I took my 17 year old neighbour to a friend’s house party recently, he was all hyped about the night of debauchery that lay ahead of him and it got me thinking about my old debaucherous days back in the late 90s.
I had a LOT of parties in Herent Drive. My parents loved to go on holiday and I’m sure they’d have hated the thought of me on my own, so by inviting half of Gantshill back to my house after the pub, I was actually doing them a favour. You see we didn’t have mobile phones back then, a few of my richer, knobbier friends had pagers, but if you wanted to ensure your got a good turn-out to your shindig, you had to get out there and promote it and what better place to do that then the local Wetherspoon?
We’d start our Friday night drinking snakebite. There were even a few nights where we’d just purchase blackcurrant and soda for around 30p and add our own vodka. The crowd was full of Friday night faces all looking for somewhere to go after the last order bell rang.
A sign of a great party is a huge pile of scratched up unboxed cds and empty cases strewn across a living room floor. There were no playlists back then, just long expensive albums. Our stereo had a 6 CD deck, which could ‘AUTO RANDOM’. Wow, this was an amazing technological advancement when you could figure out how to use it. Some kids, who liked to impose their music tastes on others, actually carried around CDS with them, and these were the ones you’d find sat by the stereo, frightening everyone else away.
Then came phone-in music channels such as ‘The Box’, oh my, they changed our Friday and Saturday nights. You could call a premium rate phone number, dial a three digit code and request any song you wanted. Trouble was, every drunk teenager with a television was doing exactly the same thing, so you could sometimes wait hours for your song. Once I requested McAlmont and Butler’s YES and it didn’t come on until 9am the next morning, but God, was I happy to see those guys!
The local off-licence used to sell us alcohol when we were wearing school uniform, so you’d think getting your hands on booze back then would be easy. WRONG, it was almost impossible. You see, parties wouldn’t start until after the pubs closed at 11, and what also happened at 11pm in the UK? Shops weren’t legally allowed to sell alcohol to ANYONE, they actually used to lock it away! So you needed to either forward plan and sort a stash beforehand, or you had to get a cab to one of the few shops that you knew would sell you cans of Fosters from under the counter at double the price. There were also a few kebab shops that would deliver beer after hours, but you had to make sure when you phoned you ended up speaking to the right person, you don’t want to piss-off your local take-away.
To my life-long disappointment houseparties in Ilford were never like the parties I’d seen in American movies, growing up. We didn’t have massive houses, pools or cheerleaders, we were just groups of dirty looking kids drinking and smoking weed. There was rarely dancing, most people just sat around, there was always that one guy that showed up with his guitar. We’d piss the neighbours off, break things unintentially and laugh about all week at school.
Man those were the days.