That time Carl Cox teamed up with James Brown… [November 1998]

Carl Cox has worked with many great artists over the years, however in late 1998, he teamed up with arguably the greatest showman of all.

As this article from MUZIK magazine in November 1998 explains, none other than James Brown (JAAMES BBROOWN!!) teamed up with Cox for a live broadcast on French TV, direct from Paris.

As a spokesperson for the event told the magazine, “James Brown is going to Paris with a full band and a live orchestra. The concept at present is Carl will mix in the records alongside them. He’s going over for an audition shortly, to check that it’s technically possible.

“If it’s not, what he’ll probably do is play tunes in an interlude, when James Brown takes a break – he is about 75, after all!”

Sadly, no video exists (from what we can tell) of this epic encounter, although we’re still hopeful…

One can only suspect that Carl himself was completely star struck – as a recent Iconic Underground interview revealed, one of his ‘earliest musical memories is witnessing “Get Up Off That Thang” by James Brown being played and seeing everyone up on their feet, laughing and enjoying themselves”.

As to whether James shared that sentiment, however, I guess we’ll never know….

[Article snippet from MUZIK, November 1998]

Give Us The Night – Isn’t it time we got some clarity on the future of Irish clubland..?

With Dublin venues District 8 and Hangar now earmarked for closure in the coming months, and smaller venues struggling to make ends meet, clubbing in the Irish capital is at something of a crossroads.

This Wednesday, Give Us The Night, a collective led by techno DJ Sunil Sharpe, holds a public meeting in Dublin city centre to debate how we got to this point, and what Ireland’s nightclub sector needs to do to in order to not just survive, but thrive.

Promoters and club owners are encouraged to attend.

You can find details of the meeting, and sign up to attend, by clicking here

Sadly, the current situation is nothing new, and Give Us The Night has long been campaigning for Ireland’s nightclub industry to be given fair treatment from a business perspective.

Back in the mid-2000s, I wrote an article for Ray O’Connor’s Slick DJ magazine, on Ireland’s openness to the possibility of extended licensing hours for clubs – the article came on the back of the UK introducing 24-hour licensing in November 2005.

Among other things, the article showcased how the Give Us The Night campaign sought to bring the issue of early closing into the public consciousness. More than twelve years later, we are still hoping for some clarity.

The article is below, click the images to enlarge

Pot, Kettle, Black…! Only joking, I think Judge Jules is making a good point here… [July 1997]

There are few things worse than a marauding gang of pissed-up idiots taking over the dancefloor, and back in the summer of 1997, Judge Jules took matters into his own hands when he ‘called out’ a bunch of idiots that were disrupting the night at Gatecrasher in Sheffield.

As this Mixmag snippet from July 1997 explains, Jules stopped his set to take to the mic and shout, “Oi, you wankers! […] This is not a place for beered-up lager lads. This is a place where people come to dance and have a good time. The reason 500 people have been turned away from this club tonight is to stop twats like you coming in and ruining it for everyone else…”

Now, from what I remember of Judge Jules, he was a fairly mild mannered chap at the best of times (I have to confess, I wasn’t a fan of his DJing), but his words on this occasion were absolutely spot on.

As one onlooker put it, “It’s nice to know he cared enough to do something.”

And as per yesterday’s post about smartphone use in clubs, the issue of ‘wankers’ ruining quality nights out isn’t a new occurrence, it would seem… 🙁

[Snippet taken from Mixmag, July 1997]

Annie Mac has a point about mobile phones, but cigarettes on the dancefloor were much worse…

Annie Mac got a lot of coverage last week for her comments on the use of mobile phones in clubs, in an interview with Music Week.

“I noticed a distinct difference,” she told the magazine, commenting on a tour of smaller clubs she undertook last November. “That difference was phones – it was next level. Everything had to be recorded on people’s phones, or they were asking me to take selfies… It was constant phones in my face.

“There was this constant kind of need for documentation of the night and it just killed my fucking vibe. I feel like that’s a really big problem in terms of clubbing now, because the ultimate idea and goal of clubbing is to connect. It’s the same experience you get when you go to a football game – you’re all experiencing the same amazing emotional charge together.

“But if you can’t do that because you’ve got a fucking screen in front of you that you have to record everything on, it really takes away that initial base level of connection.”

I remember seeing Francois K in a small venue about a year ago and had the same experience – a young crowd, oblivious to the presence of a living legend on the decks, selfie-ing and shouting away to each other over some of the most precise, creative mixing I’ve heard for some time. The phrase ‘ignorant wankers’ doesn’t even half describe what I felt at the time.

Another, more positive experience, took place a couple of years ago, when Soulwax and James Murphy brought their Despacio soundsystem project to Electric Picnic. As well as boasting one of the most impressive sound systems ever constructed in a tent (and incredible tunes), one of the memorable features was a sign by the decks, asking people to ‘please don’t take any photos, please don’t talk to the DJ, and just enjoy the music’.

The suggestion was taken to heed by all present, and I don’t think there was anybody in the place that felt any worse for it.

Of course, Dublin-born Annie knows that her words are unlikely to mean anything – suggestions that clubs will force clubbers to either hand-in or cover the cameras on their phones is unlikely in this permanently-Snapchatting universe. But I can’t help but think back 20 years ago or more, to a scourge that was arguably worse than this current ‘menace’: cigarettes on the dancefloor.

Not content with having your clothes stink like Serge Gainsbourg’s ashtray, and ending up covered in a stodgy, black slime comprised of sweat and cigarette tar, clubbers in the 90s also had to try to avoid having their eyes poked out by one of these darting flames, while also hoping a deep inhalation of Vicks Vaporub would enable you to catch your breath amidst the Benson & Hedges haze (amongst other things… 🙂 )

I understand your point Annie, but nobody ever spontaneously combusted while standing next to a teenager choosing the right filter on their Instagram.

[Photo taken from Amnesia Ibiza Flickr gallery]

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Daft Punk – ‘Drive’ [1994]

This week marks 21 years since the launch of Homework, the album that catapulted two young Parisians, Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter, to superstardom as Daft Punk.

Two years previously, around the time the duo released their first single, The New Wave (a reworked version would appear on Homework under the title Alive), they recorded a track called Drive – a screeching, distorted techno stomper that was allegedly slated as a B Side for Rollin and Scratchin.

Of course, the fact that Rollin and Scratchin (itself an absolute beast) ended up as a B-side itself – to breakthrough single Da Funk – meant that Drive was never released…

…until 2011 that is. In September of that year, to commemorate 20 years of Soma Records, Drive was finally unleashed onto an unsuspecting public; further evidence, if it were needed, of the would-be robots legendary status in the annals of electronic music.

Since then, of course, Thomas and Guy-Manuel have teamed up with Nile Rodgers, Pharrell Williams and co to release Random Access Memories (I must confess, I am not a fan); an album that brought the duo more firmly into the pop spotlight.

But that album, too, is now five years old, meaning that all eyes are now on what Daft Punk’s next move might be. If they decide to go back to basics and release an album full of tracks as devastating as Drive, I, for one, won’t be complaining…

[Kudos to Soma Records for the YouTube upload]

Everybody Dance Now! The story behind C+C Music Factory’s biggest hit…

There was a period, sometime around late 1990/early 1991, when you couldn’t turn on the radio without an enthusiastic voice declaring, “EVERYBODY DANCE NOW..!”

Today, 24 January, marks the anniversary of the death of David Cole, a songwriter and record producer who was best known as one half of C+C Music Factory, alongside Robert Clivillés.

Having scored their biggest hit in November 1990 with Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now), Cole’s later years – he died in 1995, following AIDS-related complications – were sadly not spent toasting the success of both that single and the international hits that followed, which included Things That Make You Go Hmmm and Here We Go.

Rather, the Tennessee-born producer and his songwriting partner were caught up in a series of legal battles, over both the origin of samples used in the group’s hits, as well as over the rights to the band itself… a battle that continues to this day.

As a fascinating article on Vice.com, from 2016, reveals, “In 1991, Martha Wash, who sang the huge vocal hook in “Everybody Dance Now,” sued the group after another C+C Music Factory vocalist, Zelma Davis, lip-synced her parts in the song’s music video. The case was settled out of court, with Sony requesting that MTV add a disclaimer to the video crediting Wash for vocals and Davis for ‘visualization’.

“According to Rolling Stone, Wash’s fight for proper credit set an important precedent for artists’ rights in intellectual property law; following her case, federal legislation was created to mandate vocal credits on all albums and music videos.”

