Terminal Jive

Postcards from the outskirts of pop

Tag: DJing

Imperfect Motion – early 90s daydream indie and imitations thereof

Last Sunday I did an ‘in conversation’ event in Shrewsbury with writer and historian Jon Savage. The subject was baggy/Madchester/The Stone Roses, and Jon’s recent compilation ‘Perfect Motion – The Secret History Of Second Wave Psychedelia 1988-93’, which offers a different take on that brief dayglo period.

I am something of a Madchester sceptic. I was too young to appreciate the first wave and by the time I started going out around ’93 it felt like tired music that belonged to the people I wanted to avoid – thick lads who would bang into you on the dancefloor for kicks.

When it came to DJing at the event I decided simply to play some records that meant a lot to me at that time, and some more recent stuff that is audibly in thrall to that era.

Idjut Boys – Dub Shine (2015)

This came out on the Idjuts’ ‘Versions’ album from last year. Does it for me.

Kirsty Maccoll feat Johnny Marr & Aniff Akinola – Walking Down Madison (1991)
‘It’s not that far…’

I miss Kirsty. Can you imagine what she’d have to say about the current political climate?

Steve Mason – Words In My Head (2016)
Will you love me when I fall?’

Just seemed to fit. The ‘words in his head’ aren’t up to much, admittedly.

The Boo Radleys – Lazarus (1993)
‘While those around me are beaten down each day…’

Their masterpiece. Boos guitarist Martin Carr lived in Preston (my hometown) at this time. In our social circle there was much discussion about who’d seen Martin last, where it was (Action Records?) and if he’d said anything. Desperate times indeed.

The House of Love – Feel (1992)
‘Twenty-five/sick of life’

I was 14 when the ‘Babe Rainbow’ album came out. I first heard ‘Feel’ on Mark Goodier’s Evening Session. I played it to death that year, along with ‘Automatic For The People’ and The The’s ‘Dusk’. My Maths teacher at the time was content to let me listen to my Alba walkman at the back of the class during most of his lessons. I learnt a great deal.

Saint Etienne – Avenue (1992)
‘Oh how many years is it now, Maurice?’

So perfect I can’t bear to write about it.

Prefab Sprout – Let There Be Music (1993)
‘Hey Jules and Jim/I wrote the hymn to Ecstasy’

From Paddy’s lost 1993 album ‘Let’s Change the World with Music’, which he wrote, performed and produced at his  Andromeda Heights studio in County Durham. Intended to be the follow up to ‘Jordan: The Comeback’, but not released until 2009. Utterly beautiful.

Electronic – Getting away With It (Extended Mix)  (1989)
‘I’ve been walking in the rain just to get wet on purpose’

I nearly went for Greg Wilson’s 11-minute edit, but managed to curb myself.

Lake Heartbeat – Mystery (2009)
‘You said love would last…’

Swedish band recommended by my old Piccadilly Records comrade Andy McQueen, the king of wistful melodic pop. Dan Lissvik (Studio/The Crepes) on guitar.

Ducktails – International Dateline (2012)

Lovely instrumental from the ‘Flower Lane’ album.

Cashier No.9 – Oh Pity (2011)
‘Burnt out at the fine old age of seventeen’

Underrated sunshine pop on Bella Union. These lot now make music under the moniker exmagician.

Whyte Horses – The Snowfalls (2014)
‘Just keep on running for the morning’

So contagious. Gets wedged in your head to the point of irritation. Coming soon to an advert near you. They’re from Manchester dontcha know.

Primal Scream – Higher Than The Sun (1991)
A higher state of grace’

Recommended to me in about 1993 by an older boy I thought was the coolest of the cool. (He was a towering bellend in actuality.) Saw the Scream for the first time at Glastonbury in 2005. They whizzed me round the cosmos and back, but to be fair I had just ingested two very large hash truffles. I became convinced that ‘Swastika Eyes’ was about Paul O’Grady.

One Dove – Breakdown (Cellophane Boat Mix) (1993)
‘And the small hours are hard to bear’

I don’t think this mix (by Weatherall, of course) reached me at the time. Got into it via the Boy’s Own retrospective from 2013. Gorgeous.

Spiritualized – Run (1992)
‘They call me the breeze / I keep rollin’ down the road’

I saw Spritualized at the free Heineken Festival on Avenham Park, Preston in 1993. I’d arranged to go with my best mate but at the last minute she opted to go to a house party, drink Thunderbird and attempt to divest herself of her virginity instead.  Initially I was a bit scared to be on my own in the moshpit, but the gig was really something: intense and unforgettable.  I think I had to endure the Sultans of Ping FC before they came on. In later years I found Spiritualized rather ponderous and grandiose.

