Sunday, December 10, 1995


THE word "club" shares a common root with clump and lump, as all three come from Northern European terms describing something that has been pressed tightly together, something that is dense a mass, a block, though not necessarily a worse than senseless thing. By extension, the word comes to represent a heavy stick, and humankind being what they are this heavy stick is soon looked upon as a weapon. Meanwhile, back with the peacemakers, (the Scandinavians) the same root comes to suggest a clump of people

Quick off off the blocks, William Thackery was alert in using up all the available tolerance for humour based on the two senses of the word "club". In his novel, George de Barnwell, he suggested that in Pall Mall there existed dismal and enormous Mansions of Silence" referred to as "clubs" because "they knock you down with their dullness.

The airline industry's use of the word crops up in the mid 1970s. With a surge in the number of people flying for business purposes it became expedient to offer special facilities to make people feel part of a comforting, manly club, even when views of Mayfair were obscured by clouds. In the event of a mishap, members of these exclusive clubs would bravely become a clump of people significant seconds before those in economy.

Despite the best efforts of airlines everywhere, for many people the word "club" less frequently conjures a vision of champagne inspired airborne conviviality, than a very different sense of bonhomie apparently fuelled entirely by non sparkling mineral water. But as "dance" took over from "gentleman" as the adjective most often seen in the company of "club", the idea that "clubbers" are by definition those who frequent clubs became increasingly anachronistic.

Alongside the creation of a number of British "super clubs", such as Liverpool's Cream, Manchester's The Hacienda and London's Ministry of Sound, the 1990s have seen the switch of "clubs" from the service to the manufacturing sector. Recently "clubs" have begun producing their own product ranges, running from items of branded clothing to dj sequenced compilation CDs of popular "club" music.

It all, of course, makes good financial sense. By releasing, for example, a CD of dance tunes dandily arrayed in the club's signature graphic style, the management can capitalise on a good brand name in very much the way that Mars did when they introduced the ice cream version of their products.

The discordant note is that the market for these records is hardly centred on those who have visited the venue. This is just as well, since such a restriction would apparently confine sales to footballers and younger cast members of Brookside and Coronation Street.

All the others who want to take part in these clubs must satisfy themselves with reading about them, normally in that other burgeoning arena of virtual clubbing, club magazines.

So finally equipped with a copy of the Mixmag or Musik in your hand, and a Dave Morales mixed Cream CD in your Disc man, you can at last join the club, while remaining at home, alone.


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