When I was around six years old, my nana worked in a news agents. My brothers and I would often go there when she was working. She probably harboured the grossly inaccurate illusion that we went there to see her, whereas the reality was that we went for the free sweets. Working in the news agents, she got a sweet allowance – these were decadent times. My brothers would always have a systematic approach to sweet picking; they had specific preferences, but I would always go for the Pick and Mix option and select sweets at random. Being blind, I was able to put my hand into a jar and put a sweet into the bag without having much of an idea as to what it was. I loved the surprise element: putting my hand into my random bag of sweets, unaware of what I was about to receive. Would it be
chocolate, candy, something liquoricey, fruity or an explosion of fizz? I loved the variety, the contrasts of taste, texture, shape and size.
Nowadays I don’t really eat sweets, but I do listen to a lot of music. Music today is what sweets were to me when I was six.
Often my approach to listening to music is the same as my approach was for making a Pick and Mix. I have a large music library: thousands of tracks in every genre from any period of time. By pressing the shuffle button on the player, I get a randomized selection from my library. I also use Napster which sometimes adds tracks to the playlist that it thinks I might like, based on the kind of music I have in my library. As I have every type of music in my library, Napster usually gets very confused and starts playing any old rubbish, assuming that just because I happen to like one specific NSYNC track for its production, that I will inevitably like to listen to a Westlife hit. Now and again however it does present me with an undiscovered gem. The experience is the same one that I used to get from pick and mixes when I was younger, only now it’s with music.
When I was about ten, my dad discovered this local record shop that sold old second hand vinyl and cassettes. He would sometimes go in their and brows to see what they had. This was in my opinion the perfect opportunity for me to spend my pocket money. I had no idea what I was looking for. I taped all the songs I wanted which were in the charts from the radio, (along with a few of my favourite time checks of course). There was a section of the shop that sold records and tapes for
£1 or less. I would immediately head to this part of the store and select a handful of records. I had no idea what was on the records, I would just choose randomly. I would then take them straight to the counter, without letting dad see, and buy them. The reason I didn’t want dad to see was because I didn’t want him to know what I’d got before I did. It had to be a total surprise.
I wouldn’t know what the record was until it was playing.
I loved the whole experience: sitting cross legged on my bedroom floor with a pile of records, taking the record out of the sleeve, putting it on the player and then dropping down the arm to reveal …
Rolf Harris, singing about Jake the Peg with his extra leg. I’d never heard that song or of Rolf Harris before that moment. I remember hearing it and instantly falling in love with it. It felt as if I’d had a kind of epiphany. One minute earlier, I was a stupid, naive ten year old boy. Then this happened. I was now truly a man. I loved that record: Rolf Harris’s greatest hits. I thought Rolf Harris was a genius. The first track was Jake the Peg, and as Rolf Diddleiddlummed, I laughed loud and heartily all the way through the song. The second track was Two Little Boys. I remember being very moved by this song; I might have even cried. I was astounded by the brilliance of this man, whose name I didn’t even know yet because I hadn’t found out what was written on the record sleeve. One moment I had been laughing raucously to Jake the Peg, and then, a couple of minutes later, I was wiping the tears away as the sounds of Two Little Boys entered my ears for the first time and moved my soul. I’m sure you all remember where you were when you first heard Rolf Harris. I certainly do. It was a magical moment, one of many magical moments that my random record purchasing gave me. I wouldn’t say I’m a massive Rolf Harris fan now, but at that moment, sitting on my bedroom floor at the record player, I was spellbound.
I mentioned in a
previous blog post
that I used to love listening to the radio at nights for the same kind of reason. I used to switch over to the shortwave band and start moving the dial to see what I would find. Shortwave is nothing like
FM; you don’t know what you’re going to get. There’s about ten stations on FM and hundreds on shortwave. YOU rotate the dial on the FM band and you get the same old recognised stations, but rotating the dial when you’re tuned to shortwave is a very different experience, a magical experience. The sound that the radio makes as its tuning is a sequence of beeps and crackles, as opposed to the fairly prosaic hiss of FM. You only have to touch the dial when you’re on the shortwave band and that slight touch can tune you into a completely different station and into a completely different world. One moment you’re listening to an enraged American evangelist damning you to hell unless you send him money, then you touch the dial ever so slightly and you’re listening to a French radio drama with Lesbian sex scenes; then the sound of a Mongolian throat singer, belting out the popular Mongolian hits of the day. Again, it’s the randomness of it all, the surprise element that I loved. I got that same feeling with my random record selections,
Although disappointingly I never managed to procure a record with a Lesbian sex drama on it.
I love the concept of DJing for the same reason: mixing different tracks into each other to create a musical collage. But I often get board of a lot of DJs because they generally play only a certain type of music: They’re either a drum and bass DJ or a dance DJ or a Hip Hop DJ etc. Their DJ sets are usually designed for clubs, for people to dance to. This dictates the style of the DJ set. The tracks are often 4/4 and have a similar tempo. I want a DJ to create mixes that take on all genres and provide constant surprises for the listener. Notice I wrote listener, not clubber; I want a DJ set to be like hitting the shuffle button on a massive, diverse music library and playing the randomized selection as a continuing, structured mix. This brings me to the point of this blog post – we got their in the end.
David Eagle’s Pick and Mix is a DJ set that features all types of music, embracing anything from any period of time. I’m putting the finishing touches to my first mix and I’ll release it in just a few days. I’m slightly wary of this project because it’s unlike anything I’ve released before, but it’s an experiment I’m excited to try and I hope that we’ll go on this musical adventure together. I’m not a professional DJ, but I wanted to really try and mix the songs together, rather than just segway from one song to another. This isn’t just me playing my favourite records. I am not just picking and playing songs. O no. I am mixing them into a crazy, multifascited, all encompassing thirty minute mix. That’s my plan anyway. Wish me luck! Standby!