John 00 Fleming’s First Club: Underage Clubbing in Brighton and the Loss of His Mentor
“I always dreamed of the day of him standing in the DJ booth with me while I performed.”
My First Club takes us back to the beginning, transporting DJs and producers back into the depths of their memory, asking them to take us on a trip to those pivotal first nights in clubland. This week's subject: John 00 Fleming.
The club scene as we know didn't exist at the time I was growing up in the mid-80's; house music wasn't invented yet! While my schoolmates played football, rugby, etc. during their lunch breaks, I headed down to my local record store because of my fascination with electronic sounding music. Back then there was neither internet nor radio support for the type of music I was trying to discover. These local specialist records shops in Brighton were my only source of information: like-minded music lovers and DJs used to hang out and share their knowledge of the underground dance music scene.
Back then it was the gay scene that embraced this underground movement of electronic music; living in the gay capital city of the UK, Brighton, gave me a welcome start. The world of pop capitalized on the disco explosion, but something more sinister was being born in the gay underground clubs as they rebelled against this commercialism. The only way to truly understand how the mechanics and taste of the music industry worked was to head into a club and experience it first hand. Being only 16 years of age was my first stumbling block, as clubs have an 18 and over policy. Befriending Rory, the resident DJ who worked at the record store, was my key to experiencing this new world for myself, without my parents knowing my adventure had begun!
Being straight, I wasn't phased at all entering a gay club. Growing up in Brighton exposed me to this culture at a young age, so it seemed absolutely normal to me; I am thankful for my home being such a cosmopolitan city. Rory snuck me into his club, Coasters, and told me to stay close to the DJ booth. Writing this now, I'm transported back to that very moment and those goosebumps have shrouded my body once again; it's really emotional telling this story. As cliché as it sounds, though I was experiencing a new environment, within minutes I instantly felt at home; I knew this was where I belonged. I remember gazing at a bright green laser hitting the mirror ball. The tracks that I had previously only heard on my basic hi-fi at home jumped to life in their true form: booming from a professional sound system. I was completely hypnotized, lost in that moment for a good hour.
I have to thank Rory for setting me on the path to becoming a DJ. It saddens me today that I lost contact with him once the club and the record shop closed and he moved to another city. It wasn't until the introduction of social media that I discovered that he had passed away. Rory would have been proud of what I had achieved and I always dreamed of the day of him standing in the DJ booth with me while I performed. He was my true mentor; he took time to help me discover this wonderful world of music.
It was this life experience that drove me and motivated me to become a DJ. I set up my own events to create specialist underground events. My first every guest was Norman Cook (Fat Boy Slim) in the late 80s; he cost me £100 back then! Those events were very successful and the club asked me to take full control of the whole venue. The building was a 16th-century manor house set in the Sussex countryside called Sterns and had a whopping 2500 capacity with four dancefloors. We threw many massive raves there until my DJ career started to take off. I passed the reins over to In-ter-dance and they made the venue the South coast's rave capital.
The rest is history and that story is long enough to put into a book!