The Hummingbird by Harry Dukes Jnr
Monday – survival. Tuesday – bin night. Wednesday – bins in and maybe get a whites wash on. Thursday – colours. Friday – take away and beers. Saturday – football and yeah another takeaway.
Sunday – roast dinner, ironing and an early night. If I wrote a diary of my adult life this could well be what I’d take from it routine-wise.
25 years ago? Monday – survival. Tuesday – homework. Wednesday – Edwards. Thursday – the Institute (bins out first mind). Friday – beers up the Aston Triangle or rave at the Hummingbird. Saturday – work at Vincent’s on Moseley High St then football then back to the Hummingbird. Sunday – homework and the Samantha Meah show on WM.
For my friends at the time, I would imagine their week looked pretty much the same, except for maybe the Vincent’s job – they didn’t work there in the freezing cold gutting fish and selling fruit and veg to the great and good of B13 all for a massive 90p an hour (free chips at lunchtime mind if Pete the owner was feeling generous!). The job though meant hard cash – nearly £9 a week plus the child benefit money my mum said I could have once I tuned 16.
So what to do with it? The cool kids were talking. They had Jesus boots and canvas satchels with band names drawn on. Bands like The Doors, Swervedriver, The The, Joy Division and numerous other misery guts from the North West. Me? I was wondering where my next Guns n Roses or Skid Row patch would go on my denim jacket. We operated at different ends of the scale. Except we weren’t really. We were all 15 or 16 years of age, all at the same school and all trying to find a way to be different. And we needed somewhere to go and jump around and release a shared need for lager and girls.
So that’s how we ended up at the Hummingbird anyway. It became our place – looking towards the dance floor we could always be found at back left-hand corner by the pillar with mirrors on. There they played loud music, and there was also the lager and girls too – what a combo. Here future lawyers, doctors, bar staff, IT weirdos and the rest knew to head to and see what was up. And what was up was pretty much the same thing every week. We drank Red Stripe – this was the Hummingbird’s main drink behind the bar – 90p a can. We ate pasties – what can I say, they had an excellent pasty counter. We drank snakebite and blacks when we tired of Red Stripe – with a straw obviously. Got you drunk quicker didn’t it.
We jumped around to bands like James, Teenage Fanclub, Dinosaur Jnr, REM, Nirvana, , Chilli Peppers before they were rubbish, Metallica, The Smiths (not me though, I considered them rightly to be rubbish – a view I still stand firm on) and what seemed an endless stream of groups from Stourbridge of all places. This last lot were the top of the food chain at the Hummingbird on a Saturday – local lads done well. You’d hear it go round quick enough… “Ned’s are in”, “the Poppies are here” and if you were really lucky Miles Hunt would have a wee next to you in the toilets.
It was a good place to be and many of the bands have stayed with me my entire life. Then something else happened. One week someone said why don’t we come here on a Friday next week. It had never occurred to me – I just thought it was Saturday night or bust. It was rave night on a Friday apparently, I didn’t really know what this meant. So I turned up dutifully the following Friday wearing my Saturday night clothes – a little bit of Levellers-esque tartan trousers and a bit of Seattle checked shirt probably.
I wasn’t ready for this. It was a different world. The Red Stripe was still there. So were the pasties. But no-one seemed interested. It was wall-to-wall water and whistles. Baggy Joe Blogg’s jeans and Stussy hats. I really wasn’t ready for this.
The same venue as my beloved Saturday nights was completely different – yes I’d seen some stuff in papers around rave, but this was mental. It was wall to wall movement and it was warm, like really warm. The thing I remember most from that first time – not understanding why they only had red hot water from the taps in the toilets and why everyone seemed so focussed on this as an issue. It was the topic of conversation at the bar too as bottles of water were outselling the Red Stripe. Bizarre. I stuck to my lager and had a dance. Didn’t meet anyone called European Bob mind. I did see Paul ‘Taity Rave On’ Tait mind but that’s another story…
The staff were different on a Friday too – memorably so. On a Saturday, people would get on the stage to dance and be gently reminded that this wasn’t allowed and like naughty school kids (which we were I guess) would skulk off only to try and retake it 15 minutes later. Fridays though were different – the stage was sacred, you couldn’t go near the DJ and different staff had different areas that were their little empires.
Looking back it was people looking after their own small business interests and I was oblivious to most of it – until one night when a bouncer pulled a gun to stop the heated arguments amongst the ‘staff’. That was an interesting night. I stopped going on a Friday after that. For rave I found Tin Tins, the Steering Wheel and Bakers.
Saturdays stayed a must though until we all headed away from Birmingham for a few years and when we came back it wasn’t the same. We moved onto Snobs and Institute/Sanctuary and the Que Club.
Eventually, the Hummingbird died and I would look at it while scurrying in and out of Toys R Us and think how ace it had been. How definitive it was to my adolescent. What I heard and did there shaped my life for a few years and well into adulthood.
And it opened again as the Academy and yes, I ended up seeing many of those bands I’d danced to as they toured – all a bit older, all a bit more bald and fat. Like me really, but still jumping up and down – well in spirit anyway.