In December 2005 I wanted to do something to mark the 30th anniversary of when I made my club debut, on December 6th 1975 at the Chelsea Reach in New Brighton, and I came up with the idea of compiling a selection of 25 singles that I was carrying in my record crates at the time (we used to use old wooden drinks crates, which were the perfect size for 7” singles – the 12” not making its appearance until the following year).
I called this selection ‘First Impressions’ (named after one of the tracks included) and pressed up a limited run of CDs (a 2 disc set of 100), whilst the Six Million Steps website also hosted it and made it available to download. I described it in the accompanying text as ‘something of a time capsule, providing a snapshot of what many would describe, with hindsight, as the Proto-Disco period’. You can hear / read here:
‘First Impressions’ would give birth to what, for the next 21 months, would prove to be a true labour of love, the ‘Time Capsule’ series, which I put together for the online radio station Samurai FM (with Six Million Steps also hosting the programmes). The objective was to build a veritable dance music archive, to help illustrate how the Disco era evolved from a UK perspective, which was so different to how things unfolded in the States. I did this by including the records that I bought and played in the clubs, month by month, giving background on the releases, whilst outlining my own early experience as a young upcoming DJ.
Given that my re-ignited DJ career had continued to snowball at pace, the workload involved in putting the ‘Time Capsule’ programmes together eventually became too much, and I found myself falling behind schedule by the summer of 2007. Reluctantly I put the series on hold after the Sept ’77 edition, the intention to get back to it at some point in the future if possible.
What made it all so time consuming was that before I started I had to fully research the month I was focusing on. With authenticity paramount, the main sources, when identifying the selections (and enabling precise dating), were the official UK chart and Blues & Soul magazine, plus my own record lists (I logged every promotional copy I received from the record companies during my fledgling years into a couple of exercise books I still have – 1,733 records in total up until the final entry, in May ’78).
Once I’d done that it was a case of locating all of the individual selections. Back in 1985 I had a load of records stolen from my house in Wigan, around a third of my beloved collection, so there were huge holes that I needed to fill in order to approach this in a definitive manner. I was able to hunt down some of these tracks myself, but others proved elusive. Thankfully JJ and Dave Cooper from Six Million Steps came to the rescue, filling in the gaps for me from their own formidable collections. On a few rare occasions neither JJ nor Dave had a copy of the record I was after, so I posted for help on the forums I subscribed to – Brownswood, with its black music affiliation, being particularly fruitful. Although there were a couple of close calls, there was never a record I didn’t manage to locate, so the series was never compromised, even in a minor way.
Once I had all the tracks in my possession, the next stage was to put them together. I initially kept within a CD length framework, but towards the latter stages of the series, with the ever-increasing amount of longer 12” versions being released (often double the length of the 7”), it was clear that I had to change the protocol so that I could fit everything in.
Then, last but not least, it was the most time-consuming stage of all – researching and writing the all-important text that accompanied each of the programmes, going into the backgrounds of the records / artists, to a greater or lesser degree, which helped give the whole thing the added depth I was after – this became increasingly more detailed as the months went on. I wanted to try to give a taste of the times, so that the listener was provided not only with the music itself, but the context of this music. The final edition, from Sept ’77, appeared without any text, and over a month later, when I still hadn’t managed to get it done, let alone commence preparations for the next programme, I knew that I’d reached the point where I’d have to put the series on hold.
So, as you can see, this was a pretty full-on process, which ultimately proved unsustainable given all my other commitments. I’m so happy I managed to find the time to take it this far though – even if I don’t ever get chance to get back to it, what exists stands as a document of what it was like to be a DJ / clubber in the UK circa 76/77, at a fascinating period in the course of dance culture.
The reaction to ‘Time Capsule’ made it all worthwhile at the time. It had a small but dedicated following of monthly listeners who fully appreciated the time and the energy that had gone into each edition, and were hugely disappointed when I had to stop. With Samurai FM having had a recent re-vamp, I thought it was a good point to re-visit this series, which has now been archived by the station. The programmes are listed in reverse order, Sept ’77 back to Jan ’76. If you click on the individual titles under ‘music’ (i.e. Greg Wilson’s Time Capsule – Jan 1976, in white lettering above waveform), a full page will open up that also includes the text and tracklisting for that particular month.
Greg Wilson’s Time Capsule: