This is a fiction, based on fact. Some names have been changed. Dave`s hasn’t. When I asked him he said “Don`t be daft”.
Becky passes me the joint and I reach up to flick ash over the barbed wire, into the substation that backs onto our garden. Careful, bordering on paranoid, as I share a spliff with my little sister. The old man`s on his evening run. Pounding the streets in a rage that never abates. Not for a minute. I`m home from University. Mum`s gone.
I missed the worst of it. When Dad first found out. When that cunt from Mum`s work (1) had turned up on our doorstep, and told Dad that Mum was shagging Frank. The old man had put his work boots back on, and driven round to Frank`s. Kicked him. Punched him. Hurt his hand in the process. In Dad`s head it was a conspiracy. We were all in on it. We`d all been laughing at him. His anger was there 24 / 7, 3-6-5. Feeding itself. I guess me and Becky, were reminders of Mum, and he was stuck with us, since neither of us had anywhere else to go. We did our best to keep out of his way. I cooked, and we ate early, before he got home. Leaving the kitchen as if no one had been in there. I looked for a job. Becky was raving.
She told me stories of God`s Disco (2). Played me tapes that boys – aspiring DJs – had made her. She didn`t know any of the song titles, so she`d given them ones of her own.
“I call this one, Bing-Bong-A-Heyla. This one`s, Let`s Go!” (3)
I didn`t recognise anything. The first House record I held was the copy of Ce Ce Rogers` Someday, that Becky ordered from Mi-Price. Fucking shop was packed on a Saturday (4).
Becky took me to The Trip at The Astoria, on Charing Cross Road, and I brought along Dave for company. She introduced us to a new world of queues that went round the block, and security frisks. I thought Mi-Price was rammed. We could hardly move. Every inch occupied by someone dancing. Me and Dave standing there conspicuous with our pints. Looking at each other. Both thinking, “This is different.” Both laughing in a sort of disbelief. Folks “jacking” around us, as if we were invisible. We`d quickly realised our mistake. Spilling lager all over ourselves, as we tried to keep out of everyone`s way. Switching instead to cans of coke, and sticking to the joints I`d rolled beforehand. We`d been pissed when we arrived, anyway (5).
We`d walked into the sound of Prince`s Erotic City (6). Which was pretty much spot on. `Cos the place was sexually banging. From the relentless low-end throb, to the horny, Hispanic, nutters singing about lust and betrayal.
You Used To Hold Me.
You`re Gonna Miss Me When I`m Gone.
I Can`t Get Enough.
Snares rapping out NYC Freestyle. Timbales rattling behind women on fire. In heat. Sighing, heavy breathing. Moaning orgasmic. Love taking them over. Whispering that four-letter word in your ear. Again and again. Suggesting that women had only one thing on their mind.
“Suck my pussy.”
“Come on my tits.” (7)
“Make a move on me.”
It was pretty weird watching my younger sister, stripped to her sports bra, up on stage. Singing along to Dionne`s Come Get My Lovin`. Doing some elaborate Pan`s People-esque routine with her mates to Index` Give Me A Sign (8). Pointing in unison, at what I assumed were strangers.
Me and Dave couldn’t dance. But that didn`t stop us trying. It didn`t look that difficult. Just “Raise your hands if you think you understand.” There was no room for flashy footwork anyway. It took us maybe five minutes to get right amongst it. Finding a crack in the human wall on the smoke-filled, strobe-blasted floor. Making the words up.
Divas vamped in the spotlight. Begging for men and sex. Dominatrix` whiplashes cracked, and Baby wanted to ride. Someone recited the Lord`s Prayer, making it sound like an invitation to a bout of S&M. But there was also Gospel-fuelled optimism. Calls for a more universal love, unity and understanding. Moving on up.
Anthems driven by two finger-piano solos. Big reverb-ed chords, and rain-like cascades. Sped up to mimic proficiency (9). No one here had ever been to Juilliard. House was a music built from basic bricks. Primary colours. A Dub dynamic, of bass, drums, and the space in between. Trance-inducing “Steady pounding”, countered by a Roland TB303 creating constantly changing fractal rainbows. Simple stabbing riffs. Overdriven kicks. High hats phased and twisted. Stuttered, gated, tripp-y vocals, and strings shot down from Planet Rock. Collages of samples. Candi Staton, Diana Ross, and Martin Luther King. Bango beats hard enough to be Hip Hop. Everything edited into hypnotic repetition, until you became lost in the loop. MCs throwing a life-line of familiarity. The Jungle Brothers. Roxanne Shante. Sugar Bear spitting lyrics over fragments of ESG, and Talking Heads` Once In A Lifetime (10). Music from Chicago, New York, and Detroit. Rolling synths, crazy complex carnival rhythms, sueno latinos, and whistles. Nursery rhymes that encouraged you to dance your troubles away.
“No more bad times, only glad times.”
Tribal marches with positive messages, when my whole life I`d been surrounded by violence and prejudice.
It was SO loud. The body-shaking volume making conversation impossible. When the girl next to me lent over to shout in my ear, I thought I`d pulled.
“Are you on one? If not can you get your elbows out of my face?”
Dave was so disorientated that he tried to escape the barrage by climbing into the DJ booth. I wandered up the stairs, through the carpeted oddness of Cloud Cuckoo Land, to the seats in the gallery (11). I looked down on just a sea of hands held up high towards heaven. An army dancing on tabletops.
I wasn`t on one, but I wanted to be.
When I ran out of puff, Becky took me to her dealer, who turned out to be an old mate from school. Becky was buying Es.
“Rob, you want some of these?”
“Twenty, but I`ll do you ten for seventeen-fifty”
He threw in a strip of blotter Acid.
“It`s not really my thing, but my girlfriend likes to have sex on it.”
Kev was enormous, but he`d been bullied at school. Kids, both black and white, would follow him around chanting, “Bolmangani” “Ongowa” (12). They`d make him cry. Teasing him about his flared nostrils. I`d watch and never understand why he didn`t just flatten them. He was huge. Now he was tight with the folks selling vintage clothing at Croydon`s indoor market, and dressed head to toe in leather. Strides. Waistcoat. Full length trench coat. Exactly how Seal ended up looking.
The next time I went back I bought twenty for fifteen. I it was as easy as that. Whenever he had gear, I had gear. Which I sold, making mine for free. Plus a little bit of cash to pay off the credit card that I used to keep me and Becky in something-new-to-wear-on-Saturday-night. I didn`t think of it as peddling, “serving up”. I wasn’t really holding enough (13).
I found a job in a lab in Beckenham, and saved money by walking there. I`d pinch the tapes those boys made for Becky, and smoke a spliff as I crossed the “Country Park”. Remembering when it was just “the sewage farm”, when we used to race stolen Fizzys there (14). I`d be buzzing (15). Piano anthems offering words of encouragement. Choruses that were stuck inside my head on weekday mornings. Forcing me out of bed, and into work.
“Believe in what you do, and keep on reaching”
Convincing me that there was no fucking way, I was ever gonna quit at anything.
During the day, I worked through the lows. “Droffling” on to colleagues. Nearly giving my boss a nervous breakdown with the details of my home life. At night I drank them away. Pete Tong replaced John Peel on my radio, and again, I was taping tunes and writing down song titles. Most of the stuff he played was on his own FFRR label. D. Mob, Lil Louis, Jamie Principle, Reese & Santonio, and Richie Rich. Sterling Void telling me it was gonna be alright. The Truth, Two Men A Drum Machine And A Trumpet, and Tyree. Hip-Housin` (16).
I bought tickets for Sunrise, and Dave drove. Stopping continually to push pocketfuls of change into payphones, to find out where we were going. Dave losing his patience with the not-knowing. Eventually hitting a convoy of the similarly anxious. Safe, that we were now definitely on the right track. Shepherded down country lanes and across fields by shadows with torches. As we got closer, I could see a ferris wheel.
Cry Sisco did a PA, and we were in front of the stage. I had these yellow Cali`s, which we`d necked once we`d parked the car, and the last thing I remember was staring up at the girls` legs, moving in formation, and a drum crash like an explosion. Next thing, it was dawn and I`m dancing in a circle of unknowns. A few of them in ponchos. By some miracle, with Dave still at my side.
When we set off for home, Dave had said, “Don`t let me fall asleep.” And of course, it was probably only minutes before we were both out cold. The car piloting herself through three lanes of motorway traffic. Horns blowing, waking us with a start. Dave calling me a cunt. Then the Old Bill pulling us over. Dave breathalysed, made to walk a straight line. The confused copper escorting us to the nearest service station, and ordering us to get some kip.
Confusion, Delirium, Feel Surreal, Future, Hedonism, Joy, Shoom, Spectrum, The Trip…..
There`s no fashion code. Disparate tribes form this House Nation. Me and Dave had blended in on that first visit to The Astoria, sporting beat-up Levis and Converse. American classics. But now we`ve added beads, bandanas, and Watchmen T-shirts. We each take a pill and wait to come up. Acid insistence demanding my surrender (17). Pushing out all thought. All I can hear is the music. I close my eyes, and all I can see is the music, and all I can do is move in time. Rooted to my mark. Part of an anonymous crowd. Moving en mass. Each molecule in sync with its neighbours, while totally focused on self (18). A warmth races up my spine. Floods my brain, and then my whole being. `til I can hardly breath. All I can hear is the music. All I can see is the music. Mouthing lyrics to imagined lovers. Dreams, and dance floor encounters. Songs play like movies. Here inside my head. Have me the protagonist. A hero sacrificing himself for love. Maurice Joshua`s got me believing I`m a porn star. Kev was right about about sex and Acid. When I came I was shot out into the universe. Out into a blackness, weightless amongst stars.
Ignitions misfiring. Brass honking. Spreading our wings, demanding to be free. Bam Bam`s runaways. Free, as long as the music plays
“Forever, on and on.”
Brothers and sisters in E, shouting
“Love, love love, love love, love love”
wakes me from this private reverie. Shocks my eyes wide open, and I`m no longer alone, but singing, part of choir, a thousand strong. Joined in the rendition of a Blues. A song of a romance that refuses to quit. A song of heartbreak that feels instead like a joyous celebration.
“A young heart doesn’t stay sad long, another love soon comes along.”
That`s The Way love Is. (19)
The room locked together. Shuffling through breakdowns, and brain-bending drops into beat-less echo. Screaming through peaks, and battle cries. Fists hammering the skies to Phuture`s timpani boom.
“You cannot stop us.”
We`re too far gone. Ain`t no way back.
“Man, foolish Man…”
A voice recites a poem that advocates change, and growth. Blows a cool breeze though my mind. Sad, poignant, but strong, determined, resolved. A bass-line descends. A flute sounds, and a piano has the whole club arms aloft. Some are holding hands, hugging. I take a big, fucking toke, and exhale, listen to the injustices being listed, and nod in acknowledgement that
“It doesn’t have to be like this.”
How long have I been dancing? Three? Four? Five? Six hours? I can scarcely remember where I am. All I know is that I need a drink. And at the bar, saucer-eyed, politely waiting my turn, letting others go first, I enthusiastically share this good, good feeling, with who ever I meet.
“I feel amazing, and I want to tell somebody! Anybody! Everybody!”
Shaking hands, and swapping names. Passing it on. Scatting with Mike Dunn. Catching my reflection. Sweat-soaked. Beaming from ear to ear.
- This guy`s party-trick was to fit a whole wine bottle up his arse. How on Earth do you find out that you can do that?
- God`s Disco was actually called “Beautiful Contradictions” a party thrown at Wall Street, No. 14, Bruton Place, W1. Hosted by dancer Michael Clark, comedian / actor / cad, Keith Allen, and Phil Dirtbox. Becky had very likely got in because of the beautiful boy she was with. RIP Mark P. This is where she did her first E. She split one, since at the time they were twenty-five quid.
- “Bing-Bong-A-Heyla” was Tullio De Piscopo`s Stop Bajon (“Primavera”). “Let`s Go!” was, of course, Elkin & Nelson`s Jibaro.
- Mi-Price was a legendary record shop in West Croydon, owned by the equally legendary Jazzy M. Michael Schiniou was a champion of Black music of all kinds, and one of the first people to push House music in London, through his “Jackin` Zone” show on pirate radio station, LWR. He also happened to be one of the DJs at The Trip. I hardly had any records at this point. I`d had most of my Hip Hop 12s nicked before I`d left for Uni, and had only splashed out on / starved for a handful of things in the three years I`d been away. Coming back, I bought the House Hallucinates compilation (where the accompanying artwork comes from), and Balearic Beats Volume One. To try to catch up with what was going on. To be honest, I didn`t really get the Balearic Beats record. It just sounded like a night down The Underground, Croydon`s “Alternative” – read Goth – club. I also picked up the Ten City LP. Becky had both volumes of Dave Lee`s The Garage Sound Of Deepest New York, and Neneh Cherry`s Raw Like Sushi. Wot`s he like?
- By the end of my first visit to The Trip I was pretty much sober. Which is probably why I can still picture that sea of hands now.
- Erotic City was Prince`s “homage” to Laidback`s White Horse (try mixing the two together). Baby Wants To Ride was Jamie Principle`s “homage” to Erotic City. I remember attempting to explain the appeal of the Jamie Principle tune to a workmate, who happened to be a born-again Christian. I could hear the words “Lord`s Prayer”, “Demonic”, coming out of my mouth, knowing that I`d already said too much. About ten years later, I heard Derrick Carter open a set with Baby Wants To Ride, at a Boys Own do in a Brixton basement. Taking over the decks, he`d turned the bass off. When he turned it back on, the club exploded. Unfortunately this was the same night that Al got us thrown out. Well, carried out in his case.
- These quotes are from the “Second Coming” mix of Dionne`s Come Get My Lovin`. Porno stuff would get played all the time, and people didn’t seem to bat an eye. I guess given the soundtrack it was no surprise that so many casualties ended up sex-pests. It`d be impossible to play those records now – ever seen a grown man blush? – unless, you were doing a Ghetto / Booty night. Putting this together I`ve been wondering if you might even get arrested? Booed for sure. I also wonder what the girls made of it at the time (I should ask Becky), and why the groans were always female (maybe bar Jamie P again). Perhaps extended male orgasms would have been too full-on creepy. Or laugh out loud funny. Perhaps it just highlights how fucked-up our society`s engrained, gender expectations are.
- More sexism. Pan`s People were an all female dance troupe, who interpreted hits of the day (1970s) on TV music show Top Of The Pops. Their inclusion, while likely a carry-over from BBC variety programming, was no doubt there to ensure that fathers, masters of their households, allowed the program to be watched.
- There`s a lovely clip in the House Nation documentary where Marshall Jefferson describes making his first tracks. Explaining how he did just this. Tapping out piano solos, slowly, with two fingers and speeding them up. Laughing, remembering commenting to himself, “Marshall`s really jammin` now.”
- As Hip Hop grudgingly gave up its grip on London`s nightlife to House (ask Noel Watson), clued up A&R men commissioned remixes to cash-in on that exponentially expanding Second Summer Of Love market. Someone smart roped in Dave Dorrell and CJ Mackintosh to overhaul Roxanne Shante, and Richie Rich got The Jungle Brothers to jump around to Todd Terry / Royal House`s Can You Party? As I said in the main text, the lyrics provided a much needed something to hang on to for new recruits.
