Sunday, May 2, 2010

Den Outing: DJ-ing at Kira’s 40th

When Kira asked me to play at her birthday party on Friday night I was flattered and jumped at the chance!

I love DJ-ing, but rarely get a chance these days…

My first regular outing was at the amazing before-it’s-time rock’n’roll cicrus that was Kitsch Bitch in the late 90s, first at what is now the Buffalo Bar, and later at Madame Jo-Jo’s. I varied my sets a lot but would try to get in something like Slow Down by Larry Williams or Sonic Reducer by the Dead Boys, or the National Anthem of Rock’n’Roll – Louie Louie. Rocket No 9 by NRBQ didn’t go down so well, but I’m glad I played it once at least.

After that I was invoved in a much smaller bar thing called the Imperial Pop Museum, with Matthew and Bob, in a place on the edge of Shoreditch, before it exploded into the hipster hell-hole it is today. We would play mostly 60s soul and pop and bubblegum between us, with some psych and garage punk, but not enough to spoil the generally calm vibe. I can’t even remember the name of the place. It had a sort of mod/James Bond theme; I expect it’s closed or has been made over by now.

The next request for my services came from Transfabulous, a trans arts festival run by some pals. I played at a couple of nights for them at the Pleasure Unit in Bethnal Green around 2006/7 I think, playing more uptempo 60s and 70s soul /disco and some 70s punk sort of stuff – Mighty Real by Sylvester was the best received of the night – it was great to see people dancing and loving it!

The next call came from Kira's pal Iris at the Moth Club at the St Aloysius Social Club near Euston. I had free reign here to play whatever I wanted, pretty much a mixture of all of the above, plus stuff like Totally Wired by The Fall, Memphis Soul Stew by King Curtis and the mighty Shack Up! by Banbarra, which I’d only recently bought, after knowing the weedy version by A Certain Ratio for many Years. I enjoyed the DJ-ing, but got busy working on my MA so had to drop it.

And after the 45 party this January, Kira asked me to play at her 40th party underneath the Westway in another social club type place, the Maxilla. It was a great night, with a band playing Ramones and AC/DC covers and Wreckless Eric’s Whole Wide World and a big friendly crowd.

These are the records I played, mostly in order if I can remember. I play all 45s as they are easy to cue up and are cut loud. I only had 40 mins as the band played later than planned, but I didn’t mind…

The Name Game by Shirley Ellis – a good fun record to start! Nobody cares that it sounds exactly like her other UK hit the Clapping Song.

Rip Her To Shreds by Blondie is just one of their best songs! Kira lived in New York for a while and I knew she loves this stuff as much as I do.

Ride Your Pony by Lee Dorsey – no particular reason to play this other than it’s great – it’s got more of a funky New Orleans sound than the also-great Betty Harris version.

Jumpin’ Jack Flash – Rolling Stones – just another brilliant record, by a band at their absolute peak I think. In the back of my mind I also connected this to Kira through a friend of hers, but I really only played because of the line “I was rayyyzed by a tooth-less bearded hag!”

All I Want by Snatch – Kira is the best connected person I know, which is evident in every issue of her ‘dotty anti-fashion magazine’ Cheap Date and the excellent Cheap Date Guide To Style. Amongst her pals is one half of Snatch. She was invited to the party, but I don’t know whether she made it - I don’t think I would recognise her now anyway. This was the most obscure record in my set – I’m glad I played but not many people were dancing – time for the secret weapon:

Rapper’s Delight – Sugarhill Gang – INCREDIBLE record, and luckliy Kira loves it too! Once a bit over-exposed, I hadn’t listened to it for years, though I’ve heard lots of it in samples! I auditioned it last week and it blew me away. My only dilemma was whether to play the radio edit or the full 6 mins – with time short I went with the edit, but I think this was my favourite of the night along with the next one –

Shack Up! – Banbarra – for so long I just assumed A Certain Ratio wrote this, but glad I found out the truth, because this is one of the best dance records ever, and the anti-marriage message is cool too!

So – you’ve got the dancefloor full for 2 records – what do you play next? Something you love and hope they’ll like, risking the momentum, or something similar to keep it going? Well, floor-fillers don’t come any better that the last 2, and I had to choose between The Night by Frankie Valli which I totally LOVE but not sure how well-known it is, or Shame Shame Shame by Shirley & Co. I cued up The Night, but changed my mind at the last second. As a DJ your duty is to make people dance, not play your favourite records and hope. SSS is a groovy enough tune; I don’t love it – but people danced!

I kept the funky feeling going with Polk Salad Annie by Tony Joe White – I heard this a while back on someone’s CD player as I walked past the maket stalls setting up in the morning on my way work. It sounded good so put it in the box this week. It went well, but sometimes records drag a little on the dancefloor if they are too long, and this one did I think.

Next up another NYC record – New York Groove by Ace Frehley – this is one of the oldest records I have that I still play and love – sort of genre-defying glam-rock disco bubblegum. Kira is a fan of Frehley’s incredibly mean but funny ghost-written biog Kiss And Tell.

And back to some hard 60s soul – Let’s Wade In The Water by Marlena Shaw – excellent in every way, the original Chess version with the trumpet fanfare at the beginning beats the more piano-y rendition, because it’s longer and has better ad-libs at the end. I love the ever-expanding water-fish-boats metaphors in this this song, which are many miles from its origins in the slavery era – at one point Shaw refers to herself as a “fish-flappin’ mama”!

Feeling the minutes slipping away now, it’s got to be time for I Love Rock’n’Roll by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. A Kitsch Bitch staple, this song was subsequently lost to hipster irony for several years. We want our record BACK! It is not a joke, you wankers! Possibly the best guitar sound on any record ever, and yeah – I do love Rock’n’Roll.

I was going to follow this with Get It On by T Rex, but decided just in time that the only thing rock’n’roll enough to match it would be Born To Lose by Johnny Thunders and the fucking Heartbreakers. “I can’t HIT IT!”

And getting towards the end I allowed myself one indulgence – Head Held High by the Velvet Underground. The floor thinned out a bit, but then who has the energy to dance to 5 records in a row? Not me.

Last record - a request by Charlotte – Nut Rocker by B Bumble & the Stingers, which perfectly epitomises one facet of the great rock’n’roll dumb/brilliant dialectic. Of course the crowd love it and one and the preceding DJs, Poppy, comes over to congratulate me for playing it – she calls it ‘a real stormer’ and she’s right.

While the next DJ set was setting up I got one more, so naturally I went for Lucille by Little Richard. I love the way the backing track sounds a bit muffled at the start and his voice just slices it all open!

So, yeah - I had a blast DJ-ing - thanks to Kira one more time, and to everyone for dancing. Playing records is the easiest thing in the world, but keeping people dancing can be hard, so I did pretty well!

Email me through the address on my profile page if you want me to play records for you too.