Low Life / The Demise Of The DJ Forum


One of London’s longest running, and most influential underground club nights, Low Life, bowed out with a bang on Halloween. The party originally started in New York back in the early 90’s (before transferring to London in 1997), its driving force being Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton, who were later to publish the book ‘Last Night A DJ Saved My Life’ (1999), charting the history of the DJ, as well as subsequently setting up the DJ History website. A Ransom Note interview with Bill outlines the reasons behind the decision to call it a day, not only with Low Life, but also with djhistory.com:

Low Life played an important role in my return, being one of the first nights at which I appeared (in Feb 04), having made my comeback but a couple of months earlier. It was my 2nd London date, following on from a threadbare Thursday night at The Key in Kings Cross, mainly attended by beardy stroking blokes, most of whom, it turned out, were DJ’s themselves. The following day, on the DJ History forum, I found myself getting serious props for my musical selections, ‘The Voice Of Q’ by Q causing particular excitement I recall. It was more about the right people being there rather than how many were there, and my London debut had certainly met with approval, setting things up nicely for Low Life a few weeks on.
Jolyon Green, Greg Wilson, French-themed Bill Brewster & Matthew Burgess @ Low Life - Feb 04. Photo by Tim Collins

Low Life was something else – a full-on party where the beardy men stopped stroking their beards and instead set about the serious business of getting down, losing themselves in a Disco / Balearic realm both strange and familiar, where the classics happily existed alongside the curio, and the audience included beardless dancing girls a-plenty to level out the trainspotter testosterone – it was the perfect balance, appealing to both a party crowd and the heads. Both the venues I played at were full of character, with nooks and crannies and great room options. My first Low Life appearance was at Fortress Studio in Shoreditch, and a couple of years later I’d be their New Years Eve guest, the party having moved to Corsica Studios in Elephant & Castle, it’s home until the end.

Shortly before I started DJing again I attended an earlier Low Life (its one of the few club nights I’d choose to go to, where possible, when I wasn’t playing myself) in November 2003. Along with a trip to Manchester’s legendary Electric Chair, it helped illuminate the way forward for me, basing my approach around the re-edits culture that was already an underground staple via this type of event.

Kelvin Andrews @ Low Life - Nov 03. Photo by Tim Collins

I remember Kelvin Andrews was guesting that night, and I particularly recall him putting on an edit of George McCrae’s ‘I Get Lifted’, courtesy of Mischief Brew. It was extremely refreshing to hear such a great downtempo groove being played at peak time in a club environment. Kelvin also played ‘Stomp’ by The Brothers Johnson, a record I’d first bought on import back in 1980 – the hottest track of the time – which went on to become a massive mainstream hit. By featuring ‘Stomp’ in the way he did, Kelvin had managed to place it back in its original context, liberating it from the cheesy Disco connotation it had been unfairly lumbered with – the victim of its own commercial success.

In addition to Bill & Frank, Matthew Burgess & Jolyon Green, a Balearic pairing whose sound became synonymous with Low Life, were a key ingredient of the parties, along with, later, Michael Cook. It was a night that, although it featured guests, wasn’t reliant on them – the party itself, with its fancy dress themes, was the main attraction.

DJHistory.com logo

Throughout the past 12 years Low Life and the website DJ History went hand in hand. Following the success of ‘Last Night A DJ Saved My Life’, Bill & Frank felt they needed an online platform to compliment the book, and the website’s most vital feature was its forum, which became a thriving hub for DJ’s outside of the mainstream who were playing mainly music of a Disco / Balearic sensibility, with re-edited or reworked tracks from the 70’s and 80’s discussed and often distributed in a pre-SoundCloud setting. This was the place, if you were on our side of the scene, where you met likeminded souls and shared opinion and information.

There were other important forums including Deep House Page, Discomusic.com, Faithfanzine, Brownswood, Southport Weekender and Electriks, but DJ History was the watering hole of choice for a generation of post-millenium DJ’s to whom there was more to life than uptempo 4/4 beats, with all manner of musical topics discussed. Contributors included US luminaries David Mancuso and François Kevorkian, along with up and coming DJ / producer’s like Todd Terje and Tensnake, all more than happy to exchange information with other enthusiasts – the breadth of knowledge on the site was hugely impressive, and its greatest attraction.Faith Fanzine Logo

Bit by bit these DJ forums have eroded away, with only the US sites like Discomusic.com and Deep House Page still attracting healthy traffic. Last year it was a shock when Faithfanzine, a well populated forum, seemingly shut its doors – however, it returned in January this year, although at nowhere near the capacity it was at previously, with just a small number of new topics appearing per day – like a club that once held 5000 now attracting just 500.

The reason for this decline, I believe, has a simple one-word answer – Facebook. Nowadays the analogy would be that people are going to each other’s houses rather than meeting at the pub. Whereas once the neutral ground was the DJ forum, now individual DJ’s and promoters stay at home, or pop round to their mates’ houses. This, I feel, has been a negative step that has stifled proper debate of the wider issues, with cliques of people shooting down anyone whose opinion doesn’t fit the status quo of whatever FB page is hosting the discussion – stands to reason really. In this type of environment people will react in ways they wouldn’t dream of on an open forum, where the role of moderators is to keep everything civil. Instead things have become more tribal, and someone engaging in a debate / argument with the person whose FB account it is may quickly find themself having to try to fend off half a dozen of their disputants friends, who are all over them in no time like a pack of jackals - this type of debate, more often than not, descending into a barrage of abuse and insult, which does nothing to serve the music / scene.Facebook EvolutionFacebook also dilutes everything. I’ve been able to observe this most clearly launching a record label, as I have recently, and seeing some great comments on Facebook feeds linking to one of the tracks, comments that you really wish had been shared at source, in this case on SoundCloud or on YouTube, because you know they’re going to be hidden away way down these individual FB feeds in a day or so, and completely lost within the information ether before you know it.

Not that the forums didn’t hasten their own decline – cliques formed and some the first wave of contributors, forgetting that they were once a bit wet behind the ears themselves, started to treat ‘newbies’ with contempt, and rather than being helpful by answering their questions, as others had once done with them, instead perhaps told them to search the forum, as this is a question someone else had asked 7 years ago or something, making them feel stupid for asking in the first place. I remember thinking that forums were beginning to isolate the very people they needed for their own survival – most young DJs were already awed by the amount of knowledge on these forums, so to speak up, only to find themselves being firmly put in their place, wasn’t going to encourage them to post regularly, which was exactly what was needed if the baton was to be passed to the next wave of potential contributors.

Apart from the forum, other DJ History highlights included a plethora of interviews conducted by Bill & Frank down the years, alongside various features and reviews, as well as the popular ‘Mystery Mix’ series, which I contributed to myself back in 2005. The series was all about the rare and exotic, and I took the opportunity to focus on the Jazz-Funk & Fusion I was playing in Wigan Pier during the early 80’s, just prior to the arrival of Electro-Funk, which is the back in the day music I’m most associated with:


Thankfully the site won’t just disappear, as other former DJ havens sadly have, but remain an online archive, with full access to forum discussions throughout the past decade or so. Furthermore, the Red Bull Music Academy will move the interviews to their site, giving them a whole new lease of life and providing a lasting testament to the herculean efforts of Bill & Frank in bringing all this history together.

Frank Broughton & Bill Brewster

Bill explained the decision to wind things down; We just felt we'd gone as far as we could with both DJH and Low Life and it was time for a change. We've been doing Low Life for over 20 years and DJH for over 15. We just needed a break from both, because they consume quite a lot of time and we've never taken a wage or payment from either, we've always just reinvested whatever spare capital we had into developing the website. I'm not sure exactly what we will do after this, really. There's no grand plan. We plan to continue the small festival we've been doing over the past three summers and maybe the odd festival party, but beyond that we've haven't really talked about it. Frank and I have been working together for well over 20 years now, so I'm sure something will come up that inspires us (or appalls) into action. Right now, I'm looking forward to not having any of those responsibilities for a while and just DJing at the weekends, doing a bit of studio work and hanging out with my wife and kids.’

The festival Bill mentions is ‘Wild Life – Low Life In A Field’, which has fixed on a site in Wiltshire, following a couple of years evolving in Dorset, and features the full Low Life crew, along with a solid guest line-up .

DJ History and, by association, the Low Life parties, helped enable a gathering place for DJ’s and enthusiasts disillusioned with the normal run of things. It was a crucial part of ‘the scene without a name’, as I once referred to it in a now classic thread on the site – a movement that was fervently discussed, in all its various aspects, for many year’s day in day out, morning, noon and night at DJH, and by people at computer screens all over the world. It now becomes a time capsule, packed full of wisdom, passion and great tunes, and, as Bill expressed, the hope is that it’ll provide valuable research material for those who wish to explore this Balearic Disco treasure trove, where hidden classics were unearthed and the yesteryears re-edited in order to shape tomorrow.

DJ / Human

DJ History Forum:




40th Anniversary Weekend


Just confirmed the final details for the weekend of the 5th and 6th December, when I’ll be marking the 40th anniversary of my first ever club appearance, back in ye olden days of 1975 at the Chelsea Reach in my hometown of New Brighton, across the Mersey from Liverpool.

It’s in Liverpool where the events will take place. At The Garage on the Saturday and Jacaranda Records the following evening.

The Garage event is hosted by Freeze, for whom I’ve played at some incredible parties during recent years – at Camp & Furnace, Williamson Tunnels and, of course, the Bombed Out Church. You can check out the recordings from both my Bombed Out appearances, earlier this year and in 2014, here:


The Garage is situated in Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle, just up the road from the Camp & Furnace and opposite Constellations, where we held our Liverpool Super Weird Happening last year. I’ll be making an extended 5 hour appearance, given the uniqueness of the event, and the fact that there’s a lot of music to cover. Freeze put the first 300 tickets up free of charge as a gesture, and all were snapped up in no time – with over a month still to go, 75% of tickets have already been sold, so if you want to come along I’d recommend you grab yours sooner rather than later. All info here:

On the Sunday evening I’ll be at Jacaranda Records for a talk that will center around what it was like to be a DJ in the mid-70’s, whilst playing and discussing some of the tracks I would have featured that night at the Chelsea Reach, just as the original Disco era was gaining momentum, and how the role of DJ subsequently evolved.

Jacaranda Records is above The Jacaranda, the famous bar on Slater Street with its claim to Beatles fame. It’s a coffee shop where you can also buy vinyl, and has recently become something of a hangout for me when I head over to Liverpool. It’s the perfect space to host the talk, but given its limited size we can only invite about 60 people. There’ll be an announcement on the Jacaranda Records Facebook page as how people might apply to attend: https://www.facebook.com/jacarandarecords

Jacaranda Records logo

10 years ago, to mark the 30th anniversary, I put together ‘First Impressions’, compiling 25 of the tracks I would have had in my record boxes that first night. You can hear this, and read the accompanying text at Mixcloud:


Massive thanks to Dan Lish for his 40th anniversary illustration. Dan was one of the artists at our Festival No.6 Happening in September – we’re big fans of his work. Check out his website here: http://danlish.com/


Diane Charlemagne

Diane Charlemagne photo by Alex Freeman

Very sorry to hear about the death of Diane Charlemagne yesterday, the Moss Side singer / songwriter succumbing to lung cancer, aged just 51.

I became aware of Diane back in early 80’s Manchester – she would take over as lead vocalist in the Factory Records band 52nd Street after previous singer, Beverley McDonald left the group. Like the rest of 52nd Street she was a regular at Legend, we were all very much part of the same scene, and it was great to see her have such a big success later down the line, in 1993, with the extremely catchy dance track ‘The Key The Secret’, as part of Urban Cookie Collective (alongside the song’s writer, Rohan Heath, someone else I also knew, but separately to Diane).

However, Diane's greatest legacy is her haunting esoteric vocal on Goldie’s seminal ‘Inner City Life’ (1995). Listening to it now, aware of her passing, just makes this remarkable recording all the more powerful. Listen to it in its full album version glory here, as part of the ‘Timeless’ trilogy:


Diane Charlemagne Wikipedia:


It Happened In Portmeirion


The last month or so has passed quickly – apart from my DJ commitments, pretty much every waking hour has revolved around preparation for the first Super Weird, Substance album release, which compiles the label’s singles so far and is issued on on 2xCD (including mix I’ve put together) on November 13th. Just about on top of everything now, until the next avalanche of things to do, I’d forgotten how time-consuming the day-to-day variables of running a record label can be. Great fun though, nothing like a bit of thinking on your feet. More about the album here:

What’s cast my mind back to just over a month ago is Vinegar Films’ wonderful short, capturing the vibe of a day you’d find hard to describe in words, although Josh Ray has made a pretty good fist of it here: http://www.superweirdsubstance.com/festival-number-6-super-weird-happening/

The day was Saturday 5th September, the stage was The Estuary, the festival No.6, with Super Weird Happening #6 the name of the 12 hour event that brought together spoken word, well-being, live art, bands and DJ’s on a beautiful day in North Wales. But enough words – images, in this case, speak louder than, so over to YouTube:


We’re hoping to take the Happenings into half-a-dozen festivals next summer. We believe we have something really special here and want to take the idea into different festival environments, initially in the UK and Ireland, but eventually further afield.

It’s a case of walk before run as we find our feet, but that sure was one giant leap – we really did collectively work some magic, for a mythical day it certainly was – still feels like it was all a dream. Here’s the recording from my closing slot, available to stream / download:


Ahead of No.6, where she was one of our guests, I re-watched playwright Daisy Eris Campbell’s spellbinding talk at our London Happening last year. This time I really identified with what she said about meeting Alan Moore for the first time. It was something I’d heard him say previously, but this time it properly hit home. She paraphrased his words; ‘art and magic are the same thing, but there’s high art and high magic. High magic is when you don’t know what the fuck you’re doing, but just proceed as if everything’s an instruction from the forces that be’.


I carried this with me into No.6 as my maxim. On top of the fact we had so many participants, as well as their guests, to sort out, there were plenty unknowns and situations beyond our control, but I’m aware that trying to control an uncontrollable situation only causes a vortex of stress, so I went with the flow of act like you know, and thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of the day, both behind the scenes and out front. There were some small problems to be solved, but everyone got into the spirit of things and helped make it a day of community and connectedness in an extraordinary space bathed in sunshine.

We couldn’t have asked for more.


Super Weird Happening #6:


Colin Faver

Colin Faver

Only just heard the sad news that DJ Colin Faver died last Saturday – he was 63.

I first met Colin back in the early 80’s, when he was resident at London’s Camden Palace. This was undoubtedly one of the leading venues in the UK at the time and I was fortunate to get to play there myself in December 1983 as part of the Haçienda Revue tour, which also featured legendary Manchester breakdance crew Broken Glass and Mike Pickering’s band of the time, Quando Quango.

The track I’ll forever associate with Colin is François Kevorkian’s mix of Kraftwerk’s ‘Tour De France’, which I remember him having as a test pressing – it was the first time I’d heard this stunning mix, now regarded as a classic.

Around this time I often cited Colin amongst my favourite DJ’s – he was certainly someone who knew his stuff, as well as being a really sound approachable guy with no ego about him. After I’d stopped DJing at the end of 1983 I still kept in touch with him and we would hook up from time to time when I came down to London during subsequent years, and after I moved to the city later in the decade.

As a key presenter on Kiss FM, as well as an in demand club DJ, Colin was in a position of influence as Acid House exploded. The last time I would have seen him would have been during the Rave period – he was certainly one of the pioneers of the House and Techno scenes from a London perspective, although his role has become increasingly marginalised in the history as the years have rolled on.

As a positive consequence of this sombre news, hopefully his place as a forward- thinking DJ prepared to push at the barriers will now be re-assessed.

Colin Faver Mixmag Obituary:


John Higgs – Culture Reconstructor

Stranger Than We Can Imagine

Anyone who’s been following the blog during recent times will be in no doubt of my admiration for John Higgs’s ‘The KLF: Chaos, Magic And The Band Who Burned A Million Pounds’, a book like no other, full of incendiary ideas and inspiration – a proper mindsparker. I wrote about it here:

When we were looking for a guest for our talks section at the Liverpool leg of last years’ series of Super Weird Happenings, John, given that the city is central to the narrative of the book, emerged as our ideal candidate. I tweeted him a private message and he responded in the affirmative. As a serendipitous by-product we would also get to meet John’s friend, the playwright Daisy Eris Campbell, whose adaptation of Robert Anton Wilson’s ‘Cosmic Trigger’ I’ve waxed lyrical about previously on the blog. Daisy would join us at our London Happening, and both will be giving talks at our Happening #6 at Festival No.6 in Portmeirion, North Wales this Saturday. More info here:

This time around John will focus on his new book, ‘Stranger Than We Can Imagine: Making Sense Of The Twentieth Century’. Whilst his KLF book has earned the author cult acclaim, his new offering is destined to reach a much wider audience, hopefully gaining his work the full recognition it merits. When the Northampton bard himself, the great comic book writer Alan Moore, goes as far as to call it ‘an illuminating work of massive insight’, adding ‘I cannot recommend this magnificent work too highly’, you know that a lot of people previously unaware of John Higgs are now going to sit up and take notice, as they undoubtedly should.

