...Being an expose of the pains and pleasures of DJ-ing, inspired
by this week's Disco Trades Fair. Your narrator: DAVE 'The Boss'
GOODMAN of Dingwall's Dancehall, London.
THE worst pitfall in being a disc jockey at the local Hot And Happening
club is when young morons, who generally aren't even perspiring, stick
their spotty little faces into the disco booth just at the point when
all hell's breaking loose on the dance floor. You've just played "Fight
The Power" by the Isley Brothers, "Pussy Cat" by Sylvia (Vibration Vi
536-A on Import only) and you're just tearing into "Mighty Cloud Of Joy"
by the Mighty Clouds of Joy when they have the nerve to demand, not even
"Got any Black Sabbaf?"
"Well then, got any Uriah 'Eep?
"Got anyfing 'easy then?"
"Er. listen man. I'm into playing soul music for the dancers
right now man."
"Soul music!!!" -
Some of them fellers I just can't understand, they must
imagine they're there to hear all their records they've got back at home
anyway, and not get into what is being laid on them. 'cause that's what
the disc jockey does. He's the man most responsible, besides any live
music, for raising the temperature and gettin' your energy going.
I suppose it's true to say that a DJ. plays records that
he actually likes, though sometimes I wonder, and consequently if his
taste is in keeping with what's going down he should score. might even
get himself a reputation.
Reputations like those of Jeff Dexter at Tiles. Mike Vesty
down the Speak', Boss Goodman at Dingwalls (what!) and Jerry Floyd in
the Knowhere Club"(Get it Jerry ha! ha!)
I mean, you put Andy "F.M. on the road with Hawkwind" Dunkley
in some field full of hippies anywhere and he'll play a whole bunch of
stuff you would never, ever dream existed; but see those hippies, they
love it. Andy always cleans up in a field - consequently he becomes a
main focus for communications etc. and his gig becomes so much more important,
as does his reputation.
But there is an awful big difference in being the resident
DJ at the club a-go-go and being constantly on the road. Andy can and
frequently does get away with playing just about anything you care to
mention. I mean I ye even managed to convince him that it's O.K. to play
"Jump Back" by Rufus Thomas alongside say, the "Fish Rising" album by
Steve Hillage, and he'll get away with it. But you can't get away with
playing just anything during dance time in the disco, however hard you
Speaking from my own experience I can tell you all that
being a resident DJ can drive you insane. I reckon if you work five nights
per week for six months the tell-tale signs of fatigue start to show.
You can't bear to hear' another aborted James Brown riff, you need to
hear guitars, rock bands, anything, and the final sign of submission is
when all you really want to play are your favourite Small Faces'45s. That's,
when it's all over, or time to move on. That's what happened to Steve
Mann and myself at Dingwall's Dancehall. (I'm beginning to wonder about
Sandy residing there at the moment, though I haven't seen him burst into
When first given the job I found that I needed to put together
a programme. At Dingwalls, anyway, the DJ can play whole sides of albums,
oldies or anything during the early evening, but say around 10.30 p.m.
you start spotting the ones what wanna dance so obviously you start to
cater for those people.
But what do they want to dance to? Rock, soul. Hamilton
Bohannon, Rolling Stones or Bob Seeger? You re generally always OK with
some Stones or Bob Marley. Stevie Wonder's always a winner, and so you
start to build your show from there.
You then start to realise that you have to be the hottest
property in town, so you begin searching for new, bigger, better funky
platters. The best discos stay that way by keeping ahead of the field
in material used.
So you start using imported soul records from obscure parts
of America or Africa, or imported raw reggae from Jamaica. These can be
purchased from a few pretty obscure record stores which you can find advertising
themselves in Blues And Soul Monthly (a fine mag). I found that a mixture
of imported records, all the national soul/funky hits of the time. the
odd Junior Walker classic and some Stones was a winning ingredient.
But you do have to stay subtle, even if it is just for sanity's
sake. It's very easy to go overboard and play nothing but early '5Os rock
'n' roll during prime dancing time. And that's fine also when you use
only 60s soul - Sam & Dave, Otis Redding etc. But you have to look out
and not do this too often, cause you suddenly find the club is being classified
as a place playing loads of oldies. and hence it only attracts the certain
clan of person that's interested in that type of music.
The most interesting clubs and discos are the ones that
have the greatest range of different classes of people, and the hottest
clubs always house the hottest musicians about. The musicians in turn
attract attention to that particular club. Remember the Cromwellian, Flamingo
or the early days of the Speakeasy, when gangs of musicians used to meet
each other, jam together, and healthier music was produced?
Some of those joints really used to jump during the days
of swinging London.
However. I'm going off the track here. If you're going to
be a DJ, what equipment do you need? Well. I can tell you what we have
installed up at Dingwalls: a pair of Garrard SP 2S MKIV's and pre-amp
fitted by "Pepe" Rush Electronics (01 437 6610). a Cord Systems Audio
Equalizer, and powering four Acouset cabinets we have at Crown D 150.
Andy Dunkley's equipment for work on the road consists of
two Garrard AP76's (rumble free), two 100 watt WEM slaves powering two
2 by 15 inch WEM cabinets containing X29's and Goodman's 15 inch twin
cones, plus two Vita Vox GPI horns.
Transcription decks of top hi fi quality don't make it on
the road or in a disco. I mean you have to get stoned, drunk, or both
to be able to get excited about the gig anyway and all that quality stuff'
just gets to be too delicate.
Things get broken and that's no fun. Come to think of it,
that's the worst thing that can happen to you ... the amp blows up or
you lose power or something equally unfortunate happens and you re left
looking dumb and helpless.
Playing albums at 45 rpm is the greatest DJ sin, the disc
jockey's personal malfunction!
There are great opportunities or advancement in club/disco
DJ'ing - providing, of course, that you wish to make a career of it. I
didn't, but I was made some unreal offers.
Once I was approached by a representative of of Mecca Ballrooms
who wanted. me to do some new-fangled Mecca circuit he had in mind. (Sorry
fella, but no way). For someone such as myself, having been brought up
in shadier places, and having spent six and a half years on the road with
the Pink Fairies my tastes just don't mix with the ballroom chain mentality
- of packing the masses in to hear Radio One jargon and Top 20 material.
No I think the big ballrooms are unhealthy. Kids ought to be hanging-out
in sleazier surroundings.
I must finish by saying that there's an incredible lack
of ace club bands on the circuit at the moment. The pub rock bands have
been and gone, and a large vacuum has been left. The only people filling
it in London seem to be F.B.I.. Shanghai and Moon and that's just not
Award of the month must go to United Artists for releasing
Road Runner" by Jonathan Richman (UP 36006).
Don't forget to go to a go go.