Tag Archives: Disco

Sherwood 11 – The DJ’s Viewpoint

I was slightly surprised that my previous post to this one was back in July when I wrote about Hoggin’ The Beaver. Well, this one is about the same great bunch of people, Sherwood Chapter of the Harley Owners’ Group. This weekend was their annual rally, Sherwood 11. I have written here about a couple of rallies at Woodland Waters, the last one almost exactly two years ago. I was not involved in last year’s rally at all, but they moved into the heart of Sherwood Forest, and into the shadow of the luxurious Warners Hotel, Thoresby Hall.    

Chuffing Hog at Sherwood 11. We didn’t stay at Thoresby Hotel.

This year’s rally was held on the same site, and I was booked to provide the disco for the three nights of the event, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Sue and I were invited to stay for the weekend, but after a great deal of thought and discussion, we decided to travel to and from home each day. This proved to be a good decision as I was able to get a good night’s sleep between each evening’s work. I think that this is a point well worth making, that being a DJ is a job that has to be taken seriously. It’s a shame that there are some DJs who don’t do this. 

I rather fear that some DJs at other Harley Rallies may fall into this category because I am always amazed to be told by lots of Sherwood Chapter members that my disco is very good. This weekend, I’m afraid that I couldn’t agree with them on at least two of the nights. Anyway, that analysis can come later. 

The site is stunning. Woodland Waters was a great setting, but Thoresby Park is a step forward. There’s much more space for a central rally area with the bar, a lot of trade stands, food outlets and a large arena, with a great focal area – a large brazier with a welcome fire. The site is almost surrounded by woodland, with the imposing face of Thoresby Hall close by across the field. There is a lot of room for the rally to grow as there is another large field beyond a line of trees that was almost unused all weekend. 

Even before we had arrived on Thursday afternoon, it was clear that the organisation of the rally had taken a leap forward from my previous experience. A set of very professionally made signs guided us into the venue. I commented to Sue that these were much better than day-glo cardboard signs. This impression was confirmed at the gate where we received a warm welcome and were fitted with our wristbands. The medieval-style black and orange tent at the gate, and its twin a few yards away are a step up from the gazebo of old. 

Sherwood 11 - Black and Orange Tents
Sherwood 11 – Black and Orange Tents

We drove across to the marquee, unloaded and started to set up the gear for the first night’s gig. The band, Crusade, arrived soon after us and we sorted out how we could share the limited space. The gig itself was not one of my best. I have always felt quite strongly that I should make the music I play fit in with the style of the band. Crusade is a rock band, so I played a lot of rock that night. Certainly it was good quality rock and I think most of the people there enjoyed the night. Someone who has never been to a Sherwood Chapter event would probably think, “Bikers – rock, what’s the problem?” For me the problem is that bikers can be as diverse as any other group of people. Certainly there are people whose musical taste goes from A to Z – AC/DC to ZZ Top – all rock. But a lot of Harley owners like other kinds of music, so I came away from Thursday night feeling that I’d let them down a bit.   

The complaints about noise from the hotel didn’t help either. We had set up the disco and the band with our PA systems pointing straight at the hotel, so the complaints were justified. When we were staying at Thoresby, we’d have been unhappy if there had been a bunch of noisy, hairy bikers just outside our bedroom window. I’m sure that the lesson has been learned. But I thought that Friday would redeem this. Friday and Saturday night were indoors, in the Riding Hall, Thoresby Park’s beautiful function venue, so there weren’t going to be problems with the hotel. Friday’s band was The Platforms. We first met these guys three or four years ago when the pub at the end of the Hoggin’ The Beaver ride out booked them to play while we were there. They were an out an out glam rock covers band with outrageous make-up to blend in with the Sweet, Bay City Rollers and Gary Glitter songs that they were playing. Absolutely 100% right for the average age of Harley owners. So they got booked for more Sherwood gigs, at rallies and a Christmas Party.   

I was quite excited at the prospect of being able to play a lot of sixties and seventies music to fit in with their fun, party style on the Friday. I always ask the band for their set list so that I can try to remember to avoid playing the songs that they are going to do. When I was given the Platforms set list on Friday night, my heart sank. Sure enough, the first set was pretty solid seventies glam rock, but they ended their first set with a nondescript heavy rock cover. Worse still, most of the second set leaned towards hard rock, so I couldn’t use my 30 minute interval set to do much more than thrash out more of the same.   

I can understand that a band wants to move on beyond playing the same set for ever, and maybe they had fallen into the trap that bikers = hard rock, but neither I, nor many of the crowd were very satisfied with Friday night. Frankly, the shortage of chairs in the room didn’t encourage people to stay (on either Friday or Saturday night).   

Saturday’s band was Bootleg Blondie. They are the only Blondie tribute band to have played at the home of Punk, CBGB’s club in New York and both the band and “Debbie Harris”, the lead singer were great. They put a lot of effort into their sound check, which paid off with a great sound in the room and underlined their experienced, professional approach. The first set was a fantastic flow of Blondie’s hits from “Denee” through to “Maria” and a show-stopping rendition of “Heart Of Glass” as their first set encore.   

Sherwood 11 - Bootleg Blondie on Stage
Sherwood 11 – Bootleg Blondie on Stage


But I felt almost embarrassed that, for most of that first set, the audience just sat there. Even the applause between songs was lacklustre. I didn’t play between the two sets as this is the time when awards are presented and thanks given. I realise that this is an important part of the weekend, but it may have gone on a little bit too long. I must give the organisers some credit for cutting down on the time that it takes to draw the raffle, but even that backfired because the mass exodus from the room as the band started the second set was dreadful. I feel partly responsible for this because I announced that the raffle prizes were on a table just outside the room. Doh! Bad idea.   

The band’s second set saw a little more dance-floor action to some great cover versions of eighties party classics such as “Enola Gay” and “Going Underground” and after they had finished, I played for another three quarters of an hour, which I believe to have been my best set of the whole weekend. Did I really play Dean Martin’s “Amore”?   

Whilst I was thanked profusely, my contribution to the rally was not as good as it should have been and I know that I can do better. I’ve already been told that I’ll be there next year, so I’ll do some planning between now and then.   

I’ll return for a moment to Saturday afternoon. This was one of my professional and personal highlights of the weekend. I provided a PA system on the field for the arena and other activities. This was to promote the Bike Show, to provide commentary for the games that turned into an international “It’s A Knockout” between a great bunch of HOG members from Belgium and a motley bunch of Englishmen (with an American as well.) This was enormous fun and afterwards, the comment was made that my commentary helped the audience to understand what was going on. However, the real high spot of the afternoon was the arrival of the Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire Air Ambulance helicopter which flew in to the empty field that I mentioned earlier.   

Sherwood 11 - The Air Ambulance
Sherwood 11 – The Air Ambulance


They came to accept a cheque from the Chapter’s fund-raising activities. Most people there were amazed when a cheque for £9,500 was handed over; a brilliant effort by the Sherwood Chapter and friends.   

For my perception of the rest of the rally, I return to my theme as we arrived. As an (almost) outsider looking in, I saw a superbly organised event with a great atmosphere. There have been something of an upheaval in Sherwood Chapter over the last few months and I believe that some of the issues that were bubbling when I left the chapter two years ago have now been resolved. I really hope that the dust finally settles because I saw a renewed Sherwood Chapter this weekend, one that is moving forward with a united commitee and good leadership. Indeed, Sue and I have been talking about rejoining the chapter when our economic situation improves.   

My thanks to everyone in Sherwood Chapter for making us feel so welcome.   

Ride Safe,


Hoggin’ The Beaver

It’s more than 18 months since I ended my involvement with Sherwood Chapter of the Harley Owners Group and posted an explanation here on this blog. At the time, I was quite clear that this was final.

However, life is never quite so cut and dried, so this weekend, we loaded up the disco gear and went to play for the Chapter Director, Pete and Partner Sam’s long-running weekend in the Vale of Belvoir (in which “Belvoir is pronounced “Beaver”). With HOG being either the Harley Owners Group, or a nickname for the bikes themselves, we arrive at Hoggin’ The Beaver.

I have to admit that when I was asked to do the disco for the Saturday night, I was a little apprehensive about how I would be recieved. I really should not have worried.

There have been a number of changes in the time that I’ve been away from the politics of the organisation. In particular, the people who were behind my departure have themselves moved on, leaving behind a far better atmosphere.

It felt really good to be greeted so warmly by so many people that we used to ride with and meet at the monthly chapter meetings. I really did feel that I was among friends.

Yes, there were some people who, I am sure, consciously blanked us and others who did nothing untoward, but just saw us as “the disco”, but I was very touched by the number of warm handshakes from the blokes and hugs from the women who took the trouble to come over and say “hi”.

So we arrived at the Dirty Duck at Woolsthorpe and started setting up the equipment. Just as we were finishing, the band arrived and we struck up a good working relationship straight away – something that doesn’t always happen between a band and a disco. If I get to work with the Nathan Wall Band again in the future, I will be very happy.

We shared the space on the stage between us and even reached an agreement that the band would use my sound system for their vocals to save them setting up their own speakers in front of mine.

Having done a number of gigs for the chapter that always involve bands, I really must stress how great these guys were. They set up smoothly and efficiently, their soundcheck was quick and to the point and I was able to start the disco bang on time. We had to come up a little jiggery-pokery with cables and plugs to make the change-over from disco to band work, but this was OK

I was delighted that a couple of people were straight on the dance floor, even before the band’s first set. Thanks, Jane and friend.

The band were also happy to give me a set list that was mostly indie rock, but inculded a few sixities classics. This is always an enormous help as I know what not to play and can try to lead in to the band’s sets with tracks that complement, rather than clash with their music.

As soon as they started playing, I realised that they were a cut above the average. I really enjoyed their first set and when I got back onto the stage, they left me a fairly full dance floor to sustain.

After about half an hour of me, it was presentation time and I was gobsmacked when Pete called Sue an I forward to present us with an engraved tankard in recognition of our support for the event. That really put the icing on the cake for me in making feel that I was still part of something that I had walked away from.

There were a number of other presentations, including to the winners of the bike show. Then it was time for one of the highlights of Hoggin’ The Beaver, Yi-Aye Man’s charity auction. Jeff had a new glamorous assistant this year who was an imporvement on her predecessor, although keeping the auction shorter than previous years also helped to make it effective.

The auction must have raised well over 100 pounds and was followed by the raffle with loads of prizes (alough none wo by Sue who had splashed out on a fistful of tickets.

After a quick tune or two from me, it was time for the band’s second set which was as good as their firstand as the evening went on and the alcoholic beverages started to hit the spot, the dance floor was quickly packed.

After they had played for over an hour, and been called to do a couple of extra, unplanned encore songs, I was given free reign. Musical highlights for me were Led Zep;s “Rock and Roll” and Meatloaf’s “Paradise by the Dashboard Light”. The sound in that small function room was really good and I loved the whole vibe.

I didn’t even let one very drunk idiot spoil things; he objected loudly when I started to play a Smiths track, so I dumped it and hit another track instead. Although I am still wondering what Morrissey had done to upset him.

By 1am, it was becoming clear that the weekend had taken its toll as people started wandering off to bed and by about quarter past one, I wound it down with a pile of bodies on the front of stage (Pete, Sam, Beasty and one or two others) and I finished with a most unlikely biker anthem – Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World”.

It was great to be asked to do Hoggin’ The Beaver and now I know that I can look forward to my next outsing for this bunch of reprobates when we spend three nights working at the Sherwood Chapter’s Rally at Thoresby Park in September.

It also looks like we’ll be back at the Hoggin’ The Beaver next year. I can’t wait.

