DURING the early 1980s I was doing exactly what I wanted. I was playing in bands in Nottingham while running the upstairs at Selectadisc.
That all changed in 1984 when Brian Selby (the founder of the iconic record shop who died in September from pancreatic cancer aged 71), said he’d bought the Ad-Lib club in the Lace Market.
It was a really seedy reggae club and people were asking him ‘why the hell have you bought that?’
He wanted to create the sort of club that he’d been to in London. He called it The Garage and said that he wanted me to DJ there.
The only DJ-ing I’d done before that was at school in Kircaldy at someone’s birthday party.
I didn’t want to do it but he insisted, saying: “I employed you for your musical knowledge and I think you’ll be great at it.”
Of course, The Garage became an important place in terms of the emergence of the whole acid house/rave culture.
Outside of London, the Hacienda in Manchester was the only other club playing this music. It was from Chicago, Detroit and New York and I was getting it through Selectadisc and playing it at The Garage.
I used to go the Hacienda because I was a massive fan of Factory Records bands who’d play there.
It’s where I met the resident DJ Mike Pickering. At the time we were the only ones outside London playing house stuff. Everyone else was playing rare groove.
In June of 1988 he went away for a few weeks and asked me to cover for him. And it was incredible; 2,000 people crammed in, going mental.
At The Garage they were really into the house stuff and it was a fantastic atmosphere but at the Hacienda I was getting a completely different response. It was brought to my attention that it was because loads of people were taking Ecstasy.
I carried on doing every Friday at The Hacienda, while doing Saturdays at The Garage and I witnessed first-hand how the acid house scene infiltrated Nottingham.
In the late 80s everyone was really dressing up. It was designer clothes from Bridlesmith Gate at places like Birdcage and Paul Smith.
In Manchester it was baggy jeans, tie-dye T-shirts, bandanas and smiley stuff.
When a few of the regulars at The Hacienda came down to see me at The Garage, people were like: “What the hell are they wearing?”
Quite quickly people in Nottingham started to dress like everyone at the Hacienda.
That was the start of the Summer of Love, the acid house and rave culture. I remember seeing this change every week in front of my eyes.
By the end of that summer The Garage was like a mini version of The Hacienda.
Then Brian opened The Fanclub in Leicester, which I was doing every Thursday, then The Leadmill in Sheffield every Wednesday.
So I had to say to Brian “I can’t work at Selectadisc any more.”
I was getting in at 3.30am and I had to open up the shop the next morning.
At Selectadisc I was getting about £120 a week but £100 a night DJ-ing.
There was a big demand for people like me, Danny Rampling, Nicky Holloway and Paul Oakenfold all over the North and Midlands.
So I had give up Selectadisc.
Then it went to whole other level in the 1990s.
Clubs now really range from people in their teens to late 40s.
When I started out DJ-ing clubs were full of people in their 20s.
Anyone who was in their 40s used to stand out like a sore thumb.
I love that mix of new and old faces now.
I do sometimes pinch myself that I’m still doing it all these years later.
This year I’ve been to Australia and I go to the Middle East a lot.
If it wasn’t for Brian I may have never become a DJ.
I found out about his death on Twitter. Ten days later I was at the funeral in Cropwell Bishop. The church was beautiful and the tributes to Brian were just incredible.
His influence on me was huge.
The triple CD set Hacienda 30 mixed by Graeme Park, Mike Pickering and Peter Hook is out now.
For more about Graeme Park, to hear his radio show and download his app, go to graemepark.com.