Friday night, Pier 39 Disco, Cleethorpes seafront, 1996. At around 2 am in the morning, one unlucky reveller’s head will meet the murky sand far below with an umitigated thump. Or at least it seemed that way to me growing up. ‘Man (18 )falls off Pier’ was a headline so common in Saturday’s edition of the local paper that it was relegated to the nethers of page 5, as regular and as comforting as the crossword.
We never pretended to be glamorous. And even now, should you ever take a trip along the seafront, you’ll soon realise that the image we Friday night partygoers adhere to is sturdy chic. Cleethorpes is next to Grimsby and Grimsby (contrary to popular belief) was named after the Viking settler Grim. Is it possible that the Nordic King lives on in his descendant’s predilections? Friday night’s ladies on tour offer up a fixed expression, defiant of the bitter cold wind, standing proud in their too short skirts, oblivious to their corned-beef legs. There’s more than a whiff of the stoic about it …..
So we’d drink too much, fall over, snog, fall over, cry, snog, fall over. A harsh and punishing regime of ‘entertainment’. But we endured it. And that’s just outside the clubs that dot the seafront like a worn out piece of tinsel on last year’s tree. At least inside it was warm and you were less likely to get hit by a boy racer.
More than ten years on I go back to my old haunt and am amazed by the transformation. Latterly it smelt of smoke – now it smells of body odour! Otherwise….plus ca change. There’s the same mix of Euro sounds and always the floorfillers, the floorfillers never change. In a club that more than a little resembles any club in any town , there’s nothing finer than the sight of my former PE teacher break abruptly from conversation to take to the floor for YMCA. We’re not cutting edge in Cleethorpes. Once innovation realised there was no where further to go beyond this outpost of the estuary, it stopped calling.
Then it happens. I was hoping it would. Straight after Barbie Girl, the DJ drops a fat one – Don’t Stop (Till You Get Enough). Glittering funk reverie flushed with M J’s sublime falsetto vocals. The floor fills. Suddenly I want to jump behind the decks, seize the mic and scream the truth at the top of my lungs – ROD TEMPERTON WROTE THIS SONG AND HE CAME FROM CLEETHORPES!
Not ready to form Saturday’s page 5 byline however, I asked fellow clubbers if they knew the identity and origins of the guy behind the record. Apart from killing what little buzz is left, I’m met with general indifference – I assume it’s because they can’t hear me over the tune. Maybe they just want to hear the tune and not my wisdom and who can blame them?
But for me, the knowledge that Rod Temperton son of Cleethorpes, wrote great songs fills me with immense pride.
You see, the only time that Cleethorpes comes up in conversation is at the butt end of a joke on a Jim Davidson tour video. Eternally aligned with the crap, the shit and the generally fucking awful. Of course, we’ve had our fair share of celebrities from the area – Norman Lamont’s mum, and Mrs Mangle from Neighbours – but for someone as close to the glamour, the very Studio 54-ness of it all as Rod Temperton, well, that strikes me as something worth shouting about.
Quincy Jones described him as the finest songwriter of his generation and a ‘real bad brother’. Having seen footage of how Quincy and his crew rolled in the studio back in the day, I would imagine that Rod would have to have the capacity and aptitude of 20 men to garner such admiration. Meanwhile, Temperton, R. would become a credit on the backsleeve of albums for artists such as Aretha, Mariah, Boyz to Men and Donna Summer.
Forgive me for not mentioning beforehand that Temperton co- wrote the uber seminal (if that’s possible) Thriller. Thriller! I only didn’t mention this earlier, as I felt sure, dear reader, that you would have collapsed in a dead faint. May I also mention at this juncture that Rod has won a Grammy and been nominated for an Oscar for best original song for Miss Celies Blues from the Color Purple? Lyrics by Rod and Lionel Ritchie. And he continues to work – most recently contributing to Carey’s comeback.
Quincy, Michael, Aretha, Herbie, Mariah and Rod. Our Rod. The mixing desk is a powerful position in the recording industry and he was Quincy’s right hand man! This man worked at Ross seafood Inc and we know next to nothing about him? Cleethorpes, you are missing one serious trick.
Why should we hide such a fine and aspirational light under its bushel? I believe this may have something to do with Rod himself, who is still writing and presumably finds it difficult to get from any one of his homes in Switzerland, LA or…., to open a school fete or cut a ribbon in a car park. On the other hand, maybe it’s something in the local water. It seems to me that Cleethorpes suffers from a grave lack of self esteem and is happy to be allied with ANY form of recognition. Like a middle age divorcee, being the derogatory punchline is better than nothing at all and maybe, just maybe, it doesn’t know how to maximise its assets.
So I am calling for a local campaign – a tribute to Rod – undoubtedly Cleethorpes’ ultimate unsung hero, and one to unite generations and musical tastes. Local council, I want a statue erecting on the seafront – I think he’d like it there – and I demand that you find in your budget the funds to fly over Mariah or Quincy or Aretha to unveil it. Then a slap up fish dinner in Steeles’chippy afterwards. Its what Rod, and Cleethorpes, deserve.
For Mrs Mangel, however, I think we should go with something smaller on Freeman Street.……