Observing the current nostalgia wave in the media about the love and joys of vinyl records and the golden age of vinyl it was interesting observing the various accounts of relationships people have with vinyl and how it links into deep memories concerning key moments in their development. Except that Danny Baker programme; he was annoying.
But in all of this no one really gave the jobbing DJ’s point of view? You may perceive this as yet another rant against vinyl but that is far from the reason this is going down on paper. Vinyl was such a close part of my life for such a long time. From 1977 to 2011 it was the primary media used to get the dance floors moving. These are my old humble routines repeated over the decades and my new routine repeated over the past few years.
- Get up on Saturday morning, get ready to go out and drive to the record shop (in my case 7 miles away to Canterbury – a fucker of a city for parking). (1)
- Plough through all the records the record shop owner had decided were the ones that would probably sell the most that week; you don’t even get to listen to ALL the releases that week. (2)
- Lifting them up and carrying them to the record player.
- Finding the correct end to open.
- Removing from sleeve and inner sleeve.
- Placing on turntable.
- Lifting needle and placing on the first track (needles usually fucked anyway in record shops).
- Listening. Ah, the good bit.
- Skipping record forward through the tracks being careful not to scratch or damage it any more than it already was.
- Turning over and repeating for the other side.
- Removing the arm from the record on the deck and placing the record back in inner sleeve then back in cover then back in the pile.
- Taking pile back to record seller and repeating till budgetary requirements met. (3)
- Get annoyed at how many times you have to take records out of covers, out of sleeves, put on decks and lift arms over and then put back in sleeves then covers. (4)
- Take home. (5)
- Repeat record shop process as you listen to every track more fully and roughly sort them into some coherent set that is linked together and progresses in some cycle upwards to a peak them back down (optional) thus having a new half hour or so for your gig this Saturday. (6)
- Put these in box with around 50 others all listened to, sorted and ready to play.
- Carry all 20kg of records to gig. (7)
- Put on floor near decks. (8)
- Kneel down pick first tune, stand up, remove from cover, remove from sleeve, place on deck, lift and place needle on record, cue up, cue in, cue out, remove needle, remove record from deck, kneel down, return record to inner sleeve, return record to outer sleeve, return record to box, choose next tune…
- Repeat above step 25 – 50 (depending on length of set) each time these movements are performed the DJ gets so used to doing that he speeds up and barely notices the whole process. All he’s eventually thinking about is the sequencing of tunes relating to seen and perceived future dance floor reaction. The fact that they are records and you have go through this process; don’t notice.
- Wonder why your back is fucked after 35 years of doing this this.
- Get up any day you are free and spark up the computer.
- Stay at home. Stay in your underpants. Scratch your balls. Put the coffee on.
- Listen to ALL the new releases that week. In my case; deep house, house, tech house, chill out. I listen to the top 100 of each category till I've got my £50’s worth. The rest I can’t afford I just keep in my basket till more money appears.
- Download and play. Sort into set/sets.
- Carry computer to gig.
- Play set but this time with more time to develop your set properly and to play with overlays, loops, samples, mixer setting, whatever.
- Wonder why your back does not hurt any more.
See also - Damn the future; it's cheaper too!
(1) Having perused the media, chiefly Black Echoes (now Echoes) and Mixmag. Black Echoes in them early days was a weekly paper with the nascent dance music scenes releases reviewed over two full pages by legendary ex Zigzag editor (1977) Kris Needs. I’d been reading it since the punk days as their reggae review section was essential reading for any reggae DJ at the time but his recommendations helped me negotiate and discover the fledgling techno and house scene. Needless to say a list of the hottest tunes was always in my hand to give to the record shop owner to try and get his hands on any of them at all.
(2) Having worked later in a record shop myself chasing distribution company reps around the county and London, sitting on their living rooms with other shop workers listening to a box full of fresh tunes was fun and actually getting hold of imported records and their shrink wrapped delight, ‘still warm’ and fresh of the plane, was an achievement few could beat. Who could resist falling in love as you ran the sealed end of the record across your thigh to melt the sealed plastic to get into the goodies inside? The flasher DJ’s would of course open them in the club in front of everyone for maximum jealousy generating effect from the other DJ’s.
(3) £50 could buy you 7 imports. Back in the early days British releases with 4 tracks were much sought after. Best value for money at £1.25 per track and snapped up at a fiver a pop. 10 of them for £50 and you had the makings of a decent set of brand new tunes for that.
(4) Often not even noticed as the love of the music tended to overwhelm any of the repetitive logistics.
(5) Glee and anticipation to the forefront of the emotions here. Barely noticed the drive back or the addition costs of fuel and parking.
(6) Sometime done with other DJ’s in the same crew the Saturday ritual became something of a bonding session for the house devotees. We’d all get together and list to each other’s purchases commenting and jostling for deck time.
(7) One box was usually the minimum but it was not unusual for DJ’s to carry 2 or 3 boxes especially if we were putting on an all-nighter or a weekend party.
(8) Only if you cannot put it on a table near the decks.