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Wednesday, 18 January 2012

DJing Housewives' Choice

At the start of the (excellent) film Billy Liar there's that opening credits scene with Housewives' Choice and the dedication of records for listeners (Mrs Beryl Heseltine from Derby, who's requested Kenneth McKellar's The Song Of The Clyde and so on). It's quaint. To say the least. Actually it all looks so stylistically ancient that you almost lose your bearings. Blimey, when's this? It turns out to be the Mod age: the early 60s coffee-bar jive era but with lots of older overlaps. Old and new, etc. This scene in the dance hall where Billy Fisher/Liar has a vaguely "hot" song ("Twisterella") played by a smooth orchestral combo neatly sums it up - a clash of ages and outlooks but all under one roof.

Anyway, I'm guessing the radio dedication would also, at the time, have been one of those old-and-new things - different generations enjoying the "thrill" of the namecheck. It still goes on now of course ("shout-outs" to various posses on a - pirate? - station I sometimes listen to in east London for eg). But do people still want a record played at their request? Actually, probably so. I regularly listen to Radio 3's (cunningly-titled) Jazz Record Requests and ... yep, they play listeners' jazz record requests. You know the old saying: with these shows, it's all about format, format, format.

Getting your "favourite" tune played on the airwaves has always struck me as slightly bizarre (just play it youself at home), but I guess people can't resist the micro-fame that comes with a radio name-check. But - and this brings us, thrillingly, to my point - why would you bother asking a DJ to play stuff you already knew and had heard many times before? That you probably have on your phone or personal music player, probably right there in your hand ...

Hmm. OK maybe there's some extra "value" in hearing it played loudly in the room there and then. You can tell your mates etc. But ... it's a pretty feeble reason really.

I bring this up because my recent DJing adventures have featured a pushy woman demanding her particular brand of post-punk ("Have you got any Killing Joke? Have you got The B52s' Planet Claire? Have you got ...?") and a pushy man demanding "something more heavy metal, not this techno stuff". Given that on both occasions there was already a lot of their desired music (broadly speaking) being played by bands on stage and by the humble DJ, it was hard to see what exactly it was they wanted. Maybe they just wished to be crushed by obviousness. Floored by the familiar. Stunned into immobility as the piercing tones of the already-known made them gasp, look into the mirror and see ... themselves. Or maybe they just wanted something played on Housewives' Choice.

With that in mind, this post goes out to ... absolutely no-one.


  1. Yes I remember the inappropriate request person well from my own DJing days .... but I will say this: you can only be grateful it's bands of quality such as the B52s and and the Jokes they are asking for, which is after all something of a comment on your overall set .... believe me the requests got A LOT worse than that in my experience - Van Morrison's Brown Eyed Girl during a disco / funk set springs to mind !!!
    Pete S

  2. Right. Thanks for the (very rare on here) comment. Of course, I made my excuses and played none of what they asked for. What do they take me for? An entertainer or something? N.