Saturday, October 18, 2008

Accomplishment #18: Learn to Match Beats (#52)

When I was in college, I had my own radio show on the college radio station. Now, that sounds like I was a fancypants, but the honest truth is -- I wasn't. For one thing, it was a small, Lutheran College (but the record and cart collection was good -- typical "alternative" college radio selection), where it wasn't unusual for freshman girls to have posters of Amy Grant AND The Cure on their walls. It was also a cable only station -- you could get it on campus, but off campus you had to have some cable deal to get it. (Which was basically unheard of in 1986.) And even though I had "The Mod Monday Show" because no one knew what to call all the music I played, I basically just played whatever I felt like, which was usually not "mod." I never spoke on the air unless I had to read a PSA, never had a DJ name for myself, and by the end of the year I was so sick of it that I'd just put on a long record and go hang out with my friends. And no one ever noticed. Let's face it -- the choice was KRCL, or KROQ. KROQ won. One night, to test to see if anyone was listening, I swore on the air, and crickets chirped. The only excitement I really ever had was once some off campus listener made a very, um, nasty call to the station and I was so bored I actually listened to him, and then a few times my bona fide mod friends came to DJ, and one of them wound up stealing the station's "Setting Sons" by The Jam record. Turd.

Flash forward many years later, and I met these guys who were fanatical 45 collectors and had a show on San Francisco Cable Access called "45 Party." It was a fabulous show -- all it was was a camera on a vintage turntable playing 45's. The first time I happened upon it I FLIPPED. The songs were all 60's and really cool, and the whole thing was just so weird. A few weeks after I saw it, I just happened to meet these guys through my former boss, and it was right when they had decided to have a real live girl play the records. So... I sat on the guy's Larry's couch for half an hour playing Sonics 45s on an old record player, while they filmed and ate chicken. A half hour, all in one take. It was excruciating. (They also made me change out of my black turtleneck into a red midriff shirt -- I thought I was going to die.) I wound up doing a bunch of episodes -- first in Larry's living room, then a dance party in mine, and then it got fancy in a studio. And though I was the most frequent hostess, the most popular girl was a girl named Vanessa, who did the entire show in a bubble bath. (The bubbles started to uh, disappear.)

And, much like my college radio station, it was cable access so not many people saw it, though I got recognized in some circles and one creepy fan letter that was much like the aforementioned call to the radio station. And like the radio show, I got my friends to do it so I stopped. I never even saw most of the episodes, and the ones I do have on video have made my friends laugh unmercilessly at me for being such a dork. (And as far as I know, they are NOT on youtube. Thank God.)

Other than those two things, my only DJ experiences have been while drunk at parties, throwing on Specials and The Who CDs and screaming at people to dance (and they do), and then tossing aside the finished CDs and making a huge mess. My boyfriend has a kajillion records and is a dj, and some of my good friends DJ all over the place, even running their own club. And I've always been perfectly satisfied to go and dance, not go and spin records.

But one night, in the midst of the drunken DJ/CD playing then throwing, I remembered this Accomplishment and pretty much told them they had to let me DJ for fifteen minutes. "It's for THE BLOG," I whined. And I even made up a Star Wars themed DJ name, DJ Vajedi. They laughed. The next morning, sober, I remembered what I had done and shrugged it off, until the next DJ/ CD playing then throwing escapade. And this time, they said okay, only I didn't know it until I saw it on Twitter and on myspace. (See previous post for what Carlos posted on myspace. Flattering!) And, y'know, if it's like on myspace, it's like, totally happening. So I got all excited, and put it on myspace and facebook and all that other stuff and then went through all my crappy records to decide what to play.

Now, Jon and all my friends have amazing record collections, while I have stuff like "Pineapple Princess" by Annette Funicello and "Percy Faith Plays Songs for The In-Crowd!" and "The Theme to Dr. Kildaire." I mean, I have some good stuff, too, but pretty much everything I own I got for a quarter with no record sleeve and teenagers' names sctawled on the labels. ("MARCIA'S!" or "THIS IS BILLY'S!") I guess in DJ/ collector's terms, everything I own would be a G-. (According to Jon, that's about as crummy as you can get and have it still barely play. Mr. Record Afficiando only gets at least VGs. Whatever, SNOB. "Pineapple Princess" rules!) But I diligently played my selection, sadly discarding The Lonely Bull" by Herb Alpert because everyone would hate it and an old Rufus Thomas because it skipped. (Conveniently singing, "Dog" over and over again.) But when I had a nice little stack of 45's and a few LPs, I put them in cute little record boxes, chose a sparkly outfit and a leopard coat, and then got in the car and hyperventilated with panic. (It didn't help that the streets were closed and it took half an hour to go two blocks.)

"I've never done this before, you know," I told Carlos when I got there, rushed and nervous and five minutes before I was supposed to start.

"WHAT?" he said. I could see the "Oh God" in his face, as in, WHY did I agree to let Dorkus Malorkus do this? "I thought you'd been a DJ before!"

"Yeah, like a million years ago!" I said. "I'm so sorry..." And I felt bad. It was nice of them to let me do this, after I'd practically forced them to let me, and I was going to make an ass out of myself and them and everyone was going to be bummed. There was a reason that I was starting at 10 because no one is usually there yet, but I still didn't want to make even the 5 people hanging out stuff their fingers in their ears as I scratched records or had the scariest DJ issue ever -- DEAD AIR. (It even sounds spooky.)

"Don't worry about it!" the always kind and gracious Carlos said. "It's easy. I'll show you."

"Yeah, the needles and headphones aren't even here yet," said Scott. "You'll be fine. Go get a drink."

