I’ve been DJing for more than 20 years. Although it’s never been more than an occasional thing, I have had my moments. There was the summer I spent in Richmond playing at a weekly disco for vacationing Italian students (‘Paninaro’ by The Pet Shop Boys was always a favourite). There was the time I played at a Beastie Boys party alongside Alec Empire and other people who actually knew what they were doing (fuck knows how I ended up with that one). For a while I even had a regular paid gig at the Mean Fiddler in Harlesden, playing Indie-Pop and Motown for a heaving audience of drunken chavs (of course, we didn’t call them chavs in those days, and this was way before UK Garage gave them their very own soundtrack).
The weird thing is that I’ve always hated doing it. From youth clubs in Northampton to Big Beat bars in London to house parties to record company Christmas celebrations to the Reading Festival, I’ve never enjoyed it. I don’t really care for playing records to people I don’t know, but not quite as much as I hate dancing, so I seek refuge in the DJ booth, where I don’t have to talk to people I don’t know or dance. Winner. And I’m selfish. I’m an obstinate, contrary twat, and the more praise I get (usually only from the people I do know, I’ll admit), the more I’d prefer that people were annoyed by what I play rather than enjoy themselves. You liked that? Really? Then I’m gonna play this. Fucker. I’m confrontational, and this is not healthy.
Eventually, I stopped trying to please people altogether. It got to the stage where a friend and I would play occasional sets of avant-garde material, white noise interlaced with tracks played at the wrong speed, that sort of thing, the whole garbled mess forced through a series of effects pedals, as if taking part in some crazy sonic battle to out-weird each other. It was horrible. The bookings dried up. With great relief I retired from DJing.
Occasionally I’ve been coaxed back into the fray, and each time I’ve thought, “Ahhh yes, now I remember why I don’t like doing this – I’m supposed to entertain, and I really don’t feel like it. I am not your dancing monkey”. Tonight was such a night. I was asked to play for an hour at The Camden Crawl, and couldn’t resist the temptation to fill my slot with tunes that, to be honest, probably meant nothing to most of the funny-looking teenagers shuffling by to collect their wristbands. Apart from a couple of nods to current alternative culture and a few old-fashioned classics, the bulk of the material was, to my mind at least, of little relevance to anyone there outside of, well, me. But maybe I’m wrong.
Here’s the set:
Girls Against Boys – In Like Flynn
Poster Children – Dynamite Chair
The Who – The Seeker
Screaming Lord Sutch – ‘Til The Following Night
The Misunderstood – Children Of The Sun
MC5 – I Can Only Give You Everything
Pere Ubu – Final Solution
Patti Smith – Piss Factory
Swell Maps – Read About Seymour
Wire – Lowdown
Tom Vek – C-C (You Set The Fire In Me)
Blam Blam Blam – Don’t Fight It Marsha, It’s Bigger Than The Both Of Us
Love Battery – Out Of Focus
Blumfeld – Verstärker
Ambulance Ltd – Anecdote
Jacques Dutronc – On Nous Cache Tout, On Nous Dit Rien
Bran Flakes – Good Times A Goo Goo
Now, I don’t really think this is too far from the mark. It’s actually a fairly mainstream selection for me, and all of the tracks are from the ‘alternative canon’, as academics probably say when they sit round to discuss music. Some of it’s a bit odd – I end with a track based around a vocal sample from Kermit the Frog, for example – but I could have been much more difficult. I could have played a set of redneck country & western (I’ve done that before at similarly inappropriate events) or thrown in the odd bit of throat-singing, but I didn’t. I behaved, and no-one complained. I even enjoyed myself a little. Success.
Anyhow, none of this waffle serves any purpose apart from to a) keep a track record of my last-ever set list (I am not coming out of retirement again), and b) to remind myself of why. Thanks for listening. Or not, as the case almost certainly is.