My erstwhile DJ’ing partner Hel has secured herself a gig next weekend at a friend of her sister’s wedding. I am surplus to requirements, which is fine. No, really. I can pop my nose back into joint any time.
We were discussing it last night, and in particular this thoroughly modern trend of the bride and groom asking the wedding attendees to request records for the DJ to play in advance of the night.
In case it sounds like I’m talking nonsense, here’s what used to happen: DJ would be booked, DJ would turn up, DJ would be asked throughout the night for various tunes, DJ would lie and say one of the following two things about any request they didn’t want to play : “Oh, I’m really sorry, I didn’t bring that out with me tonight”, or “I’ll try and squeeze that one in but I’ve already got a lot to try and get through here”.
There was one wedding that we played where two girls kept coming up and asking us for awful, awful records:
Girls: “Do you have any Olly Murs?”
Girls: “Do you have any One Direction?”
Girls: “Have you actually brought any records with you?”
Me: “Yes, just not shit ones.”
Girls: “What about Westlife? Have you get any Westlife?”
Me: “No, and even if we did, we wouldn’t play it. Now, take the hint and fuck off, will you?”
What happens nowadays is this: after agreeing to DJ such an event, you are presented with a list of songs which the attendees have suggested, which you are expected to have, and which you therefore have no excuse for not playing.
Which presents a conundrum: what if someone – a much loved aunt, or recently bereaved sibling, for example – suggests something which you really don’t think is appropriate to play, but which it may be demanded of you to do so, irrespective of what your professional integrity tells you?
Let me give you two examples. Many, many years ago, one of my many, many cousins got married. I was drinking with her brother, who was closer to my age, and one of his mates, who decided he was going to ask the DJ to play a record which he really liked. That record was Pat Benetar’s “Love is a Battlefield” (which obviously dates this anecdote). I tried to explain to him that wasn’t really a song which was appropriate for a wedding, but he didn’t take any notice. He approached the DJ, put in his request and came back to us.
“Is he going to play it?” we nervously asked.
“I think so,” came the reply, “he said he’d try to squeeze it in, but he’s already got a lot to try and get through.”
More recently, Hel and I were DJ’ing at a friend’s wedding. Our friend, a former flatmate, was marrying a city banker type, a lovely bloke who doesn’t fit the stereotype of your normal city banker type, in that he isn’t an absolute cock, and who we had spent many an enjoyable night in the company of. Hel wanted to play Kanye West’s “Gold Digger”. She took a lot of persuading that, great crowd-pleasing record that it is, it wasn’t exactly appropriate in the context of the gig we were playing.
Anyway, I digress. For the forthcoming wedding, Hel had been presented with a list of 200 songs which people had requested, and amongst them was Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love”.
Now I think there are few amongst us who would argue that “Whole Lotta Love” isn’t a great record. But a wedding disco appropriate record? We were not so sure. I’m thinking specifically of the breakdown, where Robert Plant basically makes sex noises for a while. It’s the wedding, not honeymoon you’re supposed to be sound-tracking, after all.
My solution? Play this: