In a recent question on a New Zealand DJ Facebook forum, we were asked if we remembered our first solo event as a Mobile DJ. I remember mine well. It was in January 1986 in the Belmont Memorial Hall in Lower Hutt, a 21st birthday for twins, a boy and a girl. He and his friends wanted rock and metal, she and her friends wanted pop and the parents wanted 50s and 60s. It was a good challenge, and a successful first solo gig. Back then I was part of a busy multi-op mobile DJ company called Visions Discos, which was owned by my friend Hamish Catto.

DJ console typical of what the mobile DJ used in the late 1980s

It wasn’t until a few years later that I had purchased enough records and tapes to be able to go out and start booking and performing my own events, and it was a lot more difficult to get into the business then than it is now, as equipment was expensive, music wasn’t portable or easily replaced (and singles weren’t available after a couple of months from their release) and advertising was pretty much Yellow Pages only. Learning the trade on that old gear was golden though, and I’ve never looked back with regret. There’s nothing quite as rewarding as a tight, seamless beat-mix on belt-drive turntables with no pitch adjustment!

Here was the top 10 in the UK for that year. I think I still have all of these on vinyl!

01 The Communards – Don’t Leave Me This Way
02 Diana Ross – Chain Reaction
03 Boris Gardiner – I Want To Wake Up With You
04 Billy Ocean – When The Going Gets Tough
05 Berlin – Take My Breath Away (Love Theme From ‘Top Gun’)
06 Chris De Burgh – The Lady In Red
07 Madonna – Papa Don’t Preach
08 Doctor & The Medics – Spirit In The Sky
09 Sinitta – So Macho / Cruising
10 Falco – Rock Me Amadeus

Also in that year, for a frame of reference, the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster occurred, Pixar Animation Studios were opened in California, and the 58th Academy Awards are held in Los Angeles, with Out of Africa winning Best Picture. I also recall my vehicle at that time very clearly, a Daytona Beach Buggy based on a 1965 VW Beetle. Not the most practical for getting to and from parties and events, but a very cool little car.

DJ booth at Bellevue Gardens, Lower Hutt in the late 1980s

Now that I’m a mature, highly experienced Mobile DJ, I can pull on a vast array of experiences. I know what the world was like in the 1970s and 1980s, and how the music of those times made people feel and react. I know which songs fitted together, and how the ‘feel’ of the music changed. I know which nightclubs were playing which songs, and what was being requested.

I learned my trade on equipment that really wasn’t very portable, and was 100% manual, so I learned the core skills the hard way. Those lessons help massively even with today’s automated, slick DJ equipment. I am grateful for the one-on-one training I received from 10 or 15 different DJs, all of whom had their own strengths, talents and styles. I also played the widest range of events imaginable.

What this enormous amount of experience means is reassurance to anyone contemplating hiring me as a DJ for their celebration, or to be DJ at their venue or bar. I know how to play crowds from all age brackets. I know the music better than almost any other Mobile DJ in the area, because I’ve been playing it weekly as a profession since the mid 1980s. I’ve learned to be humble and I’ve learned to carry back-up equipment. Your event or celebration is almost certainly going to be a great success with all that on board!