Paul Fitzpatrick: London April 2021
If you’d told me 45 years ago that a DJ could be worth $300 million, I’d have said ‘away and boil your heid’.
But it stacks up when you learn that Calvin Harris can charge up to $400k per show… which will probably rule him out of spinning the discs at any 21st’s up The Muscular Arms this weekend.
Not bad for a former shelf-stacker from Dumfries.
Like most of us, my introduction to DJ’s was via TOTP.
That first generation of Radio One DJ’s all looked like accountants trying a bit too hard to be trendy, apart from Jimmy Saville who always looked, well…. weird.
My favourite Radio One DJ in the early 70s was Johnnie Walker.
Walker famously got sacked by Radio One for calling The Bay City Rollers “Musical Garbage” at the height of their popularity (RIP – Les), he had a laid-back delivery and a great taste in music.
He was the guy who championed the 1975 Fleetwood Mac album when everyone else had written them off, and his show is where I first heard Rhiannon as well as nuggets from Steely Dan and Little Feat that no one else was playing at that time.
Moving into the mid 70s I started to get into Soul & Funk which you could only hear in clubs back then until a London DJ called Robbie Vincent came along with his weekly Soul show on Radio One.
It was perfectly timed, early evening on a Saturday night as you were getting ready to go out, and would get you in the mood for the evening ahead.
The only other DJ’s we had contact with in our youth were the mobile variety at various youth club & school discos…. a bit like Ray Von and his ‘wheels of steel’ from Phoenix Nights…
When our crowd started going up to clubs in Glasgow we went to the aptly named Clouds, (atop The Apollo) later to become Satellite City.
Tiger Tim was the DJ most Friday nights and the whacky son-of-a-gun used to dress up as a teddy-boy… or a frog!
It was 1974 and he had just started at Radio Clyde with his… ‘The Aff its Heid Show’…. (ok I get the frog suit now!) and was fast becoming a local celebrity.
Going to Clouds …. walking round that amphitheatre of a dance floor (always anti-clockwise for some reason), and then avoiding the turf-war, gang fights at George Square where we had to wait to catch the last bus home, was a Friday night ritual for a while.
Thinking about the music, Tiger Tim had a pretty eclectic taste, he would play a bit of disco, a bit of chart stuff and then throw in curveballs from the 50’s like Dion’s – The Wanderer or Clarence (Frogman) Henry’s – I don’t know why I Love You But I Do… probably to support his Teddy Boy persona..
A new city centre club opened in competition to Clouds in 1974, called Shuffles which we went to a few times for a change of scene.
The highlight was when the legendary Emperor Rosko of Radio Luxembourg fame, rocked up with his roadshow… resplendent in chest-wig, medallion and of course armed with his trusty catchphrase…. ‘Have Mercy’
Bizarrely, Clouds and Shuffles were both unlicensed despite the fact you had to be 18 to gain entry.
As we got a bit more sophisticated and progressed to licensed premises, Craig Davis was a name that cropped up a lot.
‘Craigy Baby’ was the flamboyant DJ at the Burnbrae Hotel on a Sunday night, he also had a residency at the Normandy Hotel in Renfrew on a Thursday night and he was a regular at Maestros in Glasgow.
Craig may have been a superfly DJ by night but by day he worked for film distributors, helping cinemas to schedule their movies for the coming weeks.
I got to know Craig through a friend of my Dad’s and he was always good enough to get me movie posters if I asked for them, I remember he turned up once with a poster for an obscure Peter Fonda movie called Futureworld that he knew I liked (the follow up to Westworld)…. I wish I’d kept a few of those posters now.
Craig famously got pulled over and breathalysed by the police one evening after a festive period gig and was staggered to learn that he was over the limit as he was completely tea-total, and never drank.
Despite his protestations he got huckled and the officers took him back to the station for another test, which was borderline…. whereupon a befuddled Craig remembered that he’d scoffed a box of chocolate liqueurs during the course of the evening that a fan had gifted him.
Fortunately for Craig the police bought his story and released him without charge.
The next day, the bold Craig was plastered all over the Evening Times telling his story… his big cheery smile pictured next to a box of cherry liqueurs.
There were some other great DJ’s back in the day like Gary Moore and his crew at The Rooster and City Limits, and that’s where you’d first hear the soul/funk imports from the US, long before they got into the UK charts.
DJ’s of course, always got a lot of attention, and maybe like musicians some of them got into it to improve their chances of meeting the opposite sex.
The Argentinian dudes Joe Hunter and I saw DJ’ing at a club in Calella, near Barcelona in 1975 were certainly a case in point….
There was 3 of them and to be fair they looked like Latin gods… all over six-foot, perfect physiques and long flowing hair straight out of a L’Oréal shampoo commercial.
In fact, when I saw Mario Kempes play for Argentina in the 78 World Cup a few years later, I was sure he was one of the DJ’s…
It didn’t take long for us to work out why there were 3 of them – they would each take turns on the decks so that the other two could be freed up to strut around and meet their adoring public…
Not only did these guys look the part, they were also brilliant dancers and to top it off they were great DJ’s as well… (I hated the b*stards!).
I remember one of them always played a killer 3-song sequence of….
Sex Machine by James Brown, Trampled Underfoot by Led Zeppelin and Disco Stomp by Hamilton Bohannon… which brought the house down every night….
I always liked DJ’s like Gerry Kennedy, brother of my good mate Joe Kennedy from Clydebank who knew his stuff and just played great music with no fuss.
Gerry was the resident DJ at the Boulevard Hotel in Clydebank (the Bouli) on a Sunday night, a regular haunt for myself and buddies… Joe Hunter, Joe Kennedy, Billy Smith and Marty Roberts.
Gerry wasn’t interested in being the centre of attention he just wanted to keep everyone up on the dance floor, and his splendid finale of three great moonies was always the perfect way to finish the evening…
Well it worked for me anyway… that’s how I met my wife Margo, in July 1978!
Some 70s tunes on the playlist below that remind me of those days….