Although orginally from the North of England, I've lived the greater part of my life in the South, and have resided in London since 1986. I was born in the mid-1960s, so am getting on a bit and have a fair trail of history in my wake. But I'll stick to the point and the music.
My first musical epiphany, an event which was to be massively influential in defining my tastes and subsequent obsessive passion for music, was returning to England in 1976 just in time for the birth of punk and then, as woolly-haired adolescent, seeing the Clash on their 1977 'Out on Parole' tour. For several years after I skipped lunches at school, saving the dinner money so I could afford tickets to see whatever new band would be touring nearby. It's difficult to convey the great excitement and feeling of discovery that accompanied those first few years. Sure, sneaking into dodgy grimey Blackburn pubs before popping over to the King George's Hall in time to catch the final few numbers from the support act before being deafened by the headliners, this may not sound particularly thrilling now, but it certainly seemed so at the time - I think maybe because it felt like a whole generation were creating something fresh for themselves.
Of course, that 'whole generation' to which I've just referred was actually just a small minority. The only regular social/music venue for most local school kids was the Monday night youth club - and, there, a different musical sub-culture reigned supreme. The predominant music around me at the time was Northern Soul, and the youth club provided skinny blokes in improbably baggy trousers a public place to play their valuable 7" rarities and shuffle, flip and spin their Wigan-honed dance steps. (And some of these guys were no longer so young, many in their late teens and early twenties, but that didn't stop them - they just wanted a space to spin their vinyl.) To me, at 14 or 15 years old, this was the mainstream, and my stubborn non-conformist streak pushed me to disregard a lot of what I heard and saw. But, with hindsight, I realise that I absorbed a fair bit from those days and, deep down, was impressed by the energy, attention to detail, and single-minded pursuit of a solid groove that the scene embodied. And I guess it was there that I got my first exposure to proper DJs, guys I'd see waiting for their lifts to the Casino whilst I was waiting for my last bus home, whose records represented their primary possessions in life, who looked like they survived on a diet of B&H and speed (and probably did), who lived for the All-Nighters, the tunes and the dancefloor. And, unlike so many DJs I've come across since, those guys sure loved to dance.
The next major musical turning point for me was seeing old blues veterans Tommy Tucker and Billy Boy Arnold performing live. Two old men very far away from home, in a tacky, half-empty, seaside nightclub, but once their hands stroked the keys and they leaned into the mic, it didn't matter. Just sheer natural talent and soul.
And after that I guess I started collecting all sorts of black music: jazz, soul, funk.
Later, as a student down in Brighton in the 80s, I bumped into a bunch of enthusiastic fledgling club hosts, DJs and wannabe musicians and it was there that I guess I started to consider DJing as an option. Certainly, it's where I started collecting dance vinyl in earnest. Things were wide open then in that there was no established dance music or clubbing culture - not overground anyway. Typically, you'd hear pop-dance tunes, old Philly classics, electro and hip-hop played back to back. And that freedom and genre-defying eclecticism is something often sorely lacking today.
On the downside, a fair few DJs were really just posing, spinning tunes for the associated kudos rather than for any real love of the music, and this could lead to some fairly safe and mediocre selections. Sure, some of the folks spinning then are now seriously Big Names, but, for me, the players who really deserve respect are those who always knew their music and stuck with it, regardless of fads and trends. So big up to the Brighton Belle Monday night soul posse. It may have often been half empty, and certainly can't be said to have drawn the most fashionable of crowds, but it certainly helped shape my perspective and tastes.
And then, once I moved to London, I guess I followed a similar trajectory to so many of my generation. I'm sure most clubbers of a certain age remember those seminal Friday nights at The Wag...and, a little later, all those funky warehouse parties in railway arches and derelict Old Street basements and abbatoirs, and the Family Funktion, and Shake & Fingerpop, and Special Branch nights, and the Zoo dos down at Soho Arts Club, the Sunday jazz dance afternoons at Dingwalls, the Mondays with Norman Jay down the Bass Clef. (And, talking of the Bass Clef, who can ever forgive the tax man for closing down the best jazz venue in London - there should have been rioting in the streets!).
And in-between, I got to see so many of my heroes performing, everyone from Teena Marie to Tania Maria, from the O'Jays to Art Blakey.
And then, of course, house arrived...
I've already written on the previous page how my own personal response to house was to perceive it in terms of evolution rather than revolution, that is, that I was inspired by those elements I recognised as representing a continuity of the best in black music. However, it would be foolish to underplay the tremendous impact the Acid House scene had on dance music and the degree to which it revolutionised club culture. And in opening things up, it changed things for us all - more venues, more record shops, a wider audience and, perhaps most importantly, a new spirit. A spirit which has just grown and grown. This music and DJing culture is truly a global thing now, one which gloriously transcends national, racial and cultural boundaries. (It still pleases me enormously to be picking up deep, soulful and funky tracks from all over the planet, everywhere from Norway to New Zealand.)
I've been DJing, on and off, ever since those warehouse days and have played a great variety of venues and events, some of which I may have mentioned elsewhere on this site. Whatever the nature of the night or audience, I always attempt to communicate those things which define my musical passions: my love of an infectious groove, a creative spirit and a soulful delivery, and my enthusiasm for discovery.