Listen up, y'all!
I was going to post this as part of the discussion on my last entry but thought there were some key points in here which I didn't want lost in the ensuing banter, so here goes…
In various recent debates about Top Banana and the music in the Union in general it has been suggested that our job as DJs is not to educate the audience, but rather to simply give them what they want (a suggestion which usually rankles us, since "what they want" is usually an extremely limited selection of tunes, most of which are what the French refer to as "Le Toss". But hey, as has been rightly pointed out, these records have their place so let's not pass too many value judgements here).
"Can't... hold...own... against...good... music..."
However, an interesting point to consider is that yes, we can rest of course on our laurels and pander to the masses by refusing to exert our own tastes on them, but think about this: on the first night of the academic year, I put on a then relatively little-known record I absolutely loved called Mr. Brightside by The Killers, and only a handful of people knew it while most others looked on in bewilderment and/or disgust. Convinced of the fact that this was a song which a lot of people had the potential to like, I kept plugging it relentlessly at every major Union event I DJ-ed over the course of the year (Freshers Ball, Skool Dayz, End-of-Term parties, Baby B, Top B) until eventually everyone decided that this was in fact their new favourite song of all-time (watch it top the Top B Top 40 vote with flying colours when the poll goes up soon…)
Now I'm not saying that I'm solely responsible for bringing this track to Warwick's attention, as chances are when Somebody Told Me became such a big hit many more people would have come across it through buying the album (or, as is unfortunately more likely here, scamming it off DC++... or in fact just downloading the one track, lest we forget the blank-faced reaction to All These Things That I've Done a couple of weeks later).
Of course, let's also not get into the irony that Brightside (essentially a misunderstood and deeply melancholic song about sexual jealousy) has now become the new Chesney and we're getting a bit bored of playing it, but still – unless people in positions of influence (and no, I'm not claiming mine to be one particularly but, as has been demonstrated by some of the records we've helped break into Top B, we do hold some sway over things here) take the time to help push these things, most people aren't going to bother investigating them of their own accord. Look at the way Chris Evans singlehandedly broke Ocean Colour Scene, for example – there was a band with clear mass appeal who simply weren't getting the support they needed until someone in a prominent position stood up and said "I like this, and I think you might too".
Many people have accused me of musical elitism in the past, but what has often frustrated me is that a great deal of the lesser-known bands I like ARE in fact extremely accessible and WOULD have the ability to cross over into mainstream consciousness if both the media and the public were just a little more dilligent in helping to identify and support them. The recent Head Automatica single Beating Heart Baby is a great example of this - although quite spiky in its articulation, it's a very poppy tune which went down well when we started playing it in the Union and is now requested regularly (though whether most people would know what it is when it comes on is still debatable). Look at what happened when we played One Way by The Levellers at Top B the other night - when I was at school this was literally the biggest song of the night at our discos, and has one of the most hollerable choruses in the history of popular music ("There's only one way of life, and that's your own, your own, your own" - I mean come on, if you can't pick that up then there's something seriously wrong with you!) When we put it on, literally only four people recognised it; however, rather than just submit and take it off, I persevered with it until the end, by which time a considerable amount more people were dancing away and found themselves quite enjoying it. Indeed, as James astutely pointed out in his comments on the previous topic: YOU DON'T HAVE TO KNOW WHAT A SONG IS TO BE ABLE TO ENJOY IT. How did you react when you first heard Mr. Brightside? Did you honestly say "This record's shit because I've never heard it before" and dismiss it forever? (Although let's not forget the legendary first play of Britney's Toxic at Top B a couple of years back, which was greeted with hoots of derision and strenuous objections from basically everyone…)
This is why we find it annoying that people are so close-minded towards anything remotely different at Union events: it's because oftentimes there are much better things out there that we think you'll like if you just give them a chance - but of course many people aren't even prepared to do this, mostly due to simple complacency, ignorance and/or laziness. With this attitude, how are you ever going to embrace anything new? It's always frustrated me that bands like Fountains of Wayne and The Lemonheads - both of whom make, or have made, very accessible and catchy pop songs of an exceptionally high standard - have previously met with only limited success due to underexposure. However, what narks me more than anything is when a great band with the clear potential for mainstream appeal (Silver Sun, for example, though obviously they've persevered in the face of adversity and recently put out a new album after several years in the wilderness) just get completely overlooked and are forced to break up, which deprives the rest of us of their work. When their music means so much to you as a fan, I just find it such a fucking shame, and so hopefully you'll forgive my anger at those people whose ignorance breeds this kind of apathy and robs genuinely great musicians of their ability to get heard.
I suppose the nub of the argument is this: there comes a point – and this is something that a lot of people tend to forget – when you have to realise that the Union is here to cater for everyone, and not just you. So next time you feel the apparently insatiable urge to come up to one of us and complain that what we're doing is "shit" or that you don't like it, please bear this in mind: THOUGH THE RECORD WE'RE PLAYING MAY NOT BE YOUR FAVOURITE SONG, CHANCES ARE IT IS SOMEONE ELSE'S. As DJs at Warwick's most popular events we aren't out to wreck anyone's night by playing wilfully obscure music, and we're certainly not out to patronise anyone by exerting our own tastes on the masses without any thought for how well it might translate to them (it always flummoxes me when I'm accused of just playing "my" music, as I was when I dropped R.E.M. 's Losing My Religion into Baby B after it trounced all-comers in that week's Pounder vote – believe me, if I played most of the stuff I enjoy listening to you'd see a mass dancefloor exodus of Biblical proportions…)
However, please realise that we do know what we're doing and can keep as many people as possible happy if you just trust us to do our job and open your minds a little from time to time. Regardless of the changes that have been made, pretty much every track we play during peak time has been at least a Top 30 hit at some point, usually higher (go look at the playlists on the Top B forum after signing in here if you don't believe us) - which must mean that some or indeed many of you bought copies of them at some point. Hell, we aren't even doing anything particularly radical with the music at Top B - it strikes me that if you don't know the vast majority of the records played past 10:30pm, there are serious gaps in both your own musical knowledge and your ability to just have a good time. Believe me, we love nothing more than when the dancefloor's heaving and people are having fun, and ultimately this is our aim with any event we DJ (we'd be pretty crummy at our jobs if it wasn't…)
On a different note, to whoever it was who accused me of pitching myself as some kind of Musical High Priest, as a complete atheist I suppose I do see music as some kind of spiritual substitute… But hey, that's a different matter entirely!
As you were…