Standing On The Verge I Have America

I was lucky enough to get a proof copy sent to me in advance of publication, so having eagerly read it, I’ve spent the interim between then and now soaking it all in – it’s observations and acumen hits you on different levels, some instant, others that linger along with you, making greater sense the deeper they seep under your skin. Having also read his revealing limited edition ‘Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On’, as well as his biography of psychedelic luminary Timothy Leary, ‘I Have America Surrounded’, John has fast become my favourite contemporary author. His storytelling really hits the spot, coming at you both head on and from lateral angles, ambushing you with ideas. It’s thought-provoking but also fun, which is a powerful combination – he’s got the alchemy just right.

The way in which John connects things that you might have previously regarded as disparate is something that very much chimes with me. I feed off the discovery of these hitherto hidden connections – it’s like a switch that lights up a circuit in my brain once this new information is added to my current bank of insights and impressions, igniting further connections and causing a chain reaction of fresh awareness.

‘Stranger Than We Can Imagine’ is John’s alternative roadmap of the 20th Century, based on his own insights and impressions, some of which overlap with mine, others which provide me with totally new understanding, covering subjects I might be aware of, but have never looked at beneath surface level. The shifts from the age of empire to the era of the individual, from scientific surety to the shocking uncertainty of Einstein’s relativity, play out in its pages, but in a manner that brings history alive with colour, rather than being some serious studious text with plenty of cerebral appeal, but no heart.

Louis Armstrong

Reading the book got me thinking about how its themes played out when applied to the history of music, specifically black music, in the 20th century. The advent of Jazz, the Blues, Rhythm & Blues, Soul, Funk, Disco, Electro, House, Hip Hop and Techno provides a main thoroughfare from the beginnings of the century to its end. If we go back to the 19th century, musically speaking, the American lineage was still more within the grand European tradition of orchestral / classical music on the one hand and the basic folk expression of the less privileged on the other, with church hymns in some ways bridging the two. A further key musical element, often overlooked, would be the military music. It would be via the American Civil War of the 1860’s that black conscripts would take up the bugle, which would lead to the great trumpet players who heralded the arrival of Jazz, not least arguably the 20th century's most influential musician, Louis Armstrong, whose phrasing on the instrument would make a major impact not only on other musicians, but most notably singers, who adapted a completely different approach to conveying a song, which was neither folk, nor opera, nor gospel, but a whole new fusion.

Whilst John Higgs talks about the paintings of Picasso, or the theories of Einstein, illustrating that there was no fixed perspective, as the scientists had us led us to believe in the 1800’s, the same can be said of the rhythm and polyrhythms of black American music, which dominated the century - rhythms and polyrhythms that the ancestors of these musicians were deprived of when they were captured in Africa and shipped overseas to a life of slavery.

The Rite Of Spring

Perspectives in music changed radically in the early 20th century. John tells us of the hullabaloo concerning Stravinsky's 'The Rite Of Spring' with its utilization of African influenced polyrhythms, when performed in Paris of 1913. The fact that by the 1920's young upper crust white women, God forbid, were dancing wantonly to Negro music, illustrates this change and highlights another aspect of individualism emerging – nonconformity very much in vogue. These people came from the same type of stock as those in attendance for 'The Rite Of Spring' - society's elite, the people with money (those who could afford to buy the expensive technology of a gramophone to hear these circular miracles of sound called records). The working classes would have to wait longer, until owning a radio became affordable and they were able to tune into this brave new frontier of Jazz (although often in a diluted 'whitewashed' form, as has been the case for all black music innovation to one level or another).

Although it's too big a subject to go into here in any depth, the rise of EDM (the marketing term for Electronic Dance Music) in the US over recent times has seen young people finally embracing the dance movement largely rejected when the UK and Europe was rave central in the late 80's into the 90's. Dance culture in the US, post Disco (and its untimely 'death' in 1979 – murder might be a better description), existed more on the periphery, but now it's square in the mainstream. Only problem is that, generally speaking, much of the black has been wrung out of it along the way, leaving something more akin to European marching rhythms of the 19th century than the complex polyrhythms of Africa.

John brought into play a wonderful word in the opening salvo of the book – Omphalos. It’s a word from antiquity that refers to a fixed central point in the world - to the Greeks in was Delphi, to Christians in was Jerusalem, and to the Japanese Mount Fuji (in John’s KLF book, its symbolized by the manhole cover at the bottom of Mathew St, Liverpool, where The Beatles played at The Cavern many times in the early 60’s, and which later provided the location of the legendary club Eric’s and the esoteric Liverpool School Of Language Music Dream And Pun in the 70’s). At the turn of the 20th century John places the Omphalos at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London, the designated center from which time is measured.

Promethea's Lonely Hearts Club

My personal Omphalos is more symbolic than static. It isn’t a place, but it’s four people from my home city of Liverpool, The Beatles, who provide my greatest point of reference, and if you pinpoint the epicenter it's the release of the era-defining album 'Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band' on June 1st 1967 - in that mythical realm of the summer of love when, as far as the youth of the western world was concerned, all was possible, this was the high watermark, and the point from which I move forward and backward throughout the century. Learning about The Beatles’ journey enabled me to know so much more, for their story takes in a wealth of subjects from politics to philosophy, marketing to mysticism - they really were in the eye of the 20th century hurricane.

