DJ Phil, a Brief Career Introspective – The Early Years (Part Three)

Sometime around October-November 1986, the “Gay Disco” left the disastrous venue of the Union Hall and returned to its original home on the Magee College campus. A new Student’s Union had opened, a temporary portacabin structure known as “The Terrapin”, which was to house all the student entertainment facilities until the current permanent Student’s Union opened in September 1990.

As soon as the “Gay Disco” moved back to its original venue, the crowds came back and it returned to its former glory days again, with a packed house at every gig. The only fly in the ointment was that, from 1987-1990, until moving to the permanent Student’s Union building, the entertainment license available to the Student’s Union at that time only permitted the discos to play until 11.30pm. Admittedly, that was really irritating, but the solution was for the “Gay Disco” to begin earlier on Friday nights, and the revellers could then move onto another venue at 11.30 to continue the partying. Once the Student’s Union moved into the new, permanent building, the late license permitted the disco to stay open until 1am. The “Gay Disco” would continue its association with myself and Magee College right up until 1998, when it moved out of Magee altogether and onto another permanent venue.

But back to late 1986, and the return of the “Gay Disco” to Magee, where a whole new chapter in my DJ career was to begin. As a direct result of that move, I was to begin my long residency as in-house DJ for the students in Magee Student’s Union. After I’d performed at several Magee gigs for the local gays, all the time under the watchful eyes of members of the Student’s Union Bar Committee and a few students who attended the “Gay Disco” on Friday nights (still once a month), I was in for a really unexpected surprise. They must have really liked what they heard, because after only a couple of “Gay Discos”, I was approached by the Student’s Entertainments Officer and asked if I would like to start as in-house DJ for the Student’s Union, two nights a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays. I jumped at the offer, and thus began a very long residency as DJ at Magee Student’s Union, all twenty-seven years of it, lasting right up until the end of September 2013, when I eventually decided to call it a day.

As I said, the closing time for discos at Magee during this period was 11.30pm, but we were all able to move on to another local nightclub afterwards to continue having even more fun, so things weren’t so bad. For the first time since I’d started as a DJ, back in 1980-1981, I was now in regular work, two nights each week (along with live bands) for the students, one friday night per month for the gays, and almost every Saturday night and Fridays that I wasn’t in Magee, I was working random gigs outside of my regular workplace, mostly weddings, christenings and birthday parties. It was a good time during my DJ career, and this continued for over a decade, up until the end of the 1990s.

I detailed in my last post about the radically different nature of the music at the “Gay Disco” compared to my earlier gigs – mostly hi-energy dance, disco, funk, soul and pop. Well, the regular Student gig on Tuesdays and Thursdays added yet another dimension to my music. It had some music in common with the “Gay Disco”, mostly soul and late-1970s and early-1980s chart music, with lots of New Romantic tunes, which were very popular at that time. But there was also quite a bit of classic rock and glam rock music, such as Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Cream, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, Led Zepplin, T-Rex, The Sweet and Gary Glitter, and some hard rock favourites such as Thin Lizzy, AC/DC, Guns ‘n’ Roses and Black Sabbath.

But, aside from the above music, if I was to give a general description of the overall tone of the music that I was playing at the Student’s Union in those early days of 1986-1990, I’d have to say “alternative”. That’s how student music was back then. Lots of punk rock, post-punk, early goth, ska, reggae and general New Wave, and indie/alternative music. The Sex Pistols, the Damned, the Clash, the Buzzcocks, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Killing Joke, the Fall, early U2 and Simple Minds, Echo and the Bunnymen, the Teardrop Explodes, early B-52s, the Pixies, Bauhaus, Joy Division, early New Order, the Police, the Beat, Madness, the Specials, the list goes on and on. It was a classic era for music at the Student’s Union.

I played my final gig in the old (portacabin) “Terrapin” in June 1990, before it was finally demolished during the summer to make way for the new, permanent Student’s Union, where I was to play my first gigs at the start of October 1990. This was to be the start of yet another new era in my career as a DJ. But I’ll leave that story for another time.

To Be Continued…