Close Encounter: Why I won't survive

JOANNA BRISCOE GETS WEDNESDAY NIGHT FEVER: The Seventies disco revival throbs on. But who exactly is it strutting their funky stuff 'neath the strobes? A night out in Soho revealed all
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The Independent Culture
In a creaking attempt to define the new rock'n'roll, disco fever has been declared so horribly branche, it's frankly de rigueur. After all, nobody one knew ever wanted to listen to award-winning young poets monotoning their onanistic blank verse; while taxidermy, swirl paintings and concrete houses have slipped into a Saatchi-moulded mainstream. It's back to music, then. Disco is the new rock'n'roll. Like skirts you trip over, South Park and Moroccan restaurants, glammed-up old retro-hedonism is now so in, it must be almost on its way out again.

Two new films encapsulate all the kerfuffle. Following Boogie Nights comes The Last Days of Disco, and 54, which celebrates the Seventies excesses of New York's wildest and druggiest. MTV and radio stations are once more playing Gloria Gaynor, the Village People and Sister Sledge. The boob tube is allegedly a plausible sartorial statement.

Thus, mid-town, mid-week, in swinging London, I was set for some disco action. My own little bout of night fever. Borrowing velvet flares and an execrable 100 per cent polyester tiger-print top from a tame 25-year- old, I was instantly irritated into the kind of shivering-to-roaring-sweat that does indeed precede a fever. A decade of natural fabrics has not left me equipped for modern life.

Idly anticipating The Stud meets Studio 54 (old roues on velvet swings; Jerry Hall atop white horse on the dance floor, perhaps) I set off for Soho, rejoicing that I didn't have to turn up at some garage in Stockwell for directions to a secret warehouse in Upminster. Starsky & Hutch's mid- week 70s Funk Soul Jazz Disco night takes place upstairs at Ronnie Scott's, a club better suited to a divorcee's idea of a good night out among the saxophones.

Repelling the approaches of three taxi touts, edging past the bouncer giving a bothersome tourist a clenched-jawed eye-balling worthy of a Mitchell brother, I walked towards my disco fever experience. "YMCA" played as I arrived. It was 1.30am. The joint was jumping.

However, the joint was a dark, beer-stained dive with a bar, and the jumpers were clearly the day-trippers of the clubbing world. Barely out of their suits and ties, here was their chance to wear clothes that would shock the bank manager - yet they appeared to be incipient bank managers themselves.

I had been warned that Starsky & Hutch comes alive at the weekends in a different venue. But come now. Disco fever is in. I was expecting a squally sea of flares, a galaxy of glitter balls. A couple of Afro wigs, a marabou boa, and the odd flapping collar boogied to the heavenly beat of Queen Gloria. As did a hundred standard office workers kitted out in Morgan and Gap.

"The sound is happy and fun," explained a twentysomething.

"It's nostalgia," explained a thirtysomething.

"The decision-makers now are aged 35 to 40, and are using their experience of childhood to make a business," said Andy Georgiou - main DJ and director of Starsky & Hutch - with appealing honesty. "The Seventies explosion has become a marketing tool."

In Cyprus, where he runs a disco catering to 15,000 to 20,000 (largely British) clubbers a week, Georgiou is also releasing an album of 40 disco classics on 14 September. "The disco movement was about black dance music, not white glam rock like Gary Glitter," he says. "If you bring in all the Seventies stuff, that'll kill the fad. Only elements of it are cool - the clothes and make-up, 2CVs, Beetles and so on. It's a nostalgia thing started by decision- makers who lived through the Seventies. But look at these kids - they love it! Junior secretaries come here with their bosses."

Precisely. Well-scrubbed 19-year-olds taking a break from their marketing degrees at the University of the Barbican, lip-synching to Rose Royce, do not make a fad. This is cut-and-paste Seventies cool, a palatable nugget extracted from an era, synthetically reproduced and applied. Here is the Corsa and not the Beetle; here is the "Nessun Dorma" and not the full- length Monteverdi. You can hire an Afro wig. Don't bother to grow your own.

Among the strip-lit cappuccinos of Bar Italia opposite, a Seventies TV series escapee in red shirt and leather jacket was clearly searching for where it was all happening. I, on the other hand, put on my Nicole Farhi silk raincoat over my polyester tiger-print and escaped in a taxi at 2am. This week I'll complete my Alexander Technique stretches to Cake's 1996 version of "I Will Survive". That's my disco bit done with, then. Fever pitch, folks.