From knowing The Beatles you get to know the 60's, from knowing the 60's the 50's and the 70's come more into focus, and it was in this way I was able to find my route through the century.

What John Higgs has done for me personally is enrich my own road map, adding new junctions and signposts along the way. His chapter on relativity allowed me insights into this subject that I've never previously experienced. It's helped colour the landscape, which now feels vibrant and approachable rather than dark and foreboding. As with Alan Moore, John is able to demystify within his writing - transmit information in a way that resonates now. His easy style is laced with depth and meaning - that's its potency.

These are the keys to a never-ending puzzle. Understanding, like everything else, is relative to your place in space and time - what might be taken as an empirical fact at one point may not, as Einstein showed us, be so certain at another. What we are able to do though is set our basecamps from which we can go out exploring, and these basecamps are areas of interest / understanding that we're passionate about, for its what's going on in the heart rather than the head that dictates the pace of these things. As John points out, there are high mountain ranges of information, but there are also caves and woodland where less visible but still significant signposts point the way. In fact it's here where some of the greatest discoveries can be made.

Baroness Elsa

For example, John tells us about a remarkable woman called Baroness Elsa Von Freytag-Loringhoven who, having been completely marginalized until recent times, is finally gaining recognition as the first American Dada artist, possibly responsible for one of the major art statements of the entire century, a piece attributed to Marcel Duchamp called 'Fountain' (credited to the fictional R. Mutt) - a urinal turned on its side, which shocked the sensibilities of the New York art community in 1917, when it was withdrawn from the exhibition it was to have featured in.

‘Stranger Than We Can Imagine’ is split into 15 chapters, all (bar one) with single word titles - Relativity, Modernism, War, Individualism, Id, Uncertainty, Science Fiction, Nihilism, Space, Sex, Teenagers, Chaos, Growth, Postmodernism and Network. John's basic premise concerns the pursuit of individualism during the century, summed up by the almost slogan like maxim of occultist Aleister Crowley ‘do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law’.

By the turn of the 20th century the influence of the church had significantly waned in the western world, the supposed certainty of science replacing religions reliance on faith, whilst in the early decades of the century, following the horrors of World War 1, Empires would crumble, with the long age of Kings, Caesars and Tsars reaching its conclusion.

Whilst people were previously born into a structured hierarchy, where they were obliged to do their duty for church and crown depending on their position in the social ladder, with the breakdown of these power bases personal expression seemed increasingly prevalent as the century progressed - beginning with artists like Baroness Elsa who, as hindsight illustrates, was way ahead of the curve of individualism. This seems to have been a necessary progression.


That said, doing as thou wilt can only go so far, and if everyone is applying this ethos there's bound to be conflict as two separate wills clash in pursuit of their opposing individual goals. A line from the animated movie 'The Incredibles' (2004) has increasingly popped into my mind during recent times - it's when Syndrome, having been shunned by Mr Incredible when he was younger, discloses that he now has the technology that enables anyone to have the type of superpowers Mr Incredible' himself has, informing him in a sinister tone that 'when everyone's super, no one will be'.

Reality TV has been a major example of this manifestation. Andy Warhol called it exactly right with his 'famous for fifteen minutes' quote. We live in a crazy age where people can become celebrities for little more than being ignorant or bigoted - nasty often having greater currency than nice. As Alan Moore has previously stated, and John Higgs repeats here, the alchemical principle of Solve et Coagula might provide the key to the next stage - Solve refers to reductionism and analysis, Coagula to reconstruction or synthesis. In this sense the individualism of the 20th century illustrated the process of Solve, and now we've entered a new phase where Coagula needs to be applied, rebuilding what we've broken down in new and improved ways, suited to the 21st century in which we now reside and its substantial challenges.

Mick Jagger & John Lennon

John makes the astute observation that Frank Sinatra's 'My Way' was perhaps the most symbolic song for a century of individualism, and it's no wonder that this is the most played song at funerals in the west. He also made an interesting comparison between The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. The Stones, he suggests, flew the individualist flag to the full, consciously acting out Crowley's call to 'do as thou wilt', whereas the Beatles were more about community and togetherness, and that whilst the Stones might be summarized as 'I want', The Beatles are best summed up via that four letter word 'love' (interestingly, Crowley appears as part of their lonely hears community on the fabled ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ album cover, whilst there is also a doll on the sleeve wearing a stripy top that bears the words ‘Welcome The Rolling Stones’).

This would suggest that The Beatles were the prophets of the next phase - that their philosophy was not of its time, but pointing the way to the future. Maybe this is why their music feels so familiar yet so otherworldly at the same time. Perhaps part of their mass appeal was in preparing us for what's ahead - helping us to think in a way that goes beyond individual self-satisfaction.

I could go on and on considering these connections, but that’s what a great book does to you, gets the old grey matter sparking technicolor as I explore the avenues and lanes they lead me down.

We need people like John Higgs to help us make sense of these tangled times, to bring the strands together. So it goes without saying that, amidst this culture of steam, in which we find ourselves, wading through the treacle of information that increasingly controls our lives, ‘Stranger Than We Can Imagine’ provides an important navigational tool for our age, highlighting aspects of our past which inform our future as we slowly shed our 20th century skin and begin to view the world through 21st century eyes.

John Higgs by Elspeth Moore

John Higgs Blogspot:


Happening #6

Super Weird Happening #6

Just a week to go until one of my favourite festivals – tucked away on the North Wales coast in a magical village like no other. Famous as the location for the classic 60’s TV show ‘The Prisoner’, Portmeirion is a place plucked out of the imagination.

This year is extra special for us because we’re hosting a 12 hour Super Weird Happening at the Estuary Stage on the banks of the River Dwyryd at the foot of The Village on the Saturday. Super Weird Substance, which was launched as a record label earlier this year, is currently in the process of releasing a series of 8 singles ahead of a CD album compilation in November – for the Happening we widen our scope, taking in art, spoken word and live performance, in addition to music.


The day kicks off for us nice and early, at 9am, when Organic Gav Kendrick brings together a group of well-being practitioners for a Super Weird Sunrise until midday, this includes yoga, song, ecstatic dance and healing workshops, whilst face painting is also available to those with kids. Gav and SWS label manager Josh Ray will provide the tunes.

We then move into the talks section, starting with 2 people we’ve become massive fans of – Daisy Eris Campbell, whose stage production of Robert Anton Wilson’s ‘Cosmic Trigger’ blew us away last year when it made it’s debut in Liverpool, and John Higgs, the author of ‘The KLF: Chaos, Magic And The Band Who Burned A Million Pounds’, an essential read, and now a brilliant new book, ‘Stranger Than We Can Imagine – Making Sense Of The 20th Century’ (blog post about this to follow in a few days).

Singer / actress Stella Grundy will then perform a section from her acclaimed stage production ‘The Rise And Fall Of A Northern Star’, whilst Salford poet JB Barrington will treat us to a recital of his distinctive urban verse.


We then welcome Mr Nice himself, ex-international cannabis smuggler, countercultural icon and bestselling writer, Howard Marks. Howard was to have joined us for the initial Happenings last year, but was diagnosed with cancer just ahead of the tour beginning. We’re so pleased that, a year on, he’s doing really well with his treatment and is able to join us in North Wales (Howard himself hailing from Bridgend in the south of the country).

Kermit Leveridge will perform a selection of his own poems before cult Manchester duo the Jam MC’s, residents at the city’s other great (although short-lived) venue of the Rave era, Konspiracy, are the first of our afternoon DJ’s.


Last year I opened up my set at No.6 with Luxxury’s majestic rework of ‘Riders On The Storm’ by The Doors – it was the first time I’d ever played it out. It’s recently been made available as a free download:

This year Luxxury is over from LA as one of our guests – his sublime mix of ‘Summer Came My Way’ the first release on the label. Hopefully we’ve repaid the favor by remixing a couple of his own upcoming tracks, ‘Take It Slow’ and ‘Hold On’, adding those Reynold’s vibes to great effect, enhancing already killer tunes with that super cool West Coast Balearic Luxxury groove.

The two guys I worked with on the Luxxury remixes, Derek Kaye and Peza, both key members of our Super Weird crew, DJ back to back at 4.45pm, which takes us into the evening section and a special live performance at 5.45 from Blind Arcade & The Super Weird Society – I say special because main man Kermit has recruited Black Grape’s kick-ass band to back the collective, which, apart from Blind Arcade and his own solo project, also includes The Reynolds, The Reverend Cleve Freckleton and Sweet Tooth T, all of which have released tracks on Super Weird Substance during the summer months. Check out some great footage of the crew rehearsing two Kermit Leveridge tracks earlier this week - his cover of The Stooges ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’, and the upcoming single ‘This Is The Last Time You See Me Here’:

YouTube Preview Image https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yEsQfJwzjAs

I round the evening off as day moves into night, deejaying between 6.45pm and 9pm, when The Village closes down and the festival moves into the fields and the woods.

Here’s the order of service:
09.00   Super Weird Sunrise
12.00   Daisy Eris Campbell
12.30   John Higgs
13.00   Stella Grundy
13.15   JB Barrington
13.30   Howard Marks
14.30   Kermit Leveridge
14.45   The Jam MC’s
15.45   Luxxury
16.45   Derek Kaye & Peza 
17.45   Blind Arcade & The Super Weird Society 
18.45   Greg Wilson
21.00   Finish

As well as all this there’ll be a posse of artists assembled by Elspeth Moore, consisting of SLM, Dan Lish, Alastair Price, Caroline Johnson, Ani Saunders and Marcus Hislop, who’ll be doing their thing live throughout the day, adding to the overall colour and creativity of the event.

Curating our own space like this is something we plan to do more of in 2016, as we hopefully move everything on up to the next level. So, in many respects, this is our showcase, enabling us to bring together friends and supporters for what amounts to our own big party in a spectacular setting. If you’re heading to No.6 I hope you take up our invitation for you to join us for what promises to be a unique day of expression and collaboration.

Super Weird Sign by Marcus Hislop

Super Weird Happening #6:


The Best Is Yet To Come


‘Don’t You Worry Baby The Best Is Yet To Come’ is a track that was first played at Blackpool Mecca in 1976 following the acquisition of a US promo from fabled Norfolk based Glaswegian record dealer John Anderson (Soul Bowl) by DJ Colin Curtis, and then a release copy via a London based supplier who specialized in importing new American releases to distribute to US Troops in Germany & Europe, specifically black GI’s with a love of Soul and Funk. The Northern Soul sessions at the Mecca were hugely influential, the club revered, along with Manchester’s Twisted Wheel, The Catacombs in Wolverhampton, The Golden Torch in Stoke-On-Trent, and the scene's most famous venue, Wigan Casino, at the vanguard of the movement.

