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A Magazine for Sheffield

Greg Wilson "Jive Turkey was a bridge between what went before and what came afterwards"

Ahead of an event in Sheffield this Saturday, veteran DJ Greg Wilson tells us more about the new edition of his book Discotheque Archives, which details an oft-forgotten era that sowed the seeds of the rave generation.

Greg Wilson by Nick Mizen 2022 3
Nick Mizen

Greg Wilson is no stranger to Sheffield and the city features prominently in his new book, which details an oft-forgotten era that sowed the seeds of the rave generation.

This mid 80s-90s period will be celebrated musically at Sydney & Matilda on Saturday 1 April with the support of local stalwart DJ and producer Winston Hazel. The night also includes an opportunity to hear Greg talk about the stories detailed in this beautifully illustrated tome.

Greg, tell us about the tour you’re about to embark on with a unique night in different cities.

Well, I've got a book out at the minute called Discotheque Archives. Going back, it kind of stems from a series I did for DJ Magazine a number of years ago, where I picked four different categories of classic DJ record, a classic label and a classic venue. I basically wrote a page on each. Then came the idea of putting it into book form. During lockdown, I did a limited-edition paperback which just flew out. And so at that point I made the decision to extend its releases as a hardback.

What’s to be expected at the Sheffield date on 1 April?

The main aspect of the book is that it covers the pre-rave era and goes up to the mid 80s. I don't take it beyond that. There's plenty of books written about what happened with rave and subsequent events, so I just wanted to really kind of put into place the foundations of what club culture is and where it came from. This dates back into the 60s and then established through the 70s into the early 80s.

So, in respect of Sheffield, we talk about Jive Turkey, which was a club in the mid 80s, which was a bridge point, really, between what went before and what came afterwards. It was a club that was very much connected to the scene. I was a part of the black music scene which revolved around all-dayer events and club nights. It was a really big counterculture that was going on.

S A S Of G B All Dayers May 1983

Flyer for S.A.S. of G.B. All Dayers, May 1983.

I DJ’d in Wigan and Wigan Pier and Manchester at Legend. These were two huge nights on the scene. I played in Sheffield a number of times during 82-83. So Jive Turkey interconnected all of these scenes. For example, if there was an all dayer in Sheffield, you'd have DJs from Manchester, and maybe Nottingham, local DJs from each area. Different people would be bringing coach loads, travelling from different places. It was a real kind of meeting and cross pollination of ideas.

When you go into the lineage of club culture, you talk about what happened in the South and you talk about what happened in the North, but the North very much includes the Midlands as well. And that's the scene that we were a part of. You find that all sorts of things happen along the way.

And in Sheffield, this came through with Jive Turkey, with Winston [Hazel] and Parrot, the DJs, and this night was a part of this, shall we say, 'previous' scene which would soon evolve into new directions that were going on – hip hop, house and techno. Jive Turkey would take it through these and also be an important club at the start of the rave era.

What’s the format of the night on 1 April?

Basically, there's two aspects of the night. First it's going to be a book talk. It's going to be a Q&A about the book and about what's inside it, but then we're gonna bring on Winston Hazel, one of the DJs from Jive Turkey, and talk more specifically about Sheffield and about the lineage from Sheffield.

I'm aware that Sheffield has got a deep lineage in this culture. It goes back to things like King Mojo in the 60s, which was one of the main Mod clubs in the north, run by Pete Stringfellow of course. There was Samantha's in the 70s, with Northern Soul going on there then. As well as Jive Turkey you have the Leadmill that opened up in the 80s. I played there at all-dayers as well as The Limit.

Winston Hazel
Sheffield DJ and producer Winston Hazel.

Sheffield has got this deep lineage with regard to black music culture that I'm talking about because that's what it was then. And that's why it links back to things like the King Mojo, because back then the DJs on that scene were sourcing their records from America so they were importing them in – they were opening up the import channels.

You’ve been part of this scene for many years. Why publish the book now?

The history of things is really important to me. I stopped DJing for 20 years from 1983. 2003 was when I came back. Within that whole gap I was always involved in music. I was producing and managing bands. But it was an up-and-down world, a rollercoaster existence, as it is for a lot of musicians and people in creative areas. Eventually the internet came along, I engaged with that and started to see that there was a lot of stuff being written about the history of dance culture.

Whereas that was really interesting to read, at the same time there were big chunks missing. And the main chunk missing was what the black kids were doing back then. And the black kids are at the cusp of things, they were always into the latest music, the dancing. On our scene, this specialist music scene, if you have a black audience you were doing right because they were serious about the music and everything. And so they wouldn't come to a club where a DJ wasn't playing the music that they wanted to hear. So the black scene in general, it's been like a bit of a disconnect.

People aren't kind of fully aware of it because when rave came along, it came with such a force. It was such an explosion. It was this massive thing. It took the underground completely overground. A lot of people came into it at that point, took a tab of ecstasy and decided that they liked this 'dance music'. Whereas maybe a few months before, they were like, ‘That's not for me.’ They were into indie bands or whatever. A lot of people came onto the scene afresh.

Greg Wilson’s Discotheque Archives

Greg Wilson’s Discotheque Archives is "a treasure chest of the very best of dance music culture," according to Irvine Welsh.

An assumption was made that that this had come back from Ibiza somehow. For many years, a lot of people were getting this story – this is an Ibiza narrative or myth – the DJs went there, they took ecstasy, they saw Alfredo play and then they brought it all back. They did bring back that whole Balearic spirit and they did certainly bring ecstasy into focus. It was a hugely important moment. But house music was already in place. Nobody brought house music back.

You’ve always had your finger on the pulse. How do you do it?

In the book, as a tagline, it says 'to know the future first you must know the past'. I've always been interested in the culture of what I did, which was a DJ. I was deep into it. When I started out I was 15. I was going to London when I was 16, 17, getting records from all of record companies, knowing what was going on. And I think because you know what's happening, you can make forecasts.

I always had ideas where it might be leading, whether it'd be in my small hometown club where I just had to, over a period of maybe nine months, kind of change the vibe from being just a straightforward night out with pop from the charts and stuff to, all of a sudden, we're adding some input. This is before I went to what I call the big pond, which was Wigan Pier and Legend, that were right at the heart at the scene. This was just my backwater club.

But I always had that kind of ambition. I'd gone to a club in Liverpool when I was 16 called the Timepiece. It was a predominantly black club and it was the first environment I've been in that, as a white guy, I was in the minority.

I was just thrilled by the whole experience because of the music and the dancing. It was on a different level. There was a kind of movement on the dance floor that you just didn't see. I was like, 'This is what I aspire to, to be part of a scene like this.' Fortunately, five years on, that's when I was on at Legend in Manchester. That was my Timepiece, you know.

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