Ride Safe

Day 44 – Lakeside FM

Last night’s disco at Lakeside was a strange one.

It was a wedding for a couple who, I think, were on their second marriage, so were a little older than most first-times couples. So their friends and families were also a bit older than most wedding parties.

I should have realised at the beginning of the night that it could be a difficult gig when the bride told me that she and her husband had never danced together in the two years that they had been together. I told her not to worry and that I would encourage others to get up and join them during the first dance song.  Anyway, we sorted out what the first dance song was to be and I went back to my DJ lair up in the rafters.

I started the night, as usual, by playing some fairly laid back background music while the guests came upstairs into the room. Almost no-one ever dances from the word “go”, so even though I dropped in songs from the current chart back to the 60s, and pretty well every time period between, I wasn’t too concerned when no-one got up to trip the light fantastic. Even when the laid back bit stretched through to the buffet, I wasn’t that bothered.

Just before the buffet was ready, word came that they would like to do the first dance. I swiftly pulled out the CD with Michael Jackson’s “I can’t stop loving you”, cued up the longish intro and did my normal big build up. As usual, we got the round of applause for the happy couple’s first dance and as the music got under way, the camera flashes signalled that the moment was being captured for posterity.

A minute or so into the song, I invited the rest of the party to join the bride and groom and for a stunned moment, nobody moved and the bride and groom started to leave the floor. Grabbing my microphone, I stopped them from sitting down again and eventually two or three other couples joined them on the dance floor.

As soon as Micheal Jackson faded away and I did my back announcement, the dance floor cleared and stayed that way for the rest of the night. I don’t count the young children who spent time dodging the moving lights or the one woman who went up to try to get a two-year old to dance.

So the whole gig was conducted at lower sound level than normal. Although I was effectively background Muzak, it was very liberating not to have to sustain a packed dance floor, but to dig out lots of good songs that I hadn’t played in a while. My whole style of presentation was more like a radio show than a disco and I did, at one point, actually say, “Lakeside FM”.

We have another gig tomorrow night in Huthwaite which is a 40th Wedding Anniversary and 60th Birthday party. Even though our key instruction is for no flashing lights, I am looking forward to this one. By my reckoning it could be a bit of a sixties / seventies night, but I’ll let you know how we get on.

I guess we’re now into the Easter weekend, please accept my best wishes for a great holiday.

Ride Safe

Day 33 – Remember the 60s?

The great quote, “If you can remember the 60s, you weren’t there” has been attributed to a lot of different people, including actor Robin Williams and both Grace Slick and Paul Kanter of Jefferson Airplane.

I was there and I do remember a lot about the 60s; being aged 7 at the dawn of 1960 and 17 at the other end of that decade. In particular, I remember a lot about the music of that decade and play it as much as I can get away with when I get behind the nowadays metaphorical “wheels of steel”.

That’s not to say that I don’t like a lot of music that both pre and post-dates the 60s. In particular, 70s music has lots of resonance from things that I did and people I used to hang around with at that time. 

The early 80s was my student period. New Order’s Blue Monday and Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s Pleasuredome album still bring a smile to me face for the times that they evoke rather than for the music itself.

The last 20 years are rather less embedded into my psyche, but as someone who is still making a small part of my living out of playing music, I have a pretty good collection of music from the 90s and 00s as well.

I suppose that when I started DJing (at a school christmas party in 1967), I could never have dreamed that I would still be enjoying seeing a dance floor full of people having a great time some 42 and a bit years later.

So for lots of reasons, I had a great time last night at Lakeside.

The gig was a 60th birthday party and they adopted a 60s theme. So most people were dressed in their interpretation of 1960s clothes and I played 60s music all night.

I’m not sure that I could do 5 hours of 90s music and have as much fun, but I had so much great music to go at that it wasn’t until we got back home that Sue commented that I hadn’t played one Beatles track.

