In London's club scene, American deejay Derrick May is a pop god. The story involves the Brits' infatuation with African American music and other forms of U.S. pop and their unwitting ability to turn it into something mainstream and marketable. The Beatles did it in a big way to rock 'n' roll in the mid-'60s. The Sex Pistols and the Clash did it with American punk in the '70s. And now the English are selling us dance music--"techno" of the type May himself made in Detroit back in the mid-'80s. Of course, they still revere the real thing--much more than Yanks do. But in many ways, British dance is off on its own orbit.
The energy of club culture is what has reestablished London as the new hot spot in pop. Ask any record company executive--a breed desperate to find a replacement for the sagging sales of Seattle "alternative"--and he'll probably tell you which dot on the map holds gold: "London is swinging," says Gary Pini, managing director of Sm:)e Communications, a dance subsidiary of New York's Profile Records.
London is indeed home to the world's most vibrant club scene, a scene composed of big, diverse, class-leveling night spots such as Heaven, Hanover Grand, Turnmills and the End. There are also dozens of smaller spots that host specific genres of dance--trip-hop, ambient, drum-and-bass--on any given night. TimeOut, London's weekly guide, lists no fewer than 80 venues that host dance nights.