Although I had a couple of DJ moments when I was 14 years old I really started being a DJ when I was 22 by default to be honest, as I will explain further down the page. My music journey really started at 11 years old by absorbing a wide selection of music and records from the 50's, 60's and 70's due to a thirst for collecting them by the dozen from people who no longer wanted their 7" inch records lying around the house. I used to buy them with my school dinner money then go hungry all day until I could raid the fridge at home later, but I didn't mind, I was captivated by the sheer joy of being able to sit in my bedroom with a small portable Dansette record player and listen to the songs with my friends Leslie Dockrell, Roger Laming, Tony Cracknell and Clive Hope. Those 7" records by hundreds of artists in all kinds of styles of music were to my curious imagination little windows into many different worlds of emotions. From the joy of newfound love to the unrequited pain of a non-returned love to the unbridled passion for a desired love. The words in the songs painted pictures to me so I used to listen to them deeply and relate to the scenario personally. The first record I ever bought with my own money was "Ain't No Sunshine" by Michael Jackson on Tamla Motown Records, a label I would one day have the honour of working for in the UK. From the age of 13 years I developed an instinctive way of relating to how people responded to music and particularly the emotions being sung. I can recall sitting in my bedroom listening to Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes "The Love I Lost" on the US Philadelphia green label and being lost in the lyrics. 19 years later I made that record again with an artist called Sybil and it nearly went to No: 1 in the national pop chart, stopping at No: 3 and the announcer on Top Of The Pops mentioning my name on TV saying "and the man behind this weeks No: 3 hit is Eddie Gordon." Life's full of surprises. Music brings back those memories so crystal clear unlike anything else can. Maybe there's a route for people with memory loss illness like Alzheimer's to be able to recollect their thoughts into some sort of order with the powerful memories songs can pull back into your present consciousness - I believe very strongly in the healing power of music to put a smile on your face. I've seen it do that all my life and with my daughter now. (continued click more.....)
Some of my happiest days were just sitting with friends listening to records over and over again. There is a double album of 41 original songs from a movie called "American Graffiti", a late 50s American end of year college story, with intro's from the Radio DJ Wolfman Jack, that can explode images of four 13 year old friends Roger Laming, Tony Cracknell, Leslie Olive and myself all laughing together from 35 years ago as we immersed ourselves into music of that American late 50s period by wearing the clothing and shoes similar to those worn in the movie. We could do the dances as well, rock and roll with the best of them. A "Jungle Jungle Jungle Jungle Rock!
I remember my Mum moaning at me at a family wedding because I didn't want to dance when the disco started then the wedding DJ played "Rock Around The Clock" and I was up bopping away like a rock n roll veteran, she looked at me shocked as I sat back down when the record finished and asked "where did you learn to do that?". I shrugged my shoulders. Teenagers !
The truth was there was a 13 year old bridesmaid there called Christine who was lovely and I didn't want to make an idiot of myself, being 13 and awkward, so I waited until I could dance to a record that I liked back then. We wrote to each other for a bit after but we were 80 miles apart from Ipswish to Gravesend.
Anyway the songs and music of American Graffiti and the movie "That''ll Be The Day" with David Essex and Ringo Starr were all Poetry In Motion to us boys who knew off by heart everything Wolfman said on the record. "Those Green Onions are hanging around the studio, especially to keep them Vampires away - you understand" in his husky, gravel voice as he cued-up the Booker T and MGs instrumental organ twister Green Onions.
In that front room of 10 Snelling Avenue, Northfleet, Kent, where we sat for hour upon hour, was the entire collection of Tony's elder brother, Steve Cracknell's, 7" vinyl records, for his mobile disco, all in colour coded cardboard record sleeves for instant recognition and boy hell was waiting for us if we touched Steve's record's. He was a gentle giant really in a leather jacket, jeans, Dr Martens boots with long hair and a huge nose, but his rule was my first view into the world of a DJ. His command that "thou shall not touch my records" was a valuable lesson in how important it was to look after your tools of your trade - your tunes. I sold some records recently before moving to California, records that I had played and played over again as a DJ and they were still in wonderful condition because of that impression from those days. There was nothing worse than a record playing to a dance floor that started to jump because of somebody's left over pizza stuck in the vinyl grooves making the needle jog. Once is ok but more than that then audience would be thinking "jesus this bloke is totally useless".
One stand out memory was in the summer of '75 buying 10 Four Tops albums for £10 off a friend at Cosy Glide where I worked for 6 months. Terry Askew, needed the money. They were great albums but one stood out particularly, "Main Street People" on the ABC Dunhill label. WOW what a brilliant album from the Four Tops recorded in 1972. If you like 70s Soul music go find that album its a classic piece of work with fabulous songs, funky, soulful, ballads and the Four Tops, loosened from the shackles of the Motown pop machine, really let rip vocally into the social issues of the early 70s era with songs like "Am I My Brothers Keeper" or "Are You Man Enough" and the ballad 'One Woman Man' will melt any woman's heart with its promise of total devotion. I used to come home in the early hours of the morning from disco dancing and put that album on my Mum's stereogram quietly in the lounge having a cup of tea and think about the evening I had just had out with my friends before I went to bed. I know every song off by heart now. I used the song "Main Street People" as the intro to a 10 hour BBC documentary I produced in 2011 called "A Piece Of Paradise" about the 1970's New York disco scene. Good music memories never leave you.
Disco was so huge in the 70s that its hard to portray how big now but it was a world wide explosion thanks to the movie Saturday Night Fever. Think of the Moon Landing, a Royal Wedding, the World Cup and the Olympics all going off in the same year and you'll get some idea how it swept the globe. You could go out to a Disco in the town every night of the week and if you could not dance you could forget attracting a girlfriend thanks to bloody John Travola. I actually lost my first serious girlfriend Margaret Skipper to a flashy disco dancer called Mark Broadbent with her words echoing in my head "Mark is a much better dancer than you Ed". It was a real first love heart break, we'd been totally inseparable for three years and to add insult to injury she said "you only work in a laboratory, Mark's Dad owns a Green Grocer store that will one day be his. What will you do with the rest of your life Eddie ?" I sarcastically replied that he and I both wore coats at work only mine was laboratory white not greengrocer brown covered in potato dirt with dirty fingernails but she was having none of it, we were over. Thoughts of a duel in Gravesend High St crossed my mind, like Two Ton Ted from Teddington and Ernie the Fastest Milkman in The West, but the hot molten lead from my laboratory would have mashed his potatoes in a fast second - it was a no contest. :-)
Typically, as life often does, it was a massive watershed moment because after a few weeks moping around listening to sad songs by Stevie Wonder, Donner Summer and Michael Jackson's "She's Out Of My Life", I went out and bought lots of Jazz Funk 12inch records, I was going to learn to dance to Disco music the way I learnt to Rock and Roll music with Roger, Les and Tony, with a personal twist.
One 12inch record in particular was on the Tappan Zee label called 'Turn On The Tap' and had 4 tracks on like an EP. They were "Westchester Lady" by Bob James, "Watermelon Man" by Mongo Santamaria, "Black Is The Colour" by Wilbert Longmire and "First Love" by Richard Tee. I learnt to dance, not just disco dance, but to Jazz dance to that 12inch, especially the fast paced latin rhythms of "Watermelon Man" and "Black Is The Colour". **"Westchester Lady" came back in my life in 2010 when a Gravesend DJ, who's career I had help start at my night The Slammer, Craig Mineard, told me over dinner in Los Angeles that he now lived in Westchester, NY and had been workin with Bob James.
1979 was a passage of rites with my love for music soon I was out dancing all over the town with my friends and this was when I started to study how DJs were putting their music together. I was not just going to the disco to meet girls I was really listening to the music being played too, intensely. Closing my eyes to zone out at one with the music, spinning, grooving, weaving and bobbing. One night a girl came over and said "You're a great dancer. Where did you learn to move like that?"' I replied "you have to love the music and then trust your body's rhythm". I was made up.
From my nights out I met lots of people and saw how the music was setting the dancefloors alight with energy, soon I was well known to the DJs who would play my requests. It was one night like that when suddenly the dancer, Mark Broadbent, who took Margaret off me, was on the same dancefloor. Here was my chance, the rest of the dance floor parted, sensing something was on as the familiar bassline of my favourite Jazz Funk track "Expansions" by Lonnie Liston Smith pumped out of the sound system. I could dance to this one with my eyes closed I knew every beat and musical note of the 8 minute journey from the start to finish. Our dancing became frenetic and intense, we were competing against each other but I was only aware of him for the first 30 seconds then I was gone into my own Jazz zone. When the record finished there was nobody else on the dance floor but us two. The DJ made a comment about the unexpected free show as Broadbent turned his back and walked away. My friends cheered, my girl buddy Ellen Johns ran over grinning "you took him, that was so wicked" - I smiled to myself and was released from the taunt of "he's a much better dancer than you." Not anymore. I also realised then that music and I, we had a special something going on, and that life evens things out if you help it to help you.
Margaret soon left Mark for his best friend and flatmate Bob (ouch) but she was my first love and a truly great girlfriend too in every sense so I've cherished the memory of our three years together forever as you do when love bites away a little piece of your heart. So many songs remind me of my time with her, especially the love songs from 1976 like O.C. Smith "Together" or "And We Do It" by RJ Stone link here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FVPgvJvTxfE
I soon found an amazingly beautiful girl to go dancing with called Vivien Rixson. When I mentioned her name to my football team-mates one Sunday morning, as we were putting our kit on for a game in the changing room, saying I was going out with her that evening, the changing room activity stopped dead as they said "you're taking Vivien Rixson out? No way!" yes my friends the very one. We still talk on the phone today, she is married living in Pensacola, Florida and still loves her music.
So back to the old days but fast forward a brief moment to tell you that 13 years from that dancing high with "Expansions", I got to record with Lonnie Liston Smith when we remade his 'Expansions' track and I hired him to play keyboard over-dubs on our mixes. He just sat in the PWL studio, nearly blind by then and played his heart out on our track - it was amazing - I'd loved this guys music for years and he signed my rare copy of his album on the Flying Dutchman label too.
Rewind to 1980, I was now firmly on my path of music music music. The next step was being asked by a DJ to help him with his nights. I was rather fortunate that offer came from a very good local DJ called Peter Pritchard and his Unit One Disco. Songs such as Narada Michael Walden "I Should Have Loved Ya", Change "The Glow Of Love", Donny Hathaway & Roberta Flack "Back Together", Rodney Franklin "The Groove" and the Brothers Johnson "Stomp" all being clear memories from helping Pete's during those days.
So going from being a pretty good dancer on the floor, knowing many records almost beat by beat, as I concentrated on my dancing moves syncing with the music, I was well qualified to stand alongside DJ Pete Pritchard on the stage choosing which records to put on the turntables next and putting them away carefully in their sleeves for easy finding later as he chatted
into the mic then played the next piece of music chosen. I saw from this new angle
what worked and Pete was an excellent DJ on the Mic, his voice inviting
people to have a good time dancing. He was 10 years older and very confident with being on stage, not in a silly DJ way but friendly and warm.
After about 18 months Pete was offered the chance to be the new landlord at a Pub in the
country which appealed to him as a real job so he passed his sound system over to the
crew and I to continue. We were hopeless to start with. On our first
real gig, Dave Turley, the person who we had chosen by group vote to continue
being the DJ on the Mic, didn't make it, so there I was on the stage with
all the gear set up and was told in no uncertain terms by a girl called Jane, who's party it was, to get on with
it. "Go on you know all the records please don't let my night be spoilt. Everybody is waiting and watching YOU."
Thus tentatively began my addiction to playing records to an audience. I owe Pete a great deal of thanks for his support. Where ever you are today Pete Pritchard from Kent - thank you very much.
My relative understanding of how songs raised the mood
of the audience helped me to begin my DJ career, although this was not enough because I really struggled to enjoy being up there on stage
as the focal point. I was never one to stand up in class and read my
homework aloud without stammering, red faced through the text and I was no DJ Peter Pritchard happily joking away. So
talking and hearing my voice boom out from a loud mic was my idea of
hell personally. I overcame this handicap by perseverance alone but
what kept me being booked was this uncanny ability to merge the nights music
into a mood that entertained the room and the people on the dance floor without talking my head off. Anyway who wants to hear my voice when there is so much great music to hear and dance to? Not me.
Fortunately I had a ready made, very patient crowd to come to the gigs I was asked to do, even if their music taste was more advanced than the rest of the dance floor. They were known in the town of Gravesend as "The Flat Crowd" because they all hung around together at Pete Pritchard's old flat above a men's fashion store called West One in the centre of the town. It was all innocent, lots of playing football in the yard, making fun of the girls, pairing off with the girls and disco, soul, jazz funk music played all day long into the night. It was like a large cast of Friends (the TV show) with the same group crazy stuff, lots of jokes and laughing, normally at someone's expense but that's life in such a buzzing group. We'd go to London to see James Brown or Frankie Beverly & Maze in concert and pile into the back of a van to go see the Captial Jazz Festival with The Crusaders and Sippy Wallace or down to Camber Sands to party on the beach. Great days all around a group of people and their love of music. There's a photo of Patrice Rushen below with her dedication to the 'The Flat'. That comes from those days and we loved her album with "Forget Me Nots", "Haven't You Heard" plus the instrumental track Number One. If I hear the disco record "Stomp" by the Brothers Johnson I can still see them all, hear their voices, their laughter as they lined up to do the Barn Dance and Lisa screaming "JOHN" as he smacked her ass yet again when she entered the barn dance tunnel.
Soon I moved into the Flat itself which was months behind on its rent, so I sorted that out then studiously re-painted and repaired the sound system plus pulled in a flatmate, a friend of mine, called Steve Wallis who was quickly nicknamed Wolfie as he didn't shave too often. Steve had a removal business so we now had a Van to move our Sound System around the town.We cranked up the gigs and built something solid from our joint love of music.
The next move was to join up, with another Sound System in the Town. A friend from the days when I first left school at 16 and went to work at Cosy Glide, Johnny Farrell. Johnny was the coolest black guy for miles. He could dance like James Brown, looked like Michael Jackson with his leather cap on and played football like a professional, but it was his "toasting" (Jamaican rapping) that was magical. We became The Union, Johnny's crowd plus ours together and man could they all dance. Records like Johnny Guitar Watson - "I Need It" or "The World Is A Ghetto" by War or Rueben Wilson's - "Got To Get Your Own" igniting their bodies. It was beautiful to see the floor twisting, spinning, weaving, joyfully to the music we played and soon the gigs got bigger with invites to come into London to play. We'd always start off our set by turning all the lights and sound in the venue off then open with Sadao Watanabe's "Up Country" which had this loud lone sax and whistle playing at the intro to build the tension then we'd in unison wack up a big record of the moment and bring the lights up again. We were pulling those stunts before Westwood was even DJ'ing he was probably in one of our Catford gigs to learn (laughing).
Our Union confidence grew so we started hiring our own halls like the Town Arms in Queen Street. Gravesend to put our own parties on, big happy reggae dances too with lots of Goat curry, yams, rice and tings, Soca tunes like Hot Hot Hot by Arrow, for the older Jamaican ladies in their colourful costumes at Carnival Time remembering times back in the Caribbean, dancing the traditional moves, Johnny 'toasting' up a storm on the mic. Wonderful nights. Then reality bites, Johnny, who to this day I still have so much to thank him for, got married wanted to start a family and so his work took him away from us. The Union became Eddie Gordon on his own but I was now ready thanks to my baptism with Johnny.
The DJ'ing bug was firmly in place and I literally took over the town DJ'ing everywhere for everybody, putting a smile on faces of the people with the music played, a smile that was rewarded with a following from all over the area coming to the nights at The White Hart, in The Nelson, The Soul Bowl, Woodville Halls, Springhead Hall and then out to the Kent Soul Festivals. I now had a new, bigger more powerful Sound System that required a few helping hands to unload and set up but such was the fun being had there were always some reliable guys on hand to come out for the night. Graham, Jason, Mick, Paul and especially Chris Gough who left us due to cancer in the early 90's, he was a lovely guy and was great PR for me. When I heard later that he had been hit by cancer we put on a special one off Slammer re-union for him with Tong, Gilles Peterson, myself and others all working for free. It was packed out and at the end of the night we gave Chris all the door money. His sister told me that it had really lifted him and Chris took his wife and young daughter to Disneyland, California. It was all we could do. RIP my friend and thank you so much. I still hear his laughter in my head when I think of him, strange how sound stores itself so exactly in your memory, its nice to have too.
In the mid 80's the BBC Radio 1 DJ's started coming to the area and I was their choice to support them as the DJ to build up the anticipation amongst the 1000's of teenagers in the venues. This kind of gig taught me how to work a big room with strong records and the importance of vocal power when using the mic. I went and had lessons to improve my voice with breathing exercises and pronouncing my words. Soon my photos were on posters all over the area with the BBC Radio 1 DJ who was coming in for the next gig, but I never looked at it like WOW, just doing my job as I'd been asked to by the promoter Howard Talusi. Even so it was a big thing for me to be on that huge stage playing in the town's biggest venue where I used to go dancing as a young teenager to the Steve Maxted Disco. My DJ career was moving. Inspired from day one by a comment from Margaret Skipper.
I DJ'd 4 nights a week for years, sometimes 7 nights, depending on the time of the year but my favourite place was Valentino's a small fashionable Bar in town where they had originally offered me 7 nights a week but I declined saying that it would get boring for both them and me but I'd help them get DJ's for the other 6 nights if they gave me the Sunday night and let me play what I wanted musically. They accepted and so began a 4 year residency which I looked forward to every weekend. Wolfie took up two midweek nights. It was the perfect way to finish off the week by playing music to my friends over a few drinks and the place soon became packed with people coming from miles around to hear the electic Jazz and Soul tracks. Music you could never hear on the radio. I loved it. It was also the perfect breeding ground to test out new records to see if they would get popular and then start playing them with confidence at the younger gigs in the town. We even let Tong play there a few times including a New Year's Eve Party back in the mid 80's because he was love sick over losing his girlfriend Annette who was working behind the bar. I couldn't stand to see him at the bar pining over her while she nonchently pulled pints for guys flirting with her because he was there. You got to have some heart. Like most mid 20's guys and girls we were young, thought we were cool and free doing something we loved. My iPod has just shuffled up a big Valentino track by John Klemmer called "Brasilia" and as I sit here in New York I think of Ritchie Cole's "Grooving On A New York Afternoon" which was also a big favourite alongside Tulio DePiscopio's "Primavera (Stop Bajon)".
The gamble taken a few years before, much to my Fathers disdain in the beginning, to dedicate my life to this kind of work was now paying off financially and with recognition. One personal highlight was winning a Poll in the Gravesend & Dartford Reporter newspaper as being voted the Best Local DJ with five times more votes than my nearest rival - a DJ named Pete Tong.
Then came the highly successful The Slammer gigs which were the litmus test for the rest of my career going on to DJ in London every Friday at The Limelight in Shaftesbury Avenue, Leicester Square and every Saturday at The Fridge in Brixton plus the Soul Weekenders in Prestatyn, All Dayers in Great Yarmouth on Bank Holidays, the legendary Flicks in Dartford. Numerous times DJ'ing in the Royal Albert Hall as the only DJ of the night, sometimes the nights were live on TV. I traveled as far as Hawaii to DJ and played the Sunset in Ibiza many a time with tracks like Seawind "He Loves You" and Pieces Of A Dream "Warm Weather". I had an incredible time as a DJ, it probably saved my life from going astray and taught me the lesson of compassion.
Below is a Youtube snippet of yours truyly DJing at The Prestatyn 4 Weekender in 1989.
DJ'ing in the '80's and early 90's was an experience that took in Disco, Jazz Funk, Jazz Fusion, Soul, Rare Groove, House, Rave, Hip Hop and Rap music it was the constant evolution of dance music that thrilled the dance floors and DJ's a like because you were not stereo-typed into a sound that a computer could play. You could switch from genre to genre with ease and make the night full of surprises musically, but you had to think carefully before doing so, the reward was always the room shifting gears with you and doing so with loud appreciation for the change in mood. The Rave scene when it hit was incredible, the energy swept the country and scared the daylights out of the authorities because the parties were not over until the Sun came up, then 10's of thousands of people were hitting the roads going home. It was a post Cold War show of defiance for all the propoganda about the potential worry of a Nuclear War. The young people of the world wanted to live and be free to dance to music any hour of the day wearing whatever they wanted. To be there participating, watching this unfold was exhilarating to my sense of being a human. Freedom of expression and creativity.
That sense of room to express ourselves drove me to move my night The Slammer from its spiritual home in Northfleet, as a once a month gig, to a purpose built weekly club in the High Street of Gravesend. My good friend, Howdi Binning owned The Soul Bowl (named by me) and wanted to sell it so I got him a buyer, renamed the venue as The Slammer, went to Court to get the venue its late Music and Dance Licence under my name as the Licensee at 28 years old. My personal mission was to leave my home town with a local venue for the music fans to go to every weekend. It was a mission completed, not the glitz of Stringfellows you understand but musically it featured large in the lives of the town's dance music fans who would go religously to see the likes of Tim Westwood play Hip Hop or Fabio and GrooveRider playing Drum and Bass. It was to be a leaving gift from me to the town that loved me, grooved and moved me. My life has been a pattern of seeing potential, creating something from nothing with that vision then moving on, leaving the newly built stage for others to climb on and enjoy or work from. There's a entire section on The Slammer with photos and thank you's.
Eventually, with my day time hours filled with record company meetings and my nights in recording studios in London, I took the decision to stop full time DJ'ing, to sell my beloved Sound System to The Slammer, now in the High Street, to concentrate on my work in this new direction and move to London full time. It was a wise decision that paid off with lots of hit records. I still do the odd DJ'ing but only in that Valentino's way, relaxed, enjoying the music with friends. My journey had been full across the spectrum of music and I'd witnessed first hand the explosions of Disco, Jazz Funk, Rare Groove, House, Rave, Rap/HipHop. I was satisfied and the experience of all that stood me well when making records or advising labels, producers or radio stations what worked and what was unlikely to do so. I was ready to move to the next stage in my life that beckoned, the world of major international record labels, artists and all the madness that brings as the music ebbs and flows.
Still today I'm unable to pass a record store without feeling the urge to go in and check out whats in store. Sad really I know. I still have over 3'000 vinyl albums that I will have until I pass over and I still listen to music every day with many of the songs from those DJ'ing years, the Flat days and dancing moments on my iPod exploding names, faces and places into my mind (Spaces And Places - Donald Byrd) but now instead of a sound system that took many hands to carry and set up the music collection is feeding off a one terrabyte hard drive containing over 25'000 tracks, topping up the iPod in my back pocket. (thanks Ashley).
Another twist in my tale is that one of the girls who used to come to the 'Flat' at the beginning and who's 18th Birthday Party was DJ'd by me when I was 23 years old is now my wife. I met Maria again in March 2009 whilst DJ'ing at a surprise 50th birthday party in Gravesend. Everything in life goes full circle it seems, she is now Maria Gordon :-)
On the thank you subject I have devoted an entire section sub-titled Ed The DJ Would Like To Thank.
Patrice Rushen signed photo from "The Flat" pinboard circa 1982. We met Patrice after she performed Forget Me Nots live at Flicks in Dartford, Kent.