There are an inordinate number of babies in my life lately, and I'm not even enjoying the spoils of an illegal adoption ring. The alarms>"/>
There are an inordinate number of babies in my life lately, and I'm not even enjoying the spoils of an illegal adoption ring. The alarms of my friends' biological clocks all went off simultaneously. I call my agent to bitch about business details and wind up with an earful of antics perpetrated by his one-year-old—the kid my royalties will help put through college. Last month, I walked beside a woman who could drink me under the table in college as she pushed her newborn son's stroller through the park.
When I take stock of how the huddled masses are reproducing like rabbits, I applaud my loved ones—an intelligent, sensitive lot—for rearing offspring who'll provide future generations with leadership, snide witticisms, and a modicum of sorely needed fashion sense. But my spirits sag when I realize they won't be coming to hear me DJ anymore or begging me to take them to see this or that band, because good babysitters are at a premium.
I'm not set on being the 21st-century Peter Pan—those pointy slippers aren't my speed—but the responsibilities of rearing kids are too grown-up for me. As my beloved Ann-Margret sings in Bye Bye Birdie, I've still got "A Lot of Livin' to Do."
It's eight o'clock on Sunday evening. The weather is surprisingly sunny and warm for London, and though the lighting is low in the subterranean Notting Hill Arts Club, the air conditioner still provides little relief. Oh well—that's why God invented beer. Mercifully, they're serving it cold, too.
Smiling patrons radiant with sweat fill a space no bigger than most suburban American basements. Welcome to the biweekly party Lazy Dog. The two tiny rooms and connecting passageways are full, but not uncomfortably so. You can shake your groove thing with a bit of abandon on the compact dance floor.
And with garage grooves this sexy—Kings of Tomorrow's cover of "I Want You for Myself," a reworking of Sister Sledge's "Thinking of You"—who could resist the urge to do so? The crowd is unpretentious, but clearly takes its music seriously. Patrice Rushen's classic "Haven't You Heard" gets played several times, creating an unexpected leitmotif, augmented by joyous whoops and hand claps.
My friend Gregory flashes a goofy grin as he shuffles to the beat. I half expected him to ditch me after I made him comb Kensington High Street in search of a juice bar, minutes after we polished off a seemingly endless bowl of hashish. Normally he probably would have, but he was determined to check out the reason for my visit, the star attraction of Lazy Dog: Ben Watt of Everything But the Girl.
Like many first generation EBTG fans, Gregory couldn't get his head around the idea that half of a band he saw open for the Style Council now spins house and drum & bass. Even fans who discovered the group later, as a consequence of the inescapable hit "Missing" ("And I miss you/like the deserts miss the rain . . ."), may be shocked at how completely Watt's understanding of contemporary dance flavors colors their ninth studio album, Temperamental (due this fall). When he drops the forthcoming track "Five Fathom," it sits comfortably alongside the rest of the selections, a deep house tune recognizable as EBTG only thanks to partner Tracey Thorn's beguiling vocals.
The next afternoon, Watt and Thorn join me for an interview. At the close, we touch on his 1996 book Patient, which detailed his debilitating battle with the autoimmune disease that cost him 80 percent of his small intestine and 40 pounds of his frame. He reiterates how the illness coincided with his increasing discontent with the direction in which EBTG's music was going. If you were getting played alongside Kenny G and Basia on VH-1, your body might self-destruct, too.
But then he adds a particularly resonant observation. "I was just into my early 30s when it happened," he observes. "I resented the fact that I was no longer expected to be an enthusiast about things. A lot of my friends were setting up a home. They'd stopped buying records, weren't always available." I nod my head vigorously in agreement as he recounts channeling his renewed energies into Lazy Dog and making Temperamental. "I'm not pretending that I'm 21, but I wanted to go out and be into underground music again and connect with people."
I get off the plane at Kennedy and check my voice mail. There's a message from my boss. His expectant wife has given birth to their first child two weeks early. He won't be in the office until further notice. I'll have to cover for him.
I could be back in London again in six or seven hours. Would they let me into Lazy Dog in Ann-Margret drag?