an polish disco pioneer discjockey
* TRAMPLED DREAMS *
by Yahu Pawul
(excerpts from the book)
I remember that my first big fascination, something new and unknown to me, was The Beatles movie "A Hard Days Night", which played at my local cinema in 1966. I remember the thrills all down my backbone when I first heard the sounds and music behind the screen. I was only 14 years old and a kind of revolution started in my young mind that evening. I couldn't sleep late into the night - thinking hard how to become someone like those marvelous four, The Beatles. That was a magic time.
Before that movie, I was a normal Polish kid like millions of others in the '60s Poland. I would run to the school, then tear trousers on the trees and fens. On Sunday I would help in the church. I did not realize that there was any Communist system, other country, cultures, people and lifestyle. My existence and life was my home, father, mother, my brother Frank and a lot of friends around - similarly poor kids of workers. I was so happy during my childhood in the neighbourhood public garden, a few nearby streets and places around. One hour in front of cinema screen and that movie changed all my life. I staredt to collect rock 'n' roll star magazines and newspaper pictures, then created a band together with school friends. If there had been no Beatles, Elvis Presley or Rolling Stones, then probably the world would be completely different than is today.
The '60s cultural revolution changed the whole planet - one place more, another less, but definitely changed. It changed one poor Polish kid - me! Autumn 1968 was cold and rainy. I spent a lot of time then in my small room planning my life. I was 15 and so excited when, late in the night, in deep secrecy under my mother's nose, I listened to the voice of a man on the radio. It was the legendary UK service of Radio Luxembourg 208 and voice of Australian-born Alan Freeman - the first discjockey I ever heard in my life. At the same time, I became fascinated by the deejay profession and pop music.
A few weeks later, I started to copy the deejays' way of speaking, introducing music from records. I just pretended because I was too poor to buy records or turntables or any electronic equipment. I did not realize at that time what I was doing and where it was all leading. It was something not controlled by me, a kind of feeling stronger than me. Life goes on giving new experiences. I had to choose between the normal lifestyle for all young people that time and between something that was total fantasy, unreal at that time in Poland. It was a big problem for me and for my future. One day I made a life changing decision - I chose to become a discjockey. It was a decision that went against everybody's advice - mother, school, family, friends. I mean no one supported me then. I started thousands of hours of training my voice, style of speaking, learning about music, artists etc.
One day, I got my first job. I started to work as a deejay at the Culture House and played hard rock band records with my commentary for public / audience. The first one I remember was Led Zeppelin - their second album presented to over 400 young people. I was playing track by track, with my commentary between. The audience was sitting around and listening. No dancing yet. Then followed similar gigs, popularizing the records of: Deep Purple, Budgie, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Black Sabbath, Ten Years After, Jethro Tull, Grand Funk Railroad, etc. I say as a joke (but this is really true) that I was a disco deejay at the time when there were no discotheques in Poland yet. When in 1970 I first heard about discotheques, I then started my first disco, called BEATOLAND.
There were a very few 18 - 20-year-old young people who created the Polish discotheque and deejay scene. We were so excited and fascinated by the whole idea of disco and deejays that we did not care about money, etc. We did our job for free almost and were happy we could do it at all. Our main problem was how to get proper records produced outside of Poland and it was very hard to access any new music. We did not care about the law, regulations, customs etc. We just wanted to pursue our passion in real life. It created huge troubles for us then. But thanks to our determination, discotheques became reality on Polish territory in 1970.
At first, I played and mixed with deejay comments music which was popular at that time mostly in Europe: Led Zeppelin, Cream, Deep Purple, Budgie, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Black Sabbath, Ten Years After, Jethro Tull, Grand Funk Railroad etc. The real disco pioneer deejays / old school disco deejays were kind of radio style deejays. We were talking to the microphone between the songs and mix, in the same way radio deejays did. I mean short, fast speech comments and snippets of information were inserted at the end of the introduction and end of the 3 - 4 minutes music of 7" singles.
Then in the early '70s the "UK wave" came - labels such as Bell, RAK, PYE and artists like Gary Glitter, Suzy Quatro, Smokie, Bay City Rollers, Status Quo, Slade, Kenny, Elton John, Rod Stewart, etc. I mixed this "UK wave" sound with early and mid '70s USA soul and R&B records - most of all labels like Stax, Motown, ABC, Epic, Columbia. That was all popular and good music to dance to but not really the disco sound yet. Disco music came a little bit later and then I started to play Gary Toms Empire, Crown Heights Affair, Commodores, Kool & Gang, Barry White, Sly & Family Stone, Sister Sledge, Bee Gees, Peter Brown, Earth Wind & Fire, Chic, KC & Sunshine Band, Isaac Hayes, Salsoul Orchestra, Donna Summer, Silver Convention etc.
