As dance music gimmicks go, this one was a knockout.
Twenty years ago today (16 April 1999) Fatboy Slim and Armand van Helden set foot in a boxing ring for the first of a series of DJ ‘bouts’, dubbed A Date With Destiny.
Taking place at Stoke’s Trentham Gardens, the event was held to mark the third anniversary of the foundation of the Big Beat Boutique club, established by Fatboy Slim (aka Norman Cook) alongside Skint Records boss Damian Harris and Gareth Hansome, the latter of which also took on the role of fight promoter for the battle between the titular ‘Brighton Butcher’ and the ‘Manhattan Mauler’.
As Hansome told NME at the time, it took “months of negotiations to get them both in the ring. Slim has wonderful jaw action 🙂 while Van Helden has better shorts.
“It really is the meeting of the mothers.”
As for Cook’s pre-game strategy? “Let’s hope there are no losers and I’ll do my best to keep it clean, Harry. No biting. No scratching!”
At the time, Cook was riding high on the back of the release of You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby – “during my life I had loved pop, punk, hip hop and house music so why not throw them in the same pot, using a sampler as a blender..?,” as he told 909originals last year – while Van Helden’s 2 Future 4 U, featuring the chart-topping You Don’t Know Me, was a house music smash. The stage was indeed set.
The event, which saw Cook and Van Helden each perform a one hour set, before taking each other on directly, proved a massive success, and was followed by similar bouts in London’s salubrious Brixton Academy, one of which, in June of that year, was recorded for posterity on BBC Radio 1.
In terms of who prevailed at the final bell? Let’s just say the real winners were those that managed to snag a ticket for one of the most irreverent nights in dance music history.
Seconds out, round one..!