After the best part of eight years of what I would call going through the motions of being a DJ, wondering whether to quit whilst the goings good or just carry on & fade into obscurity.After thinking long & hard I decided to invest in some new disco gear, passing a local shop one day, I decide to stop ,go in & do some kind of deal. Now meeting Dave Keen & his then business partner Ron Peel gave me a new angle on the game. I'd seen Dave around over the years & could only describe his set up as a nightclub in a van, but I wasn't really thinking of going down that route, I just wanted something that looked pro, sounded good & was easy to get around. Over the years technology had improved, sound equipment was better, lighting was becoming more affordable so I invested in some nice, compact mobile equipment and I had just spent £1500 just scratching the surface. Dropping into the shop on a regular basis also helped, over the course of time & many cups of coffee they got an idea of what I had done over the previous years plus the fact I was always spending bits of money or loosing at cards to Dave, so it was a win, win situation for them all the way. The thing was, as well, I was never going to spend my money elsewhere having Roadshows down the road was far too useful, .....you spend money....they look after you.
Between Dave & Ron they had aquired a lot of contacts, both of them had a similar track record to me, so gigs were constantly coming into the shop. Being a regular customer I was always on the receiving end of these gigs. You could go into the shop on a Saturday without work & be doing a gig that evening, that's how good it was. The trouble with me back then I'd seen another angle to this DJ world & needed to get in to it......'Mr 15 Minutes' last kick of the ball, so to speak. Over the months I'd had weddings, parties, pub lounge gigs...all out of this shop & nobody had ever asked me for any commission.....it was just go out, cover the gig, come back, spend a few bob.....it was one big circle & as long as you stayed in it everyone was happy. I started going to a couple of Daves gigs, Kings Norton Golf Club & The White Lion at Portway& thought to myself that I wouldn't mind doing a few places like these , but I was never going to ask & I had no intention of going through the back door to get these sort of gigs. Anyway I hadn't got the equipment & to be honest disco gear wasn't really my thing, it was just a tool to transmit a show, and on top of everything I felt I was dealing with a couple of decent blokes & I valued that. My breakthrough was on the way.
I can't remember the exact date but coming up to the Xmas period Dave asked me to fill in for him at The Westmead Hotel in Hopwood. Trouble was I hadn't got much gear but that wasn't really a problem, they got some big speakers out of the shop & away we went. At this time the New Romantic Music was big along with a fair bit of Bowie & Bryan Ferry. I always fitted in a few Motown Classics & a bit of disco as well , Shalamar, Kool & the Gang & a bit of UB40.They needed me for three weeks but I think that turned into two years. It was a good night to have a residency on, as well, Monday.
A few months past & Dave told me Book & Candle in Redditch is your next one, you better check it out. So off we go, me & an old mate Kenny West.....Thursday night at the Book. Now this pub is slap bang in the middle of a big council estate in Redditch [bit like the Trade Winds ] & there's a bus lane running all the way round Redditch, so it looks good for punters. On this particular night a Black Country Jockey was playing, by the name of Alan Price. The place was rammed and this DJ was good [ I recon I was better though]. The equipment thing hit me first, it must have took him 3 hours to put it together & another 3 to take it apart. No chance of me hauling that much gear ( famous last words ).Musically I liked the night 'I Owe You One' by Shalamar,' Nine Times Out Of Ten' by Muriel Day, good stuff. He didn't play a lot of the stuff I was playing back then...the New Romantics & the Roxy Music, I never really knew why !
Three weeks later it was my turn, Fridays & Saturdays being my nights. At first I was a bit edgy about giving up Saturdays because it was a good night for private functions. Dave told me not to worry, 'we have a steady flow of work coming thro' the shop if it don't work out'. That was my reasurrance.
My first Friday, what a dissapointment, 40 punters & I was back up to the worst band in the history of showbusiness, Saturday faired better because it was my show. Back then, the early 80s, Redditch was 10 years behind the rest of the civilised world in terms of music. Break dancing was big, so we'd get a few of them. The New Romantic thing was just starting, so we'd get a dozen or so girls made up like something out of the Adams Family & guys still wearing Oxford Bags doing a cross between a break dance & a northern soul talculm powder slide on the floor . I did pick up on one thing first night tho'. I've never had much of a problem getting a dancefloor moving, I'd just try anything.' Out On The Floor Tonight I'm Really Moving' by Dobie Gray followed by 'We're In This Thing Together' by the Carrolls followed by 'Guilty' by the Pearls......that was it ....anything that sounded remotely Northern or Motown seemed to cut it. After three weeks of 'Redditch has got talent' I had a meeting with the promoter & the pub gaffer 'either pay good money & get a good band or let me do it my way'. They let me do it my way. Fridays & Saturdays were never the same again, after three weeks the doors shut before 10 o clock both of my nights. What did I get out of it? £5 for boosting Fridays. It did have one casualty tho', poor old Alan Price on a Thursday, unfortunately people around the Book didn't have enough money to have three good nights out on the trot & I suppose I became flavour of the month for a while, so belated appologies to Alan. So every Friday & Saturday became a good mix of New Romantic stuff, Motown, Reggae, & Northern Soul, the place just rocked & it carried on rocking for quite a few years.
The Book & Candle was so sucessful that the Brewery invested £200,000 + into turning the function room into a night club.The night the Book & Candle re-opened was a great night, people kept buying me drinks (I was well hammered ), I vaguely remember playing just about every record i'd ever liked. Then right at the end of the night I was sitting on the edge of the stage, all the punters going home & this guy came strolling over....could I be mistaken.....not for a minute 'Pat Martin'. Wow it was like a breath of fresh air to me, one of Brums finest had been here all night....had he come to pay hommage to the King? Nice to see him again tho'. Actually it was the last time I'd seen him, 30 years ago, I have phoned him up since. I carried on working there for a year or so, quite enjoying it. I have always been into the music & dancing side of this business, the equipment was only ever a tool to deliver a show & by installing equipment into the Book made my life so much easier. Musically it was a good time. Between the Book & Candle & the Westmead I was playing a good variety of music I actually liked. 'Thriller' & 'Billy Jean' by Michael Jackson,'A Night To Remember' by Shalamar...great old tunes.
In between these 2 venues I still carried on doing other gigs, the odd private, the Mackadown in Kitts Green & a few other places that have slipped my mind.
I had come the full circle by the time I'd got to the Book, I was playing what I started out playing Motown & Northern Soul plus a few other bits & pieces. After many years of enjoying, almost quitting, finding a new excuse for carrying on, I can honestly say that the Book & Candle was the place that I hold close to my heart. When they knocked the Book down part of me went with it.