My name is Steve Furst and I’ve started buying vinyl. Again.Rest assured, I am not spending hundreds of pounds on rare pressings of obscure lost American soul gems.
I am still wrestling with my conscience and asking myself whether this is a good or divisive thing. I live alone and have started earning regular money for the first time in a long time. Rest assured, I am not spending hundreds of pounds on rare pressings of obscure lost American soul gems. But, I would argue, that there is a reason for this resurgence in my love for the plastic fantastic. As part of my mid-life crisis I have rekindled my love of DJing. Along with two friends; Mark Webster and Michael Smiley, we spin tunes to the discerning listener under the moniker of Gentleman’s Relish. So there you have it, I am back behind the decks and can therefore argue the toss, with some modicum of surety, that coughing up £6 - £10 for a stomper of a single or £15 for a compilation long-player filled with goodies is in no way excessive. And, if it fills the dancefloor (even if it is the size of an unmarked grave) then its worth every penny. My ex-wife used to have a saying that for every compliment she received for a new item of clothing she would knock a fiver off how much it cost. Well, I am applying the same rule for my tunes; for every thumbs up or compliment from a punter for a tune I spin, I will knock a pound off.
I am mid 40s and still a music fanatic. A great number of my close friends are involved in the music biz, either playing, writing, producing or managing or talent scouting. I download new albums every week and spend a great deal of my waking day with it in my ears. I was this way from about 14. I was part of a small band of kids at school that would hang out at the local record shop (Loppylugs in Finchley Central) buying marked down 12inches and saving up for new releases. It never really stopped. Like drug taking, its expensive but you will always know someone with a worse habit than your own. This is both good and bad. Whilst your habit isn’t as chronic as that pale listless guy over there in the corner, you know in your heart of hearts that you are spending way too much money on a pursuit that is pretty solitary. DJing validates it and, if you really play it well, then it becomes tax deductible.
In the 90s I was running a very successful cabaret night in the West End I began to collect easy listening and film soundtracks. As well as performing I began to ‘play out’ at parties, one-off events and, most bizarrely, the VIP chill-out room at the Ministry of Sound. Oh you read that correctly. I found it extraordinary that clubbers in search of a calming sanctuary to safely come down off their pills would choose to lie supine on the floor cushions to hear Spanish Flea by Herb Alpert or Summer Breeze by Ray Conniff and His Singers. Drugs were different back then, clearly. By the end of the 90s I began to stop DJing quite so much. I got married and the vinyl went into crates in the garage. I still have much of it but most of it will never be played again. And with very good reason.
The birth of our monthly Gentleman’s Relish night means revisiting this pastime. Tiesto I ain’t, but fuck him and his stadium gigs. I’m keeping it dirty and sweaty at a proper East End boozer. My particular corner of expertise? Northern Soul. For years I have been to all-nighters and watched older men in vests and baggy slacks flicking through record boxes on trestle tables and pay inordinate amounts of cash for obsolete 45s. This was never an option for me. Instead I would to go to Mr CD (RIP) on Berwick St in Soho and buy compilation CDs for a fraction of the price. I have many songs in my collection, hundreds and hundreds. But now I am back behind the Pioneers I can hear just how much better these tunes sound when they’re on their original format. Nothing beats the slight crackle and surface scratch you get before the tune kicks in. It even smells glorious. Every time I spin a CD or, most heinously, play off my iPad I feel a pang of guilt. Its just not the same. And as I type this I am playing a long player by the Hammond organ-playing soul singer Billy Hawks and smirking that the £8 I paid for it can give me quite so much pleasure.
Gentleman’s Relish is a monthly night at The Birdacge pub, 80 Columbia Road E2 on the first Sunday of the month....