(Originally part of last week’s Musical Diet, this was such a nice piece that I decided to run it as a “stand alone” – Rob)
Words & selections by Balearic Mike.
ESG – ESG (You’re No Good, Moody, UFO) – 99 Records 1981
This might be one of the best records that I own, and I own quite a few. I had a mind recently to re-read Simon Reynolds brilliant Rip It Up And Start Again: Post Punk 1978-1984. It’s a great book if you’re a complete music nerd like me – despite the obvious Wham! error! Also, the chapter Mutant Disco & Punk-Funk, which covers 99 Records, ZE Records, etc. is a tad disappointing. But anyway, reading the book made me dig this out again, so all is well. My copy is a nice original US pressing, which I think I found in DC, while visiting my dad in the late `90s. Prior to that I owned one of the UK copies – on C.T. Records – with the ‘Spaced Out’ mix of Moody on it. I don’t need to waffle on about how great a record this is, or how Larry Levin discovered Moody – and made it a Paradise Garage anthem – only because he accidentally let the needle play on after You’re No Good. No, I have a better story.
Let’s travel back to Manchester, to Aficionado, at Fat Cat, under the Arches near Deansgate, sometime in 2000. The guest DJ that night was Martin Moscrop from A Certain Ratio. There were strict rules at ‘Nado back then. No reissues. No compilations. Party residents and hosts, Moonboots and Jason Boardman, ran a very tight ship, and if any DJ were found in breach of these rules, they were made to wear the sleeve of said record on their head while it was playing. Moody and UFO had just been reissued on Universal Sound, one of the Sounds Of The Universe / Soul Jazz Records offshoots. Martin was DJing, and I saw him cue up this reissued copy of Moody to play next. I caught Richards’ eye. He had noticed as well. “Hey!” he said to Martin. “You know the rules. No reissues, or you wear that sleeve”. Martin turned to the pair of us, a sly smile forming across his face. “This record was recorded in our spare studio time, at the end of the sessions for our first LP in New York, so I think I’ll play whatever version I fucking like!” There’s no comeback to that, is there …
I had a few comments, and banter, on Facebook regarding the ‘Nado ‘rules’ mentioned above, so thought I’d add some context. I’m not really interested in debating anything like vinyl Vs. digital, ‘cos let’s face it, it’s dull as fuck, but I think if I give you some context you’ll agree there isn’t really much to get worked up about.
Aficionado is now known around the world as Jason and Moon`s ‘Balearic Institution’. A night which has been running for more than 20 years (coming up on 25?) and has also spawned a well-respected record label of the same name. But back then, those 20 odd years ago, it was a little different. Fat Cat was the party’s third venue, but as a weekly event it had really started to come to life when it hit its previous, second, home at Zumbar on Oxford Road. That move had taken it from a Thursday to a Sunday night, and this was when many of Manchester’s DJs, promoters, music people generally decided on making Sunday their Saturday night out. Richard (Moon) and I were both working in record shops, and from the mid-90s onwards there started to be a steady stream of ‘less than legal’ records being sold. Early examples would be the Ultimate Breaks & Beats compilations, but this was followed by direct bootlegs of rare funk LPs from the likes of James Brown and Roy Ayers, which turned into what seemed like a deluge of albums like the Dusty Fingers, Nuggets, and Diggin’ Deeper series. This wasn’t restricted to break-beat hunters either, with both the Loft Classics and Garage Classics bootlegs being hugely popular, and then as the `90s rolled into the `00s the gloves came off, when dozens more, such as the Automan 12s, began to appear. We had nothing against these records, and I personally collected complete sets of things like The Loft and Garage Classics. We obviously had nothing against legal compilations either, again, buying things like the legit Loft box sets that Nuphonic released. Since then both Richard and I have gone on to curate – official – compilations of our own.
‘Nado – this is how I will from now on refer to the popular Balearic Beats night known as Aficionado – was Richard and Jason playing records in a bar with their friends, and each week asking one of these friends to join them on the decks. There were no big-name international guest DJs, that would come much later – although I do recall Bill Brewster playing at Zumbar during that first residency. Your DJ fee was a free pizza and pints. These were all people living locally, and we all shopped in the same record shops – Eastern Bloc, Vinyl Exchange, Fat City, Piccadilly, Decoy…and we were all into similar things. The last thing they wanted was for everyone to turn up with the latest set of reissues, comps, bootlegs, that we’d all just bought, and play the same tunes every week. They really wanted whoever was playing to dig deeper into their own record collection – play stuff that we hadn’t all heard. So how could they make sure it was more interesting? I know…and that’s where the rules came in.
This wasn’t some DJ / audiophile thing either. There was a long tradition amongst DJs – in the pre-digital world – for tracking down the best, loudest, most audiophile pressing of a song. Hence the fetishization of the 12” single, and the endless quest to get that as an original “Promo Only”. But ‘Nado was in bars, with – mostly – pretty pants sound systems, at least initially. Zumbar didn’t even have a set of technics for fucks sake! It had this Industrial Revolution-era style DJ console, incorporating 2 belt-drive turntables and a microphone. It had vari-speed knobs, but they were hopeless. You could make the record play backwards though, so that was handy! Enforcing these rules was funny, and it was meant to be funny. We were all friends, having a right laugh and getting pissed while listening to some amazing music on a Sunday night. What could be funnier than your mate having to wear the sleeve to some new record they’ve brought down on their head!