We were not constantly “hating on” everyone and everything. We were happy to be at the party and to party with others who felt the same way.
At the helm, of this club experience in Baltimore was Odells. Opened initially as a private club by the late and legendary Odell Brock, it was one of the first to boast an ID Card individually issued and displayed for admittance.
You see dancing from your soul to music that is being presented from the soul is heaven on earth. It is without a doubt the purest joy. And I got to experience this joy over and over again on Monday Night (the best night for the true purest) and Thursday Nights (the best night for the best of the beautiful ones).
If allowed entrance into Odells’, each time you left experiencing magic. You left with a newly formed bond with others who were in the club with you – having shared in an experience that only those there could understand. You left high without the use of any chemicals-you left tired and wide awake at the same time – you left wanting more – but not right away – there was a definite need to savor and to process what had just happened. Your hearing would return to full use after about 24 hours….Sometimes your hands would soar from clapping or you had blisters that the music hadn’t let you feel. Inside Odells’ your primary senses seemed to mesh into one prism of music, dance, and well — God.
Yet, the long and narrow structure did something to the acoustics that one can only understand unless experienced. The sound system although state-of-the-art was made that much more intense because of the closeness of the walls. The sound having nowhere really to go seemed to leap straight from the magnificent speakers through your skin and directly into your soul to live.
You could not escape the music – the sound – the feeling – the smell – the taste. You could touch the music because it lived and once the music touched you, it never let you go – NEVER, not even now – almost 30 years later.
The experience was founded on amazing music and mixing. Mixing that went somewhere, mixing that never let you down, mixing that made its own music, mixing that teased and taunted and brought you to an unrelenting climax and left you shaking on the dance floor spent. Oft times if you pulled yourself away from the dance floor to rest the music would pick you right back up out of your well-deserved seat.
Thank You, God, for my “old age” today – because if I was young 25-35 now I would have missed all of this and I would take my early 40s and this time in Baltimore as a young lady over having my 20s back any day… God, we had fun!
“You’ll Know If You Belong” is as accurate a slogan as has ever existed. So perfect a slogan for the powerful ambiance within the rectangular shaped-club. In the early 1980s-before cell phones, CDs, and music videos -when there was so much music innovation coming out of New York – when DJs were still using the record pools and when you would NEVER hear the same music on the radio played within the wall of a club that you actually paid money to go to, Odells’ was known up and down the East Coast and especially in NYC as 1 of the top 8 clubs of the time. There were few “Meccas” in dance clubs back in the day and our Odells was definitely one of them.
Each aspect of the club was an experience in and of itself. Gaining admittance meant getting past the Queen-Matriarch herself, Jackie, and her everpresent overseer and 6’5” 300 lb enforcer named “Karate.” Karate, quiet as it was kept was a true gentleman. Unlike the male party-goers of today whom I have witnessed actually push a female out of the way trying to get closer to the front of a crowded bar.
Anyway, anticipation would inevitably grow into child-like excitement once Jackie gave you the approving nod and then ask for the $5.00 admittance fee. It would then only be seconds before passing through the pearly gates into the inner sanctum of cool.
Really though, getting past Jackie was half the fun. Her eye was keen and her instincts were perfect and her decisions were law. Believe me, she looked at and into every single person that was admitted into that club. Back then, if any man tried to gain admittance wearing jeans, and t-shirt, and tennis shoes, you would have been looked at like you seriously bumped your head on something.
Everyone was meticulously dressed from head to toe. Her stamp of approval put a subtle extra boost into your “club swagger.” Many would have the balls to try and overturn her decision of rejection – only to be further demoralized by Karate closing in on them to officially confirm the rest of your evening was definitely going to be spent elsewhere. Many would come in as a group and be split up some to be admitted in and some to be shown the door.
Getting in was much more important than staying with your crew. Any self-respecting friend would understand and accept defeat with dignity. Still, in those days there would be so many people hanging out outside the club and across North Ave & Charles that you could have fun just talking to the other rejects who would most time choose to wait for the rest of their crew to come out. With a combination of people-watchers, club rejects, fake IDers, others still trying to get in – you could almost have just as much fun outside on the street as you could in the club – but not really.
The bathrooms were co-ed or more to the point – men were always in the ladies’ room. We would stay in there just talking and whatever – it was one of the few places you could actually almost hear what someone was saying to you.
The most amazing aspect of the club – now looking back – in my opinion, was that there was no alcohol served at all. We did not even miss it, that’s how powerful “the experience” was. That’s how good the music was – courtesy of the artistry of the Grand Magnificent DJ Wayne Davis. There were many others that spun there but Wayne was and is the King.
The music and mixing at that time were like no other – every sound was fresh and new and masterfully creative. DJ Wayne Davis’ booth was nestled above the dance floor as if in the clouds where he could not be seen but definitely felt. He could however see his subjects. His music was fed by the dancing and the dancing was fed by the music and on and on, back and forth, around and around all night long. We danced until it was over. The music would not let you stop. We wouldn’t let the music stop. Never had we belonged in a moment in time any more than we belonged with Odells. When it was over most were soaked through their gorgeous outfits with gladness.
I miss those days and cherish those wonderful memories. Yes, those days are long gone – but I am so grateful that I had Odells as part of my history in growing up in Baltimore. I am so glad that I got to experience clubs where there was no need for metal detectors at the door, when men would actually offer a lady his seat if necessary. When going to a club meant you would experience something wonderful and definitely hear music played like you had never heard before.
The days when we all really got along sincerely and innocently. I may be considered old by today’s BET video standards — but that is OK. I would rather be old by today’s standards and know what I know about my city, how it used to be. I am so grateful to come from a city so rich in music history and heritage. Read about it or ask someone that’s 50 and older they can tell you and I guarantee that. They would definitely “know if they once belonged.”
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