I was in Camden this weekend DJing for the opening night of the beautiful little rock and roll haunt Rebel Rebel. I was spinning records from my box, which held a new shine as it was less than 5 hours old. This is because my genuine 60s retro holder had decided to collapse and the staples that had previously held it together laid broken in my hand, so I had no choice but to resort to buying a brand new carry case to salver the dignity my records deserved.
Towards the end of my set, and after a few whiskey doubles, I noticed a couple of my records jumping. I began to frown, angry at myself for not checking them thoroughly. I had carefully gone through my collection and decided what would be apt to play, and I thought I had checked that all were playable. I was spinning A Message to Rudy and Rudy wasn’t getting his message, a couple of people glanced over at me, whilst everyone else still sang blaming the missed song lyrics on themselves having too much drink. I hit the volume on Diana and the Supremes to salvage the skipping record and the whole floor began to shake. I realised that it wasn’t my inability to do a job properly by checking my records, but the room moving and swaying to the song I was playing so much so that I had to hold the decks to stop them from vibrating right off the sideboard. No wonder the records were skipping. A young chap came to help me and my face slowly developed into a grin. ‘What’s up?’ He asked, to which I pointed to everyone dancing and singing. A chorus of girls asking ‘Where did our love go?’ to a raucous male audience grooving besides them trying to steal their hearts. It was a gorgeous moment, and soon a group of girls flaunting their moves a little too close to the decks realised what was happening and gently grooved in the opposite direction. In just time, the final record was played and the room came to a halt.
Playing records is an honour. Not because you’ve been asked, or because you want to get your name out there; that’s cool in it’s own way. I collect records. I do it for myself. I sit with cups of tea or books, or in blankets, and I listen to these pieces of vinyl that have a story or a had a crazy life up until they end up on my shelf. The honour is that I get to take them with me to different dance floors and play them for other people, who enjoy dancing to them and want to dance to them. Getting the vibe of the room right, and spinning songs in an order that is not only going to keep the spirits of the room high but lift them further. You can hear the hush of the crowd as one song fades out and they desperately crane their ears to be the first to taste what you’re going to play next. It’s what records are made for, to be played with. When we’re children we play with toys and they get sad when they’re abandoned or we outgrow them. That’s the same for records, they need to be played and to be enjoyed and to be danced to. They harness that energy of the crowd as long as the needle plays it. Every crackle on the record is a person who has been dancing so hard that it made the needle skip; this weekend, that is what was happening to my records. Everyone was dancing so hard, and felt the music so much they ingrained my box of treasures with a set of new memories.
Records get sad when they’re left to sit on a shelf. Play them, and dance. So what if they crackle, or scratch. They’re tougher than that, and besides, that means someone way before you danced to the record because they loved it just as much as you do now.