Forget Studio 54, surely the most debauched club in living memory has to have been Soho’s Wag club – the place everyone spent most of the 80s trying to get into despite a door policy so tight that a young KRS One even had trouble getting in on the night he was performing there. If you did make it in however, you could rely on a heady cocktail of music industry and showbiz alumni (Grace Jones, Bowie, Mickey Rourke, Keith Richards. Madonna, Prince, George Clinton, Tito Puente, Naomi Campbell, Maceo Parker, Al Pacino, The Beastie Boys and about a million others), more drugs than Boots, sex in the toilets (classy) and even, allegedly, sex on the dancefloor. Oh yeah – and then there was the music. The backbone of the Wag sound was seventies funk, but the place broke hip-hop and rare groove in the UK and you could also expect latin, disco and jazz. As is the way of the world, it didn’t last and things began to go north for the Wag as acid house made it south at the arse end of the eighties. Still – Wag co-founder Chris Sullivan has now compiled fifty-three of the club’s biggest tunes on a four cd boxset, Chris Sullivan presents: Iconic Tunes From The Wag 1983-1987, so that you can recreate the full Wag vibe at home. Well, I say recreate the full vibe – musically at any rate – though I’m sure, with a judicious post or two on the social media of your choice and an open door on the night in question, the rest will follow. Along with the Old Bill.
Naturally, after that kind of a build-up, anyone who didn’t attend London’s most out-there club from the decade of the witch will be wondering precisely what gems were spun. As you might expect it’s a mixture of the tried and tested with obscure heaters. CD 1 is all about the funk where Aaron Neville’s Hercules, JB’s The Boss and Beginning Of The End’s Funky Nassau mix it up with such bangers as Brothers Soul’s Cookies. CD 2 is full of disco biscuits like War’s Galaxy and Larry Sanders’ edit of Crystal Grass’s Crystal World while CD 3 heads latin and jazz-wards with the big winner being Mongo Santamaria’s crack at The Temptations’ I Can’t Get Next To You. Which of course means that CD 4 is all about the hip-hop (Herbie Hancock’s Rockit and Digital Underground’s Humpty Dance) and 80s soul, though it does finish with The Undisputed Truth’s epic ’76 funky disco banger You + Me + Love – presumably so that the entire collection ends with a track that captures the club’s core musical essence. It’s almost enough to make you have sex in your own toilet.
(Out 10 June on Harmless Records)