Brighton Magazine

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Selected Brighton Magazine Article

Wednesday 12 May 2021

Brighton Resident Writes Behind-The-Scenes Memoir To His Heady But Not-So-Glamorous Days As A Dance DJ

'We're words upon a window - Written there in steam - In the heat of the moment - At the birth of a dream - Vapors passing really,' sang Paul Weller on the 1998 title track of his Stanley Road follow-up, Heavy Soul. Words that could also act as a mantra for Brighton resident Harold Heath, a dance DJ who has written a book called Long Relationships: My Incredible Journey from Unknown DJ to Small-time DJ.

It is a memoir by an everyman and forty-something; a biographical account of a DJ career defined by a big love of music and a shallow amount of success. It"s the story of 99% of DJs which never gets told. 

From the days of vinyl, when DJs were often also glass collectors, to the era of the megastar stadium EDM, Harold's journey tells of fringe success over 30 odd years; a lifetime's ride on a low level, economy class rollercoaster in an ever changing music industry.  

Gigs, warehouses, promoters, security, life changing dancefloor moments, love, joy, tolerance and opportunity - a life enriched by music, despite the lack of glamour and big-time success.  

But will the next generation have that? 

The UK government has failed to support the arts during this pandemic. It is all too easy to dismiss the nocturnal clubbing and dance culture Harold came of age in, and they are at real risk of becoming extinct. Harold wants to fight for it.  

It gave him so much - a career, opportunities, joy, excitement and taught him tolerance, empathy, wonder. Surely, we want those moments for our children and grandchildren?

Below, ahead of the release of Long Relationships: My Incredible Journey From Unknown DJ To Smalltime DJ, Harold takes a look back at some of his favourite club nights.  

For many of us who misspent our youth in clubs and raves, it seemed at the time that we were just having fun. 

Looking back on those weekends now, as we descended into another basement or rave, high on adrenalin and the promise of nocturnal adventure, I can see that we never realised that we'd be creating stories we'd retell for years, memories that still live with us today and friendships that turned out to be lifelong.

I've always felt a simultaneous mix of joy and nostalgia for my old clubbing days but that feeling has become more intense over the last 12 months. 

I'm middle-aged and don't go clubbing regularly anymore, I generally save it for special occasions, but a year with no special occasions, of never feeling the bass in my insides or laughing myself hoarse at the afters - well, we're all feeling it, there's something big missing. 

But with the continued vaccine programme, and tentative lifting of restrictions coming, we will, at some point, dance together again. 

In this spirit of hope, here are some memories from three of my favourite club nights. 

Talking Loud And Saying Something

It was called Talking Loud And Saying Something, but we never called it that. We called Gilles Peterson and Patrick Forge's legendary Sunday jazz sessions simply Sunday at Dingwalls,(I've checked and apparently you'll receive a caution from the UK clubland police if you don't use the prefix 'legendary' when discussing TL&SS). 

The music they played was to my young virgin ears astonishing. A hard-to-fathom stream of sonic alchemy from the DJ booth: space-funk, rare groove, bossa nova, hard bop, music I'd never heard before, that I didn't know existed - and then they'd play Soul II Soul. Just brilliant. And then there were the dancers. 

Again, I'd never seen anything like this before in my tiny little life. Balletic, athletic, hardcore, seemingly effortlessly cool, jazz movers extraordinaire; you had to get out of the way and just watch, soak it all up.

It was dark and hot in Dingwalls, people were still smoking cigarettes in clubs, there would be the hint of a little herb in the air and plenty of afternoon beers. I felt like I was in a Colin McInnes novel for a few hours. 

Just a couple of years prior and I had spent my Sunday afternoons aimlessly riding my bike around the suburbs of Bury St. Edmunds, waiting for the inevitable arrival of a school day Monday, all with the whiff of the morning's Latin mass incense clinging to me - but now I had this. 

Top Tunes: 
"Sweetie Pie" Stone Alliance
"Right On' Clarence Wheeler & The Enforcers 
"He's A Super Star' Roy Ayers.

Togetherness - Fitness Centre

A gym by day, the Fitness Centre in Southwark, London is infamous because it was where Danny and Jenny Rampling launched their Shoom party. I was there a couple of years later when the trendsetters had moved on and the UK rave scene was taking off nicely.

In many ways, the Fitness Centre was an awful venue. It was an oblong cellar with a small lobby area where you could buy soft drinks and Rizla. I'm not sure how much I can trust my memory but I'm pretty sure there was next to no seating. 

In terms of lights, they had a full pyrotechnics rig, state of the art lighting array and a huge pair of glitter cannons. Obviously not, they had camouflage netting, a smoke machine and a strobe. 

The Fitness Centre demonstrates a truth that lay at the heart of the early rave and UK house scene and one still relevant today: that the venue, DJ, light show or sound system weren't as important as the dancers on the floor. They were who made the party. 

It showed that we didn't have to sit back and wait to be passively entertained. We could rock up, get involved and literally generate energy. 

We learnt the power of the crowd, the emotional high gained from allowing oneself to be subsumed in a group, the sublime joy of a simple smile across a smoky dance floor. 

Community - it was available every Friday and Saturday night, and all you had to do was not go to bed. 

Top Tunes
"Found Love" Double Dee featuring Dany
"Rescue Me" Debbie Malone
"Salsa House" Richie Rich

Wiggle - Various Locations

Lots of things happened in clubland as the rave generation got older, and London's Wiggle parties were just one particularly purist branch on the ever-growing UK club culture tree. DJs Eddie Richards, Terry Francis and Nathan Coles would simply find a venue, put in a sound system, invite the faithful and then play them quality house and techno from sundown to sun up. 

They never compromised, never followed fashion, all through the ups and downs of multiple sub-genres that have come and gone. Sticking to bass-heavy underground 4/4 through it all, they helmed a travelling bacchanalian sonic circus that generated a mighty forcefield of togetherness on the dance floor. 

Wiggle was purism done right. And the Wiggle crowd were equally purist - they loved it. 

There was no need for 'Evil' Eddie Richards to drop a huge piano tune or ten-minute breakdown to create a moment, his punters were so tuned into what he was doing they'd cheer when he mixed in a perfectly clipped hi-hat. 

Wiggle took the baton of casual euphoria from the fragmented rave scene and ran with it for twenty odd years, keeping the very best parts of acid house culture very much alive. 

Top Tunes: 
"House For All" Eddie Richards Mix, Blunted Dummies,
"Nightstalkin" The Usual Suspects, 
"Lovelee Dae" 2020 Vision Remix, Blaze

Long Relationships: My Incredible Journey from Unknown DJ to Smalltime DJ by Harold Heath is available now.

by: Mike Cobley


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