Tag Archives: Music

A Tamla Motown Collection – Part 14

The Detroit Spinners – Sweet Thing – TMG 514

This May 1965 release saw the UK Tamla Motown debut for the group known simply as The Spinners in the USA, but in order to reduce confusion with the UK folk group of the same name, EMI (Tamla Motown’s UK distributor, re-christened them the Detroit Spinners.

The trademark Motown Sound is present, with the Funk Brothers providing their usual solid instrumental support for another single that should perhaps have been a bigger hit at the time and should be a bit better known now.

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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,
Dave   

Happy Birthday Mum

How did you spend the evening of Easter Monday? I bet you weren’t singing songs from the 1920s through to the 1950s, but that’s exactly what we did this evening in the company of my mum and my mother in law.

Today is my mum’s birthday, so we invited both the mothers round for a meal of Homity Pie followed by Pavlova.

After dinner we sat round and somehow the conversation came round to the words of Stanley Holloway’s famous “Lion and Albert”.  I remembered that I had this on CD, so went to find it and played it, followed by other tracks from the compilation CD of other comic songs of a similar vintage.

We the moved on to songs that I remember from my own childhood, things I used to hear on Children’s Favourites on the wireless – long before the days of radio.

Although I really enjoyed this evening, it was a timely reminder that nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.

Ride Safe
Dave

Day 38 – Clock Change and Broken Rules

As I write this, it’s just a few hours until the start of British Summer Time, which officially begins at 2.00 am tomorrow morning.  At this moment, 2.00am becomes 1.00am, the precise timing of which will pass most people by because we will be asleep.

Most of us will wake tomorrow moaning about having lost an hour’s sleep. But spare a thought for people working overnight tonight. They have to do an extra hour.

Quite a lot of years ago, I used to present an overnight pop and prattle radio show. During most clock changes I was on the air and enjoyed the autumn clock change when my air shift was an hour less and moaned like crazy each spring when the station got that hour back.

You can guess how long ago this was when I tell you that I was still having to cue up vinyl records on turntables. Blissful days they were too. Programme planning involved wandering into the station’s record library and pulling out an armful of records and taking them downstairs to the studio and playing them. There were a few rules about including a certain number of current records in each hour, but in general there was no-one around at night to know whether I had stuck to the rules or not.

Then came the introduction of CDs into the studio, and with them came the end of this absolute freedom. I arrived one evening and was handed a computer printed playlist which told me which CD, what track number, the artist, title year of issue and its duration. Also, the record library was locked and the idea of free choice for any presenter outside the daytime superstar jocks was abolished.

Like everyone in radio at that time, I was aghast. This was the end of personality. It was almost the end of the world.

But only a few weeks later, I turned up to do a clock-change overnight shift. This was the first big test of the computer and it failed. In fact it failed in a big way. I normally had a seven hour live show (with the early part of my shift being a two-hour pre-recorded programme.) On this occasion, the computer had printed out just one hour of playlist, repeated eight times.

So I stuck to the rules and followed the playlist for my first hour, thinking about what to do next. I briefly considered recording that hour and playing it back all night, but I had my own sanity to consider.

Like everyone else in the radio station, I had realised that the key for the record library was kept in reception, so quickly found it and the rest of the show was done on the old way using vinyl.

This almost certainly made me the very last presenter ever to do a totally free choice show on this particular radio station, although the daytime “big boys” continued to include tracks from the vinyl collection for a long time afterwards.

Tonight won’t be anything like as adventurous as that night because I’ll be off to bed within the next couple of hours, but as I drop off I will spare a thought for the legion of people working overnight tonight having that extra hour to do with very little scope for breaking the rules as spectacularly as I did that night back in the 1980s.

Ride Safe
Dave

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
Dave

Day 26 – Kelly Gibbons – Summertime

I promised to let you hear the recording that I made yesterday of Kelly Gibbons singing Summertime. I try hard to be a man of my word.

Right click the link below to download this MP3 file.

Kelly Gibbons – Summertime

Please leave a comment to tell me what you think.

Lyric

Summertime and the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high
Oh your daddy’s rich and your ma is good lookin
So hush little baby, don’t you cry

One of these mornings
You’re goin’ to rise up singing
Then you’ll spread your wings
And you’ll take the sky
But till that morning
There’s a nothin’ can harm you
With daddy and mammy standin by

Ride Safe
Dave

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
Dave