The Junction, originally on the corner of Bree and Claim Street, was owned by Shayne Leith who previously owned Decodance in Market Street (which eventually became Le Club). It opened in 1988 and closed sometime in 1991 before moving to a short-lived run at Ponte.
It had two dance floors. One was dark with graffiti and the other had murals based on the Rolling Stones ‘Harlem Shuffle’ single painted on various walls. The ‘Harlem Shuffle’ floor opened first with the other coming a year or so later. Each dance floor was also a self-contained space with its own bar and entrance that could be closed off from each other. There was a pool room and a rooftop which I only ever saw once: at a New Years Eve Jungle Party in 89 or 90. The entire club, plus these two new sections I’d never seen, were covered from floor to ceiling with eucalyptus branches.
The music was largely alternative, but shaped and influenced by the various DJs that played there at various times: Martin Vogelman, Johnny Future (RIP), Adrian Skirrow, Gary Turner, Alan Smith, DJ Tommi and Chris Prior were regulars. The likes Steve Harris, Dennis Woest and Gary Van Reit played guest sets or specific themed party nights during the club’s run.
I never got any official tapes from the Junction. In fact, at the time, I had no idea who any of the DJs were. To procure some of the music I loved, and capture some of the songs unknown to me, I snuck my trusty Tedelex boombox in a kit bag one evening and sat next to the speakers all night recording two tapes using the built-in mic. The quality was terrible, but good enough to identify the music, which I did over time. I’ve re-created the mix from what is left of the original tapes here:
**notes on the recording**
At the end of ‘Country Death Song’ someone can be heard shouting from the dancefloor “More you bitch! Don’t stop it”
The Clash ‘Should I stay or should I Go’ got stuck halfway through.
I made one change to the mix by taking out Prince ‘Partyman‘, and replacing it with Fad Gadget ‘Lady Shave’ which is one of the tracks from earlier in the night (which had been taped over) but that was for me anyway, a signature song.
Like the more dance-orientated clubs and music I’ve already covered in this series, one could mostly only hear this kind of music in clubs. Although there was some alternative music on radio courtesy of Barney Simon, the depth that the various clubs played was way beyond the scope of anything on radio. Keep in mind this was during Apartheid and economic sanctions and SA was cut-off culturally from the rest of the world. It was really down to a handful of DJs searching out, buying (from some top class record stores like Hillbrow Records, Street Records, Look & Listen plus various private overseas trips) and breaking the songs we all know and love today.
The tapes were from a Saturday night from the main ‘Harlem Shuffle’ dance floor. I never worked out the formula for what music to expect from which floor or who played what. The other floor occasionally had Chris Prior playing rock like Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Thin Lizzy, AC/DC and Black Sabbath, but sometimes the music was interchangeable between floors.
There were also nights where the one of the floors would play a lot of funk, soul, rock and hip hop like Average White Band, James Brown, Tone Loc, Stretch, Prince, Marianne Faithful, Doobie Brothers, Rolling Stones, Doors and Pigbag.
I wish I’d paid more attention, but I was a bit of a goth boy back then and the funky stuff got in the way of being dark and mysterious. Even so, it’s amazing how much of that music stuck with me. The eclectic spread of music later inspired my own DJ nights at Le Club, Cellardoor and the current Reform Soundsystem parties. The Junction gave me license to play Sonic Youth, Einsturzende Neubauten and Cypress Hill all in one night or throw in some Nancy Sinatra, Shannon or Johnny Cash into an indie set or even drop Andrew Sisters, Yma Sumac and Violent Femmes into a soul set.
A few of us (Deon, Joszka and Wayne) who worked together as waiters at Fat Franks in Braamfontein would often go The Junction after work. Thanks to an arrangement with management, we all had membership cards. Some nights, I’d just sit at a table and listen and watch the crowd. There were some odd people who frequented The Junction. Woman with shaved heads, guys who wore wedding dresses, drag queens, goths, professionals… It was such a mixed crowd that one couldn’t put your finger on the direction it would take. It was also an older crowd compared to the other clubs I was going to. There was no posturing, posing or showing off and everyone seemed to be into the diverse music. Those that dressed up seemed to do so effortlessly like they always just looked that way.
Not forgetting Janice at the door and Bruce (RIP) the manager.
On my 16th birthday, I met Rob Mclennan from No Friends of Harry while walking up the zebra painted stairs. He said a few kind words after the drummer chastised me for staring at the band (I was a fan). I got to see them play up close at the club that October.
Shayne later owned Sneaky Petes in Braamfontein where I DJ’ed a for a few weeks with Nevo Haddas. At some stage Shayne moved to Cape Town and recently got involved in opening clubs again.
I taped over a Barney Simon show recorded off 5FM from around July/August 1989. There was some run-off on the second side where the Junction recording stopped. Here are 30 minutes of Barney Simon from 1989. The ads bring back more memories than the music.
In 2012, EMI released a 2CD compilation called UNDERGROUND that I compiled that featured songs played at various 80 alternative clubs Including No Friends of Harry, Via Afrika, Psycho Reptiles, The Cure, Talking Heads, The Cramps, Siouxsie & the Banshees and more.
Although it’s now deleted (I prefer the term ‘collector’s item’), here is a Deezer link ,and below, a Spotify playlist, of the compilation.
Thanks to Shayne Leith and Martin Vogelman for the fact checking. All photos and selected flyers were taken from the original Junction facebook group. Most flyers are mine and the others are from Andrew Wood’s collection.
Thanks to Sharon Dreyer for additional DJ names and photo identification.
Thanks to Adrian Skirrow for clearing up dates and DJs
Any additions or corrections welcome, as are any photos, especially of the outside.