Dave Swanton

Bygone Times

by Northern Life

By Dave Swanton

A good friend of mine moved to New Zealand seven years ago and is heading back to the UK in July (I knew he would be back).

Kev Brennan and I have been good friends for over 30 years having worked as DJ’s in clubs and on the mobile circuit. We have kept in touch mainly through Facebook and email although we did try SKYPE and failed miserably.

Dave Swanton

Between us we have a massive memory bank of bygone times that bring the great days of the mobile disco back to the front of our minds. I once worked at a club in Wigan on New Year’s Eve and on the posters and tickets I was second billing to Hot Pot and Red Cabbage! The same club had one of those devices fitted that DJ’s detested, a noise limiter. They worked on a traffic light basis and when you hit red all the equipment tripped out. Great way to blow up your expensive gear that was, so word got round and we all took longer extension cables and took the ‘live feed’ from outside the concert hall where the ‘tripper’ wasn’t connected. The concert secretary (memories of Colin Crompton) used to get all confused and said he would be ringing the company that fitted it the following week. By then of course we had long gone and circulated the club details around the circuit. Another concert secretary once wound me up by making me carry my gear up three flights
of stairs then told me that if I dropped him a tenner he would let me use the lift to take the gear down later! Suffice to say I gave him a two word answer and left him a leaving present by cutting the lead of his beloved Bingo Machine.

I also worked the clubs and one of those on the circuit where I occasionally worked was Park Hall Cabaret Lounge at Charnock Richard. Roy Orbison, Neil Sedaka, Brue Forsyth, The Dooleys, Tommy Cooper, Les Dawson, Mike Yarwood and Lulu were among those who performed there and I had the pleasure of working with all of them. My favourite though was the late Bob Monkhouse who was quite simply comedy genius. He had controversially been sacked from the Golden Shot and was treading the boards again. A group of lads on a stag night were being a bit boisterous and the Max & Paddy style ‘bouncers’ were hovering. They were not needed though as Bob walked in amongst them and issued five unbelievable put down lines which deflated the lads who sat through the rest of his performance with their arms folded!

I do some work on the after dinner speaking circuit and must admit it’s a lot easier than driving round with loads of disco gear, but I do miss it. I have done a couple of charity discos in the last 12 months and it’s like riding a bike, you never forget.

Finally the food… the mobile disco buffet was outstanding. Peter Kay describes it well in one of his sketches with cut meat, pies, sausage rolls, sausages on sticks stuck in a cabbage covered in tin foil followed by gateaux!

In the clubs it was chicken in the basket, where it always paid to eat early. Later on in the evening the staff were throwing frozen chickens into hot fat and whilst the meat was cooked, the bones were still frozen. The Steak Canadian was popular too, do they still make those?