The Orb – Blue Room (1992)

Ah…The Orb. I had a real soft spot for them up to about 1994. I still listen to a fair amount of dub techno, mainly Deepchord and Rhythm & Sound, but these producers owe a debt to Paterson, Cauty et al. Famously samples Mad Professor’s ‘Fast Forward Into Dub’. The Orb caused controversy by appearing on Top of the Pops to promote the Blue Room. Instead of performing, Alex Paterson and Kris Weston played chess.

Primal Scream – Uptown (Andrew Weatherall Mix) (2008)
‘Back in the office, cage, a factory line’

I loved the straight version of ‘Uptown’ when it came out, especially Mani’s bassline. I first heard the Weatherall mix in DJ and producer Kelvin Andrews’ car on the way to an after party in the early hours. When the strings hit, I was so overwhelmed I vomited explosively into Kelvin’s glove compartment. He was a true gent about it, but this track will forever be tainted with the memory. 

Mark Seven – Sermon (Serotonin Edit) (2007)

So perfect an Ecstasy record it’s almost manipulative! ‘Sermon’ is a Mark Seven edit of Sheila Stewart’s ‘It’s You’ from 1988, which came out on the aforementioned Kelvin Andrews’ Creative Use label.

I miss the hungry years – memories of Cornerhouse

cornerhousetriptych

01. Europa Cinemas Trailer
02. George Martin – And I Love her
03. Hi-Voltage Orchestra – Midnight Blue
04. Dave Grusin – Three Days of the Condor
05. The Jackson 5 – Can I See You In The Morning?
06. Brian Bennett – Solstice
07. Charles Earland – I Will Never Tell
08. Mo Foster – Stateside II
09. Bob James – Nightcrawler
10. Fat Gaines Band present Zorina – For Your Love (Diablo Edit)
11. Lonnie Liston Smith – A Chance For Peace
12. Leo’s Sunship – Back For More
13. Lambchop – Give Me Your Love
14. Pete Dunaway – Supermarket
15. Soul Sensation Orchestra – Faded Lady (Instrumental)
16. Robert Upchurch – The Devil Made Me Do it
17. Bob Welch – Don’t Let Me Fall
18. Marvin Gaye – I Want You (Vocal & Rhythm Version)
19. Freddie Hubbard feat Jeanie Tracy – You’re Gonna Lose Me
20. Johnnie Taylor – What About My Love?
21. Barry White – Sheet Music (US Promo Instrumental)


I never really wanted to be a DJ. I have always collected records and owned a turntable, but for much of my younger life I focused on writing my own songs rather than playing other people’s. That changed in 2007 when my friend Kate – then bar manager at Cornerhouse – asked me to do a mix of rare film scores for her to play at work. A short time later, she invited me to DJ on a Friday night, and so began a six-year tenure as a handmaiden of the decks.

On my first night, trembling with anxiety, I pitted my wits against a crackly Numark mixer and Cornerhouse’s famously sensitive limiter, a device that would cut the sound dead throughout the whole venue if it didn’t care for your tunes. I triggered it three times. Kate explained I had to balance on a stool and bash it with a tray to achieve a reset.

I called my night Big Strings Attached and indulged my love of all things stringed, from symphonic soul to cinematic pop, and of course, plenty of soundtracks.

Initially I played at the top of the stairs in the café bar. I would lose myself watching the weather out of the window while first dates and last orders rippled pleasantly around me. I stood up to DJ behind a makeshift wooden booth on wheels. It would be rolled in through double doors at the start of the night, reminding me for some reason of a coffin sliding into the furnace.

When the managers eventually agreed to replace the £50 Numark with a Pioneer DJM 750 mixer, the decks would no longer fit in the coffin, so I ended up sitting at an ordinary table. Pros: I could take the weight of my feet, always sore from a full Friday working the counter at Piccadilly Records. Cons: I became too accessible to punters who needed to chat.

From that point on, people were able to draw up a chair and talk to me. And of course, there was no escape. Many sordid sob stories and unsolicited confessions were shared, leading inevitably to dead air and flunked mixes on my part.