As for those 1960s clothes, it was clear that the nearest that many of the people at the party had ever been to the 1960s was an Austin Powers film. I never wore as much brightly coloured paisley as was on offer, although some of the wigs were suitably long and wild.

It’s perhaps no surprise that one of the standout tracks of the evening was a regular in almost every gig I ever play, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas Tamla Motown classic, Dancing in the Street.  The letdown track was when the floor almost cleared when I played James Brown’s Sex Machine.

Other unusual, but well received songs were The Crazy World of Arthur Brown – Fire, The Archies – Sugar Sugar andPetula Clark – Don’t Sleep In The Subway.

As you can see, Pete Tong has little to fear from the competition posed by DJ Chuffinghog.

Ride Safe

Day 32 – A Lost Weekend?

I’m out of practice at the DJ lifestyle. After last night’s gig, I was suitably tired, but somewhat pumped up on coffee (the strongest drug I consume while working). This means that although I was tired, sleep did not come as easily as I would have liked. So after sorting out equipment and CD boxes, etc, I hae slept all afternoon before tonight’s gig.

I hope that tomorrow will be a little more productive, but if there’s one thing I can’t give up, it’s my beauty sleep.

Ride Safe

Day 31 – On The Road Again

A brief post today. We’re out to do a disco this evening for a leaving “do” at Mapperley Golf Club. This should be a good one because we are giving our equipment a run out and we’ll be able to see the white’s of the audience’s eyes.

Saturday’s gig is back at Lakeside where I’m hidden away in the DJ box up in rafters.

Anyway have a good weekend and I’ll report in again tomorrow.

Ride safe

Day 23 – Planner Or Control Freak?

Regular readers of this blog may remember that there are a few posts on here about my life as a DJ. As we head towards Easter, this year’s crop of brides and grooms are stirring into action. Having booked the venue, etc, some time ago, it’s about now that they start to think about the details.

According to the wedding industry, or at least the websites, magazines and other sources of advice, planning the big day is a great idea. To a very great extent I agree, but as I have written here before, it is very difficult to plan exactly how the evening’s music should flow.

Planning gaffes

I remember one wedding last year where the bride and groom got a DJ mate to produce half a dozen mix CDs. My job was to play them in the right order. 

 Of course, the evening was a disaster.

Not only was the timing out (Rule 1: All weddings run late), but the music and the crowd did not connect.

For more than one other wedding, I am sent, usually a few days beforehand, a playlist compiled by the bride or groom (and just occasionally both). This will have all their favourite songs on it and my instruction is to “Play these”.

Of course, the evening is a disaster – for the same reason.

A slightly better planning technique is to recognise that the DJ’s job is to “read” the crowd and play the right song at the right time. So a short list of half a dozen favourite artists and songs, sent to me to me beforehand with a request to include them in the evening is great.

Then there are the lists of banned records.

Please will someone tell the bride that no-one plays the Birdie Song. I don’t need to be told not to play it.  However, it can be useful if I know that “Lady In Red” was played at Auntie Ethels’ funeral last week, so please don’t play it tonight. (Most wedding DJs will probably welcome the excuse not to play it this week.)

However, I reserve the greatest opprobrium for those whose planning takes no account of the realities of time. Recently I received a detailed, timed running order for an entire evening (not actually for a wedding, this time). There is to be arrival and mingling time, the buffet, a live music set, speeches and (eventually), the disco. I’ll be playing for about 2 and a quarter hours, (but remember Rule 1).

So when do I play the 9 hours of music on their list?

My hints to this summer’s brides and grooms, wherever your evening reception is going to be.

  • Find a DJ who can actually do his or her job (so that should rule out a million bedroom wannabees)
  • Give them some guidance about favourite songs (about half a dozen REALLY favourite songs)
  • Let them do their job of keeping ALL of your guests entertained.

From my (far too) many years of experience, over-planning your wedding reception can prove even more of a disaster than under-planning it.

… so please give up any thoughts of controlling every last moment.

Phew! At the last moment, I managed to get back onto my “Giving Up” theme.

Ride Safe