Bernie Worrell

Bernie Worrell

New Jersey born Bernie Worrell, keyboardist and composer with Funk supremos Parliament-Funkadelic, died last Friday aged 72. He’d been diagnosed with lung cancer in January.

As a key P-Funk member, his revolutionary approach to the synthesizer helped pave the way for a new electronic direction in black music. Whilst the more prominent P-Funkateers were founder, George Clinton, and bassist Bootsy Collins, Worrell’s role in the collective was central. Bootsy talks about Bernie here at around 7 minutes in:

As Bootsy said, Bernie became the sound – it went right through him like an electric shock. Worrell even replaced the world’s funkiest bass player on 1978’s ‘Flash Light’, one of Parliaments most celebrated tracks, connecting 3 Minimoog synths for the distinctive keyboard bass sound that dominates the track.

With P-Funk taking a hiatus from their touring schedule during the early 80’s, Worrell took the opportunity to record and perform with New York band Talking Heads, contributing to the albums ‘The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads’ (1982) and ‘Speaking In Tongues’ (1983), whilst appearing in the brilliant live concert film, ‘Stop Making Sense’ (1984). Here the band unleash ‘Burning Down The House’:

He would continue his association with Talking Heads until the group disbanded in 1991, as well as working with artists / producers including Fela Kuti, Bill Laswell / Praxis, Sly & Robbie, Prince Paul and Mos Def, He would also issue a dozen solo albums between 1978 and 2016. A documentary film, ‘Stranger – Bernie Worrell On Earth’, was released in 2005.

Bernie Worrell Logo

Bernie Worrell Wikipedia:


Greg Wilson’s Discotheque Archives #3

Greg Wilson's Discotheque Archives

The third edition of my ‘Discotheque Archives’ series for DJ Mag is now online, featuring more landmarks in pre-Rave club culture:

KOOL HERC – The godfather of Hip Hop, Herc’s South Bronx parties back in the 70’s were the catalyst for what would become a global movement.

PRELUDE – Between the demise of Disco in the late 70’s and rise of House from the mid-80’s, New York’s Prelude was the key label in connecting the two era’s.

CRACKERS – Located in London’s Soho, Crackers would be an essential black music venue between 1973 and 1981, originally with DJ Mark Roman, then George Power.

ROCK YOUR BABY – This multi-million selling Miami produced single by George McCrae helped usher in the Disco era following its 1974 release.

Discotheque Archives

Read this months column here:

Read all pieces in full here:


Why No Glasto

Glastonbury 2016

So many great festivals for me to look forward to this summer, but you might have noticed one big omission – Glastonbury. I have to tell you, with huge disappointment, that I haven’t been able to arrange anything realistic, so it’s a case of having to give it a miss this year.

I’ve felt this coming for the past few years. Glastonbury has always been notoriously tight when it comes to fees, with a number of leading DJ’s refusing to play there for this very reason. It was only in 2011 that I made my debut there, doubling-up with gigs to make it viable, driving in and out on the same day. It was a memorable, albeit muddy introduction to the festival of festivals, but it wouldn’t be until my next time there, 2 years later, that I had my Glastonbury epiphany. This was brought about by a Thursday night gig at the Stonebridge tent that has subsequently acquired a somewhat mythical status for those in attendance (the tent packed inside and out) and is my most listened to live mix on SoundCloud.

I appreciate great store is placed on the festival’s charitable donations, and I accepted the fact that the fees were going to be low where Glastonbury was concerned, it was the nature of the beast, but I’d been looked after with regards to my transport and accommodation, and had been given a decent ticket allocation, enabling me to enjoy the festival with some friends and family, so I accepted this as the situation, understanding that the promoters were all being squeezed to the max with their budgets. They needed DJ’s to do them favours, or work for free, otherwise they simply weren’t able to book enough to fully programme their areas.

However, the following year there were cutbacks in terms of both fee and tickets offered. The appearances themselves were a joy, but the overall experience of getting less, when you’re already doing it at a massive discount when compared with any other festival, didn’t sit right.

This is the problem – Glastonbury isn’t any other festival, they have a deep history, dating back to 1970, their roots in rock and live music. There’s almost an expectation that people should be perpared to play Glastonbury for the love, given its legacy, and any number of DJ’s and musicians would be happy to do so, if only to have on their CV.

I have no problem with this – if everyone was willing to approach the festival in this spirit I’d be with them all the way, but Glastonbury, although its roots might be in the free festivals of old, has long been a huge financial juggernaut, with weekend tickets this year costing £228 (plus the booking fees the ticket agents add on the top) and a mammoth 135,000 mouths to feed on site. Is food and drink sold at cost price because it’s in the spirit of Glastonbury not to profit from the event – of course not. It’s a line that’s run out to make the performers feel that they should be thankful for the privilege of playing there.

We’re talking about a festival that’s been selling out before they even announce a line-up! In that context we’re all disposable to one level or another. Other festivals have to carefully think out their line-up on the basis of how many people they might attract. This works from the main stage bands and headline DJ’s right down the food chain – it’s basic bums on seats mathematics.

Last year I nearly didn’t play at Glastonbury – the offers once more being less than the previous year. I would have had to pass, but I’d promised my son and his band that I’d take them, and I didn’t want to let them down. With the allocation cut, I found myself a ticket short, and it turned into something of a hoop-jumping ordeal before I managed to finally negotiate one. Given all the additional stress in getting this sorted, I thought never again, and instructed my agent, Matt Johnson, that it would need to be a reasonable offer if I was to play this year, something more akin to what I’d received a couple of years previous (my son and his friends, now Glastonbury converts, bought their own tickets as soon as they went on sale this time).

With this year in mind my prime consideration was, of course, for the people who’ve supported me so fervently during the past 3 years, since the Stonebridge gig. Many of them came to all the 3 areas I played in a day in 2014, and last year, at the Beat Hotel, I watched in amazement as this huge marquee, which was pretty threadbare as I set-up, filled up to bursting no sooner had I started.

Greg Wilson at the Beat Hotel 2015

When we were planning out my schedule I asked Matt to keep Glastonbury weekend clear, and I resisted other enquiries including a festival in Ireland I quite fancied in order to leave the way open for this to happen, even if it went to the eleventh hour, which was seemingly the case when an offer came in late in the day. However, it turned out to be a blind alley – they’d assumed I was already on site and would be up for doing it as an add-on. It transpired they had no budget to get me there, let alone pay me, and no tickets to offer. I pretty much gave up the ghost at this point.

Whether I play there or not is an extremely minor issue in the greater scheme of this sprawling mega-festival, but during the past few weeks a trickle of emails and messages asking me where I’m playing at Glastonbury has turned into more of a torrent. My answer, ‘I’m afraid I’m not going to be there this year’, is met with a further question, ‘why not?’, and this is my attempt to give people some sort of explanation as to my absence.

All I can say is that I really wanted this to happen, and would have happily come in at an absolute minimum to make it work, but when you’re prepared to go more than half-way, but you’re not being met there, but expected to, the way it’s been going, pretty much pay for the privilege, its going to squeeze certain DJ’s and musicians out of the picture, especially when they’re aware that there’s serious money being spent in other aspects of the festival, its performances and production.

I’m fortunate to get some wonderful slots in some stunning spaces, and with appearances upcoming at a whole heap of festivals, big and small, I hope that those of you I’ll miss this time around at Glastonbury will catch me someplace else during the summer.

Fingers crossed I’ll be back at Worthy Farm in 2017. In the meantime here are the recordings from all my appearances to date.

Previous Glastonbury posts:

Glastonbury – The Greatest Show On Earth:

Glastonbury Trilogy:

GW Festivals 2016

Greg Wilson Festival Schedule 2016:


Festival Schedule 2016

GW Festivals 2016

Got a busy busy summer of festival appearances coming up. My 2016 schedule actually kicked off in the desert of Nevada at Further Future on April 30th, the centrepiece of my US tour, and has since been followed-up back home with a main stage appearance at Liverpool’s Sound City, and an in the woods set at Lost Village in Lincolnshire. Festivals are a mainstay of what I do, and as these first 3 of the year illustrate, I’m fortunate to get some wonderful slots in some stunning spaces. Anyhow here’s the full list:

02.07.16 DISTRICT 8 / DUBLIN

* GW featuring Super Weird Substance (I’ll reveal more in a later post)

To set the tone for the summer months, here’s the recording from a memorable evening playing Void @ Further Future:

Festival Wikipedia:


Greg Wilson’s Discotheque Archives #2


The second edition of my ‘Discotheque Archives’ series for DJ Mag is now online, featuring more landmarks in pre-Rave club culture:

COLIN CURTIS – A central figure in three distinct dance music movements; Northern Soul, Jazz-Funk and House, Curtis was one of the most significant DJs in the UK in regards to his role in its development during the 70’s and 80’s.

STREET SOUNDS – Morgan Khan’s Street Sounds label was instrumental in bringing the fresh and exciting sound of the US underground dance and hip-hop scene to the UK’s mainstream via it’s affordable compilations.

THE MUSIC BOX – Chicago’s lesser-known but equally important House music club inhabited the same space where the more famous Warehouse had been. As Frankie Knuckles made way for Ron Hardy, the venue took on a new name and new life on the rougher, rawer side of House.

THE TEARS OF A CLOWN – A classic single that almost never was, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles’ ‘Tears Of A Clown’ is now regarded as one of Motown’s seminal hits, yet it was overlooked by the label as a single initially, until the UK-based Tamla-Motown showed them its worth.

Discotheque Archives

Read this month’s column here:

Read all pieces in full here:


Spotify Playlists

Technology is often a double-edged sword, announcing on the one hand exciting new possibilities, but on the other a break from a tradition you once thought was always.

People consume music very differently now to how they did in our not too distant past. The demise of the record shop, an almost mythical meeting place where life-defining tunes were first heard, then eagerly bought and brought back home for more intimate exploration, is sadly lamented by many, and this been a factor in the recent vinyl renaissance – leaving all that black gold behind us was just too much to bear.

Although a healthy amount of younger heads have nobly hooked-up a record player, the overwhelming majority of people nowadays listen to their music online, via platforms like iTunes, YouTube, SoundCloud and Spotify, which has now amassed an impressive history of recorded music to select from, confirming the ever-escalating trend for people to move away from buying their music, instead listening via a sonic library. We now loan what we used to own.

Greg Wilson's Time Capsule

On the flip side, as an archive Spotify is immense. I’ve been impressed, for example, with the amount of tracks I was able to find from my Time Capsule series, which covered the music I was playing in the clubs back in 1976 and 1977, some of it pretty obscure. Granted, there are still frustrating omissions, but overall I’ve got to say that if you’d told me, back in 1976, that there would be the possibility of hearing a great deal of the music I owned, and would subsequently own, not to mention all the stuff I could never find time to hear if I lived a dozen lifetimes; and all there at my fingertips, all accessible within my own home (or let’s make it anywhere I want to be), I’d have signed up to the future there and then. What an incredible resource this is.

I suppose that, moving forward, and given the unlimited choice now available, the need for curation grows ever-stronger, people utilizing trusted sources in order to access the ocean of recorded history now available.

It’s in this spirit that I’ve approached Spotify, which provides a solid platform for my more documentative projects, like the Random Influences and Time Capsule series’, whilst also enabling me to create playlists from genre selections I have on SoundCloud and Mixcloud – Electro, Northern Soul and the early to mid-70s Soul, Funk and Proto-Disco tracks that feature in my Music Played In Discotheques mix.

The Beatles/Bowie

Then there are artist compilations, my Bowie tribute following his death earlier this year, and a Beatles Children’s Classics playlist taken from a CD I’d put together for my son back in the late 90’s, and then burnt off for friends along the way, so they could play to their kids – I put this on Spotify when The Beatles back catalogue was made available to stream:

There are also playlists containing my remixes, production & edits and one for the releases on my record label, Super Weird Substance, but whilst SoundCloud and Mixcloud are more related to what I do as a DJ, Spotify is more akin to the blog, taking in a wider-range of music and influences.

Random Influences

What’s been particularly pleasing is that Random Influences, which has had, and continues to have, a number of homes since its inception in 2010, has finally found its most suited abode. Whilst I didn’t have a way around it at the time, the 12 part 24-hour long series was compromised by even being in a fixed running order. It features a days worth of 7” singles I knew and loved during my formative years, and Spotify finally allows me to present the series in a way that’s befitting of its name, all the tracks in a single playlist and the shuffle function enabling the randomising I’d initially envisaged for the selected tracks, but had no realistic way of achieving until now. This can, of course, be done with any playlist, but it’s the perfect way to consume Random Influences.

So have a look for yourself, plenty already there to explore and lots more to come. Check in here:


Greg Wilson’s Discotheque Archives

Discotheque ArchivesLast December, whilst I was in London to collect the DJ Mag Industry Icon award at their Best Of British event at Heaven, editor Carl Loben and digital editor Charlotte Lucy Cijffers approached me with the idea of writing a regular column for the magazine focusing on various aspects of the history of dance culture during the pre-Rave era, taking in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.

The first column, titled ‘Greg Wilson’s Discotheque Archives’, was included in the magazines April edition, and is now available to read online. It features 4 sections – Classic DJ (David Mancuso), Classic label (Sugar Hill Records), Classic Venue (The Twisted Wheel, Manchester) and Classic Record (‘Love Money’ by T.W. Funk Masters):

Discotheque Archives

On a personal level, this provides me with the perfect opportunity to highlight history and legacy to a generation of younger DJs who read the magazine, helping join the dots between what’s happening nowadays and the roots and branches that led there.

Josh Ray, who works with me at Super Weird Substance has been helping me compile the contents, whilst Pete Fowler is providing the accompanying illustrations of the Classic DJs – the first, ‘Mr Mancuso’, taken from a painting I bought from him back in 2013:

DJ Mag

DJ Mag Wikipedia:




Minnepolis born music icon Prince Rogers Nelson, better known as simply Prince, died today at his Paisley Park estate in Minnesota aged 57. The cause of his death is still undetermined as I write this, but last week he was taken into hospital for a few days with flu-like symptoms, following an emergency plane landing in Illinois after he’d performed in Atlanta.

I first came across Prince in the late 70’s – I remember confusing him with the Reggae artist Prince Far I at first because his debut album was listed as Prince ‘For You’ in 1978. It wasn’t an LP that set the world alight, but his next album, the self-titled Prince, released the following year, would spawn 2 massive club cuts, ‘I Wanna Be Your Lover’ and ‘Sexy Dancer’, as well as ‘I Feel For You’, a track that would be covered by and become a huge hit for Chaka Khan in 1984 (other notable Prince covers include The Bangles ‘Manic Monday’ and Sinéad O’Connor ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’).

Prince defied pigeonholing, coming up with his own musical mutations that fused Funk, Soul, Rock and Electronic styles. During the early 80’s, whilst he was making tentative steps towards stardom in the US, in the UK he was too rock for the dance crowd and too dance for the rock crowd. He teetered on the margins for a few years, but there was an upturn in 1982 with the release of the ‘1999’ LP and the single of the same name, which certainly brought him to wider attention in the UK. However, it was the next album, the soundtrack to the film ‘Purple Rain’ (in which he starred) and it’s flagship single ‘When Doves Cry’, which gave him his first US #1’s and launched him to superstardom.

Purple RainAs a live performer he was one of the most spectacular of his era, whilst inside the studio he was a musician who could pretty much pick up any instrument and make it sound great. He was one of the most innovative record producers of his time and, along with Michael Jackson and Madonna, one of the defining pop stars of the 80’s. Although he reached the height of his popularity from the mid-80’s to the early 90’s, he continued to score top 10 albums right up until 2014.

During recent years I’ve played a number of Prince edits along the way, but by far and away the most memorable is the Dimitri From Paris take on ‘I Wanna Be Your Lover’, an absolute classic of the re-edit genre, which you can hear here:

The news of Prince death came as quite a shock personally – I’d played ‘When Doves Cry’ as the closing track at my last gig, in Liverpool earlier this month. He was just a year older than me. Here’s the recording:

There are lots of people remarking that there’s already been far too many deaths this year, but it seems that it’s something we’ll have to get used to as the 60’s generation reaches old age. Already this year on the blog I’ve written pieces about David Bowie, Maurice White, George Martin, DJ Derek, Howard Marks and now Prince, all categorized RIP – it’s been a discomforting trend. Prince is perhaps the most shocking of all given his relatively young age and the fact nobody could have anticipated this.


Prince Wikipedia:


Howard Marks

Howard Marks

Howard Marks, the once international dope smuggler, later bestselling author and raconteur, died on Sunday. He was aged 70.

Howard was someone I was fortunate enough to meet on a number of occasions, and even interview, during his latter years. He was a friend of my friend, Kermit Leveridge, and it was when I started working with Kermit again in 2013 that I first met Howard. He came to my house to record a spoken word section for ‘Universal Prayer’, a track by Kermit’s band Blind Arcade, which extolls the virtues of the green stuff:

He also recited one of Kermit’s poems, ‘Lies And Other Fools’, a much darker piece of prose, which dealt with Kermit’s heroin addiction of former years. It was a powerful portrayal by Howard, his deep distinctive Welsh tones adding further gravitas. It wasn’t easy listening, but it wasn’t meant to be, it was part of a cathartic process for Kermit before embarking on a new creative chapter. We decided to press it up as as a limited 7” single, which was issued on Record Store Day 2014. It was our offering to the vinyl gods:

We held a special event at Dry Bar in Manchester to mark the occasion, and Howard was our guest of honour – Dry, with its rich Manchester heritage having been opened by the owners of The Haçienda / Factory Records right at the height of the Madchester era, in 1989 (the year Howard’s luck ran out and the authorities finally caught up with him). Artist SLM painted a regal Howard at Dry – I suggested the laurel of hemp that adorns his head.

Howard Marks by SLM

I collected Howard from Piccadilly station that day, and as we drove to the venue he casually mentioned that Dry had been the location of his very first book presentation, following the publication of ‘Mr Nice’ in 1996.

‘Mr Nice’ was a wonderful yarn, Howard’s autobiographical account of the years he spent playing cat and mouse, avoiding the authorities across continents as he masterminded a major network for the illegal importation of cannabis. The title referred to the name Mr Nice, one of the aliases Howard would use, assuming, in this case, the identity of a real Mr Donald Nice.

The name suited Howard, for apart from being a highly intelligent and clearly cunning man, he was also extremely charming – the warmth of his larger than life personality a key characteristic that magnetised those around him. It was also this that no doubt kept him safe and sane when incarcerated in a maximum security prison in the USA until 1995, following his arrest in 1989 (his death was 21 years to the day since his release from prison).

Howard was one of the true anti-heroes of the age, a fact embraced by all those who went out and bought ‘Mr Nice’, making it a bestseller, particularly popular at the time with students, as well as stoners. His new-found celebrity led to talk tours where he embellished on his book tales with the command of a stage veteran – his wit and intoxicated wisdom resulting in packed venues. I went to see him myself in Liverpool during the late 90’s.

In 2010 ‘Mr Nice’ was adapted into a film, but it just didn’t capture the spirit of the book, falling well short for me, and for many others. Sadly, a lot of people have subsequently gone for the quick fix of the film, rather than the long haul of the book.

Following the success of our Dry Bar Record Store Day Vinyl Happening, we booked in a series of Super Weird Happenings featuring Blind Arcade, as well as live art, spoken word and DJ’s. Howard was to have been our special guest on the 5 dates, which took in Manchester, Glasgow, Bristol, Liverpool and London, but just before we released the promotional material for the first dates, which had his name on, we learned that he’d been diagnosed with bowel cancer.

A Super Weird Happening In Portmeirion

Howard’s cancer was inoperable, but his lust for life remained large, and over a year on from his diagnosis he was able to join us in North Wales for our Super Weird Happening at Festival No.6 in Portmeirion, where a packed crowd gathered on a gorgeous afternoon in a show of heartfelt warmth towards Howard that was truly touching. I could tangibly feel it as I sat on stage interviewing him – it was something that will always stay with me. Howard was very much a loveable rogue, and that day he generated a wave of love and goodwill from the audience, who hung on his every word, perhaps knowing that this was the last time they’d see this then living legend and countercultural icon.

This would be the last time I saw Howard. There was talk of him doing more events with us later this year – he remained the optimist. However, Howard’s health deteriorated in recent months, with Kermit informing me of his passing before the news broke on social media.

My personal commiserations to Howard’s family and friends.

Kermit Leveridge & Howard Marks photo by Elspeth

Guardian Obituary:

Howard Marks Wikipedia:


DJ Derek

DJ Derek

It’s now been announced that the body found in woodland outside Bristol on 10th March, has been confirmed as being former Bristolian Reggae DJ, Derek Serpell-Morris (aka DJ Derek), who had been missing since July 2015. He was 73.

Derek retired from DJing in 2013, although he returned for a final one-off appearance at Bristol’s Thunderbolt on New Years Eve 2014, alongside fellow Reggae selector legend Don Letts (the sell-out event being filmed by Don for posterity).

Derek’s disappearance was, and for the meantime remains, a mystery. That someone so identifiable within the local community could seemingly vanish without trace left hope that perhaps he would miraculously turn up again somewhere, but as each week / month passed that hope evaporated, and more and more people came to believe that news of Derek’s death was inevitable. The last flickers of hope faded just before Christmas when reports of Derek being sited in London came to nothing more than a case of mistaken identity.

I wrote about Derek back in 2012, before he’d announced his retirement, in a blog post called ‘Never Judge A Book By It’s Cover’:

I’d imagined him enjoying a lengthy retirement travelling up and down the country quenching his thirst as he fulfilled his intention to visit every Wetherspoons Pub in Britain in order to sample their real ales (Derek, despite his JA leanings, more hops than herbal), but this tragically wasn’t to be.

By way of a fitting tribute, I’d highly recommend you take out the 20 minutes necessary to watch this film about Derek by Jamie Foord, which celebrates his DJ career and love of both Jamaican and American black music: Pt 1: https://vimeo.com/1758371 Pt 2: https://vimeo.com/1758440

There’s also this wonderfully observed 4 minute short by Yan Murawski:

DJ Derek Sweet Memory Sounds

DJ Derek Wikipedia: