We visit Bangkok’s hottest disco in the ’80s (which is now partially hidden) and talked to its former resident DJ [PHOTOS]

Photo: Laurel Tuohy/Coconuts

Deep in the heart of the Dusit Thani, Bangkok’s soon-to-be closed landmark hotel on Silom Road, lived Bangkok’s hottest disco throughout the 1980s: Bubbles. In fact, the disco is still there, with the bar, DJ booth, and a few half-drunk bottles of whisky, all kept intact, just behind the lobby wall.

Photo: Laurel Tuohy/Coconuts
Photo: Laurel Tuohy/Coconuts

Coconuts Bangkok recently visited before looking up the former resident DJ that created the soundtrack to those epic Bangkok nights — full of big hair and tight pants, we’re sure.

Photo: Dusit Thani
Photo: Dusit Thani

To reach Bubbles, walk through the cavernous Dusit lobby, past gawking tourists sipping Siamese-inspired cocktails, traditionally-clad Thai girls playing ranat (a Thai lap-held xylophone), lit up obelisks, and the glass wall overlooking a waterfall.

Photo: Dusit Thani. Circle by Coconuts.
Photo: Dusit Thani. (Red circle annotation added by Coconuts for clarification)

At the very far end of the lobby, push a paneled wall, and there she is.

Photo: Laurel Tuohy/Coconuts
Photo: Laurel Tuohy/Coconuts

The psychedelic murals still line the walls, disco balls hang from the ceiling, and the light-up paneled walls sit dark, waiting for a party that’s unlikely to happen again before the building is razed in January. Standing in the dim club, a sense for the parties of the past is palpable.

Photo: Laurel Tuohy/Coconuts
Photo: Laurel Tuohy/Coconuts

Paul Jackson was the resident DJ at the club — which was visited by every famous person that passed through Bangkok — for years. He still lives in Bangkok and we had the chance to grab a coffee with him in the lobby of Nana’s Landmark hotel to talk about old times.

Photo: Laurel Tuohy/Coconuts

In those days, Jackson had the chance to hang with Billy Idol, who spent a stretch in Bangkok just for fun; Kenny G, who “must have visited ten times during the ’80s,” and Rick Astley, among others. He arrived in Bangkok at 22 years old, already a successful DJ in London and on a contract to open Bubbles, which would become Bangkok’s hottest disco until it’s appeal meandered out, finally closing its doors as a regular club in the ’90s. However, the admittedly dated space can still be rented out for private parties, though it rarely is.

Jackson with Billy Idol. Photo: Paul Jackson
Jackson with Billy Idol. Photo: Paul Jackson

As part of his contract, Jackson lived at the hotel, in one of the peak-roofed, pool access rooms that were turned into retail space long ago. Back then, they were considered undesirable for guests since they didn’t have a view. As a 22-year-old finishing his shift at 2am and having the area by the pool to himself, “It was pretty great.”

Jackson admits he was a showman in those days. Often strutting around the club in leather pants and shiny shirts, he looks like an associate of stars like Idol.

In the peak days of Bubbles, the soundtrack included lots of Rod Stewart, Steve Miller Band, early soul and, always, Eye of the Tiger. Later, when Jackson returned to Bubbles after a stint at the Mandarin Oriental’s disco and a contract opening a club in Dubai, the playlist was more of the Bananarama and Rick Astley ilk.

Since it was Asia, the drinks were most often bottle service whisky, and the crowd was three-quarters Thai. The club boasted an actual bubble machine, a rarity in Thailand in those days.

Photo: Paul Jackson
Photo: Paul Jackson
Jackson with Rick Astley and an unidentified friend. Photo: Paul Jackson
Jackson with Rick Astley and an unidentified friend. Photo: Paul Jackson
Jackson with Kenny G. Photo: Paul Jackson
Jackson with Kenny G. Photo: Paul Jackson

Once the club closed, Jackson moved on to DJing several popular drivetime radio shows in Bangkok and is still a top choice for the city’s society balls and events.

Last year, around the time when they announced they would tear down the Dusit Thani and build a new modern mixed-use tower, management decided to dust off Bubbles and invite the old crowd around for a series of events called Return to Bubbles.

Jackson DJing at the Bubbles reunion last year. Photo: Paul Jackson
Jackson DJing at the Bubbles reunion last year. Photo: Paul Jackson

Jackson came back to DJ the parties. “I saw so many of the old faces and they were so happy, hugging me and slapping high fives over the DJ booth like old times. I didn’t know half their names but, then again, I didn’t know their names back then, it was always too loud to talk.”

Photo: Laurel Tuohy/Coconuts

 

To keep up with DJ Paul Jackson and his upcoming gigs, check out his site.

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