By Manu Ekanayake
House music is a culture in this city: the DJs, the clubs, the dancers, the fashions – they all play a part in London’s fascination with this thing called ‘house’, which is so central to all the dancefloors we love so dearly. But when all’s said and done, when the media stops caring (or starts to miss the point), it all comes down to music: the tracks we hold in our hearts; the ones that make us smile and make our hearts race every time we hear just a few bars. If clubbing is about anything, it’s about that: the special feeling the right record can give, distilled into a sonic tonic that can be administered over many hours, or even days, in the right hands, i.e those of our favourite DJs.
So it was to them we turned, to better explore some highlights of London house tracks of the past. Music is such a personal experience: one person’s tune can be another’s audio nightmare, but these guys are all past masters at making a dancefloor move, of shaping your nights out with the right track for the right time, at making you smile and making you move. They’re also good friends of DSS (and our stylish sister venue, Dance Tunnel), so we asked them to share tracks they know and love, but that you probably don’t.
The results are illuminating, to say the least, as they reveal as much about our city’s love affair with house as they do about the music itself. And with the powers that be squeezing nightlife ever-harder, there’s never been a better time to remember what we’re doing here in the first place. These are the tracks that brought us together; the tracks that remind us that ‘house’ is a feeling – one that London must never lose.
DSS’ favourite acid house hero-turned afro-futurist, Ashley Beedle goes back to ’91 with a tune that bought different crowds together…
Shay Jones – Are You Gonna Be There
Ashley: Produced by the legend that is Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley outta Chicago, this track has a beautiful vocal and a bumping groove that really crossed the soulboy /original garage-head divide. It came out when things were getting a bit ravetastic, to say the least. At the time, I was managing Black Market Records (the house section). This was a breath of fresh air and we definitely sold quite a few boxes. It even made the swingbeat b-boys from downstairs come and check it out! Hahahaha. I remember hearing people like Jazzie B, Phil Asher, Keith Franklin, Kid Batchelor, Frankie Foncett, Norman Jay, Coldcut and the Boy’s Own crew drop this killer, to name but a few. It wasn’t made in London but we made it a London record, for sure. It’s when that piano kicks in… sheer joy!
Veryverywrongindeed’s Tim Sheridan gets personal with a tune that soundtracked his move to London from his hometown, Leeds, back in the 80s…
The Raid – Jump Up In The Air
Tim: I chose The Raid’s Jump Up In The Air because it is spread all through my personal history from when it came out to even right now. It was the soundtrack of my moving to London from the north in the mid ’80s. I used to hear it in so many varied places; from Clink Street to the Orbital raves to the legit clubs. I was the first and last DJ to play at the UK’s attempt at the Love Parade and I played this as the first and last record and to see 300,000 people going mental to it was a rush and a sort of House justice too. It deserves it. It has all the elements of being a chant and a call to arms, as well as an invitation to party. It would do it a great disrespect to try to describe it further than saying that to this day if I hear it I get chills and will pogo like a nob the minute it comes on. For me it’s the definitive house record. Todd Terry innit!
Common Factor – Positive Visual
Joe: I remember first hearing this at LOST, or some Wiggle thing, or maybe it was at The End? To be honest, I don’t really remember. What I can remember is it being one of those records that cut through everything and it being the one experience you take away from 6 hours in the dark listening to the ‘doof-doof’. I never found out what it was until many years later, I bought it and forgot I had it ‘til just now…
Now we come to the Thunder DJs – first off, the authoritative Miles Simpson takes the brief literally and recalls a London-made tune that slipped through the cracks the first time round…
Melancholy Man –Joy
Miles: You don’t get much more LONDON and HOUSE than Warriors Dance, the West London label set up by Tony Thorpe of Moody Boys fame. It was home to Tony’s act, No Smoke, who made Koro Koro, possibly the greatest British records of all time, and also to Kid Batchelor’s legendary Bang the Party, who have claims of their own to the title I just bestowed on No Smoke!
One record that seemed to slip through the net, though, was Melancholy Man’s Joy. Produced by Bang the Party but with what was, at the time, a rare vocal from Robert Owens, it pretty much sunk without trace. Maybe the slightly disjointed drums didn’t quite cut it in the four/four driven world of the 1989 rave scene, but the production is still beautiful and Robert really, really turns it out.
This was once pretty hard to find and to do so required much scrabbling around in the basement of Record and Tape, but internet means it’s now a 50p virtual-bargain-bin record these days… but you know, sometimes they’re the best ones.
Then the sublime Joseph Apted goes a little bit tech-house. But not a lot…
Presence – Gettin’ Lifted
I guess this record might get lumped in with the much-maligned ‘tech house’ scene, but like most scenes if you dig about in the dross there always a few gems to be discovered and this is one of them. Presence is one of Charles Webster’s many aliases, and to be fair I could probably pick quite a few of his mid-’90s records as lost London classics i.e his remix of Hot Lizard’s The Theme, or his collaboration with Matthew Herbert as DJ Boom, but I went for this one as it’s perhaps less well- known. It’s a subtle record, couldn’t be less of a ‘banger’, but for me has a druggy, dreamy, ethereal quality to it that lifts it above a lot of other records from that period. It’s absolutely a record to get lost to at 5am in the morning in a sweaty, smoky basement and reminds me of going to nights at the End, or Brixton parties like Kerfuffle when I first moved to London. I looked it up on Discogs yesterday for the first time ever, just to remind myself what year it came outin, and was genuinely amazed to see some chancers trying to sell copies of it for over 100 quid! Although I think that says more about the amount of piss-takers there is on Discogs these days than anything else! Collectable or not, it’s a great record that you should hunt down, and listening to it again has made me want to stick it in my bag for the next Thunder!
And finally the (musically) ruthless Rick Hopkins looks back to look forward with a little slice of house music gold…
Tone Theory – ‘Limbo Of Vanished Possibilities’ (Derrick Carter & The Innocent Original Mix)
This little ditty dates from 1995, I was in my mid 20’s and frequenting clubs like Sabresonic II, Drum Club, Club UK, Strutt & Full Circle and this record was a mainstay at all of them. A fantastic production from one Derrick Carter on Mr C’s infamous Plink Plonk Records, a record that is as relevant today as it was back then and deserves to be out in the open once again, lovely piano hook, keys, whirling synth pads, some deep vocals from (I think) Derrick and the break from Gaz – Sing Sing all put to wondrous effect.
So, what does all this digging tell us? Well, it proves that house is a feeling that lingers through the years, as our DJs have proven with their fond recollections. Hopefully they made you think about your own long-lost house favourites from your own salad days in clubland… feel free to post them below, along with a memory or two of why they moved you in the first place?
To get things started, here’s the tune that started it all for this writer. Not a massive Orbital fan in general – and calling this one ‘house’ is probably pushing it – but hearing the mad proggy bassline on this, via a Darren Emerson mixtape for Muzik magazine (RIP) in 1996, was enough to to kick-start a love-affair with club culture that’s lasted nearly 20 years. If my ‘research’ ever ends, I’ll call you with the results…
Orbital – Walk Now