The Life and Times of a Vinyl Spinning Monkey
Okay, so for years I have been a singer in a band...
Hold on, let me reword that... for years I have been an entertainer.
Being on stage is something that I love to do; all eyes on me? Good! That's the way it should be! Arrogance is great for the frontman of a band, it's maybe not for some other things.
Not too long ago, my friend Jill, asked me if I was able to do some DJ'ing at her bar. I have never been one to turn down a new opportunity, so I jumped at it even though I didn't know how to DJ to save my life. What I did know was that I had a bunch of great records and a want to learn a new skill.
Lemme tell you about it.
The first few times were not so good. Accidently playing an LP at 45 instead of 33 RPM, getting distracted and missing the end of a song, levels too loud, then too soft... you name it. All the DJ screw-ups you can do, I did.
But my friend Jill didn't care. What she cared about was keeping people drinking and having music play that she didn't have to pick for a few hours. The decks were set up behind the bar, so a lot of the time people were asking me for drinks or food. But then when I told them "I am just the DJ", I started to have people asking for requests.
The R word is very dirty to a lot of DJs. I totally get that and god forbid that you come over and ask me for that Beiber character while I am playing the Clash! I'm going to tell you that you have come to the wrong place and that you should go away post haste; possibly in a few more aggressive and to the point words.
You come over to me while I am playing the Clash, and you say, "Hey! Can you play the Stones?" Or the New York Dolls, or Blur, or anything that is even in the same league as what I am currently spinning, I'm probably going to play it. Especially if you ask nicely and especially if you buy me a drink.
Wow Jake, you must have a huge record collection to accommodate all those potential requests!
Thanks for mentioning that. I do have a pretty large record collection that I share with my girlfriend, who is a much better DJ than me. But there's no way I'm going to bring them all to every gig I get. But I am at the venue to entertain though, and if the bar manager is cool with it, you can do what I do.
Be careful. Cover your ears. Another rude word for DJs is coming...
There, I said it, and I am fine with it. I am an entertainer. I am not better than you because I am in control of the turntables. I want you to have a good time and keep listening to music to keep you at the bar drinking, so that next week I have a bar to come back to. Sure, people asking for top 40 hits when I am playing soul, garage or rock 'n' roll are going to be upset, but seriously, use your head!
Am I saying that all DJs should do this? No way in hell! Some of the best DJs I know put their heads down and don't even look up for the whole set because they are curating the perfect playlist in their minds, depending on the feel of the crowd, venue and what's keeping people on the dance floor. I'm not nearly smart enough to do that. I might play Shake Your Tailfeather by Ray Charles to get people moving and then play Surfin' Bird by the Trashmen, but then I have no idea what to do next. Am I saying that other DJs should follow in my footsteps and do this? No! You trying to steal my job? In all honesty, this is a me-thing more than a DJ thing.
If you go up to a DJ and request a song and they say "fuck off!" you should probably fuck off. If you go up to a DJ and request a song and they play it, you should buy them a drink, or at the very least say thank you.
The DJ is there to entertain, but everyone is different. That DJ you saw last week could have stayed up all night burning CDs to make the perfect run of tracks that flowed and climaxed with Bohemian Rhapsody at the final moments of the night before you're all kicked to the curb at closing time.
Whatever happens, respect your local DJ and buy them a drink. It's very thirsty work.
Handsome Jake England.
To dig on Handsome Jake's brilliant rock 'n' roll band the Caballeros, hit the god damn play button below!