The Eclipse made its name opening in October 1990 as Britain's first all night dance venue. It was a cracking club with a real mix of people. The club was made up of regular week in week out faces with a few new faces here and there that always went on to become regulars. In the early days Sasha could be heard playing stylish legendary tunes and sets. Even dropping a tune off the Kenny Thomas album voices once when having a moment of randomness but as always it went down a storm.
The club was a Mecca for many, a church for some and a home to others. To me it was heaven on earth any Friday or Saturday I managed to get there. I never once had a bad night in there and think back on it with fondness. It pulled people in from all over the UK. I remember an army of lads from St. Helen's rocking the top floor and cheering me on when I was jumping up and down like I was on a space hopper. I can remember speaking to a load of lads who talked like Harry Enfields' Tim 'nice but dim' character who were all based at the RAF base at Coningsby's who drove and risked (and later went on to fail I heard) taking a RAF p*ss test. In fact I can remember talking to a Manc who had stole a car just to get to the club. I mention this not to mock but to show the pull of the Eclipse and the lengths punters would go to make it.
I had several memorable moments in the Eclipse. Once I remember chatting with a raver who loved his jack and Jill's so much he had took to snorting them and was major tripping out. So much so that he kept thinking he was seeing family members popping up around every corner - nevertheless he still seemed to be having a good time.
The Eclipse was on several floors and had a stairway which often had mashed up raver's sitting on them. I was sitting on the stairs outside the balcony room at the top on one occasion when the wall vanished from behind me, it was only then I realised the Eclipse had a lift in it and I was in fact leaning up the door. The Eclipse had a hugh chill out room on the lower level with lots of space, chiled seating and a illuminated stand just in the door on the right selling liquid gold and mix tapes. The dance floor was over looked by the balcony and was a decent size and the speakers were to the ceiling. In fact in retrospect I would even go as far as to say the Eclipse had a coliseum vibe to it with the high balcony and speakers reaching to the skys. DJ's were elevated in their booth up in the air like Roman Gods and and we were down on the floor moving our feet to the beats.
The names and DJ's that passed through the Eclipse speak volumes. The Eclipses policy of bringing over American and European artists and combining them with the best of the British worked well. but unlikely to ever be repeated again; Joey Beltram next to Sasha; Kevin Saunderson next to Grooverider, plus all the top PA's available from N-Joi, Moby, K-Klass, Sub Sub, The Prodigy, PKA, Altern 8, Nebula II, Shades of Rhythm and so on. The high standard set by the club was universally acknowledged with recognition from the readers of DJ magazine voting it best club of 1992.
The vibe was mega. The dance floor was never really empty and to anyone who wondered why that bloody Amnesia robot flashed and twitched when he shook your hand will be pleased to know that I have worked out - he had senors on the palm of his hand. sssSSShh !!
The vibe was great , the air filled with the smell of vicks, poppers and herbal roll ups and the dance floor of smiling faces.
R.I.P. The Coventry Eclipse
To close this page I shall quote a paragraph by Stuart Reid, the man behind the Eclipse as I feel it sums up the carefree abandon of the time, the music and the venue.
..... an unnamed raver who pulled me by the shirt sleeve while I was standing on the balcony overlooking the huge dancefloor, "Ere that bloke is wanking"! I thought I had seen it all; couples getting to know each other intimately in toilets, dancefloors, cupboards, stairways, cars, car parks, the occasional offer of a free fellatio to security to let people in on busy nights, offers 0f 80 pounds a ticket to get in, every excuse known to man to get on the guest list. From Prince's manager to Lord whoever to visits from Bananarama, EMF, The Farm, Gary Clail, and even Seymour Stein - Madonna's record manager. But here was the ultimate, a twenty year old youth furiously masturbating at the front of 1,000 people on the main dancefloor. As ID magazine said, "Beats putting your hands in the air".
In October 1990 Coventry made dance music history. At a time when the nation’s rave scene was still very much an underground "let’s all congregate in a secret field or warehouse location", Coventry launched the first legal all night rave in a city centre club.
It was called The Eclipse, it had slipped through a gap in the law like a naughty kid through a fence and it was to become the epicentre of the national rave scene.
That first Saturday night/Sunday morning experience in October 1990 was put on at the former Granada Bingo Hall in Lower Ford Street by local entrepreneurs Stuart Reid and Barry Edwards.
Coventry City Council were powerless to stop them because no alcohol was being served and only private members were allowed to buy tickets. As such, they didn’t need a licence. You could smell the council’s displeasure.
