5 great BBC Essential Mixes from over the years

BBC Radio 1’s Essential Mix was first broadcast on 30 October 1993, and while musical movements have come and gone in the quarter decade since a fresh-faced Pete Tong introduced the first mix, the late night Saturday session is still… well… ‘essential’ listening.

Here are some of 909originals favourite Essential Mix mixes from over the years…

UNKLE Sounds (James Lavelle & Richard File), 6 January 2002

The Man From Mo’Wax documentary charted the career of UNKLE producer and Mo’Wax founder James Lavelle, and this mix from 2002 illustrates the broad range of musical styles that influenced his unique sound.

Featuring Queens Of The Stone Age, Giorgio Moroder, Radiohead, Fleetwood Mac and DJ Shadow among others, the pinnacle of excellence has to be the layered DMX vocal over an instrumental of Tears for Fears’ Shout at around the 17:30 mark. Serious skills.

David Holmes, 15 June 1997

Recorded just prior to the release of the David Holmes’ epic Let’s Get Killed, the Belfast native took listeners on an epic soul/funk/hip hop journey, taking in classic cuts from James Brown, Ike & Tina Turner, Quincy Jones, Marlena Shaw and Jimi Hendrix, in a mix that showed off Holmes’ incredible musical dexterity.

Notable too is the inclusion of Googie Rene Combo’s Smokey Joe’s La La, which formed the base of Holmes’ My Mate Paul.


Andy Weatherall, 13 November 1993

Just the third Essential Mix to be recorded, Screamadelica producer Andrew Weatherall captured the ‘anything goes’ nature of early 90s dance music, with an eclectic mix that incorporates Plastikman, Psychick Warriors Ov Gaia, LFO, 3 Phase and, of course, the seminal Beatless Mix of Sabres Of Paradise – Smokebelch II.

Sven Väth & Richie Hawtin, 10 November 2002

Was this the moment that the dance scene truly caught the ‘minimal’ bug?

Styled as a tribute to Sven Väth’s infamous Cocoon nights in Ibiza – very much in their formative years – this mix came in two parts, Sven rocking an ‘at the club’ mix of tech house tracks from Thomas Schumacher, Toni Rohr, Dot Allison and the classic Dirty by Dirty; followed by Richie Hawtin taking it down a glitchy notch for the ‘after party’ in the second hour of the show.

Paul Oakenfold, 18 December 1994

A few years ago, Pete Tong called upon his old mate Paul Oakenfold to record the 25th anniversary Essential Mix, as the London native was the creator of one of the all-time classics in the show’s history.

Known as The Goa Mix, the two-hour epic was the first introduction to melodic trance for many listeners, as well as taking in classics such as Saint Etienne’s Only Love Can Break Your Heart and Goldie’s Inner City Life.

A couple of years back, we caught up with Paul Oakenfold to discuss how the famous Goa Mix came together.

“The process for the Essential Mix is that they come and ask you to do a mix. It’s left totally up to you to do what you want in terms of sound and direction,” he explained, adding that the net result was less a ‘mix’ than a two-hour storyline with defined peaks and troughs; euphoric and introspective moments.

“The preparation to put the Goa Mix together took me a while,” he added. “I tried many arrangements and tracks to see if they would work in key and flow with the story I wanted to tell. I finally came up with a selection and a journey that works really well.”

And what a journey it was.

Share your favourite Essential Mixes in the comments below!

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1 thought on “5 great BBC Essential Mixes from over the years

  1. 1994 was a vintage year: Garnier, Slam and Darren Emerson created some serious masterpieces that have stood the test of time – and Oakey of course. Haven’t heard a decent one for a long time 🙁

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