Today, 16 February, is A Guy Called Gerald’s (aka Gerald Simpson’s) birthday, and while the Manchester-born producer has dipped his toe into a myriad of genres over a thirty year career, his 1988 classic Voodoo Ray remains one of the brightest stars in the acid house firmament.
A lot has been written about the origins of the track, and how the beats were strongly influenced by the young producer’s love of jazz, as well as by the soundsystem parties taking place in Moss Side back in the mid 80s.
Working with 808 State led the young Simpson to collect various pieces of equipment, including a TB303, Roland SH101 and an Akai S900 sampler, the latter of which would play a crucial role in the development of Voodoo Ray.
“I used to collect spoken word records,” Simpson told Sound on Sound in 2015.
“In my cutting and scratching days, they were kind of like gold dust. I used to try and do these megamix things where you’d cut in bits from obscure old movies and whatever. So if you could find movie soundtracks on vinyl, you’d be like, aw wow.”
One such spoken word record was a comedy classic, Derek & Clive (Live), the debut output from the foul-mouthed alter egos of comedians Peter Cook and Dudley Moore.
The B-side of that album contained a sketch called Bo Diddley, which contains Cook uttering the line “in her sort of voodoo rage”, along with Moore yelling the word “later!”… both key samples in the eventual composition of A Guy Called Gerald’s track.
Due to the limited space available on the Akai S900, the “voodoo rage” sample was shortened to “voodoo ray”… and thus acid house history was made.
Speaking to Sound on Sound, Simpson said that he remains unsure as to why the track remains a dancefloor staple.
“I’m totally confused. But it was part of an era that people still remember today. Probably one of the reasons is it was the first acid house tune from the UK. That might be the thing. If you go back to the start, you go back to there.”
With a little help from Derek and Clive, of course.