Rap star MC Tunes was booked to play that first night. He did, for five minutes at least. That’s how long it took for his sound system to pack up and for him to leave the stage shouting: "Get the sound sorted out! We’ll be back soon."
MC Tunes didn’t return, but that was the only setback to what was a hugely successful night.
Ravers danced non-stop and were treated to an extravagant light show complete with lasers and strobes
To what must have been the amazement of police and councillors the night passed without any reported incidents of drugs or violence. Nevertheless, that didn’t stop them continually blocking every application made by the Eclipse for a drinks licence.
But that didn’t stop the 1,600 capacity venue being filled every Friday and Saturday night by clubbers from all over Britain.
And it didn’t stop some of the country’s best DJs burning up the decks at the city club, ranging from Boy George and Jeremy Healy to Roger Sanchez and Sasha.
Other regulars were Parkes and Wilson - local DJs Micky Wilson and Micky Parkes - who made a name for themselves playing at raves all over the country.
The club was also the starting point for The Prodigy, who played their first ever gig there for just £60, K Klass, SL2, Altern 8, Leftfield, Moby, Shades of Rhythm and LFO.
By June 1991 the Eclipse was getting even more adventurous. As once again the High Court banned druids from celebrating the summer solstice at Stonehenge, four Wiltshire druids were invited to perform an ancient ritual fertilising the nation’s spirit and honouring the Earth Mother at a mini-Stonehenge created at the club.
Eclipse’s influence on the dance scene was officially recognised at the start of 1992, when readers of top clubbers’ mag DJ voted it club of the year. It was also voted as having the best lights, the nicest door staff, the second best sound system, third best toilets and fourth best flyers.
A "chuffed" Stuart Reid said: "We have taken a lot of flak in the time that we have been here, but this is a national magazine and people are voting for us throughout the country.
"It speaks volumes of what we have done for Coventry and what the people who come here have done."
April 1992 even saw Coventry’s own music multi-millionaire Pete Waterman, who had described rave music as "blips and blops", film an edition of his TV show Hit Man and Her with Michaela Strachan at the Eclipse. Allegedly Michaela had to be taken home after being ‘spiked’. Urban myth or fact?
And the kids were continuing to flock in from even further a field.
Their reasons were simple. Andy Taylor from Nottingham said: "It’s the only place in the country where you can do this. I come with my mates and we just have a really good time.
Gloucestershire lad Kevin Edwards said: "The atmosphere is great. There’s never any trouble, everyone’s just here to have a good time."
Stevie Pentelow of Northants said: "I like the people and I like the music, that’s why we come."
The bubble, however, was soon to burst. The Eclipse was developing an increasingly unsavoury reputation for being a haven of drug use, not helped by the death of 19-year-old Christopher Doust, who collapsed after a night at the club and was found to have taken amphetamines bought from a dealer outside (If I'm right in thinking wasn't this lad friends with the Earl Shilton and Hinkley ravers? Chris and the Albion social club crew? Email me with any info folks)
Police also seized other hard drugs at the club, including crack, and Stuart Reid admitted: "There are drugs in here, of course there are. You can get a needle and heroin inside Pentonville Prison."
Continuing battles for a drinks licence were turned down. As rave culture began to take something of a dip in popularity applications were made to open the club on other days of the week for different events. These applications were also met with objections.
A name change to The Edge failed to bring back the glory days and in September 1993 the club was closed.
At the time of closing more than one million people had passed through its doors and it had a standing membership of 74,000. My membership card was number 23 as I got given it by my friends older brother, it wasn't the one shown at the top of this page but the old solid black card with the gold moon on it. Anyone who was really old skool Eclipse will know what I'm on about and I'm guessing rarer than hens teeth these days?
The only serious buzz Coventry had created since the days of 2-Tone had been silenced.
In 1995 Coventry University Student Union took over the building, spent silly money and created The Planet. We all know how successful that turned out to be.
The Eclipse, however, was not to be forgotten easily. In 1996 Virgin Records released, with the help of Stuart Reid, two albums entitled Eclipse Presents... Dance ’till Dawn, remixed by Stu Allan and the legendary Slipmatt and celebrating the early days of rave music and the part played by the Eclipse.
A spokesman for Virgin said: "The Eclipse was at the forefront of a scene that developed into the youth movement of the 1990s.
"Rave has fundamentally altered our culture and Stuart Reid and The Eclipse club were there when it all started."