CRATE DIGGING: Talking 45’s and shit (mostly shit)…by Dj Obliveus

2 September 2020

Wassup Party People? 


For this first foray into writing about the donuts we all love so much I thought I’d share that first time I dropped that one 45. You know what I’m talking about. You’re probably picturing that one 45 right now. You know the one. The one that blew the roof off, gave you goose bumps, resulted in pints flying through the air, mass gyration of sweaty masses, fist pumps (before there were even fist pumps) and adulation from other DJ’s (or at the very least, one DJ) for dropping that one 45 at the absolute right time. We’ve all been there or if you haven’t, I hope to god you get a chance to go there, because it’s awesome. 

That’s what I want to share with you this first time, but before I go there, let’s go back and ask a question you’ve probably all asked yourselves or at least your wives, partners or loved ones have asked you because, let’s face it, you, me, all of us; we are all fucking wired differently to other DJ’s and most of society for that matter. For real, nobody cares…except us. That 99%-99.9% of the public I mentioned earlier has no fascination with 45’s like we do. This is why when you drop that one 45 to a room full of people who don’t care and get that fist pump, you have officially ARRIVED! Digging (pardon the pun) even deeper…

Why 45’s?

To begin, we know they’re impractical. They’re too short for a proper piss break and they’re definitely not long enough to float a turd, so in terms of DJ’ing (here’s to you my working DJ’s bros and sisters) they’re not the most obvious weapon for nightclubs. As a semi-successful B (maybe C) grade local DJ (and by “semi-successful” I mean I ain’t ever had problems getting gigs) who plays out a lot, I know for a fact that taking them to gigs is a fucking hassle. Seriously, you need to bring so many. By “many”, I mean a bare minimum 2-3 cases/bags to have all bases covered for any vibe that comes my way for a 2-3 hour set and I’ve been known to make 2 trips from the car each way to bring in 6-7 cases/bags for those long 6-7 hour sets. I usually make these trips through punters probably thinking, “look at the old guy bring in his CD’s, he’s so retro”. So yes, your back will soon become fucked even with all the fancy new bags that have come out (fortunately, I married a chiro). I digress…

Also, if you’ve been buying for more than the past 5 years, before every label on the planet started repressing or “Record Store Daying” every single goddamn release ever recorded onto 45, most 45’s have traditionally sounded anywhere from “playable” to “laughable”. Some have zero bass whatsoever, some sound like someone drove over the record for fun and many have that “hum” you can only get when you’ve had to turn up the mixer to Spinal Tap levels of “11” just to hear it (especially those polystyrene releases from Eric B & Rakim and other hiphop contemporaries of that era). They skip easily and, as most venues don’t even have turntables anymore and even if they do they haven’t been serviced since the early 2000’s, one slight bump, gust of wind or minor infraction of said decks can easily send your raging crowd into a “this guy fucking sucks” chant. Even better, many 45’s were cut really thin and could easily crack, break or warp at the slightest accidental nudge when trying to put back into your crate as large sweaty masses of punters dance way too close to you. Being that these are my favourite gigs to play, I’m afraid to say it’s happened to me plenty of times.

Now, for you old school hiphop buyers on here (and this ain’t one of those “look at me” stories as considering some of the royalty on here, I’m practically a baby when it comes to 45’s), you know the quality I’m on about. You know as well as I do that back in the early-mid 2000’s, way before the rest of the DJ world caught onto the 45’s game, especially hiphop 45’s, you played strictly used shit you found in bins for next to nothing most of the time. I’m sure there would be older folks that would be like, “you should’ve been buying in the 90’s…donuts were practically free”. 

In reality, I’ve been buying 45’s since about 2001, so I too remember seeing the very cheap bins of these at all the used shops around Melbourne Town, like Collectors Corner, Dixon’s, Alley Tunes and Missing Link. It was quite normal to pick up a mint used copy of a Run-DMC 45, i.e. my copy of ‘My Adidas’, for about $5AUD back in the day…and that was just the tip of a very large iceberg, assuming you didn’t mind digging through bin after bin. I was one of those that didn’t mind, as digging was so new to me in 2001 because I got into DJ’ing so late, i.e. 1999.

