John Grant, one of the UK’s leading black music DJs of the late-‘70s / early-’80s died last month – he was 71. Apart from his family and close friends, his passing went largely unnoticed – his legacy somewhat forgotten. This is because he retired from DJing in 1981, right at what was seemingly the peak of his powers, completely disappearing from sight as he moved to the South coast, as the legend at the time was told, to become a lighthouse keeper, or, in another version, a harbour master (the truth seems to be that he moved to Peacehaven to work for a Hovercraft company).
In the summer of 1978, when I was 18, I went out to Denmark and then onto Norway, plying my trade as an ‘International DJ’, having secured bookings via I.D.E.A. a Copenhagen-based agency specialising in bringing British DJs out to Europe on monthly contracts – of which there were many, Norway seemingly invaded in the process, the English language deemed authentic with the microphone still a DJ essential. Having stopped off in Denmark (via Holland and West Germany) I’d taken the car ferry across to Norway. I wasn’t supposed to head to Skien, the small Norwegian city I ended up in, but after arriving there the police had searched my car on the docks, undoing bits from under the bonnet but not putting them back, which caused problems for someone of my limited ability when it came to the workings of an engine. As a consequence, 50 miles on my car broke down on route to the North of the country, resulting in my agency hastily re-arranged things so I could play somewhere closer to hand while my car was repaired. So, by fate or accident, Skien by default became my destination, initially playing a few times at a venue called Galaxi, whilst I waited to start a one-month residency at a club called Lines (pronounced Lena’s).Continue Reading →
The Queen is dead. Aretha Franklin, born in Detroit 76 years ago, and destined to be acknowledged as ‘The Queen Of Soul’ following her late-‘60s breakthrough, was the daughter of minister C.L. Franklin, developing her vocal prowess in the church, before embarking on a secular career in 1960, when she was 18.
I received a copy of the new Late Nite Tuff Guy remix 12” through the post recently. Issued by Salsoul, the classic New York label that unleashed numerous dancefloor gems between 1974-84, including the very first commercially available 12”, ‘Ten Percent’ by Double Exposure (1976). LNTG’s 12” included another Double Exposure favourite, ‘Everyman’, plus ‘Dr Love’ by First Choice, both of which have been huge for me, having received digital copies in the last couple of years – ‘Everyman’ topping my ’20 Choice Edits & Reworks’ selection for 2017, whilst ‘Dr Love’ featured on the 2016 list:
Tony Williams, the accidental UK catalyst for the fusion of Jamiacan Dub and New York dance music during the early-‘80s, sadly died on April 30th. Tony has received scant acknowledgement for this, and it wasn’t until I interviewed him in 2004 that he became aware of this legacy, resulting from the underground popularity of the self-released ‘(Money) No Love’ (artist credit Bo Kool, and arguably the first UK rap recording) and its instrumental flip side ‘Love Money’ (artist credit Funk Masters) pressed up in 1980 on a label named after his daughter, Tania – his production debut. When I commenced my Discotheque Archives series for DJ Magazine, the first edition featured ‘Love Money’ as the Classic Single:
This photo popped up on Facebook recently, taken by Mark McNulty, whose visual documentation of Liverpool’s club/music scene of the past 3 decades is now part of the city’s cultural legacy. It’s a photograph of a record cabinet Bill Drummond made following the death of Roger Eagle in 1999, which was displayed under the title ‘Dead White Man’ in the Jump Ship Rat, an alternative gallery space in Parr Street during Liverpool’s inaugural Biennial Festival that year, but not as part of the official programme, more an anarchic fringe event.
Just come across a few paragraphs I wrote as part of my Time Capsule series, where month by month I compiled a selection of the tracks I was playing back in the ‘70s when I started out as a DJ, writing accompanying text about the music featured and my own progression within the local club scene on Merseyside, and more specifically my hometown of New Brighton. I managed to cover the period January 1976 (December 1975 if the prequel, ‘First Impressions’, is included) to September 1977 (each edition originally put together exactly 30 years on, between Jan ‘06 – Sept ‘07) but the process became too time-consuming to maintain, at a point when my DJ trajectory had really built momentum.
I’d meant to put this up back in May, 40 years after the record in question was released, but didn’t manage to get around to it. I wanted to highlight my Time Capsule series, which I put together for a series of 21 monthly episodes spanning January 1976 to September 1977. Each month consists of a podcast, nowadays available to stream via Mixcloud, featuring the dance music played by myself and other UK DJs back then. This was accompanied by text, where I talked about the tracks and the artists featured, whilst outlining my early days as a DJ.
This weekend Colin Curtis celebrates his 50th anniversary as a DJ with a special event at The Exchange in his home city of Stoke-On-Trent. Colin started out in his mid-teens at Newcastle-Under-Lyme’s Crystal Ballroom, before making his all-nighter debut at Stoke’s hallowed Golden Torch, one of Northern Soul’s foundation venues, eventually becoming one of the scene’s leading figures as a result of his legendary ‘70’s partnership with Ian Levine at the Blackpool Mecca. Info about the anniversary date here:
The eleventh edition of my ‘Discotheque Archives’ series for DJ Mag is now online, featuring more landmarks in pre-Rave club culture: