An extract from ‘Punkadelic!’, a forthcoming book detailing Nina Walsh’s madcap adventures with Andrew Weatherall, including some epic high jinks at the legendary acid house club Shoom

“1988 was the maddest year of my life and definitely the most surreal, what with A-levels, acid house, Shoom, Sooty and Sweep, ecstasy… and meeting Andrew.”

When Nina springs to her feet like an electrified gazelle to emphasise a memory or make a point, it’s like she’s subconsciously flipped some kind of internal default switch as she lets fly with the unfettered passion that’s propelled her through life. Whether music is playing or not, she’s prone to busting moves ingrained in the crosshatch circuitry that drives her natural flow, elements of her champion disco dancer adolescence intertwining with a loose-limbed twinkle betraying serious active service on acid house club podiums back in the day. 

At 17, Nina found herself in the vanguard of the next major underground revolution to engulf the UK, after her teenage whoopee detector propelled her through the strawberry smoke portals of Shoom at the Fitness Centre on Southwark Street in south London in early 1988. It’s fair to say this club in particular changed Nina’s life, like it did for so many others, setting her on the roller-coaster path she still traverses today. 

Accompanied by Anna Haigh, they took to this early manifestation of acid liberation like disco ducks to water, cavorting in the intimate birth cocoon of a new movement before its innocence got smothered and smiley culture went ballistic. 

As she still does now, Nina kept a diary, albeit increasingly sporadically as the hurricane she found herself swept along by gained momentum. An entry in February 1988 details her first Shoom, with her brother Craig and her mate Chris Butler. 

“Last night MUST have been the best night out EVER! I went out with Craig and the Greencroft crew from Hounslow. We went to this ‘Shooming’ club in south London. It was soooooo cool. Smoke machines, strobes, house music and everybody was taking extacy [sic]. I’ve never experienced such a feeling! At first not much happens, but as soon as you take a deep breath and get into the bass then… fucking hell!!! I was just standing there but every part of my body apart from my feet was moving insanely to the music. I just couldn’t stop dancing unless I sat inside the speaker. I sat inside the speaker and still the music was not loud enough as it waved through every part of my body. TURN IT UP!! Everyone cuddled everyone and I-D is right, it is a case of ‘Let’s fall in love for the next 10 hours’!” 

“It was like walking into the unknown at Shoom,” says Nina, 35 years on. “The first thing was this massive queue outside and Jenni Rampling with her clipboard. ‘You can go in’ or ‘No, fuck off’! It was like being part of a gang, with the same crew every week. You’d spend half the night hanging out by the toilets drinking Lucozade, just talking to random people. It wasn’t like any other club. Nobody was posing, even though you’d got Boy George and Leigh Bowery walking around. You couldn’t spot a raver because we weren’t ravers. It wasn’t a fashion yet. You could be so shit-faced and you’d think, ‘Well, nobody knows about any of this, we’re untouchable’. Obviously, that didn’t last long.”

Just about all of Nina’s old Shoom comrades interviewed for this book apologised for their hazy or even non-existent memories of events, facts and dates (including Nina). Woven together, these often hilarious recollections paint a vivid picture of the brief period before acid house spiked the nation’s water supply. It was at Shoom that Nina first met Andrew Weatherall. 

“I was in a bass bin at Shoom,” she says matter-of-factly. “I was curled up in it like a snail, with my feet sticking out. I was dragged out by my Converse by this man with a big plastic nose on. It was Mr Nosey Parker. It was Andrew. He pulled me out of the speaker because he wanted to make sure that I was actually alive.”

“I loved Andrew from the moment I met him,” declares record promo titan Chris Butler. “I’ve got so many memories of being on the dancefloor at Shoom with him just tranced out with his eyes shut. We were both well-versed in psychedelic drugs and when you do those with people you get to look inside their soul. I certainly looked into his a few times and what was in there was all good.” 

Chris remembers Nina, Anna Haigh and their mate Timna Rose as “a ball of insane energy! If you had the three of them together, it was fucking madness. They used to force you to take them to places and wear all sorts of mental outfits. Bandanas featured quite heavily.” 

