THE Eagle Bar Inverness has just announced a new battle of the band competition for January plus a series of new live dates through the festive season.
But alongside all the new plans, there’s something spectacularly old up first on Friday – the debut of the Gramophone DJ.
Inverness retro-music fan Martin Mackay brings two wind-up gramophones and a box of classic 78s to his gigs and takes listeners back in time to the golden days of music, all the way back to the 30s.
Dingwall promoter Stu Thain – who is behind the current crop of live dates – explained why he had invited Martin to play.
“It’s a unique experience.
“He has played a few events, such as Jocktoberfest recently. I just thought it would make a really different night, so I asked him along.”
Martin remenbers first coming across a gramophone.
“I used to play with one when I visited my granny’s as a kid.
“But it was when I heard a programme about gramophone DJing on Radio 4 that I thought about trying it myself. I started wondering how you would do it – and my auntie reminded me there were a couple of gramophones and records up in her attic.”
“There are a lot of Jimmy Shands and Slim Whitmans out there,” he laughed.
And these days, Martin prefers to go looking for just what he wants at online auction sites.
It’s also where he goes to pick up the special needles needed to play the 78 records which have a more brittle shellac coating than later vinyl albums.
“I use a new needle for each record to prevent damage,” Martin said.
Some of the songs in Martin’s 78s’ box:
Blueberry Hill by Fats Domino
All The Way Frank Sinatra
Chantilly Lace Big Bopper
La Bamba Ritchie Valens
Fever Peggy Lee
Every Time We Say Goodbye Ella Fitzgerald
In The Mood Glenn Miller
It means when he plays, the constant swapping back and forward between the two miked-up gramophones, changing both needles and records, is a pretty full-on task.
The precious but brittle 78s that Martin orders can arrive broken in the post – he says the people selling them often don’t realise how fragile they are.
But for Martin it’s just one downside to the thrill of opening up a prize – like a recent purchase, Chantilly Lace by The Big Bopper, who died in the same plane crash as Buddy Holly.
Like any DJ, Martin likes to manipulate the way a crowd is feeling.
“It’s interesting watching people starting to listen to one of the old records – I usually start with Al Bowlly from the 30s.
“I like to play with the audience. I’ll put on something to make them feel sad – and then make them feel sadder!” laughed Martin.
“But then I’ll play a happy tune, maybe something like Long Tall Sally by Little Richard which makes everyone feel social – and once people have had a drink I start the rock n roll!”
The Gramophone DJ is in action at The Eagle Bar, Inverness, tomorrow (Friday) from 9pm. Aberedeen band Phantom Riffage and Inverness line-up Habitat play the venue on Saturday. For a full list of whats coming up at the venue, check out their Facebook.com/eaglebar.inverness
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