Purist Blog - Stafford 25 Better Late Than Never
First things first, I am the worlds worst at taking a compliment, in fact I don't know what to say or do when somebody gives me one. I usually just mumble a thank you, so to all the people who have said such nice things recently I am humbled by your appreciation, and glad to have played a small part in your nights enjoyment.
The reason I'm finally getting around to writing this is due in the main to folk coming up to me in venues and asking me what such and such a tune was, and me having to admit to my failure to write the list as being down to laziness as much as illness. I know it's not good enough, and it's unfair on the tunes, which need to be known to be shared, so please accept my apology.
My old tried and tested method of putting every tune to the back of the box as soon as I'd played it, in order to see later which had made it onto the decks, hadn't been applied. The DJ booth was designed for modern day club nights, not a Niter where DJ's change over every hour and lots of mates ask if they can dump a jacket, box, or a bag etc. hence it wasn't easy to get organised as I normally like to do when it's an open stage with plenty of room to put all the DJ's boxes up. This is more a failure on my part than anything to do with anybody else, I take up much more room nowadays with my waistline having expanded to approx double what it was back when I was a dance floor dweller J
I did manage to get a little organised just before the manager came up to thank everybody (which was about five minutes from the end ! )
Fortunately I'd got the help of my mate Ken Onions (as well as my son) whose memory is much better than most when it comes to records. Between us we did a CSI type forensic reconstruction of the set list, but to be honest we're not that sure it's totally accurate, so don't shoot me if I've failed !
Just before I get to the list I wanted to say something else. Not many folk will know this, but prior to the announcement of the 25 year reunion a bunch of "Staffordoholics" had organised a Niter room themed around the music of the Stafford era.
This would have been very different to the Reunion because it was an attempt to celebrate the music that has been largely lost in the passing years, without making it so obscure that we couldn't play some classic TOTW tunes punctuating the 'hardly known's'. A chance to not only hear these rarities but also to see the original labels up close if so desired. It was to be different also in that it was only about the music, not the club(s) nor the original DJ's, nor the renewing of old friendships. It was just meant to be a " Share It Before You Lose It", to paraphrase Bobby Valentin.
If you think about the sheer quantity of new discoveries tried in the Stafford era, along with the crop of great tunes still very much alive that had carried over from previous clubs, then add in a few revived and retried tunes you can soon see that the number of possible titles that could be classed as Stafford era tunes easily exceeds 1000, maybe twice that number if you factor in the multitude of new releases and the tunes that started in the upstairs room, and we felt it was just so unfair that only maybe 400 regular Niter goers from the 80's know these fabulous (and not so fabulous) tunes.
Once word of the Reunion was known this other Niter pulled their plans, despite being quite far along, which speaks to the splendid character of the people involved, and their overwhelming desire for the Reunion to succeed. Having spent many months on preparations and probably a fair few quid as well I think many promoters would have said they'd have to go ahead, but you can tell by the immediate postponement these people are not in it for the money, but the love of the soul scene, and the love of Stafford era music in particular.
Okay, now I've got that bit out of the way let's get back to the Reunion tunes. What I thought was great was that we got to hear a good many of the unissued tunes which had been broken at Stafford, the likes of Michigan Move, Suspicion and many more. Of course if people had a particular favourite that they didn't get to hear then I feel for them, but I think in the main the music represented a typical Stafford Niter.
Oh I forgot, One thing I do want to tell, and away from the music and meeting old friends this was my personal joy, and it revolves around a list. I'm overrunning my tale, so I'll start at the beginning. Soon after Chris had asked me if I'd like to play at the Reunion I had a rough spell which kept me bed bound for some days, and it was during this time I started to make a list of records. These titles were things I knew I owned which were lurking somewhere in my collection, and I would probably want to take in my playbox if I could but find them. I initially tried to think of some of the less well known things, but didn't ignore the classics. Later when I was feeling better I went digging in the boxes looking for these titles and as often happens each one made me think of another one (It can be quite tricky balancing on crutches whilst having eureka moments followed by scribbling on a list, and looking through boxes of 45's and albums, let me tell you)
So the list got longer, and I tried to condense it, crossing out where I'd put the same 45 down under the artist on one page and the song title on another. It ended with five pages of foolscap and about 5-600 records all around my kitchen.
The week before the Reunion I press-ganged my mate Ken into helping me decide which tunes to take, and we sifted and sorted the pile until it got small enough to fit into the boxes, as we discarded the "nobody will ask for that" records, and the "I bet Guy/Keb/Dave will play that" records. Of course these titles I'd chosen to leave at home were still on the list... but I'll come back to that.*
Now in order for this story to make sense I have to go back a bit further, to the previous reunion. It had been noticed during that Niter by a few people that I was trying to make note of every tune played, so when my turn came I wouldn't repeat play anything. I'm not trying to score points here, it's just something that I try to do whenever possible, like a good many DJ's, because I know it's a pet hate of many Niter goers. It wasn't anything I'd done especially for that nite, just a habit that lots of DJ's follow when they can.
The thing was it wasn't just noticed five years back and then forgotten, it came up on the net several times recently in various threads, which left me thinking 'Oh great, if I make a mistake and repeat anything this time I'm gonna look a right smartie' ! To add to my dilemma when I saw the DJ times I saw I was ending the Niter. Was I going to remember every tune played in the whole nite ? Unlikely.
My illness limit's the amount of time I can be upright, so I have to chose either to do the first half or the second half of normal Niters, depending on travelling distances. As I was going to do the last set I had to chose the second half, which meant I knew I'd miss the first couple of sets in the main room.
This problem bugged me as I couldn't see a way around it. I thought it would be unfair to ask somebody else to make notes on the sets before I arrived, as everybody I knew would be too busy enjoying themselves. It wasn't until the actual nite of the event and after the records were packed in the car and we were leaving the house that the idea struck me and I grabbed these five pages of lists.
We got to the club in decent time and once we got in I realised there was no room in the dj booth to leave my boxes so we managed to find a corner up on the stage and perched there. The music got into me and I was happily away, then a little while later somebody said those words " Haven't they already played this ?" and my idea came back to me.
I dug out the list and started asking people if cetain titles had been played. This of course presents certain problems, firstly only those who know the tunes can answer you, second only those in a fit state can answer you, so that ruled out a good many potential answerers.
We were sitting not far from Dave Welding and I knew he'd be a good person to ask, as he was not only a regular at Stafford but also has great musical knowledge. After I'd asked him several titles he offered to look through the list for me, so I handed him the pages and pen. This was followed by some extensive crossing out, far more than I'd have expected. As he passed me the list back I said something along the lines of "Oh great, I'm glad they've left me one or two to play". This by itself was not funny, what was funny was with almost every record played Dave would turn around, hold out his hand, take back the list and cross off another tune. The absolute glee as he crossed out yet another one, and yet another one. I couldn't help but laugh, it was Dave's enthusiasm and joy at crossing them off that made me laugh. I dunno who thought it was funnier, Dave turning, with a huge grin on his face as he recognised the next intro starting, or me grimacing as I handed him the list. Perhaps to anybody else it wouldn't have been funny, but it kept me amused for hours, thanks Dave.
So just before my turn came to go and DJ, I sat and looked through the five pages of crossing out and scribble with just a few names still legible. It had been a slaughter fest for the poor tunes. Fortunately the list wasn't a match for the tunes in the box* and I still had plenty to go at, although as you'd expect I'd lost some that I'd have dearly loved to play.
During the weeks beforehand I'd thought of playing about 20% non 60's in my set as I did at the last reunion, but as the balance during the nite had been slightly 70's heavy I chose an all 60's battle plan to redress the balance and keep the mafia onside. I normally like to have an idea of what my set is likely to consist of, but when you're on last there's no point in having a predetermined plan. I'd played umpteen combinations of records in my kitchen in the weeks building up to the nite to get a feel, and my only real puzzle was what tune I thought would be fitting to end with. I'd got a long list of contenders as lots of the big city beat ballads would have worked, but I wanted something special in case we never get to do this again. In the end the record chose itself, beautifully soulful, and lyrically summing up how many felt at that exact moment in those special surroundings. As the dancers saw it through to the end I was overjoyed at how Dave, Chris & Mace had pulled it all together and given us a nite I and many others shall never forget.
Thanks in bucket loads to you 3 (not so lonely) Guys, and to the dancers and listeners, both originals and those for who this visit was their first to the Top Of The World. I don't DJ much these days, but as I watched the floor bouncing and heaving with dancers fuelled on the Stafford spirit, I've decided there and then that from now on, I for one am gonna make sure that some of those wonderful Stafford tunes get an airing in amongst my usual rare soul fare every time I do play out ( Rugby Niter 19th June is my next one)
For those who asked here's the (approx) play list, not exactly in order, except the last one !
Timmie Williams "Competition" - Mala
Royal Robins "Something About You" Tru-Glo-Town (Imaginary Visions c/u )
Big Frank "I Wont Let Her See Me Cry" - Phillips (Big Joe's Ivory Brass c/u )
Soul Joe Clements "Ever Ever" - Plexium
Preston Peters "You Cant Measure (fast).." M&M (Saxie Russell 'Dirty Hearts' c/u )
Gillettes "Same Identical Thing" - J&S (Compliments c/u )
Arthur Alexander "Keep Her Guessing"-Dot (Johnny Honeycutt 'Guessing Game c/u)
Buddy Conner "When Your Alone" - Breakthrough (George Jackson c/u )
Bobbie Smith "Walk On In To My Heart" - American Arts
Jock Mitchell "Not A Chance In A Million" - Impact
Doug Banks "I Just Kept On Dancing" - Argo
Ral Donner "Mr Misery" - Sunlight (Robbie Lawson 'Version 3' c/u ???)
Dickie Wonder - Nobody Knows - Sound of Soul
Jimmy Gresham - This Feelin' I Have - Teri-De
Johnny Gilliam "Room Full Of Tears" - Cancer (Charles Johnson c/u)
Bobby Valentin "Use It Before You Lose It" - Fania
Hector Rivera "I Want A Chance At Romance" - Barry
Tony Middleton, Chuito & Spanish Uniques " Spanish Maiden" - Storm
Johnny Appalachian "Up In Smoke" - Goldie
Sam Fletcher " I'd Think It Over" - Tollie (George Kirby 'If I Were You' c/u )
Drapers "Your Love Has Gone Away" - Gee (The Three Strangers c/u )
Roy Hamilton "The Panic Is On" - MGM
Freddie Houston " If I Had Known" - Old Town (Herb Ward c/u)
Esther Phillips "Just Say Goodbye" - Atlantic
If any of these were repeat plays I could say blame Mr Welding not me, but I won't as his help, humour and knowledge were invaluable. Lastly to my mate Ken and my son who helped me so much, I couldn't have done it without you, Big Love & Huge Thanks,
comments posted from blog entry
ey up, thar knows what thar can do dunt yer
Posted:May 27 2010 07:08 AM
Hi John, great stuff. One you missed from your list is Little Charles - It's A Heartache, sure you played it.
Semi known gem
Posted:May 29 2010 03:53 PM
Thanks for that Chalky !
Getting spins again
Posted:May 29 2010 07:28 PM
hi john,that was a really interesting read and a well put together article,nice one bud
"Listen, mate, 'life' has surface noise."
Posted:Jun 03 2010 06:26 AM
Brilliant John, fantastic playlist