“At the time, I had no idea we were part of something really massive,” says Anna. “We were just, ‘Oh, this is happening, let’s go along to this now’. We were so young. If we’d been clubbing for 10 years already it would’ve been really different, but we were babies.” 

“I’ll never forget that first time I went to the Fitness Centre,” says Timna. “I just remember that feeling of walking down the stairs and that energy… plus I was coming up at the same time. It sounds cheesy but I said, ‘I’ve been waiting for this my whole life’. It was like the beginning of time.” 

“Shoom was like you had died and gone to heaven in those first months,” sighs DJ/face Jimmy Jewell, the overlooked key player in London’s early acid house scene who gave Andrew Weatherall his first London club residency. “It was a magic bubble for a magic time. I remember tripping while driving to the club in my Fiat 500. I had a six-foot Pink Panther on my lap, with his paws tied to my hands and the steering wheel.”

Nina’s enthusiasm for Shoom grew as the weeks passed. Her diary entry for 26 March reads: 

“WOW! I’m still Shooming! This time the pills were quite sensual and there was a lot of Lucozade being poured over heads and sucking of fingers!! Very strong visuals this time and when I looked into the mirror I really thought that there was a girl who looked just like me! I met loads of new people again. Gutted when it ended and it seemed to fly by so quickly. Ah, I can’t wait until next weekend. Friday I’m Shooming, then Saturday it’s Margate Shoom!!”

The Shoom outings of this period often became confrontations between saucer-eyed revellers invading from a newly discovered parallel universe and reactionary soul boys tutting like disapproving parents. For Nina, Shoom’s Easter weekend day-trip to Margate, followed by a disco in Broadstairs, where Danny Rampling was booked to play a soul set, became significant for several reasons, not least Andrew calling the acid bingo on one of the coaches and Jimmy Jewell on the other. 

“Everybody met outside the Shakespeare pub on Southwark Street,” remembers Chris. “Two coaches turned up and everybody piled on. Most took acid before or when they got on the coach. It was absolute insanity – two fucking coachloads of people on acid! We got to Margate, hit a joke shop, bought all these flower garlands and plastic swords, and then walked around terrifying people – though not intentionally.” 

“When we were in the club, it was fucking surreal because you had Gilles Peterson and his soul scene, but then a hundred of us from Shoom turned up completely off it,” says Jimmy Jewell (who coined the phrase “Get right on one matey”). “The first time I really met Nina was on the dancefloor. We both had on blue and white striped T-shirts and looked like a pair of Humphreys. We started dancing and then we tied our shoelaces together, literally rolling around on the dancefloor tying them together.”

“We piled into this club full of guys dancing seriously to 70s soul records and had a sword fight,” adds Chris. “At one point, Nina was laying on the floor with somebody sprinkling Smarties over her. Danny comes in with two strobes, whacks one on top of each speaker, and starts playing acid house. We all went fucking bananas while the soul boys congregated at the bar. It was mental. Proper us and them. One of the locals tried to stab Danny while he was DJing. We were obviously having a much better time than they could even imagine was possible and they didn’t know why. That was the problem with ecstasy. We looked so out of it and happy… and straight people couldn’t deal with it.” 

April and May were so hectic, Nina had to round them up in her diary in a catch-up entry dated 26 June. 

“I ended up on TV! ‘01 For London’ popped up when I was at my mum’s in Frimley and there I was with smiley stickers on my face dancing on a podium!! OOOPPPPS. I said nothing and luckily she didn’t recognise me.” 

The catch-up also detailed the night Mr Nosey Parker rescued her from a bad trip.

“Last week was a warehouse party called Alyssum promoted by Steve Proctor and Johnny (Walker) was DJing. I won’t forget that place. I freaked out so badly on acid. I only had half but it was strong! Everything became infernal and the whole place seemed to be crawling with emaciated bodies, slowly dropping one by one. Everything was rapidly pulsating. Even the music seemed satanic and twisted. Everything was mad. I went over to Mr Nosey Parker (Andrew) and he asked if I was alright. ‘No I’m not.’ He could see something was wrong so he sat down with me and his friend Paul McKee joined us. I knew that I needed to be with people but they all seemed to look like rotting corpses or evil clowns. I still had hold of Andrew’s hand, which felt like a skeleton hand, but I couldn’t let go.