Confused? Just think how Clivillés and Cole felt…

You can find the full article here

Pete Tong: “I know I’m an old git, but I still enjoy the scene…” [December 1998]

Amazingly, BBC Radio 1’s Essential Mix celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, marking yet another landmark in host Pete Tong‘s long career.

Tong, who has been at the BBC since the early 1980s, launched the Essential Selection in January 1991, following that up with the Essential Mix two and a half years later – still vital listening for dance enthusiasts… and session heads. 🙂

In December 1998, The Times newspaper in London sent reporter Johnny Morgan along to interview Tong about the current state of the dance music the scene, ten years after the birth of acid house…

“I know I’m an old git, but I still enjoy the scene and I’m good at my job which probably makes it OK,” Tong explains.

Here’s the article in full:

A decade after Acid House, dance DJs don’t just live like rock stars, they lunch like them too. At least Pete Tong does. The star of Friday nights on Radio 1 for almost eight years has chosen to meet at midday in an upmarket Italian restaurant near London’s Chelsea Harbour.

Famous for hosting the Essential Selection – the country’s most popular dance music radio show – the 38-year-old is much more than an evening institution to British clubbers. He runs the record label ffrr, was instrumental in signing All Saints to London Records and has recently made his first forays into television, appearing as the in-house DJ on Ian Wright’s weekly chat show and hosting the dance documentary Clublife ’98 .

In addition, Tong still plays at clubs all over the world, runs his own radio production company and can claim to have topped the pop charts for six weeks in 1992 as producer of Shakespears Sister’s hit single, Stay . His name has even entered clubbing slang in the phrase: “It’s all gone a bit Pete Tong “ (wrong).

Last month the latest Essential Selection album received the ultimate seal of approval when Madonna allowed one of her songs, Drowned World , to appear on a compilation album for the first time. Finally, when 1998 becomes 1999, Tong will broadcast live from a huge New Year’s Eve party at Leeds Town Hall.

Take into account his family life – he lives in Wimbledon with his wife and three kids – and it is a wonder the Dartford-born DJ has time to eat at all. In a career which spans 20 years, Tong has run a mobile disco, has worked as the features editor on Blues and Soul magazine and has looked after the career of Eighties girl group Bananarama.

He first arrived at Radio 1 17 years ago. His job was to present a regular slot on Peter Powell’s show, bringing news and reviews from the underground dance scene to millions of mainstream listeners.

“I did a 15-minute feature once a week,” recalls Tong . “I had to say what was happening on the streets. It was weird, but also very exciting. I also got the chance to do some DJing. I was the first to play Malcolm McLaren’s Buffalo Gals on the radio which was fantastic. I thought I’d walk straight into hosting my own show on the station after that.

“Robbie Vincent covered dance music at the time. I told the bosses he was too old skool and they should take me on instead. They didn’t agree. They said I needed more experience. In retrospect, they were right. It took me ten years to get back on Radio 1.”

Following a successful stint at London’s Capital Radio, Tong returned to Radio 1 in 1991 with the Essential Selection , a groundbreaking show which heralded the start of the weekend for a new wave of committed clubbers. More importantly, he was instrumental in the station’s radical restructuring throughout the mid-Nineties.

“When I started the Essential Selection Radio 1 was divided,” says Tong . “The specialist DJs, like Andy Kershaw and John Peel, never talked to the mainstream presenters. In fact, until 1994, I didn’t speak to anyone there. When Matthew Bannister decided to revamp the station, he took me out to lunch to pick my brains. I wasn’t surprised that he wanted to make changes, but I was astonished that he came to me for ideas. I had no ambitions whatsoever in that area.”

Tong ‘s latest project for Radio 1 is a globe-trotting millennium show. “The idea is that we follow the path of the sun on the eve of 1999,” he explains. “There are people right now in places like Karachi and Goa working out if it’s possible to organise live broadcasts from local clubs.”

If successful, the programme may also be filmed for television, an area which intrigues Tong . “It took a long time to infiltrate Radio 1,” he reflects, “but once I had the trust of people in power I was able to make changes. I’m a sponge at the moment, soaking up the experience and trying to establish what I could do that would be interesting.”

Does the family man never feel too old to be hanging with the club kids? “I do and I don’t,” he admits. “If it wasn’t work for me it would definitely be a problem. I know I’m an old git, but I still enjoy the scene and I’m good at my job which probably makes it OK.”

