Almost all Pro Mobile readers will have heard about, and many will have used in the past, the legendary DJ consoles manufactured by Citronic. We are talking about the golden era of vinyl in the 70s, 80s and early 90s – before the introduction of CDs and then digital playback.
UK-based Citronic were the original manufacturing pioneers of DJ consoles. Many of today's most successful DJs learnt their original craft on these amazing machines. A motoring analogy would liken their consoles more to Rolls Royces, BMWs and Mercedes, rather than VW Golfs or Ford Fiestas. Or, putting it another way, they were unquestionably the 'Pioneer DJ' of their time.
How It All Started
The founder of Citronic was a dedicated visionary and top-class engineer called Dick Wadman. He laboured over his original DJ console designs and the initial manufacturing from his garage workshop in the village of Bromham in Wiltshire.
Having quickly outgrown his garage space, Dick moved his embryonic manufacturing facility to a nearby factory unit in Melksham and hired the services of an effervescent and charming Sales Director called Dave Foskett.
The year was now 1973 and I was then struggling with my own fledgling DJ console manufacturing business, operating from an industrial premises in North London's Tufnell Park. I was proving to be hugely successful at selling DJ kit, but was definitely less successful at running a manufacturing operation. To be quite frank, I found the manufacturing side really boring. For me, the sales and marketing of DJ kit was far more exciting.
In fact, I was already dreaming up my very first Roger Squire's Disco Catalogue - packed full of wonderful 'DJ Toys and Accessories'. So, within just nine months of starting my own manufacturing operation, I was already planning its funeral. Despite this, I was determined to save the Squire DJ brand, as it seemed to have strong pulling power.
On top of this, Radio 1 DJ Johnnie Walker had already endorsed my first Squire consoles in the DJ press of that era. All I needed was to find a top-class electronics manufacturer to back me up with efficient production and the Squire brand could live on.
Squire and Citronic - Our First Kiss
In the summer of 1973 I was suffering the usual batch of production aggravations (parts shortages, component failures etc.) when someone called Dave Foskett phoned me up from a company called Citronic. I had never heard of them before, but Dave was very friendly and knowledgeable, so I agreed to meet him a few days later in our Service Department. I agreed to evaluate Citronic's new Stateline 1 DJ console in detail with my chief electronics engineer.
During this evaluation, I was very impressed as to how beautifully made it was, with thick wooden end pieces and a strong metal chassis. My engineer judged the electronics to be first class and the sound quality was top notch too. The only design fault I could find was the lack of a separate EQ control on the mic channel.
In the end, a deal was done to manufacture a Stateline 2 version under the Squire brand with some minor modifications including the additional EQ on the mic channel. At last I was going to have reliable, high-quality production behind the Squire brand name.
Our Love Affair Grows Deeper
Over the next few years, Citronic brought out more 'state of the art' DJ consoles plus matching amps and lighting control units. Most of my customers bought Squire-branded speaker systems to go with their Citronic kit. The film, and accompanying soundtrack, 'Saturday Night Fever' in 1977 set the disco world on fire and Roger Squire's Disco Centre branches expanded rapidly from London to Manchester and Bristol - with Birmingham and Glasgow yet to come. Citronic sales, under both the Citronic and Squire brands, really took off big- time through our expanding sales outlets.
Citronic looked after Squire's devotedly as their number one customer and Squire's looked after Citronic with the same devotion as their number one supplier. The Squire Disco Catalogues of that era, together with our DJ press advertising, heavily promoted Citronic kit. We were both deeply in love. And the biggest winners of all were Britain's DJs who gained easy access to the best DJ kit of that era supported by a reliable nationwide backup service.
Our First Big Quarrel
Everything was going well with our blossoming relationship until one day in 1978 a very nervous Dave Foskett rang me to set up a meeting about 'trading problems'. Dave's tone of voice clearly indicated an atmosphere of great foreboding. The meeting took place a few days later at our new head office in Barnet and was attended by a somewhat tense Dick Wadman along with a rather sullen Dave Foskett.
Dick opened the meeting by announcing that he had just had a long meeting with his firm's accountants. They had warned that Citronic was too dependant on just one customer, as over thirty percent of their entire factory output was now being sold through Squire's outlets. Dick went on to say that Citronic's board had therefore decided to limit Squire's to no more than ten percent of factory output in future.
Dick's hammer-blow announcement meant that from now on they would only supply Squire's with a greatly reduced number of DJ consoles. That was going to wreck our DJ-friendly reputation and was guaranteed to upset huge numbers of our DJ customers.
Ultimatum Meets Ultimatum
To reduce the tension, I initially sympathised greatly with Dick's worries and those of his accountant. But then I reminded him that Squire's had the identical worries in reverse, as we were equally dependent and vulnerable to his company. Dick had not thought of this problem the other way around and this tactic helped a bit.
Dick had also not thought through the steps we would have to take to safeguard our DJ reputation and market share. I reminded Dick that if he insisted on this policy we would have no option but to forge a new alliance with another electronics manufacturer to make top-class DJ consoles for us. I suggested that this was likely to dent Citronic's sales figures very substantially.
I proposed that, instead of 'cutting us back', Citronic should instead focus on growing their sales much higher, especially via exports. I also proposed that we should keep our relationship extra close to ensure that trading mishaps didn't happen. In the end, my proposal won the day and, much to their sales director's great relief, a near divorce was avoided.
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 75, Pages 50-54.