My room in Basel was just that, a room. It was cramped and had a bed that had seen plenty of use. As the incoming DJ you learned to shake out the sheets before you lay down just in case they hadn’t been washed well enough to get rid of any creepy crawlies that the previous DJ might have left behind.
The room was directly above the club and had probably been a former office. My clues to that origin were two empty file cabinets that were jammed in the corner because it was probably easier to just leave them there than lug them down the stairs. Those metal cabinets were the only decoration in the entire room. No pictures of the town square or the river or cats playing cards, just four blank walls to comfort you during your stay.
Several of the DJs, obviously ripe with boredom, had written on the walls in ballpoint pen. Some of the words were warnings, ‘Stay away from Susie, she has the clap’ or ‘Buy your beer in Germany. It’s cheaper.’ But one caught my eye. It said ‘Radio. You can sing along with it, but you can never be on it’.
I would find myself going back to that sad graffiti day after day. I could feel the despair of the person who had written it flowing through those words.
Like most of the club DJs I wanted to get on the radio but again and again had found it to be a ‘closed shop’. But I was not giving up – ever! Whoever had scribbled this on the wall was obviously resigned to failure. The more I stared at this hopeless phrase the more I could feel the determination building within me. There had to be a way to break in, there had to be.
On my last day at Happy Night I knew I could not leave without replying to that haunting negativity. I would not let it win. Nine words to answer it kept ringing through my head and on that final morning I scrawled them out on the wall right below the phrase. The next DJ following me would now read, ‘Radio. You can sing along with it, but you can never be on it. Then one day you can sing along with me.’ I stopped and added two more words – ‘Dick Sheppard’.
That was the moment that I signed a contract with myself.