- Cloud Cuckoo Land, was the name given to the carpeted, upstairs foyer. Turntables manned by Andrew Weatherall, and Terry Farley.
- Taunts taken from the Tarzan, Lord Of The Jungle TV series.
- I didn`t think of it as dealing at the time, but I turned on friends, and friends of friends. Often giving them their first half for free. I wasn’t thinking about money. I was evangelical. Spreading the “good news”. But, they always came back for more, and all of them fell into some kind of abuse / mental health issues, which without my push they`d have probably never gone near. My karma is still paying.
- A “Fizzy” is a Yamaha FS1 motorbike. As kids, we`d pinch them, race them round the sewage farm, and then dump them.
- Now nothing sounded the same. I`d be rushing to Teenage Fanclub. This is where my vinyl habit started. Buying records, to hold on to / recreate that high.
- Pre-Radio One`s Essential Selection, Pete Tong had a Saturday night show on London station, Capital. To be fair, he played a lot of great stuff. This is where I first heard Will Downing`s A Love Supreme, Nu Groove`s Bas Noir, Electribe 101`s Talking With Myself, and Civilies & Cole`s Seduction. But he did work these around FFRR releases. So you`d be “primed” with FFRR tunes before you went out. The priming then reinforced by hearing them again in the club. These were the tracks you remembered. These were the records that everyone bought. He must have made a fucking fortune.
- Acid. I`m referring to the sound of Roland`s TB303 Bass-Line bass synthesiser. When the NME interviewed Todd Terry, he insisted that the “Acid” in Acid House was nothing to do with LSD. Instead a slang term for sampling, since those being sampled were being “burned”. Todd burned everybody. Dinosaur L, The Incredible Bongo Band, Liquid Liquid, Marshall Jefferson. His Bango was “burned” itself, for Reese & Santonio`s The Sound. Then later looped to devastating Techno effect by Steve Bicknell.
- Twenty-nine years ago I used to have a recurring dream that I`d found a suitcase full of E on the street. A lifetime`s supply. I would hide it under my bed, so I would never go without. Now I can barely remember the rush, but then it was all I cared for. I surrendered to a feeling of unity that in hindsight was really the opposite. A focus inward on self. We were not unified. We were all together all alone. A nod of recognition was simply the acknowledgment of another in the grip of a celebration of I. If someone were to shake your hand, offer you water, a joint, a hug, a kiss, it was not “You`re great”, but “I feel great, and I want to tell somebody. Anybody.” It didn’t make us love everybody. It made us love ourselves, to the point where we thought that everyone else should love us too. But this is in hindsight. At the time, as my family fell apart, I foolishly believed I`d found a new one. Until “Take your brother by the hand” became “Fucking the rest right off” and spiraling abuse, debts and increasingly dangerous, darker, means of finance turned us from aspiring to be “something beautiful” to the toughest gang in town. Getting high is just getting high, and dreams through our fingers will slip away.
- It was Weatherall who called That`s The Way Love Is a modern Blues. When he was the guest of Radio One`s Heidi. Who admitted that she`d never heard the song before. Byron Stingily`s falsetto sings of love`s rush, knowing that endings, and sadness, are always not far away. But, rejoicing in this. Looking back at loves lost, with fondness. Smiling, and saying, “Thank you.”
To be honest, in 1989, I was late to the party. The soundtrack had moved on from raw Chicago banging. The demented disorientation of Phuture`s Acid Tracks, Armando`s Land Of Confusion, Sleezy D`s I`ve Lost Control, and Bam Bam`s Where`s Your Child? (when I interviewed Bam Bam he told me that he`d been working on a score for one of the Nightmare On Elm Street movies. Which makes a lot of sense). By the time I got to Nicky Holloway`s Trip the music played was more sophisticated.
Marshall Jefferson, with Ten City and Ce Ce Rogers, was signed to Atlantic. So there were bigger budgets, orchestral strings, etc. Releases from other Chicago House veterans – Marvin “Lil Louis” Burns, Steve “Silk” Hurley, Nathaniel “DJ Pierre” Jones, Victor “Romeo” Mitchell, Duane “Sterling Void” Pelt, Hot Mix 5`s Rafael Rosario, Adonis Smith, Duane Thamm Jr., and Byron “Jamie Principle” Walton – were increasingly accomplished. New York Paradise Garage-inspired productions were in. Proper songs, and arrangements, made overground by Dave Lee`s Republic Records, and his long-standing relationship with the amazing production team of Kevin Hedge, Chris Herbert, Josh Milan, AKA Blaze. New York also had Nu Groove, The Burrell Brothers, Rheji and Ronnie, and Ben Cenac. New York also had Nu Groove, The Burrell Brothers, Rheji and Ronnie, and Ben Cenac. Arthur Baker, David Cole & Robert Clivillés – Cole`s keys honed jamming live with DJ Bruce Forest at the legendary Better Days. Paul Simpson, Hippie Torrales, and Cassio Ware. Canada had Andrew Komis` Big Shot / Komix crew. Detroit`s chart-topping action came from Kevin “Master Reese” Saunderson. This music blasted out from everywhere. Shops, radios, car stereos. We were living in a land of Doug Lazy`s Let It Roll, which seemed to be playing constantly.
On reflection, this strand of House had become the Pop of the day. Watching a chap Jazz-dance to Stakker`s Humanoid on TOTPs, I`d had the same kind of epiphany that I`d had when Morrissey sang William, It Was Really Nothing, with “Marry Me” biro-ed on his chest.
It wasn’t until a few years later, that Alex Knight at Fat Cat Records, and John Kennedy at Big Apple, introduced me the to “the underground”. Essential sides such as Virgo`s In A Vision, Ron Trent`s Altered States, and James “Jack Rabbit” Martin`s Let Us Have Love. And accordingly, while The Trip was, no doubt, a ceremony of hedonistic escape, a drug and dance-fuelled, exorcism of all worry, all care, it was Pop compared to the RIP parties on Clink Street.
Jungle Brothers – I`ll House You
Todd Terry – Bango (Back To The Batmobile)
Jamie Principle – Baby Wants To Ride
Hot Hands Hula – Hot Hands
Adonis – No Way Back
Denise Motto – Do It Properly
Mac Thornhill – Whose Gonna Ease The Pressure?
Liz Torres – Can`t Get Enough
Victor Romero – Love Will Find A Way
101 – As Long As I`ve Got You
Sandee – Notice Me
Ralphi Rosario – You Used To Hold Me
Phuture – We Are The Phuture
Charles B – The Lack Of Love
Lil Louis – French Kiss
Victor Romero – You Can`t Fight My Love
Rickster – The Night Moves On
MD III – Face The Nation
Part Two: Tunes (Pete) Tong Taught Me
Electribe 101 – Talking With Myself
Seduction – Seduction
Reese & Santonio – The Sound
Mr & Mrs Dale – Its You
Will Downing – A Love Supreme
Al Green – The Message Is Love
Sterling Void – Its Alright
Bas Noir – I`m Glad You Came To Me
The Truth – Open Our Eyes
2 Men, A Trumpet, And A Drum Machine – Tired Of Getting Pushed Around
Tyree – Acid Over
Rich Rich – Salsa House
Inner City – Good Life
Denise Motto – IMINXTC
Jomanda – Make My Body Rock
Index – Give Me A Sign
Raze – Break For Love
Dionne – Come Get My Lovin`
Black Riot – Warlock
Lisa M – Rock To The Beat
Ten City – Thats The Way Love Is
Mory Kante – Yeke Yeke
Shalor – I`m In Love
Jungle Wonz – Time Marches On
Ce Ce Rogers – Someday
Paul Simpson – Musical Freedom
Phase II – Reachin