Life Is Like A Box Of Records: Lynne Johnston (Pretty Ugly)

Life Is Like A Box Of Records today is with Lynne Johnston of impressive DJ/clubnight collective Pretty Ugly, not to mention a plethora of other respected activites!

Pretty Ugly’s next event takes place 13th June at The Admiral Bar, Glasgow.

The Prodigy – Charly

Smash Hits was my bible from an early age. It also inspired my first entrepreneurial venture, selling the posters that I didn’t want in the playground for 10p, I was just like a young Alan Sugar. The great thing about Smash Hits was that it wasn’t just about teenybopper pop, plus it had a real sense of humour, so it gave me quite the musical education (even if all that really taught me to excel at in adult life was the NME crossword). Thanks to the diversity of acts and genres in Smash Hits, I was listening to everything from Bananarama to the Happy Mondays before I was in double digits. It’s probably the magazines fault that the first record I bought was Charly by The Prodigy. Listen to this mental song and try to imagine an 8 year old asking for this on 7″ in Woolworths – I was clearly destined to be a DJ.

Prince – Controversy live

My mum took me to see Prince for my first gig when I was 9 because she is awesome. It opened with his missus on a swing pretending to be Prince in that hat with chains over the face. My mum said ‘that’s not Prince’ and two seconds later the poor lass fell off the swing and the hat fell off, proving my mum right. I decided that when I grew up I was going to go to every gig possible just in case something equally hilarious happened (although I don’t think that opener has ever been topped).

 Madonna – Open Your Heart [Blond Ambition Tour]

When I was in Primary 6 I got through to the final of my school’s version of Mastermind. Despite everyone else picking their favourite books, my specialist subject was Madonna’s Blond Ambition tour. If I went on actual Mastermind today, I’d probably still score pretty well on 80’s Madonna.

Kenickie – Peel Session

I’ve found its always best to make a tit of yourself when meeting your heroes, hence why I chased Debbie Harry down a street in NYC, got Nicola Roberts to sign my doll of her and John Peel told me to fuck off. Still, I had John to thank for introducing me to all the bands throughout my teenage years and turning me into a total muso. Just like Smash Hits, he was eclectic and hilarious, and got me into everyone from Nirvana to Pulp to Kenickie (their Peel Session is the best ever IMO).

The Delgados – Under Canvas Under Wraps

At age 14 I was noising up some unsuspecting lad who was on the bus home from Dundee Uni as only a teenage girl knows how. Now that I was a full on music snob, I pulled one of his headphones out so that I could mock his terrible music taste – I wasn’t expecting him to be listening to the first Delgado’s album. Cue an overexcited Valley Girl style rant from me about how I’d heard them on the Evening Session, weren’t they great, did he know they ran their own record label in Glasgow, they’ve signed Bis and everything, that’s what I was going to do, there’s a college there that runs a record label, etc, etc. He looked both bemused and terrified, but proceeded to give me the tape out of his Walkman – WIN! That was £15 saved from the CD collection fund and transferred into the leaving home fund – I have been forever grateful to you random bus man.

 Biffy Clyro – 57 (Reading)

Fast forward 3 years and I’m now a skint 17 year old who didn’t realise how much rent actually cost and was cursing the demise of the poster selling industry. Now I had all the CDs I could ever imagine, however they are all terrible – turns out A&R wasn’t as exciting as I thought it would be. Eventually we found one band that had a good demo and signed them up to Electric Honey. The showcase we put on for them in King Tut’s was just as busy as this clip as we were sooo popular at college.

 The Flaming Lips – Waitin’ For Superman

Once I left Stow at 18 I ditched the idea of working for a label and started working for venues, concert promoters and festivals instead. The up side of this is that I’ve pretty much seen everyone that I’ve ever wanted to see live, as well as getting to do lots of bizarre jobs along the way. My favourite of which was dancing onstage at the Barras with the Flaming Lips while dressed as a giant chicken, plus I can technically claim to have played the Barrowlands with one of the best live bands ever.

Girls Aloud – Sound Of The Underground

Girls Aloud then arrived and changed my life. I was obviously too busy chin stroking and listening to Elliott Smith to watch Popstars The Rivals – British pop music was fairly crap at the time so I wasn’t paying attention. Then the Sound of The Underground video came on the big screen in the pub – I still remember the first time I saw it because my jaw hit the floor (I was in Kilmarnock, and was possibly wearing a Strokes t-shirt and too much eyeliner, so you could argue that my life was in need of changing anyway). I hadn’t heard anything like it – it was proper, clever, grown up pop music born from a reality TV show and I was now fangirlling the fuck out. While writing this, Popjustice (i.e. the modern day equivalent to Smash Hits) Instagrammed a pic of the press release that just said ‘One of the best most-straightforward pop singles in ages’ – nuff said.

Digitalism – Pogo

Then along came MySpace and everyone thought they were the next Lily Allen. Although I was now obsessed with Xenomania, I was terrible at writing songs. I couldn’t play any instruments, nor could I sing or dance. I decided to start an electro-pop girlband anyway. We covered Numbers and Vanity 6, randomly gave Kelis our demo and caused havoc at Death Disco every month until they let us play there. Calvin Harris played his first gig there and now look where he is (‘dating Taylor bloody Swift’ you all cry!) Obviously we weren’t very good so we didn’t end up producing Rihanna records, but they did give us a DJ residency at Death Disco where we got to DJ alongside legends like Erol Alkan & Jacques Lu Cont, Justice & Digitalism. We had no idea how to actually DJ but I had finally found something I could do – much like David Guetta I was excellent at pressing play and turning the volume up and down.

Icona Pop – I Love It (feat. Charli XCX)

My DJ apprenticeship at the Arches eventually led me back to my indie girl roots when I met Aarti Joshi from Pretty Ugly. She’s definitely the most bonkers person I know, which must be why we’ve had such a laugh DJing together at our wee club night over the past few years. We have such a brilliant crowd that come along to The Admiral every month to dance and singalong badly with us so it just feels like a party in our mates kitchen at 5am (but without the neighbours banging on the walls). I will leave you with a modern day Pretty Ugly classic which sums up my feelings about the club. FYI – This song was actually written about my attempt to drive to a Kelly Clarkson gig in a hire car.


Photo courtesy of TYCI.


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