Mecca & Casino patches

There was the famous Northern Soul schism in the mid-70’s, which was the result of the Mecca’s decision to include an increasing amount of contemporary Disco releases alongside 60’s Soul rarities, which put them completely at odds with the music policy in Wigan. Whilst most people have heard of Wigan Casino, it’s arguable that via its DJ’s, all-time greats Ian Levine and Colin Curtis (as well as Les Cokell and Tony Jebb before them), the Mecca’s more progressive approach to its music policy gave the club an edge. The Mecca opened normal club hours, 9pm-2am, but the Casino was an all-nighter from 2am–8am. As a consequence a number of people would leave the Mecca early, around 1am, to get to the Casino for opening. This led to the final hour at the Mecca becoming more experimental, and compilation albums have been made focusing purely on records that became popular there during this timeframe, ‘Don’t You Worry Baby The Best Is Yet To Come’ being one. In fact, when Colin was asked to list his Final Hour Top 10 by Soulvation, it came out at the top spot:

It’s such an obscure track that, unless you were there in Blackpool in ’76 it’s unlikely you’ll ever have heard of it – it was never issued in the UK. Bessie Banks, who sang the original, was best-known for her early 60’s recording ‘Go Now’, which was covered by the Moody Blues and became their breakthrough single, completely overshadowing the original on both sides of the Atlantic at the height of the British Invasion, depriving her of the crossover hit she’d hoped for. In the mid-70’s she was but a distant name from a misty past, even to many of those on the Soul scene, forlornly attempting to rekindle former glories by embracing the Disco direction that was gaining momentum. Given the fact that copies of the original are exchanging hands these days for around £400, you can be sure that very few sold at the time. In short, like many Northern classics, it completely stiffed on its US release. It was last chance saloon for Bessie Banks, the commercial failure of the single more or less the full stop on her recording career (she would however continue to sing Gospel into her more mature years).

Bessie Banks

The song was written by Clyde Otis and Banks’ husband of the time, Herman Kelly. Kelly’s name would subsequently become legendary within the Hip Hop community, his 1978 ‘Dance To The Drummer’s Beat’ break heavily sampled. Otis, the track’s producer, must have believed in the song, recording a markedly different more upbeat jazzier version with Sandy Barber 2 years on, whose album was also titled ‘The Best Is Yet To Come’. In recent years the label BBE has re-issued the album and put out some contemporary remixes.

Sandi Barber The Best Is Yet To Come

Although I’d started DJing a few months before the release of ‘Don’t You Worry Baby’, as I’ve previously pointed out, Northern Soul never gained a foothold in Liverpool, the city grooving to a more contemporary Funk sound in the 70’s championed by DJ’s Les Spaine and Terry Lennaine. My knowledge of Northern Soul was very much surface, so a track such as this was a well-hidden gem that just wasn’t on my radar.

The Spirit Of The Mecca

It wasn’t until 25 years later that I heard this wonderful tune. Pete Haigh, a Blackpool regular, and later a DJ on the Jazz-Funk scene who I worked alongside at many an all-dayer (which is also how I got to know Colin Curtis back in the early 80’s), compiled an album for Goldmine Records in 2000 called ‘Spirit Of The Mecca’, focusing on a selection of those final hour favourites, including ‘Don’t You Worry Baby’. I instantly fell in love with it.

For those who’ve heard me wax lyrical about The Reynolds, twins Katherine and Carmel, you’ll be left in no doubt about just how highly I rate this vocal force of nature. Their ability is literally uncanny, be it as soloists or as backing vocalists – their musical intelligence is off the scale, you just can’t learn this stuff, it’s intuitive. Their mother perhaps summed things up best when she remembered that ‘as babies they even used to cry in harmony’.

To discover a singer of this level of accomplishment, especially within your local area, is extremely rare – the fact there are two of them is four-leaf clover good fortune! It goes without saying that one of my main priorities moving forward is to record an album of material with these remarkable singers. They’re the constant element that links all the 8 Super Weird Substance releases this year (5 down 3 to go) – what they’ve brought to the table has been nothing less than a sonic banquet of timbre, texture and deftness of touch.

The Reynolds

Carmel took the lead on the single that launched the label, ‘Summer Came My Way’, unleashing a sun-drenched slow groove anthem in the process. Katherine steps forward for ‘Don’t You Worry Baby The Best Is Yet To Come’, released today on Super Weird Substance, delivering an equally stunning vocal performance with control and nuance to match the power when called for. In a world where style has usurped substance, their voices unite these 2 qualities into a sound that resonates not only to the ears of the listener, but goes straight to their being. That’s what they used to call Soul, and without ever wanting to use that hallowed word in vain (so I don’t say this lightly) - The Reynolds have a whole lot of Soul to give, it’s undeniable.

YouTube Preview Image https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bzIe9R7ZgcM

This is a mature song, Bessie Banks had been around the block and back by this point, she knew life. She re-assures the listener that things are going to get better – maybe she’s trying to convince herself. There’s a melancholy – it’s not celebratory, it’s more concerned with strengthening your spirit and resolve, for there are still tough times ahead to navigate. It’s the hope that shines through in this song – the promise of a better tomorrow, as mother might say to her child.


Katherine’s vocal was everything I could have wished for and more – I was blown away, but I’m getting used to this where The Reynolds are concerned. Still only 21 – old heads, young hearts, they never cease to amaze me! Then there’s their own special touch, additional bvox not heard on the original, but which sound like they’ve always been there (these also feature my wife Tracey Carmen, whose mentoring of the girls during recent years has given them the firm foundations from which, I’m sure, their singing careers will flourish).

What made me zoom in on ‘Don’t You Worry Baby’ as a potential cover was the enhanced relevance of the lyrics in a time of increasing unsurety. One line that jumped out might have seemed quaint a decade ago, when issues of class weren’t being discussed so much, but now the rich have gotten richer at the expense of the poorest in our society, who continue to be squeezed by harsh austerity measures, ‘you won’t need no handouts, you’ll earn your silver spoon’ all of a sudden takes on fresh context.

So having decided on the song and identified the singer, it was a case of turning this idea into reality, being respectful to the original, whilst making the necessary bass enhancement to bring the song right up to date.