But does he dance? “Sometimes, but I’m not very good at it. I have to drink quite a lot first. Contrary to what people think, I do like to have fun.”

And when he’s too old to shake his stuff to the Birdie Song ? “I’ll demand an underground spot on Gardener’s Question Time .”

[Article copyright The Times; London, 12 Dec 1998, Image by Andrii Khliakin, Creative Commons]

Check out this video of the acid house scene in Hamburg in 1988… [December 1988]

Think ‘acid house in the late 80s’ and you inevitably think of clubs like The Hacienda or Shoom.

But Hamburg, Germany, also played host to a blossoming acid house scene, as this video, taken from German TV in 1988, illustrates.

The club is Front, and the DJ is Boris Dlugosch, who would go on to achieve international acclaim a few years later with his remix work, most notably of Moloko’s Sing It Back in 1999.

The Peppermint Jam Records founder was the resident at Front, a gay club that set new boundaries for dance music in Germany – as a recent Electronic Beats article noted, Dlugosch and fellow resident Klaus Stockhausen “steered the club through the most cutting-edge music that the disco aftermath had to offer. It eventually became one of the first clubs in Europe to embrace house music and the styles that followed suit.

“The club’s intense nights were built on a wildly hedonistic crowd, a fierce quadrophonic sound system and a secluded DJ booth that stood in opposition to the cult of personality that increasingly surrounded DJs in ensuing years.”

Front would eventually close in 1997, with Germany’s dance scene thankfully a lot livelier than when it opened…

[Kudos to PatrickHH2 for the YouTube upload]

Why one- or two-hour DJ sets just don’t cut it… [October 1993]

There are few things more frustrating than having to persevere with a seemingly-endless procession of support DJs while waiting for a headline act to take to the decks. Worth the 20 quid entrance fee? Not even remotely…

But at this article by journalist Tim Jeffery, from The Face magazine in October 1993, indicates that these occurrences are nothing new.

As the author explains, “Heard David Morales or Frankie Knuckles on one of their recent UK dates? Wondered what all the fuss is about? After all the hype about these New York DJs, their UK performances often disappoint.

“This is not because Morales and Knuckles are no good. They are brilliant, and deserve the acclaim they receive. The problem lies in the way UK clubs are run…

“Venues that do not have late licenses insist on crowding as many DJs on to the decks as possible. The byword is quantity, not quality. DJs often play for as little as an hour and very rarely for more than two, and few are likely to take a chance with new music and ideas when the DJ that follows will bang out the latest big tunes and steal the glory.”

As Jeffery goes on to explain, those that ‘dare to be different’ risk not being asked back, resulting in “long nights of banging house with no subtlety, no imagination, no change…

“When the likes of Morales and Knuckles are caught up in this absurd treadmill, we are let down.”

The alternative? How about a 10-hour plus set from Junior Vasquez at New York’s Sound Factory (a DJ I have had the pleasure of seeing myself, at Cielo, around a decade ago)?

“For the first few hours he builds the atmosphere with smooth-sounding garage grooves, teasing his crowd, preparing them for the aural onslaught to come. From around 6am, he unleashes a bombardment of rhythms that will rise and then drop to just hissing hi-hats for several minutes as the crowd is kept teetering the edge of a musical orgasm…”

Sounds like just the ticket.

[Article taken from The Face, October 1993]

 

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Artemnesia – Bits and Pieces [January 1995]

Released on Hooj Choons (one of the all time great labels) in early 1995, Artemnesia’s Bits and Pieces is arguably the best known track from the short-lived, delightfully-titled ‘hardbag house’ genre, which evolved out of ‘handbag house’ in the mid 1990s.

The track was the work of Dutchman Patrick Prins, who initially released Bits and Pieces on his own Movin Melodies Label a year earlier.

Kicking off with a jaunty 4/4, the track hits it’s stride at around the one minute 45 second mark, as the synth riff kicks in.

It’s been said that tracks like Bits and Pieces were key influences on the emerging Hard House scene, which would emerge barely two years later, at a more uptempo BPM. With this in mind, it’s notable that named among the remixers for the track is the late Tony De Vit, arguably the finest exponent of that latent genre.

[Kudos to RobMagic for the upload]