15 May 2011

Champagne in the membrane.

Ah, mate. I’m sorry but I have to say it. It pains me somewhat because I do love a good wedding but I so hate DJing at weddings. 

All my experiences from the past 35 years of DJing, first at punk parties, then new wave clubs (this was in the North East mind you) where everything that was danceable went into the mix from hip hop like Sugar Hill to, yes I know, it could be considered a crime now, but 12” remixes of Culture Club and Blancmange to UK and Jamaican reggae from roots, ska to lovers to Aswad then to soul, disco, The Smiths and Echo and The Bunnymen. If it was danceable it went in the mix.

We liked to consider what we did underground, new, cutting edge and bit subversive but with a lot of the stuff charting weeks or months after we got into it and playing at Rockshot’s on a Thursday night with The Rathaus or the back room of Tiffany’s was far from that.

It wasn’t mainstream and commercial; although we didn’t mind if it was. If it was danceable it got played. We loved buying records and playing them out. Simple. I suppose it would have been call Balearic if it was the mid to late eighties but it was earlier than that and in Newcastle not Ibiza and we just liked to listen to lots of different styles of music, get wasted, dance and besides, we didn’t have a name for it.

When house came around and took over everyone’s life in a big way it was merely an extension of the same belief system. But I digress.

I do love weddings and playing music but not together. I love weddings because they are everything the introspective cynic should not like; formal, joyous occasions filled with shoes that hurt and food.

Everything is great, that is until you start getting invited to play at a mates wedding or a mate of a mate’s wedding. Don’t get me wrong, it is nice to do a mate a favour and it’s nice to get a chance to play out whenever one can and it’s nice to be able to play your stuff to new people rather than the 100 or 200 diehards who would come to our club nights every week.

At the time, in the early 80’s, we ran a little reggae night at Balmbra’s in The Toon on a Sunday Night and it was here I got asked to play my first wedding. ‘Just play a few old and new reggae tunes, you’ll be fine’. Of course I wasn’t, as the wedding DJ is a jukebox and whoa betide you if you don’t fulfil the role expected of you. Fending requests off in a club is bad enough but when the bride’s mother is told that, no, you don’t have her favourite tune from the 70’s and to witness the disappointment on her face and to overhear her say, ‘What? You paid £200 for that DJ and he hasn’t even got ‘Hi Ho Silver Lining’.

At one wedding I was so overwhelmed with requests for music I didn’t have that the groom came up and said ‘I’ve got a few CD’s in the car you can borrow’. Oh the shame. I didn’t even have a CD player anyway so he rustled one up and started playing his own CD’s at his own wedding. I sat in the lovely, extensive gardens listening to the England football match on the radio vowing to myself never to play a wedding ever again.

Thing is though, as a club slash free party DJ I’m used to deciding what to play and when to play it but at a wedding all this is taken away from you and as the night progresses and the people get drunker and bolder and ask for stuff you don’t even have and start to get pissed off that you don’t have it you get to hear comments like “what sort of wedding DJ are you exactly”. A reluctant incalcitrant one.

At a club people just trust you, let you get on with it and don’t hassle you. Now, I like that attitude.

Louis is a good mate and I’m his second best friend. His best friend was his best man. For some reason I’m a lot of people’s second best friend so now I’m knocking on 50 I can genuinely say I’ve never had to fulfil any best man duties ever in my life. I know I would hate it anyway. Lou and Martin, the groom and best man, came round to mine to run through the bezzy man’s speech before the big day. I contributed a few stories to it as well as loads of jokes and helped him with a few tips on public speaking like speak slower, project your voice, look into their eyes, wait till the laugh dies down before continuing and such like. I am a teacher and have to do it every day so they though I must be an expert at or something. Fools. It came to pass he only used one of my jokes – ‘I’ve known Louis 25 years and I’m still waiting for that tenner back I lent him in 1996”.

The stag do, which I didn’t have to organise, luckily, was a pub crawl around Whitstable then off to the Green Machine to see The Blockheads perform only the Blockheads were actually on the day after and Little Chris’s dad couldn’t get in because he had no ID and he kicked off a bit and still they wouldn’t let him in. Luckily Bean’s band were playing at the Puke of Cucumberland and they were good and we had a nice time.

Louis asked me to DJ at the wedding which I agreed to do despite telling him of my psychological aversion to it but managed to blag out of it by getting Warren on after the Zedheads and just not going back to relieve him. Underhand, but his old school club classics had the floor filled and dancing merrily till well gone midnight. Louis was, of course, disappointed in me, and said so, and begged me to play ‘just one tune’ but I couldn’t, I just couldn’t. I really couldn’t and felt awful and still do.

As the night ended it became apparent that the nearest house to the wedding venue was mine so it was a case of opening up the door to the wedding party people that still wanted to carry on and let them get on with it. Which they did.

But that’s another story and I really do still hate DJing at weddings. But even more so now.