There was Elsie, still angular of cheekbone at 80, whose bright eyes would fill with tears when recounting her days treading the boards at the Royal Exchange; there was Terry, who claimed I was the only person he could talk to about his desire to have gender reassignment surgery; there was Dr Octopus, a GP with broken facial capillaries, whose tentacles, come 10pm, would brush across the buttocks of his always much younger female companions. There was Robin, who sometimes noticed blood in his stools.*

I hate talking to people when I am playing records. It’s a social no man’s land. You can’t get meaningfully involved in either the conversation or the music. Even when close friends came in to help me through a shift, I found it awkward. My heart would sink a little.

I tried for a time simply to exist within my headphones, strings blaring. But people would still come and talk to me. It was more disturbing to confront their wordless gaping mouths than to listen to their problems.

A sweet looking boy called John was a regular feature for a while. He would slope in early doors, always nicely turned out. Intermittently he was able to talk in fully formed sentences about college or music. Much of the time he spoke in strange fragments, little blurted scraps, tics. He wasn’t drunk. I never saw him with a drink. I suspect at some point he’d been flung through the doors of perception whilst on acid or ket and never quite made it back. Sometimes he did the crossword next to me, shouting out random words. One night I picked up the newspaper after he left and discovered he’d filled in each blank word with my name.

Very occasionally, perhaps once a year, someone would want to talk about the music I was playing. This was a genuine delight. I have no issue with people who want to talk about music. Provided their taste is immaculate, like mine.

In later years I was moved downstairs to play in the window by the door. The ground floor had a different atmosphere, a transient crowd, no food. I campaigned weekly to get candles on the tables and lights dimmed.

By now I’d toughened up a bit. I had strategies to deal with ‘sitters’. Downstairs, it was less heartbreak, more hassle. I still have nightmares about one night when the Rocky Horror Show was on at the Palace. The bar was heaving with stroppy hets in fishnets thrusting their pansticked faces into mine because I wouldn’t play ‘The Timewarp’.

Another time, over Christmas, a paralytic Santa on Oxford Road pressed his bare arse up to the window millimeters away from my face. I can still see his sad sack dangling.

Setting up the decks was less convenient. I had to carry my Technics, mixer, CDJ, and monitor down several flights of stone stairs that ran from the top to the bottom of the building. This area of Cornerhouse had a very particular smell: bleach, hops, sweat and something all of its own. All buildings have their smells, like people.

During the final year, appalled to discover that Cornerhouse was soon to be demolished, I began to experience an odd feeling on those stairs, almost as if I were being watched fondly by a future version of myself as I hoofed gear, outstretched foot holding open the fire door, cables spilling out of pockets. A spasm of intense nostalgia for the building not yet lost.

The bar staff at Cornerhouse were, almost without exception, kind, creative, funny. Working the pumps were writers, music producers, filmmakers, trainee psychologists, ceramicists, cartoonists, fashion designers. They were never stingy with the anaesthetic and if I was a good girl I could pick a leftover brownie at the end of the night. I did, for a short period suffer a rather painful crush on one particular bartender, who basked in my discomfort like a tabby on a windowsill.

Rory – a security guard, became one of my main allies. He would help me with my gear when my back was fucked. He had a sixth sense for when I was being mithered and would hover around diplomatically. He pulled me out of myself when I was red wine-glum (often), and nearly always had a Blue Riband going spare for a counter jockey who’d skipped tea. Rory’s most requested tune was Shirley Bassey’s version of ‘The Hungry Years’, which was absolutely fine by me.

There were celebrity sightings, both real and imagined: Eric Cantona, Damon Albarn and Willem Dafoe all came in during Manchester International Festival. One of these luminaries was, according to staff, foul tempered and condescending. Can you guess which one?

Sometimes, on the lonelier nights, my grip on reality dangerously loosened by Malbec, I would imagine being visited by the stars whose records I was spinning. Donald Fagen popped in regularly to ‘work a little skirt’. Nina Simone stopped by, fuming, because front of house had asked me to turn down ‘Baltimore’. The young Michael Jackson would crawl under my table, eyes brimming, during ‘Who’s Loving You?’.

In 2013 my time at Cornerhouse ended in the style of a long term lesbian love affair. Both parties claimed in public it was a mutual decision. And we’re still friends.

People who are concerned about the fate of the Cornerhouse building and ‘Little Ireland’ may be interested in attending the first Manchester Shield meeting at 6.30pm on Thursday 14th April at the Friend’s Meeting House.

*The names have been changed to protect the guilty.

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