So here’s the thing.
I’ve been for some time wanting to find a new hook to come back and write here, but I need an impetus to help focus. I enjoy writing, but it needs to be a challenge to me to keep things interesting. When I started this in 2007 it was really to share some thoughts on music, there didn‘t seem to be anywhere exposing some of the music I remembered that was easily accessible, the Eternal September of Facebook hadn’t happened and I could maybe highlight some stuff I enjoyed as mp3 blogs were a fairly new thing and although things like Oink were around, it was broad but shallow.
At the time but I really only had a year or so of posts that I could work through, I’ve tried to return but couldn’t find my groove. And you know, there’s family and personal issues always in the background that prevent me from taking a serious crack at it. I‘ve tried to find some things that could keep me going for at least a few posts, maybe more than one or two. So I need a serial feed of some kind, but it would help if it had a finite end. I don‘t want to set out a game plan that reaches to infinity, but a well defined framework that had the possibility of infinity should I wish to take up that challenge would be ok.
I was thinking back to when the sort of music I posted in the past was on the rise and I was reminded that I used to pour over the DJ Charts in Record Mirror looking for interesting sounding tracks and artists, and this would help me track what was hot or not at the time. I was kind of DJing occasionally in a student union and had some interest in what was going to be popular or notable. The students didn’t quite share the same outlook but that’s maybe for another conversation tbh. Anyway, I’ve been for some time trying to find those same charts from 88 onwards as we’re 30 years on from those days and I’m interested in seeing the development of what I guess is DJ and club culture into the mainstream and the arguable rise of same to replace the mainstream sound with electronic music. There was always more of an electronic bent to Europe’s music but the UK (IMO) still seemed to revolve around things like Level 42, Then Jerico, Simple Minds, U2, etc. but at some point it changed. Specifically in 1988, this was when the so-called second summer of love hit. There are other outlets that cover this in more detail, but I‘m more interested in seeing it from a fringe-ish perspective as opposed to the more common “I WAS THERE“ kind of vibe. (If that‘s your thing, I heartily recommend seeking out “The Agony & The Ecstasy“ on Sky Arts BTW.)
A few years ago I found out that someone had been posting extracts from the DJ charts (albeit from the Disco era instead) in a forum now sadly lost to time, but I was at least able to glean that they had found this information on microfiche at the New York Library. That unfortunately isn’t a realistic possibility for me as I’m in Central Europe and as far as vanity projects go that is one for a bucket list / post lottery expedition. I’ve tried to find the same information in other places, but with the British Library it’s available to reading room only, Mitchell Library doesn’t seem to have it post 1984 and I keep hitting bumps in the road in my searches. I did consider if anyone posted this information to usenet in the late 80s but since Google absorbed the dejanews archive it’s never been quite as searchable as it could have been and I can’t find any proof there ever was the information I was looking for.
(BTW, I’m obliquely referencing this wonderful blog which is taking a similar tack but that page is just about to start on the 80s and at current trajectory we’ll probably meet up near the end of Record Mirror’s life.)
So really, that leaves ebay. I’ve found a few sellers with copies and have bought a couple of old mags to try and figure out if this is something I’m going to be able to do, maybe this will be the only post in this series but let’s see. However, I’m not off to a great start as the first few magazines I’ve received are missing the James Hamilton pages since someone seems to have cut them out, so let’s just work with what we’ve got for now.
Today’s post is approximately 30 years on from the publication date of the issue in question. I seem to remember that the actual day to newsagents was the Wednesday of the week in question but I’ve never really understood what relevance the issue date of something had with the publication date, and it’s not really all that relevant so anyway let’s move on. (I understand that cover dates on magazines were something to do with the date they should be removed from the shelves, but it never really made sense with the things I was reading, 2000AD in particular.)
By way of a caveat, I must point out that the charts are a mixture of sales (12“, CD, Pop Charts) and influence (Black Dance, Hi-NRG). The influence was from important DJs sending in their lists of what was hot in their gigs, DJing was a career to some at this time dealing with school discos and weddings et al., ensuring the Slosh was deployed just at the right time to stop your Auntie Ann from bottling Uncle Dave for leering at Christine the 17 year old Flower Girl. Not something wee John next door did under cover of the night, bundling his decks into a white van to a derelict warehouse to play for nothing other than kudos.
Anyway, the point is kind of that the dance charts of influence are only a barometer of whoever was returning their papers and they‘re likely to be a little out of touch with what‘s going on but given influence from perhaps illicit gatherings there is likely to be a shift in the make-up of the music people want to hear shifting from the given RnB, Soul, Pop etc. into newer, different forms of music.
In researching this stuff I’ve found some quarters have said that the influence charts were open to abuse by a clique of self advertisers and that the prevalence of SAW may be down to these shadowy influencers so tread carefully and don’t necessarily believe all that you see here. That is maybe an issue with history in general though, those that recorded events may unknowingly have influenced future generations by providing their singular viewpoints.
And one last thing, I don‘t think it was obvious at the time (well, to me anyway) but I assume the Hi-NRG moniker was used to describe the music of the gay club scene without explicitly stating so.
I’m assuming no-one will be too bothered about bit of Record Mirror charts from 30 years ago but have left off the main singles and albums as I suspect they’re in the copyright of Gallup or someone.
Frustratingly the magazine is (obviously) magazine size format, so just a bit too big for an A4 scanner so please accept my apologies if the BPM or labels of certain things are blurred.
Notable in this installment from the outset is that what was to be the club chart is still referred to as the black dance chart. This doesn’t persist for long though, and only about 10 or so tracks refer to a club in the titles or mix names, again, this will change soon enough. (BTW, I must point out the checkmarks on these images beside certain items aren’t mine, I assume the original owner of these magazines used to pick out some things to track down.)
A few tracks listed as new entries here have BPM count listed, but not all of them. Not sure what the criteria here is, and as James Hamilton is long gone I don‘t think I’ll ever know for sure. I‘ve tried to find more out about the acerbic Alan Jones but to no avail so far, it‘s a fairly common name.
Later issues have a more comprehensive take on this when the magazine becomes more confident in the dance influence it would wield. Some of the reviews in later issues are effectively in a new language coined by James for the purpose of description.
The majority of the chart seems to be made up of rap / hip-hop / rnb, there’s your Public Enemy, Eric B & Rakim, Cash Money, Rob Base, far too much Keith Sweaty but also slowly represented are artists that would make a more significant impact at a later date such as Frankie Knuckles, Coldcut, the JAMMS and, um, Rick Astley. Presumably in that time period where no-one really knew what he looked like. Listening to some of the items slowly appearing on the fringe of the charts show a kind of experimental electro sound in places (Adrenalin MOD, Brick – Dazz Latin Rascal’s mix), which would slowly coagulate into the post house hardcore of stuff like Shut Up And Dance. There’s your samples as well in Bunker Kru – Set It Off, leading to the brief ransacking of children’s TV and Sesame’s Treet at it’s nadir, but this is a few years off.
So, anyway, I’ve grabbed a few of the tracks that caught my eye, I’ve put them together in a mix and stuck it up on mixcloud, tracklisting and some commentary below. Do please excuse the club footed mixing, it’s been a while. Just pretend it‘s a live tape from 88 and you‘re too close to the DJ and he‘s got his monitoring all wrong and it‘s just a night job to make a few quid and this is only a Scout hall after all and you‘ve already had 4 Grolsch and you‘ve given your bottle tops to Angela but she‘s gone outside to smoke a Silk Cut with Colin who used to be your friend but since he got spotty he‘s not to be trusted and wait, is that Colin and Angela? She must have spilled her Babycham down the front of his tracksuit bottoms because she seems to be wiping it off with some vigour and… Oh.
Now, usually most of these tracks can be found somewhere in some form, but there is one track listed that I couldn‘t find by common means and I‘ve ripped it myself and stuck it up on youtube, that‘ll be your reward for reading all of my scribbles through to the end.
Eric B. & Rakim – Move The Crowd (Democratic 3 Beatmix)
I‘m assuming Democratic 3 were part of the orbit of others such as Streets Ahead, Les Adams and others that would mostly be found adorning the cover of DMC 12“ singles.
Seeborn & Puma – They Call Me Puma
J.V.C.F.O.R.C.E. – Strong Island
3-D – On The Dope Side
Eh, kind of mostly forgetful rap stuff. His name is Puma, by the way.
C.C.R. Crew – Stretchin’ The Pieces
It’s not as if the Average White Band track was really all that great to begin with, guess the Superstition sequence was popular or something. Seems to have drifted across the channel from (West) Germany. Anyway, my overuse of pitchshifting should end about now as we started about 90 BPM and need to get to about 118.
Bunker Kru – Set It Off
This again is kind of forgettable, but it‘s a hodge-podge of samples, not the only thing to try and follow M/A/R/R/S/ – Pump Up The Volume from the preceding year. SAW‘s Roadblock also did this to famous effect, and was perhaps overly influential through this publication.
Brick – Dazz (Latin Rascal’s DEF Mix)
This to be fair is a bit of a banger.
Rio Rhythm Band – Cuban Jackin’
There‘s a bit of cynicism in that post Jack The House type stuff, there was a bit of a rush to declare your track as the jackmost.
Raze – Caught U Cheatin’
By my memory (which is in no way expected to be accurate), this was the follow up to Break 4 Love. And you know, if you‘ve made possibly the best in class track of a genre at the time you can get away with a lazy follow-up. Not to say that Vaughn Mason was in any way lazy (not until the following year, maybe with Let It Roll), but this is a bit pedestrian. And a bit Love Can‘t Turn Around.
Was (Not Was) – Spy In The House Of Love (Streets Ahead Mix)
Chancing US pop-stars agreeing to be remixed by anyone in the UK hoping they would get airplay, or very knowledgeable of the burgeoning scene to be tapped? Probably from DMC as mentioned upstream, this was a Streets Ahead remix. Maybe someday I‘ll try to surface more about Shem, but that‘s not for today.
Pop Will Eat Itself – There Is No Love Between us (Specially Extended Dance Mix)
I‘ll be honest, this was the sort of thing I was more likely to be listening to personally at the time. And I don‘t mean this version, rather a tape of Beaver Patrol or something. I had Wonderstuff hair, and not a cool Acid House bob. 🙁
Risse – House Train (New York Mix)
Steve Silk Hurley, and sounding remarkably similar to something else at the time with a similar name. But the Chicago stuff seemed a bit cut throat, if you didn‘t release something, chances are someone else has just re-recorded it and stuck it out on 12“ while you weren‘t looking. Baby Wants To Ride is possibly the best known of this, Jamie Principle recorded it in session with Frankie Knuckles, and when it started to take off he saw no money from the track even though his vocals were on it. Jamie re-recorded and re-released it later.
Ex-Sample – And So It Goes
Looking for that Coldcut / MARRS money.
Adrenalin M.O.D. – Bouncy House
Well, it is a bit. This is a welcome addition, and as I alluded to earlier I think this is the sort of thing that sent people home to mess about with their 8 tracks and invent (happy) hardcore.
Zuzan – Girls Can Jak Too
“Let‘s just call it something jack, maybe it‘ll sell.“
Sheik Fawaz – Mohamed’s House
“Let‘s just call it house something, maybe it‘ll sell.“
T-CUT-F – House Reaction (Robin Hood mix)
Eh. By this point you‘re probably starting to hear the same samples pop up again. But that is true to form of the time, Tim Simeon made his sample go BLEHHHHH, and the following week everyone else‘s sampler did.
For good measure, here are the 12″, CD and Indie Charts, they’re all a bit oddly mixed up in that the Indie Chart forever has Erasure and the Sugarcubes in it but they‘re not really in the CD charts, but that‘s likely to do with the relatively low home penetration of CD players in early 88, your parents may have got one for Christmas but they‘re off buying Classical music CDs and not current popular music as CDs were pretty expensive. And Fleetwood Mac, who seem to be driving the sales of vinyl in Sainsburys. I don‘t think I‘ve ever owned a Fleetwood Mac album or single, unless you count Scalectrix for the Commodore 64 on cassette which had The Chase as an audio track on the flip side. I think. #CHECK Or maybe a 12“ bootleg of the same track with Soul II Soul‘s Keep On Movin‘ messily mixed into it.
The Indie Charts are another interesting barometer of taste, the intersection of people buying 12″ Singles would be the Indie Kids but soon to be joined by the clubbers, perhaps a more quickly moving testament to change than the mainstream chart but let‘s see. There are a couple of well, housey tracks listed as they‘re on small time labels, but they‘re not Indie in the same interpretation as your cousin Tracy who thinks only Nephilim and the Mission should be listed as those are the only tracks she listens to in the bathroom while bathing in talc and teasing her hair to previously uncharted spikes. And, no that wasn‘t Kylie Minogue she was singing along to on her hairbrush, that must have been next-door, no, not Johnny, the other next door. Them, them with the kids.
As to the rest of the magazine, well I’m not going to go into depth in this issue but in future iterations I might look at some of the other content. You’re gonna love next week’s cover feature.
And I now bring this post to an end, do let me know if you found any of this interesting. I‘ll probably pick up a couple more magazines to find out if my thoughts of slow chart change do ring true. If not, I‘ll just crib stuff from Boys Own instead. (That was another failed mission, btw, I planned to pick out every track listed across the Boys Own fanzines but some of the picks there are big name artists so it‘s not as cool as it could be.)
And, if you‘ve read to the end, or just skipped here, the track I couldn‘t quite find otherwise was Age of Chance – Take It (remixed by Hank Shockerlee & Chuck D.). I assume this was a really limited press, and it strikes me as the sort of conjunction of good artists I’ve always hoped for but been ultimately disappointed in, but make your own call.
edit, seems it was credited on a later release to Hank Shocklee & Carl Ryder so maybe that’s why I couldn’t find it.
Before I found this out I had acquired a copy of the 12″ from discogs, and planned to rip it personally. This was complicated on finding my Asus Xonar soundcard was malfunctioning (blinking speaker light, just in case anyone else runs into this issue) and I thought I would have to use one of the other USB soundcards in the tech pile, until I found a Russian site describing my problem. Turns out that by opening the card and touching it on a specific chip on boot it magically works. So, thanks for that Russia.