Between 15 - 21 October 1973 there was the First Discotheque Discjockeys Tournament (a kind of competition) in Poland. I got into the final team then as one of the 16 best Polish deejays. Poland was such a backward country then but discotheque deejays were very close to their deejay friends in the western Europe world. Such a "paradise" lasted only a very shot time. Suddenly the Communists started to control everything. That time in Poland, Communist power controlled everything - including discos and deejays. They simply tried to stop this new idea, because they were afraid it was not good for young Polish people. By which I mean such a fascination for western music, artists, culture, style of life, etc. They simply wanted all teenagers to be Communists who loved the USSR, Leninism, etc.
The Communist administration quickly created troubles for discotheques and deejays. They created a kind of political / Communist theory test, complete with exams and administration - they called this shit 'deejay licence'. If anyone didn't go along with it, then they couldn't work as a deejay in Poland. Via this famous and hated 'licence system' they started to create a different kind of discotheque style, music style and deejay style - different than in the western world. There was no other place on the planet Earth anybody controlled deejays in such crazy, stupid way by using special political "deejay license". But here in Poland there were a lot of sick mind Communists who wanted to advance their careers in any way they could.
The world went its own way but Poland went in a completely different and opposite way. I had many contacts and correspondence at that time with UK and USA deejays, and likewise with magazine editors and Associations like NADD (National Association of Discotheque Disc Jockeys) in the USA and NADJ (National Association of Disc Jockeys ) in the UK. I was so lucky to be an honorary member of those organizations as the one and only deejay from Poland. I got a lot of knowledge, experiences and promo materials from all those contacts and that correspondence. There were a lot of articles published about me in the UK and USA disco and deejay magazines. A few of those articles came any way to Poland to Communist deejays (those with that Communist "deejay licence") and their association. They got furious then that someone was doing international cooperation by passing them and not asking for permission. They started to create serious troubles for me. The first thing they did against me was to use the local Police to start to control what I did, how I earned my livelihood and to totally forbid me to work as a deejay. It was very simple for them. They just sent news all over Poland via all those Communist party offices which administered whole local areas. So, I was on a special black list - but I still did deejay work anyway, very secretly, under false names. Unfortunately they quickly learned about this because other deejays informed and denounced me to the Police and my work as a deejay was completely impossible for a few years. They printed articles in the Polish communist press for young people about me, saying that I was a very bad young man, an enemy of the system, and that I was a beggar and wrote begging letters to the UK and USA asking for free (promo) records etc. They started to control all my correspondence and any promo records anyone sent to me they confiscated and gave to their Communist deejays. I then had to do very hard and dangerous work in a mining company, then in an iron foundry and a shipyard. That was the Communist system, dishing out punishment to any individual brave enough to stand up against them and try to go their own, free way, outside the control of the Communist system. It was at that time that I started to think seriously about how to get out of Poland, ask for political asylum and emigrate for good. It was not easy because that time I was married and had two wonderful kids. But Communist persecution was so strong that I couldn't stand it.
Life was so very hard everyday. All my youthful dreams were completely trampled! My deejay friends from the UK and USA had careers, money and a good life. Whereas I, in my homeland Poland, was on the verge of going to jail or commiting suicide. That was a painful time for all of my family, and also for my young and pretty wife, and for my old mother who believed in her beloved firstborn son's dreams. After years of correspondence and cooperation with UK and USA friends I reached a crucial decision. I would try to organize my very secret emigration from Poland. So in March 1989 I secretly ran away from Poland and flew to NYC. Then I moved to LA and asked for political asylum at INS LA. But early in 1990, the USA administration refused me political asylum. They explained to me - "there is no longer Communist power in Poland and there is no serious reason to let you stay in the USA". That decision came as a total shock to me, but I had no power and no chance to fight against it. It was a very stressful and sad time for me. So, I had to come back to Poland in April 1990 and start to reorganize my life once more. I tried to get back to deejay work (never mind there was no longer Communist power) but there were still the same people who persecuted me before and who still secretly decided who could work as a deejay and who could not. That was, of course, a "SMALL" detail that the USA immigration administration (INS LA) didn't know about when they refused me political asylum. INS LA had just one idea - send this Polishman out of the USA and that's exactly what they did.
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