In the first of a series of articles on what vinyl records mean to their most avid collectors, DJ Eltham John spills the secrets of his collection and, below, shares his favourites on a playlist for Eastlondonlines readers
Name: John Eltham aka DJ Eltham John
DJ and a clown.
How many records do you have?
Around 3,000. This is actually the beginning of a record collection – for a DJ like myself anyway, as I’m not just a reggae or hip-hop DJ but I’m a selecter too.
Where are you from?
I grew up in Eltham, hence my DJ name Eltham John – a nickname given to me before I officially started DJ’ing. When I was introduced at the pub as Eltham John, people would hear Elton John. My first DJ gig was at the New Cross Inn where I was asked about my DJ name. I told them what it was and that I didn’t like it, but the guy said: “Of course you have to be Eltham John!”
What is your earliest memory of vinyl?
My dad playing records on his mobile sound system at someone’s wedding party. I was allowed to run around which I loved because records meant parties, and parties meant there were lots of crisps and sweets.
What is your favourite vinyl record?
Echomania by Dub Syndicate. This was the first record I ever bought from a shop in Greenwich. I actually wasn’t listening to dub that much at the time. I remember my dad poking his head round my bedroom door saying: “Oh, I didn’t know you liked reggae.” I would say: “It’s not reggae Dad, it’s dub!” I’ve had this record for 18 – 19 years. It’s a very special record.
What are some of your other favourites?
A record which is the original soundtrack to the science fiction film Forbidden Planet from the ‘50s. It’s this weird machine noise. It was actually disputed if it was even music or not. You had the Musicians’ Union saying: “This isn’t music – this is just electronic noise!”
Another favourite is Monday Morning Dread by Full Moon Scientist which is one of the maddest dub records I have. [Looking for another record to present] “You see when you’re talking to geeks they’ll just be talking for days and lock you in their bedroom. This one is a bit dark – it’s called Make Them Die Slowly. It’s a record which has recordings of video nasty trailers from the 1980’s.
What is your vinyl collection made up of?
In terms of original records, my collection begins from the 1950s and has many genres – rock and roll, rhythm and blues, disco, hip-hop. I also have a whole section dedicated to what I call “Jamaica” which has dub, reggae, dubstep, dancehall, ska and jungle.
When did you start collecting?
In my early teens, my dad gave me and my brother a record player. At first, we occasionally bought tapes but then we started buying records. I remember the first album I ever bought was From Langley Park to Memphis by Prefab Sprout. I also bought Michael Jackson’s Bad.
The other one I really enjoyed, and is the coolest one I can think of, was Appetite for Destruction by Guns and Roses. It had a very controversial cover, which got banned at some point.
Describe your musical influences.
When I was a teenager, my dress sense was based on the two-tone look, which I got from The Specials. I would also say Lee “Scratch Perry” and Bob Marley. I remember as a child, my family didn’t watch much TV – instead we would sit and listen to the radio. On Sunday afternoons, I’d always hear records playing from the ‘50s, which you could say, is a reason why 1950s records are part of my collection.
What is your favourite vinyl cover art?
Rolling Stones – Their Satanic Majesties Request – because of its hologram cover, and I like the minimalism of this one (points to White Zombie’s Make Them Die Slowly record cover), because it does what it says on the tin.
Have you attended Record Store Day?
I have been in the past but it has become a bit commercialised and there’s been less interesting releases. The event is sometimes used as a vehicle to market some new indie band with an overpriced collector’s edition or the record turns out to be crap…I’ve bought a live gig recording of a Sex Pistols record, but it just sounded bloody awful.
There’s also a lot of stuff on the day, which you can get from an online market called Discogs. What I like is the big sound systems they sometimes set up, on street corners.
What is your favourite place to buy vinyl?
Records in Lewisham. There’s an old Irish guy who has lots of interesting stories and I have found a few treasures there, one of them being a Buzzcocks record. I also like buying from Rat Records in Camberwell and two stores in Greenwich – Casbah Records and Vinyl Exchange.
Why do you think vinyl has become such a popular format again?
Because it’s nice to collect and you can hold and feel a record. You enjoy arranging all your records and showing them off to people and say: “Look what I’ve got!”
Playlist: DJ Eltham John’s personal favourites
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