“When Andrew left to return to the dancefloor, I was surrounded by this variety show of freaks, all doing their best to snap me out of it and make me laugh. It wasn’t funny. Eventually Terry Farley and Paul McKee took me to the car and got my brother. When I saw him coming, I thought he was my executioner!! My entire body was shaking and they moved me into Craig’s car and put some Van Morrison on the player but even that sounded distorted and WHOOOMPFFF EURGH ARRRR… I asked Craig to get Mr Nosey Parker back and as his long plastic nose appeared over the half-open car window something switched. I laughed. Van had been replaced by Bill Nelson and Andrew was coming back to Greencroft with us. Back in Hounslow, I was pretty shaken and unusually quiet and reflective, trying to make sense of what had just happened. The house woke up and Chris found Andrew and I quite innocently curled up under a blanket on his sofa. It took a while to really level off and I had learnt quite a big lesson!” 

In May, Jimmy Jewell started Cloud Cuckoo Land upstairs at Nicky Holloway’s The Trip, “basically tripping behind the decks, playing anything from The Electric Prunes to Ravi Shankar. I first met Andrew and Farley in a caravan at the Rockley Sands festival. I really got into the music Andrew was playing on cassettes and invited him to play The Trip. About three weeks later, I got nicked for cheque card fraud and my magic carpet ride literally ended overnight, so Andrew took my night over from me.”

Nina’s diary for 26 June continues: 

“Last night was a fucking blinder! We started off going to Paul Oakenfold’s Kaleidoscope. Dropped half a pill, which was out of this world, but the venue was a bit shit and too hot. It finished at 4.00am so we moved onto another of Proctor’s warehouse doos, Brainstorm, and it was brilliant and a fantastic venue! Andrew and Farley were there and I really like Andrew, you know. We always have such a giggle together and he is very intelligent behind that plastic nose. We have read a lot of the same books – Huxley, Leary, etc. We spent a lot of time talking together and really getting to know each other. He introduced me to Paul Rutherford from Frankie and was telling me all about Boy’s Own. 

“We went upstairs for a dance and got into all kinds of silliness – mimes, characters, Sherlock and Watson! It was so much fun. I lay down on my back on the dancefloor with my eyes closed and I felt someone close to my face. I opened my eyes and Andrew was there and we kissed. ‘That was really lovely,’ he said, so we did it again before returning to our silliness. This is a very different connection to anyone else I have ever met. We went downstairs to get a drink and bumped into Craig. He told Craig that he was ‘falling in love with his sister and did he mind?’. When it was time to leave, he said to me that he had had a really top night thanks to me and said that I was ‘the most snoggable girl in the club’ and we kissed again.” 

Nina and Mr Nosey Parker became official after “Andrew phoned the next day and he invited me to see Prince at Wembley for my birthday,” says Nina. “How could I say no? Quite classy, wasn’t it?” It’s fair to say they clicked. “Yes, instantly! I thought he was the funniest man I’d ever met.” 

Nina and Andrew bonded through relentless humour, musical discovery and chemically enhanced shenanigans (although the night he decided he was Jim Morrison scared her). The pair followed Danny and Jenni Rampling as an acid revolution power couple, sometimes in matching outfits as they ignited the lifelong relationship that would charge the summer of love’s aftershock with punk attitude and lead to founding the era’s coolest record labels. 

Starting college happened to clash with Nina’s increased activity on the acid house frontline, with Shoom joined by Future, Spectrum and events like the chaotic Shoom On The Farm in the Surrey countryside. And adding to life’s general weirdness, Nina got a job operating Sweep on ‘The Sooty Show’. Even now she can reduce men of a certain age to genuflecting awe with the original puppet that Matthew Corbett gifted her after she removed her hand from Sweep’s arse until his 2023 comeback on the ‘Into The Cosmic Hutch’ podcast. 

Kris Needs’ ’Punkadelic! Nina Walsh’s Dambusting Roller Coaster With Andrew Weatherall And Beyond’ will be published early 2024

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