How did a little pub on the Barbary Coast become the place to be on a Thursday? Why the hell do we love it so much?!
Thursday night, 10pm. I approach what appears to be an unassuming pub, the sort you’d see your Grandad in, supping away on a pint of bitter for 4 hours whilst mumbling something wildly offensive about immigrants. Yet, it is not the modest spectacle that draws you in. You can hear the throbbing bass, the hysterical merry cheer and the wailing, demented singing from the other end of the Quay. It’s an atmosphere befitting a Glastonbury headlining slot at the Pyramid Stage. And, in many ways, The Saddle Inn on a Thursday is a lot like Glastonbury. Assuming this year’s headliner was a 63 year gal called Sheila, smashed on vodka and belting out “I will survive” with all the vocal dexterity of a cat in a blender. That’s right, it’s Saddleoke time!
The Saddle is born
Legend has it, the ‘Saddleoke’ was first conceived on one mythical night back in 1977. This was a monumental year in world history. Nerds were born as the Atari 2600 and Star Wars arrived, atrocious hairstyles and spitting at strangers was wildly encouraged as punk culture came and went and, most pertinently, Manx kings of disco – The Bee Gees – were tearing dancefloors, and shit, right up. Local legend, Alan “Big Alan” McFella was in his local boozer, The Saddle Inn, on just another nondescript Thursday night. He was heading out the door when he was stopped in his tracks by hairy and incestuous harmonising. Big Alan had caught Night Fever. He was violently ill with the sound of afro, flares and singing from men bereft of testicles! Tragically, it was night fever that took Big Alan’s life. Still, his legacy lives on. As you enter the Saddle Inn you’ll see his beaming face on a diamond-encrusted solid gold portrait which takes up 75% of the function room.
Yet, it wasn’t until the 80’s when the Japanese craze of Karaoke came to Manx shores, that these raucous Thursdays had the moniker they so deserved: SADDLEOKE. Who knows what fate these glorious, carefree evenings would have met had the original suggestion of ‘Karaokaddle’ been agreed upon.
And so, here I am! Swept up with the mad rising tide of drunken revelry, 50 people crammed in here like sardines, embracing a bearded man named Keith. Somehow, my life hadn’t been complete until this moment. This distilled snapshot in time when connection with our fellow humans feels so simple, so freeing. I have succumbed to the lustre of this madhouse. If I close my eyes and really listen the song playing in the background sounds nothing at all like the original. In fact, it sounds exactly like a drunken fat bloke mumbling and babbling about Delilah.
But I’m singing along with every word. Nay, shouting! And so are the masses here tonight, gathered at the church of shit singing. In many ways, this is a microcosmic template for reality shows such as X Factor. Without the desperate need to end your own life after 5 minutes of watching.
So what are you waiting for? Get on your steed and saddle up partner!