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Duck helps DJ top charts


The term DJ is now synonymous with a mobile artiste, who brings along his decks, hundreds of records and loops them into a continuous dance track that seems to go on for ages. Part of the skill of being a DJ was once to mix songs with different speeds and in different keys; to blend them so that the accompanying song would seem to emerge from the previous. With music on records and gramophones, the fluency of the connection was testament to the skill of a DJ. With music going digital nowadays, it is arguably easier because the speed and key of the songs can be altered prior to being played, and can even be digitally linked before the whole performance, such that a large part of the job of being a DJ may come down to more preparation before the event, and then merely hitting a "Play" button during a gig.

Back in the 1970s, the job description for a DJ was a bit more straightforward. Among other things, DJs worked at radio stations, taking phone calls and making small talk between records, while giving the time every now and then, and playing a few ads. This left a DJ named Rick Dees wanting more, and it was in the middle of what might have seen as a boring routine that he had flash of inspiration. His job experience gave him some insight and nous into the mood of the current pop world, and his intuition told him that the emerging disco movement was ready for a parody record. As it turned out, one of his gym friends could do a great impression of a duck. The idea for "Disco Duck" was born. That fleeting thought took gradual hold and that afternoon he ended up going home writing the song that would transform his career. Disco Duck ended up displacing another quasi-disco parody, A Fifth of Beethoven in the top spot of the Billboard Top 100 charts.

A dancing duck in a pop song might have been out of the ordinary at the time, but most ideas start off on the periphery and then become normalised through imitation. For example, the metal group Lordi won the Eurovision song contest with their members playing in masks and monster costumes. Perhaps if Dees had come up with a dance for his music and actively promoted it, he might have furthered the lifespan of his song. Unfortunately for Dees, other record stations at the time hesitated to play his song, because they thought it would promote his radio station. And he could not play his own record at his own station because it was seen as a conflict of interest. He was even fired for discussing his own record on air, but his firing would clear the impasse. He was eventually hired by another competing radio station and the rest is history.

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