The whole point is that there weren’t many “new” 45’s coming out for DJ’s in the 2000’s other than the new deep funk stuff on Freestyle, Tramp and Tru Thoughts (probably my favourite 3 labels for 45’s in the early-mid 2000’s) and I sure as hell wasn’t playing strictly cuts from those labels in the mid-2000’s. Don’t get me wrong, that stuff was (is) dope, but as a club DJ first and foremost, I wasn’t just playing chin stroking sets for the cultured and educated masses. I was playing beer barn pubs and clubs that were good sized and required DJ’s to play a wide variety of music to keep everyone packed in tight (or at least I played that way – still do). So I’d buy cool stuff from those labels, but always picked up what I could that I just loved from the used bins that I knew would be good for any joint.

This was why I had such a wide assortment of tunes on 45; everything from bad 80’s to deep funk to reggae to disco to hip house all the way to those few hiphop 45’s I’d find because I loved the tunes. Basically, I bought a lot of used 45’s because there were just so many of em and they were easy to find, assuming (like I mentioned before) you were happy to dig. But I’d usually just play these 45’s in support of the 12’s and album cuts I’d have with me for the long sets I’d play. They were fun. I’m sure this isn’t news to anyone on here that’s been playing for a bit, as we all probably did the exact same thing. Hey, please share your stories, too…I love talking about this stuff. It’s almost as fun as playing them…almost. Ha!

Speaking of fun, even though I started buying 45’s for fun (like most of us) around the same time I started buying records to DJ with, I certainly never planned on playing them in my breaks, DNB, house or bar sets when I first started out. Back in 2001 I could barely beat match a 12”, let alone a 45. There were no Def Jam Adaptors or Suzuki slipmats to hold the 45’s in tight (I love both of those products BTW and use them religiously and exclusively), so all I had were the 2 45’s adaptors that came with my 1200’s and a beer cooler bag of 45’s (I’ll get to my cooler bags in another story). Often, the large hole 45’s would “slip out” when I was DJ’ing as I am fairly heavy-handed. This made me a bit “scared” to actually take them out to play, but I got over that fear quickly once I got confident as a DJ. I had to take all this into account when DJ’ing in clubs for the first time, which I was not very good at to begin with. 

About a year into DJ’ing, I finally started taking a stack of 45’s with me to gigs, because I simply had to go with the format. To be honest, I didn’t have enough of a cross section of music to play with at pubs when I first started so those 45’s would save me when drunk women wanted Bon Jovi. It’s as simple as that. These were strictly pub gigs mind you, so not necessarily straight dance floor venues (but they’d often erupt into dance floors).

Of course, the first time I took the previously mentioned adaptors out to play with, I left them at the venue by accident and never saw them again. So then, I did what I’m assuming we have all done at least once (if it’s just me, my apologies)…I acquired a new pair by stealing a pair that were left at another bar I played (as I’d seen them there plenty of times sitting underneath the decks on the floor by the 2 old Denon CDJ’s — remember the ones where you slid the CD into the side like a car stereo and they had that little toggle wheel unit that sat by the mixer – yeah, we all went there at least once). See, now we’re having fun.

Anyways, the “pair” I acquired were plastic and ‘passion green’ coloured and lasted me about 2 months before I forgot those, too. These would soon be replaced by the plastic adaptor bits attached to 45’s from the 1960’s that I used off and on for the next few years, until I finally bought some of the original ones from my 1200’s (obviously a Technics knock-off company made some) and these I would hold onto until I finally scored some Sydney Def Jam’s and I ain’t used anything but these since. Why go with anything but the best, plus Russell is a dude!!!! Hey, did I mention I tend to go off on tangents, too?

By 2004-2005 I certainly was playing 45’s in my sets quite often (but not strictly). This would be the line of demarcation of me being the occasional 45’s playing type of guy to me starting to play them more seriously, as by 2005 I had acquired about 400 45’s (not a massive amount, but enough that if I wanted to I could do a set of them easily in a nightclub). Of course, I’m not playing full sets of 45’s just yet at this time, but it’s important to note that I was now buying them used (and an occasional new one when released for a special anniversary promo or anything from those specialty labels I mentioned before that would come out). These are what I’d like to talk about with this here corner of mine as by 2005 they were definitely coming out to my gigs with me each weekend.

Now I’ve completely left out the fact I bought 45’s when I was an 8-year old and then again when I was teenager, but I wasn’t really a DJ then so for the sake of this here little blog (not that we even call them “blogs” anymore) I’ll just stick to the ones I bought after getting decks and moving to Australia. In fact, a lot of my punk rock and metal 45’s (which I love playing out) were bought from this period in my life (the teenage years) and I’ve coveted these like Gollum coveted that ring.

So yeah, 45’s are grouse. But how did I become such an “addict” and when am I going to talk about the one? It’s coming.

