For most of the 25 years I’ve been entertaining as a DJ, I’ve played music that I feel will fit the night, the mood and the crowd. Recently I realised that my perception of older songs is likely to be quite different to that of the guests at my events, especially with older music and older guests. What if the feel the older guests will have is substantially different to how the music makes me feel? How can I get a better understanding of how the older songs I’m playing will make my older guests feel?
Take for example, The Hollies ‘Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress’. I often play this song as part of a set with Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Rolling Stones, The Kinks (Lola) and other great rock tunes of that era. I play it in this set because it sounds right to me, but what was going on in the world at that time? How did the public perceive the band and their music at the time? Were there important world events that became associated with the song that could evoke vivid memories (either positive or negative) as a result of hearing it again?
I don’t know, because I wasn’t old enough to be aware when this song came out around 1972, but it would sure help my music programming if I could research this and know more about it. What a powerful addition to my music knowledge, to be able to understand the nuances of how signature songs feel to generations other than my own!
As a result of this gap in my knowledge, I’ve begun renting and buying DVDs that look at the big name popular bands and artists from the 1940s on. I’ve watched music documentaries on The Mamas and the Papas, CCR, country music artists, blues artists, the Carpenters, Neil Diamond, the Rolling Stones, Abba, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Led Zeppelin and many, many more. I’ve watched YouTube video clips of original performances and I’ve read what I can online.
I hope that my learning can translate to a greater depth of knowledge and understanding of the music I program and play, and therefore create even more special moments in the eyes and ears of my clients. Most mobile DJs don’t do much to improve their skills and expand their knowledge and talent. I strive to improve and learn something new before every single event to make me a better DJ and give the best performance I can give.
As for the Hollies, here’s that awesome song. What a killer guitar riff to open with! Did you know that it features Allan Clarke playing rhythm guitar, something he rarely did (Clarke came up with the song’s signature guitar rhythm that opens the song), and it was released shortly after he had left the group. I didn’t know that either until I did my research.
Click to view the Hollies video