. If the State was a person, it would be a glamorous girl with a holes in her tights and a taste for strong cider. There was Planet X, playing the more punk/goth side of things. If the Planet was a person, it would drink snakebite and regret it iall n the morning! The Planet and The State are worthy of articles of their own, so watch this space for more of that soon!
And then there was The System. The main DJ here was Steve Proctor, to whom Liverpool owes an enormous debt of gratitude for his unstinting work at various clubs and with various scenes. Liverpool would be a poorer place without him and his efforts, so this would seem an appropriate juncture to both thank and praise him – well done sir, good job!
The System was a Saturday night haunt and found home in the old Pyramid Club in Temple Street, home of the Teardrop Explodes doomed but well intentioned Club Zoo experiment. The place itself was something of a warren, with a main room and bar, a fairly compact dance floor and lots of little rooms and staircases dotted around the place that somehow took the time and trouble to connect. The effect of this was that, after a red witch or two, one's drunken wonderings always hap[pily seemed to bring you back to the dance floor. Or another bar!
As with all the best clubs, a great part of the action took place in its nooks and crannies. The staircases became meeting grounds where conversations could be heard above the music and, of course, the toilets were always full of people hanging around, chatting and applying more hairspray. The main place for action though was the dance floor. Often hot and crowded, we still found room for chicken dancing, wrecking and plain old hurling ourselves around. Records guaranteed to fill the floor included The Cult’s She Sells Sanctuary, The Cramps’ You’ve Got Good Taste, Cabaret Voltaire’s Sensoria and Dead or Alive’s You Spin Me Round, which was a crossover record and surely one of the few number one records played in the ‘alternative’ clubs. Not that Mr Proctor wasn’t capable of throwing a well-aimed curveball now and then - a spot of James Brown, the odd Rolling Stones record or a new electro track was equally likely and was usually well received.
Photos of the System never fail to invoke a powerful nostalgia in me, the look of the crowd, the ace 80’s hairdos and the youthful, possibility-rich look of all those involved makes me smile, makes me remember and makes me feel young and old at the same time. These were simpler times, when going out and looking good were primary concerns, not just in our lives, but seemingly for everyone in the 80s, the style-obsessed decade where we all came of age. Good time, good friends, good music and a sense of belonging – that’s what I see when I look at photos from these times.
Following the 2.00am shutout came the cries of the bouncers, who seemed inordinately keen on depriving us of pints bought at the bar mere minutes ago. “Do your talking while you’re walking” and other such choice sayings accompanied us out into the night. From there possibly braving the Lobster Pot for and end of night feast and a wait for taxis. It seems strange that this ritual still goes on, that there are still people following this worn out track and that we’re no longer part of it. I wish them all well and I hope that they look back on their time as fondly as I’m sure we all do.
8901 Marmora Road, Glasgow, D04 89GR