Now the ticker tape parade of me reaching 400 posts has subsided, back to normality.
In my first year at college, every other Tuesday was spent in the Student Union’s nightclub/venue, “Shafts” (the college was in a South Wales mining community, in case you think there’s some innuendo to be found there) at the fortnightly Indie night, wittily called Funk Off.
The night had two resident DJ’s, Jim and Chris. Chris was rumoured to be a bit of a headcase, apparently carrying a knife with him when he DJ’d. Jim was a nice enough, bloke, who ended up playing bass in the band I was in a year or so later, and who I’m still in semi-regular contact with on Facebook (and who will be sent this post in the hope I haven’t offended him).
However, it was not, it’s fair to say, a well attended event, barely scraping fifty attendees on most weeks. We didn’t really mind this, as it meant that we could ask for any record we liked, and Jim and Chris would generally oblige, as it meant that at least someone would go onto the dancefloor.
My mate Danny Sweeney and I would often sit predicting what record would be played next. “Okay, so The Wonder Stuff are on now, bet they play Pop Will Eat Itself next…yup, there it is”. We, of course, thought we could do better.
So at the end of our first year, Danny and I approached the Social Secretary, a chap called Ken, and asked if we could maybe, y’know if it wasn’t too much trouble, totally fine if not, have a go at DJ’ing the Indie Night.
As it happened, Jim and Chris had, I think, decided they’d had enough of DJ’ing, and were ready to stand down from their post, although I have some dim recollection that Chris had been kicked off his course and Jim didn’t want to carry on without him.
And so Ken, and the Entertainments Manager Phil, agreed to giving us a go, and dates and times were sorted out when we could be trained up.
The DJ booth was a place of wonder to me the first time I entered it. There were two Technics decks with the channels unit/mixing desk positioned in between them, all facing out onto the dancefloor, and with two crates of albums and 12″ singles housed underneath. Next to that was the light controls, which could be pre-programmed (by which I mean, buttons pressed making each individual light whirr into life) or you could operate them manually (by pressing a button, etc etc etc). Next, a video player, monitor, computer and keyboard; “Shafts” had several screens positioned around it, and you could mix between vinyl and videos, as well as using the computer to write messages for the crowd to read. Back in 1989, this was pretty high-tech stuff.
Finally, embedded into the back surface was a tray containing a couple of thousand 7″ singles, which we would scour through before the set began, pulling up any we thought we might play that night.
I had my training session and was left alone to practice for a couple of hours or so. It seemed pretty straight-forwards, and my happiness at having conquered it was topped by being asked to turn up for the next week’s “Funk Off” where I would DJ with Jim. Danny would DJ at the next one after that and then, when term started again in September, the night was to be ours.
So, Tuesday night rolled around, and I strolled up, with a bag of vinyl that I hadn’t spotted in the racks when I had my training session, and which I thoroughly intended to play.
Jim was already there, and was programming our names into the computer. Screen One: Welcome to Funk Off. Screen Two: Your DJs: Jolly Jim and…
“We need to give you a name”, said Jim.
“Is Jez not sufficient?” I replied.
“No. You need something alliterative to go with it. Something that isn’t ‘Jolly’, because that’s mine.”
So for that first night, and never again, we were billed as “Your DJs: Jolly Jim and Jocular Jez”.
“You’ve brought some records”, said Jolly Jim. “Let’s have a look.”
Jocular Jez was reluctant.
“It’s fine,” Jolly Jim reassured me, “as long as you haven’t brought anything as fey and ball-less as Talulah Gosh, of course.”
You can guess what happened next, dear readers.
Yes, the first 12″ he pulled from my bag (okay, that sounds ruder than I meant it to) was none other than this:
Talulah Gosh – Talulah Gosh
Cue: awkward silence and a raised eyebrow in my direction.
I didn’t dare to play it, after that look. But Jim dropped a tune which I don’t think I’ve heard before or since, a proper ace skanking hornblast of a record, which fits here too:
The Larks – Billy Graham’s Going to Heaven
There’s a couple of tunes buried away in my back catalogue of records that I love, that I think have enhanced my life (for the better), and which I can directly attribute to Jolly Jim, and this is most definitely one of them. The others will surface sooner or later, rest assured.