Writer Lady Jane
For the white album I thought I’d tell you a bit more about DJ culture. DJ culture before the mp3 was invented and, more specifically, when white labels were the cachet of recognition record store clerks bestowed upon you. When I started buying records, around 1990, my favourite record stores were USA Import in Antwerp, Music Man in Gent and for second hand stuff I always went to Wally’s Groove World – Koenie’s shop that was squeezed in the basement of USA Import. Later on, Dr Vinyl opened shop in Brussels so I didn’t need to drive to Antwerp anymore, even though it was always good to visit other stores because each shop had its own selection.
The only way to get some good music at the time was by religiously visiting record stores every week.
The only way to get some good music at the time was by religiously visiting those stores every week. On Thursdays was when most new records came in and you had to be quick to get them because there often weren’t many copies. So, best trick was to be nice with the person selling the records: Smos at USA, Geert at Dr Vinyl, Benoulie & Biens at Music Man and Koenie at Wally’s Groove World. And, since I was one of the only girls mixing at the time, they always kept some nice copies for me. The retailers had a lot of power in those days. They listened to all the records that came in and it was obvious to them which ones would go on to become hits. Everything was ordered in small quantities and they kept the good records for themselves or their close friends. The idea being that people who bought the records could play them for a while before they hit the dance floors and radio waves.
If you were lucky enough to have purchased a good white label record, it was highly probable that you’d be the only one playing it for months before it got released.
When you were really lucky though, you’d stumble upon a white label. White labels are completely white records. They are promotional copies (not for sale!) although we were quite happy to buy them. They were records that the record companies sent to stores to promote a song that hadn’t yet been released, to sound the market out a little. So, if you were lucky enough to have purchased a good white label record, it was highly probable that you’d be the only one playing it for months before it got released. And, as a DJ, what better way to stand out from the pack than to be spinning some tunes that nobody else could play? Every DJ had his own style and his own hits, songs that everybody could sing along to but that nobody knew the exact name of the producer or the label. That’s also the reason why a lot of DJs used special (white) stickers to cover the etiquette. Some of the notorious white labels that were released six months or even a year before their official release were Felix’s Don’t you want me, T99’s Anasthasia, Cameo’s Money and Nightcrawlers’ Push the feeling on. All of them went on to become very big hits.
Thanks to Geert from Dr Vinyl (Brussels).
Listen to T99’s Ansthasia: