Meet Heinrich, the World's First Disc Jockey

DJ Heinrich worked at the Scotch Club for eight years, adding Rock and Roll to his repertoire of German ballads, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. He moved to Switzerland and setting up the Alpine country's first discotheque in 1968. He then worked on pirate radio from a ship moored in the port of Hamburg for three months, until the city threatened to prosecute him and he had to leave.

"You've Either Got it or You Haven't"

The word discotheque was coined a few years after Quirini first jumped on stage -- the Scotch Club called itself a Jockey Dance Bar, a description that didn't catch on, unsurprisingly.

What makes a good DJ? Heinrich certainly seemed to have the knack. "You should take a look at the lyrics and work that into your announcement, it's not something you can learn. You've either got it or you haven't. I remember dancing on a table in a kilt teaching people how to do the twist." He had a stock of hundreds of funny phrases and jokes to amuse audiences in between songs.

Quirini stopped being a DJ decades ago but he has kept track of the trends -- how clubs had to make way for the gigantic techno temples in the 1990s, and how the scene is moving back towards smaller venues now.

In the 1960s, many young men wanted to become DJs because the job sounded like an easy way to make money and attract women. Quirini fought to have the occupation recognized as a proper job and formed the German Organization of Disc Jockeys in 1963.

Some might say the way German DJs organised themselves was typical of this heavily regulated, well-organized country. "Every DJ who wanted to become a member had to show an official police certificate of good conduct," he said. In the 1970s, he successfully campaigned for DJs to gain access to statutory health and pension insurance -- not very Rock n' Roll, perhaps but useful for long-term stability.

Ageing Audiences Still Kicking

The word disco has gone out of fashion and now stands for the 1970s style forever enshrined in the 1977 movie Saturday Night Fever -- mirror balls, flares and John Travolta swinging his hips. For Quirini, the traditional discotheque is very different from what he calls "discos", or modern nightclubs. His type of discotheque is alive and kicking, although its audience is aging, he says.

"In a discotheque a DJ moderates and brings the music to life with his intros. In the modern disco, the tracks are brought to life by light effects, fog or blowing bubbles. The heyday of the discotheque isn't over. In Cologne for example, in the Wiener Steffie (editor's note -- a large dance hall with long wooden benches which often stages theme parties), the audience is 35 to 80 and if the DJ dares to put on Britney Spears, they'll send him packing."

"I still go to discotheques but only to places where people my age go," says Quirini. "To the Tanzpalast in Aachen, for example, where you definitely won't find people dancing in cages."

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