It’s a phrase oft bandied about, and rarely true – but for New Brighton’s Greg Wilson it’s bang on – this man is a DJ legend.
Pioneering the brave new world of house music, Wilson’s early-80’s sets at Wigan Pier blended soul, funk, disco and those nascent electro cuts by the likes of Afrika Bambaataa and D-Train. And when we say ‘blended’ we mean, like literally – Wilson was one of the first UK DJ’s to actually mix two records together.
It was at Manchester’s Legend club that Wilson first found his true audience. His Wednesday night sessions caused the sort of queues usually only reserved, around those parts, for Pat Phoenix. So popular were his sets, he was scooped up by a little known joint at the other side of town: The Hacienda.
Wilson was at the helm of the Hac’s first dance night, in 83. Nice to know those 24 hour party people had New Brighton to thank for their first heady taste of thrills (before the pills and bellyaches ushered in M People and gang warfare).
After a break, Wilson returned to DJing in 2003, and is now busier than ever.
Now, as then, it’s Wilson’s understanding of – and passion for – music that shines through (search out his ‘Dreaming’ remix for Goldfrapp for proof) – so it’s only natural SevenStreets would ask him for a Summer Spotify Playlist…
But first, a few questions:
You’re busy these days. Enjoying yourself again?
Yeah, it can be a bit full-on at times, but all good – I remember what it was like to have all the time in the world on my hands, but I wasn’t happy with that situation. It’s much better to be busy than to be wasting away in the wilderness.
Tell us about your electrofunkroots project…
I set up www.electrofunkroots.co.uk to document what was happening on the black scene in the early 80’s – which is pivotal for a thorough understanding of UK dance culture.
This underpins everything that follows, yet it just wasn’t being mentioned in the various histories that had been documented. I still had all my archive material from the period, so I thought a website would provide the best way for me to draw peoples attention to what was pretty much the missing link between the Soul, Funk, Disco era, and what developed later with the Hip Hop, House and Techno scenes. cont…
How do you rate the Liverpool clubbing landscape these days?
Liverpool is really on the up. In a few years I feel it will be coming to the boil again. It had major problems in the 80’s when upfront black music was pretty much driven out of the city centre clubs following the riots. Sadly, these were pretty racist times and Liverpool suffered as a consequence. At the same time Manchester, with a far more cosmopolitan attitude, was forging ahead, and would become one of the most important places in the world when it came to the evolution of dance culture.
What people forget is that the Liverpool music scene owes a huge debt to black music. The whole Merseybeat thing of the early 60’s was built on mainly white musicians in the city unearthing records from black American artists (or white American artists influenced by their black contemporaries) and performing these tracks live. This is what gave Liverpool its edge and produced The Beatles and the other bands from the city that changed the entire landscape of not only British music, but music worldwide.
I seriously believe there should be statues of Little Richard and Chuck Berry in the Albert Dock, facing towards the Mersey in recognition of the role played by black artists in bringing Liverpool’s music scene into focus.
In the 70’s the soundtrack of the Liverpool clubs was based around Funk – Northern Soul never gained a foothold in the city – and there was a really vibrant club scene, but, apart from a few pockets of resistance, the city was more or less devoid of Funk following the riots, with only the more commercial black music being played in the city centre, setting the city back years in comparison to what was happening in Manchester. This is something it still hasn’t fully recovered from in my opinion.
When did everything come together perfectly for you?
Easy – Legend in Manchester circa 82/83. This was as good as it gets for a DJ like me who aspired to be a black music specialist.
In 1976 I went to The Timepiece in Liverpool, one of Britain’s greatest black music clubs of the 70’s, with Les Spaine a truly inspirational DJ who had the full respect of all the other Merseyside DJ’s. This made a huge impression on me and I set myself an aim, there and then, to one day work in a similar environment, playing the most cutting-edge black music to a similar type of crowd, mainly black kids who absolutely knew their stuff and included some truly incredible dancers (even the average dancers were pretty damn special). Legend was the fulfilment of this dream for me.
I recently interviewed Les for Tate Liverpool’s L8 at Tate. It was part of the Tate’s Afro Modern season and, following the interview, Les deejayed to a highly appreciative audience in the gallery’s foyer. It was his first time behind the decks in many years, so this was a rare treat. cont…
It was a special night for lots of reasons, not least because it marked what was a triumphant homecoming for Les and a long-overdue appraisal of his contribution to the city’s musical legacy. Many of those in attendance were active within the Liverpool music scenes of the 60’s and the 70’s – there was a real tangible sense of history surrounding the event.
Who do you rate these days?
I like people like The Revenge, Todd Terje and less well known names like Duff Disco, Situation, Leftside Wobble and Cosmic Boogie who are working in a similar area to me, drawing from the past but informing the future via their edits. I feel that we’re at a point in time where there needs to be a connection to the past, but not in a nostalgic way. Music evolves, regardless of when it was first made – it’s all about context and presentation.
Tell us about your ‘living to music’ idea: where did that come from?
Just from reading a piece written in 1967 about how people would sit silently in a room and truly listen to music. This rarely happens now, people chat away or are busy texting, twittering, facebooking, or whatever they might be doing, but not giving their full attention to the music. We take it for granted, but we shouldn’t.
My idea is for people to set aside time to do this, linking up with others, not just in your own homes, or the home of a friend, but as far and wide as the idea travels – the internet allows us to connect together in ways that weren’t possible in 1967, so we should use it in a constructive way, inviting people to share the experience in our separate locations, before re-connecting later online. The listening part is individual, but the overall vibe is communal.
I’d hope it would develop in an organic way with increasing numbers of people sharing the experience as we go along, and branching off to have their own sessions. The main thing is that people set the environment to properly listen, being careful to avoid the distractions that are generally keeping us from doing this. You can read about it more in my blog.
What’s your plans for the summer?
It’s festival season now, so that’s the mainstay of my summer, playing at events like Bestival, Big Chill, T In The Park, V etc…
Will New Brighton ever rise again?
It’s on the rise as we speak. Its Renaissance will work hand in hand with Liverpool – New Brighton has a lot going for it, it’s just been down on its luck.
Greg Wilson’s Summer Spotify Playlist
I find it impossible to do lists of favourite records – there are far too many to choose from. But, speaking of New Brighton, the summer of ’76 was particularly special, so here are a few tunes I was playing at the Chelsea Reach and Penny Farthing during that long hot sun drenched year. Enjoy…
Candi Staton: Young Hearts Run Free
Diana Ross: Love Hangover
Vicki Sue Robinson: Turn the Beat Around
James Brown: Get Up Offa That Thang
Parliament: Tear the Roof off the Sucker (Give up the Funk)
Banbarra: Shack Up
Real Thing: You To Me Are Everything
Isley Brothers: Harvest For The World
Bee Gees: You Should Be Dancing
KC & The Sunshine Band: (Shake Shake Shake) Shake Your Booty
Tavares: Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel
Lou Rawls: You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine
Spotify failed us on –
Chi-Lites: You Don’t Have To Go
Brother to Brother: Chance With You
Strutt: Time Moves On
Greg on Soundcloud