You see, I find it fascinating how people like us get into things like 45’s, so please feel free to comment about your own story. For me, making the jump from “dabbling” in 45’s in my long sets to playing full on sets of 45’s happened about the time I got hooked on this Triple J Mix-Up 45’s set from Boca 45 in 2006’ish. This was about a year or two before I met two influential people in my life. One of them was Shan Frenzie, someone I now do a weekly radio show with on Base FM in New Zealand called The Low End Theory. As he was up in Sydney and I was in Melbourne we’d just connect when he came down to play for folks (cuz he’s from here originally) or I’d go up to play stuff for Funkdafied. The other person was Mr Lob who I met right around the time I stopped playing so many breaks/DNB gigs and we’d drop 45’s a lot at this bar Rob was booking on Smith Street, called Dirty Secrets. Despite the fact folks would dance around tables and such, it was more of just a cool bar (even though they did have sick basement we’d rock occasionally)…so I’d mainly play the deep funk 45’s I was buying, especially because they owner hated cheese. Just ask Rob about the time he dropped Madonna (true story). Sorry Rob.

Anyways, Shan was down in Melbourne for a gig one time and I got to talking about 45’s with him as he was right into them (probably more than me at this time) – pretty sure this was way before he started his Hip Hop 45’s blog (an early influence on me). Shan came across as a bit of a “pro” and seemed like he knew what he was talking about; actually, he was a total pro and I was useless. Anyways, I had a very large stack of em by now and after caning Boca 45’s set (that covered everything from funk to hiphop to 60’s rock to soul) on repeat that many times for about 2 years preceding this chat with Shan, I thought, fuck it…I’m going to take that bag with me to my next club gig at this venue I was playing most Saturday nights called Lounge (on Swanston St in the CBD) and see how it went with a proper dance floor.

Well it worked. 

My most vivid memory of that set (and which is the whole point to this long story) was the joint was popping big time (as it always did) and my mate Snowie rolled in after one of his gigs and I was banging out straight party hiphop even though we played a bit of everything (this was at least a year before I finally took the plunge and bought Serato). Mind you, I still didn’t play an entire set of 45’s that night, as I wasn’t ready for a 6 hour 45’s set just yet (this would come soon enough). 

Anyways, Snowie was like, “where you going next?” after a particularly raucous drop of House of Pain’s “Jump Around” (I know, not very deep) and I thought, “what wouldn’t Snowie expect?”

So I reached into my 45’s bag (which, by the way, was a proper beer cooler bag – still have it, too) and pulled out something that will forever be etched into my mind. I literally cut the power on the turntable with the House of Pain 12 playing, chucked on mass Flanger and waited for the last millisecond of Muggs classic beat to wobble out slowly. Then I waited another millisecond as 200 packed-in booze/pill heads all gave me the “WTF” stare before hitting play on the 45 I’d chosen…

Whop bop b-luma b-lop bam bom

That was all it took and the entire room went ballistic to Little Richard’s ‘Tutti Frutti’. I just gave myself goose bumps remembering this actually. 

Of course, it was the cheap copy with Beach Boys ‘Kokomo’ on the other side from that Tom Cruise movie (I’d know as I have about 20 copies), but the punters didn’t care. They literally lost their proverbial shit and danced like they hadn’t danced since their Kinder school disco and as I looked over at my mate Snowie, he just gave me the “look”. You know the “look”. The Alpha DJ moment, where you know you’ve dropped “the track” of the night. Believe me, I’ve given him that recognition that many times, too…but on this occasion it was that 45 that owned the night. 

That was the one!

From there, I’d delve even deeper into jump blues and classic rock, be-bop and soul jams because nobody else (and props to the PBS DJ’s — who are all mad DJ’s that absolutely slay it) were playing those jams the way I wanted to hear em. I have absolutely zero interest in going to a night that plays one style of music all night long. I want variety. So I started mixing up the jump blues with hiphop; the disco with pop; the metal with reggae. My alter ego Herbie Lavender was born and before another year would pass, I would start playing 6-hour sets mashing up every style of 45 I could find. I couldn’t give a fuck and still don’t.

But all of that is for another tale. For now, I want to hear about your time dropping the “one”. What was the track and why did it go off? The cheaper; the lamer; the most atrocious; the better. Or go with holy grail find that you and only you have a copy of…those are killer, too.

Gimme’ that one moment and the “one” 45 that did it. And thanks for hanging with me.

  • OB