During recent years one of the most prolific DJ’s out there in terms of quality reworks has been Peza, who proudly hails from Wolverhampton. I first became aware of him when he sent me a rework he’d made of ‘Stupid Girl’ by Garbage back in 2012. I really liked it but I felt there was a part that let it down where it seemed a bit empty and could do with some keyboard love. He was totally receptive to my suggestion and sent back a version to my specifications almost immediately, which I went on to play throughout that year. I’ve come to associate Peza with working quickly and decisively - an extremely talented musician as well as an expert programmer, he, in short, provides a one-stop shop where I can get most aspects of the backing recorded.

Following the Garbage rework I picked up on a great Human League ‘Being Boiled’ he’d done soon after, and then, for the next few years I benefitted from an increasing supply of Peza reworks – he was clearly someone I connected with musically. This led me to approach him to put together a few bespoke reworks for me to play out – these would subsequently appear on limited vinyl via the A&R Edits label, the most notable being his takes on ‘Love Don’t You Go Through No Changes On Me’ by Sister Sledge (another Mecca favourite) and ‘Walking In Rhythm’ by The Blackbyrds.

A&R Labels

His association with Super Weird Substance began when we got him to rework ‘The Construct’ from the ‘Blind Arcade Meets Super Weird Substance In The Morphogenetic Field’ mixtape (where we first utilized The Reynolds). As ever he did a top job – you can stream / download here:

He’s now become an integral part of the Super Weird crew, and has played on, programmed and co-mixed no less than 5 of the first 8 releases on the label. There’s an interview with Peza at the SWS website:

There wasn’t a 12” or extended version of the Bessie Banks original, it had only ever been issued as a three and a half minute 7” single. For the club version I imagined the type of arrangement that might have been done had they extended for an album or 12” (it’s release was at the very point in time the first commercially available 12” singles began to appear).

In that pre-12” climate you’d often get a Part 2 continuation on the flip side of the 7” single (or 45 to use the American terminology), only the LP was able to house the full unbroken version - the single, due to radios preference for an average 3 minute ideal, allowing limited time. These Part 2’s, especially popular with Philadelphia International, the great dance label of the proto-Disco years, would generally be less song structured and more instrumentally based, grooving you along real nice, letting you take in the sounds and the vibes, before reprising the vocal for a final flourish. That’s what I wanted for ‘Don’t You Worry Baby’ - I was thinking of stuff like George McCrae’s ‘Rock Your Baby’, ‘The Love I Lost’ by Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes, and Gloria Gaynor’s ‘Never Can Say Goodbye’, where the excellence of the much-loved single versions are further enhanced by these extended excursions.

Ian-Levine & Colin-Curtis at Blackpool Mecca

It was with some slight trepidation that the first DJ I sent the track to was the guy who’d unearthed the original, Colin Curtis - it was only right. I was confident enough about the quality of what we’d done to have brushed it off if he’d have been negative in his feedback, but it would have been an undoubted blow, so you can imagine how happy I was to receive an email from him with the message ‘not a bad effort for a white boy :-), a song that is very dear to my heart!’. A few days later he opened his House Of Soul podcast with The Reynolds version – a huge endorsement!:

The Reynolds Interviewed:


Cilla Black

Cilla Black with friend at The Cavern

Liverpool singer and TV star, Cilla Black (born Priscilla White) died today at her holiday home in Spain – she was 72 years old.

As an ‘ordinary girl done good’, she became a national celebrity following humble beginnings working the cloakroom of The Cavern Club in Liverpool, where The Beatles played so many times during the early 60’s, prior to their meteoric rise to world renown.

Beatles manager Brian Epstein would take her under his wing and guide her singing career from 1963 until his death in 1967, with Beatles producer George Martin overseeing her recording sessions at London’s Abbey Road studios. During that time she scored a string of hits, including 2 that topped the chart in 1964, ‘Anyone Who Had A Heart’ and ‘You’re My World’. Her friendship with The Beatles would provide her with her first single, 1963’s ‘Love Of The Loved’, a Lennon / McCartney composition never released by the band. Her final Top 10 hit was 1971’s ‘Something Tells Me (Something Is Going To Happen Tonight)’ – in all she placed 11 singles in the Top 10, along with 3 of her 60’s albums.

She was the beneficiary of an era when US hits were quickly covered by UK artists, often securing British success with a song associated with a completely different singer in its country of origin, This was especially true of her first #1, ‘Anyone Who Had A Heart’, an international hit written by the great songwriting duo Bert Bacharach & Hal David and sung by Dionne Warwick – however, the Cilla Black recording beat the original to the punch in the UK, and this has become the song she’s most associated with:

YouTube Preview Image https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-HBzSaWdFw

In early 1965 she was set to achieve the same feat with ‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling’, which had stole a march on the Phil Spector produced original, now regarded as one of the great classics of recorded music, by The Righteous Brothers. This was until the manager of The Rolling Stones, Andrew Loog Oldham, took it upon himself to place a full-page advertisement in Melody Maker imploring people to buy the clearly superior Righteous Brothers original. In the event, Black’s version would stall at #2 with The Righteous Brothers leap-frogging it to the top spot on its way to pop immortality.

With a powerful, what some might describe as ‘distinctive’ voice, which certainly wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, she would eventually come to be regarded as more of a show business personality than singer. Much loved by the TV viewing public as someone who possessed ‘the common touch’, she would forge a hugely successful career in light entertainment, becoming a major TV star via shows including ’Cilla’ (1968-1976), ‘Surprise Surprise’ (1984-2004) and ‘Blind Date’ (1985-2003).

Just last year ITV aired a 3-part drama about here life, ‘Cilla’, with actress Sheridan Smith taking the starring role.

Cilla Black Wikipedia:

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