To mark LGBT History Month, 2013, Polari asked its contributors to recall a song that had an impact on their own stories. We start with resident Duckie DJs the Readers Wifes, who provided an incredible 29 days of music for History Month 2012.
‘Hitsville U.K.’ – The Clash
by the Readers Wifes
When we played ‘Hitsville UK’ as our first record on the night of the first ever Duckie, I don’t think anybody expected us to still be digging it out and dusting off the track 17 years later. Duckie was just meant to be four weeks, you see, to last us from November through to the dog end of December ’95. With nothing to lose we could have plumped for anything but it’s a record that always sounds like the start of something, like the opening credits of a film. To this day, we play it first at all our major club nights. Every time I hear those opening chords I get a frisson of nerves and expectation.
And anyway, ‘Hitsville UK’ was already a special record for the Wifes even before Duckie. We’d started DJ-ing together the year before at – it has to be said – a variety of abysmal events with next to no people at them. Mainly a straight, arty crowd with us putting on old, often scratched, records between terrible bands, painful poets and unfunny comedians. I remember a lot of piercings and tattoos flying about. We’d play Peggy Lee and Saint Etienne and Sly Stone and Bowie but we always started with ‘Hitsville’. It didn’t bother us that there was hardly any paying punters at those nights. It wasn’t the point. This was our art, or so we thought, and a temporary way at least of escaping the generic rubbish you heard at most of the gay nights.
A few years later I met The Clash’s Joe Strummer at The Colony Rooms in Soho on, I shit you not, the night before he died. My friend Jimmy made me introduce myself and then he prompted me tell Joe that we played ‘Hitsville’, often, at a gay club in Vauxhall. He seemed flummoxed but also genuinely touched. He said, “Not a lot of people ever ask me about that track but I love it”. Then he shook both our hands and went off into the night. I’m so grateful that that happened. R.I.P. Joe.