As outlined in the previous blog posts, the end of 2013 was all about 2 significant anniversaries for me – the 10th anniversary of my DJ return, swiftly followed by the 30th anniversary of my first time around ‘retirement’. Given that I stopped at the end of ’83, this brought my ‘Early ’80s Floorfillers’ series to a conclusion after 24 monthly episodes that spanned January ‘82 to December ’83, each edition appearing 30 years on from when I originally played these records.
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Having just marked the 10th anniversary of my DJ return, I’ve now reached the 30th anniversary of when I cut out first time around at the end of ’83 – my last Wigan Pier appearance on Tuesday 28th December, before rounding things off at Legend the next night. During the same week my final mix for Mike Shaft’s show on Piccadilly Radio was broadcast. Following on from the previous year’s ‘The Best Of 82’, which had caused such a stir, ‘The Best Of 83’ did what it said on the tin, bringing together the biggest tunes I was playing that year. My successor, Chad Jackson (a future DMC World Mixing Champion) would continue the ‘Best Of’ tradition on Piccadilly, with the baton later handed on to Stu Allan – these end of year mixes continuing until 1992.
It was 30 years ago that I launched my specialist weekly dance night on Friday August 19th 1983 at The Haçienda in Manchester, then very much a club struggling to find its identity. It was a case of too much space and not enough people during those difficult early years of its existence (having opened in May 1982), and, as I’ve said previously, had it not been for New Order’s success (the band were co-directors of The Haçienda) it would never have survived – Peter Hook’s book ‘The Haçienda – How Not To Run A Club’ is testament to the follies of a group of idealists who somehow, despite their near suicidal naivety, managed to (eventually) shape the Manchester nightspot into one of the world’s most legendary clubs:
In 2009 I wrote an article on the history of mixing in this country called ‘How The Talking Stopped’. It was the most in depth piece I’d ever written, the research alone had taken many months, including a couple of trips to the British Library in London to comb through the copies of Record Mirror they have archived there, for it was within this magazine that the person who I’d certainly argue did more to promote UK DJ culture than any other human being, connected (via his essential weekly dance column) with fellow DJs in every corner of the country. This was the literally larger than life James Hamilton (1942-1996), and if you’re a British DJ, whether you’ve heard of him or not, you can’t have escaped his influence, for he’s part of the very fabric of our DJ / club heritage.
During recent times I’ve been intrigued to hear about the growing schism on the House scene here in the UK, brought about by the introduction, primarily by young black dancers, of ‘foot shuffling’ (aka ‘cutting shapes’), an increasingly popular style of dancing that has been met with much hostility in certain quarters, and, somewhat bizarrely, resulted in shufflers being banned from some clubs for dancing in this way. The accusation is that not only do they take up too much dancefloor space, but there’s a general ‘moodiness’ with regards to their attitude. Although it no longer seems to be online, there was even an ‘Anti Foot Shuffling Campaign’ page on Facebook, with some of the posts suggesting underlying issues of racism. As one person commented, “It’s not that all these people on here hate shufflers, they just don’t like fact that black people are into House music now.” Although this comment may be well intentioned, it’s also somewhat misguided given there are, and always have been, plenty of black people in the UK who are big into House – it’s just that their presence is usually to be found away from the mainstream, in more specialist avenues like the Deep and Soulful House scenes. Furthermore, some of the older black crowd are also resistant to this new wave of shuffling, so to present it as a purely black / white issue would be wrong.
I want to give you a heads up on a new book that focuses on the evolution of black music radio in London during the ’80s. ‘Masters Of The Airwaves – The Rise And Rise Of Underground Radio’ is the labour of love of 2 influential figures from the period, Dave VJ and Lindsay Wesker. The book is presented as a series of interviews with the great and the good of London’s pirate and specialist radio back in the day (plus a few Northern exceptions) .
Exactly 30 years ago today, on 25th February 1983, I appeared on Channel 4’s influential music show, ‘The Tube’, demonstrating mixing for the first time on live TV in the UK – just my luck that the very point I was encapsulated in a cultural moment, it coincided with a brief phase where I looked like an extra from the Hair Bear Bunch, but that’s the way the mop flops. The footage is nowadays fondly regarded as part of British dance heritage, illustrating how the New York innovation of mixing was finally finding favour on this side of the Atlantic, where the microphone was still a key component of the DJs approach. For a full account of how UK DJs gradually put down the microphone and embraced mixing, check out ‘How The Talking Stopped’, an in-depth step by step account of its British evolution:
Really shocked to hear that one of the great New York DJs, Mark Kamins, died in Guadalajara, Mexico last Thursday (Feb 14th) following a heart attack – he was only 57. Although our paths nearly crossed almost 30 years ago, it wasn’t until 2007 that I finally got to meet Mark, when he came to see me play in Vienna, where he lived at the time, and then again in Paris in 2009, after he’d moved there. Having returned to his home city, we planned to hook-up in New York 2 years ago, when I was over for Brooklyn’s Mister Saturday Night, but he emailed to inform me that he was on the move again, having landed a new job tutoring on electronic music at a university in Guadalajara.
Just uploaded the December ’82 edition of ‘Early ’80s Floorfillers’, which re-visits the biggest tracks I was playing on my nights back in ’82/’83, when I was a black music specialist, resident at venues including Wigan Pier, Legend, The Exit, Berties and The Haçienda in Manchester, and The Stars Bar in Huddersfield. The series is available to stream / download via SoundCloud and my Electrofunkroots website, which includes label / record sleeve scans for all the tracks that make the chart, along with a list of ‘other big tunes’ that month.
It’s my 200th blog post, so, in contrast to my 100th post, which was about the club where, as I’ve previously stated, ‘I experienced my greatest DJ highs’, Legend in Manchester, this time I wanted to to share something that symbolises a time when the garden wasn’t so rosy, and I was struggling with life, both externally and internally. ‘The Monastic Mix’, from 1996, was a much needed catharsis for me, both an ending and a fresh starting point – it was the last mix I ever tape edited, putting it together on my original Revox B77 reel-to-reel, which I’d bought 14 years earlier, back in 1982, in order to record / edit my Piccadilly Radio mixes in my home DJ studio.