So I did, and sat with my girlfriends, and then Sean, the other DJ, showed up with the necessities. "You ready?" Carlos said, and I gulped and crawled into the DJ booth.

All the guys were sweet and gave me directions, and memories of DJ-ing at the radio station came back. I dropped the needle on my first song and squealed as "Karen" by The Sufaris blasted out over the speakers. "I'M DEEJAYING!" I screamed, and cued up another record.

DJ-ing at Kaleidoscope!
deep concentration

I had so much fun that they let me go on for much longer than 15 minutes. A few friends showed up and there was even dancing, and lots of "YAYS!" I didn't make TOO many mistakes -- just a few moments when I forgot to turn down the volume on one turntable while the other was playing, some awkward starts and a bit of dead air for a song with too long of a lead in, but you know, I didn't do too bad. I had fun choosing which songs flowed smoothly into each other (matching beats!), mixing up some genres, and loved it when people liked the songs and danced. Even the seasoned DJ's told me I did a good job, and it was a high honor. And then it was time to hand it over to the real stars of the night -- Carlos, Scott and Sean, and I shimmied out of the booth and danced. It was fabulous.

And since fancy DJ's publish their playlist, here's mine, though not in the exact order, because like the CDs, I just threw them back into the box. They're all just G- anyway:

Karen -- The Surfaris
She Loves You -- The Beatles
Willie and the Hand Jive -- Johnny Otis
The Girl Can't Help It -- Little Richard
The Magic Touch -- Melba Moore
Tell Mama -- Martha Velez
The Witch -- The Sonics
Come on Now -- The Kinks
Comin' Home Baby -- Kai Winding
Girls on the Rocks -- Bob Crewe Generation
I Haven't Got the Nerve -- The Left Banke
Too Much Talk (and Not Enough Action) -- Paul Revere and The Raiders
Leave No Stone Unturned -- Fortune and Maltese
It's a Crime -- the Conquerors
She Does Everything For Me -- The Zombies
If I Really Bug You -- Jose Feliciano

Here's a sample: The Magic Touch by Melba Moore, one of my all time favorite songs:

Now, I admit, I kind of altered this Accomplishment a bit. The book, written for a modern teen, recommends not bringing "back breaking crates of records" and instead using CDs and computers to match beats like a pro to enhance your social life. Bah. I still believe in the greatness of vinyl, no matter how scratchy. Sure, I have CDs and an iPod and all the modern trappings, but there is still something so wonderful about the sound of a needle hitting a record, and the little pops and crackles that give old records their personalities. DJ-ing vinyl is an art form, and I don't want it to die.

Therefore, I am all that more thrilled with this Accomplishment, and thankful to The Kaleidoscope DJs Carlos, Scott and Sean, and for my fabulous friends who came out. Yay for DJ-ing, and yay for Accomplishments!

DJ-ing at Kaleidoscope!
DJ Vajedi on the decks.

Eighteen down, 79 to go.


Maria said...

What could be better than 'Pineapple Princess'?!

This sounded like one fun accomplishment! And your playlist is great (you've got a few of my favorite bands in there)! Now, off to YouTube to find proof of your television hosting...

Sparkleneely said...


It was really fun! I got all nervous, but in the end it was a blast. I wish you could have been there -- you would have had a great time AND I would have played Pineapple Princess just for you!

Good luck on finding them -- I would plotz if they ever showed up on YouTube! (Though I wish the early ones of just the record player would -- those were GREAT.)

Andy said...

So much fun! Can't wait for next time!

Sparkleneely said...

Andy, THANK YOU SO MUCH for coming! I had SO MUCH fun... and it was the best Kaleidoscope ever thanks to YOU!!!! Come on now!!!

Okay, call me.


Dane said...

Whee, you got "YAYS!" So happy and proud.

Um; "Comin' Home Baby -- Kai Winding" - is this the same song as Mel Torme's?

Sparkleneely said...

Dane -- thank you, honey! I think the yays were most from me spazzing out! But it was fun. I was nervous, but that's what this whole thing is about, right? Stepping out of my comfort zone and trying different stuff? So I feel good about it.

And YES! Same song -- instrumental and SO fabulous. If you want to look for it, it's on Verve. What I'll try to do is get Jon to burn it on CD and then I can post an MP3 on here if you can't find it. i LOVE both versions!


Unknown said...

You look so cute behind the booth! I LOVE this!!!

Dane said...

Ooh, if you are ever able to hook me up with that song, I will love you forever - even more so, I mean.

And I love that "deep concentration" caption. :)

ally. said...

cor - i wish i'd been there. well done mrs. i would always insist on 'playing records' as opposed to the dreadful 'djing'

Sparkleneely said...

Thanks, Nikki! It was my fifteen minutes of fame... but alas, I'll never be famous enough for YDHIFM!!!

Dane -- I'll work on it. Jon's burning CDs right now, but I'll have him do all the fancy stuff and then I'll upload it. (A good accomplishment would be to learn how to do that, but I'm already booked for the next 79 weeks.) ANd it really WAS deep concentration -- you can't tell from the flash pictures, but it was super dark in there!

Ally -- you are SO RIGHT. Spinning records is so much better than "DJ-ing." I was trying to sound very official. ;) I wish you'd been there, too!!!

Lynn Peril said...

Please tell me you're doing it again some time soon!! And as others have mentioned, you looked fab in the booth.

Anonymous said...

Congrats Miss Karen! I wish I could have been there, you know I would have danced to your fabulous set.

Sparkleneely said...

Lynn -- I'm afraid they weren't so dazzled they said, "You must come back!" It was a one off, but it really was fun. And so was last night! So good to see you!

Dolin, we will have our own dance party again -- and Yma Sumac will be part of that set!!!


A Certain Lady said...

You crack me up Karen.