Super selections & wonderful words by Balearic Mike.
My mind is blown by the fact that this record is now 30 years old…
Underworld – Mmm… Skyscraper I Love You – Boy’s Own Recordings 1993
Released on January 18th, 1993, I can still remember the slightly perplexed expressions on our faces during that first listen to the promo copies that arrived in Vinyl Exchange. Somewhere between ‘Wow!’, and ‘What the fuck?’ Way before the end of the full 13 minutes of the A-side it was a big ‘Yes’ from me.
Although the press sheet in my copy seems to suggest that Underworld were new kids on the block – no, not the teen band – in actual fact Karl Hyde and Rick Smith had been releasing music together since 1987. However, it was with the addition of up-and-coming young DJ Darren Emerson, forming that classic trio, that they really started cooking on gas so to speak.
We’d been primed a little by 2 excellent releases under their alias of Lemon Interupt (sic) on Junior Boys Own, with the second of those, Dirty, ending up on their debut LP. But Mmm… Skyscraper I Love You was still a monumental statement of intent, which I’m pleased to say they managed to live up.
This track is phenomenal, and still sounds like not a lot else today. It was too weird to truly be a huge club record, only really working with special crowds, on special nights, but when it did work – blimey!
My copy is a nice Boy’s Own Recordings promo 12”, with press sheet, which I got while working in Vinyl Exchange. I have all the Boy’s Own releases on promo, but sadly they`d stopped doing those nice promo only “Hear No Evil” sleeves by this point. The press sheet has been in the PVC sleeve behind the record for so long that the print has come off all over the label on the B-side.
Those first few years of the new decade, particularly 1991-1994, were just a whirlwind of creativity, with new genres, artists, labels, and whole scenes emerging on a near weekly basis in the UK club scene. It must have been close to what it felt like living in New York at the dawn of the `80s. It really was that exciting. Subsequently a lot of the music produced then, now seems dated, but this track is absolutely an exception.
For some reason, the realisation that the early `90s is now 30+ years in the past has just hit me like a train! I’m used to the feeling that the `80s was a long time ago; I was a child and a teen, all fresh faced and new to everything, but the `90s? I was an adult in the `90s. Working in a fucking cool record shop, starting to DJ – properly – fully involved in what was going on. That this record is now 30 years old, for some reason is melting my brain!
While continuing to be shocked that the early `90s is now 30 years ago, here are a few more …
Sound Clash Republic – Cool Lemon EP (feat. Sounds Rum) – Junk Rock Records 1992
I was a complete Fabio Paras fanboy back in the early `90s. He could do no wrong in my book. As well as a run of incredible singles under various guises, I also managed to catch him DJ live at a great night over in Liverpool called Smile, which myself and the LuvDup crew frequented a few times. The set that Fabio played was an absolute masterclass in selection. I was lucky enough to get a recording of most of it on tape and played it to death.
Fabio’s records were a weird combination of driving drums and percussion – especially bongos and timbales – and some subtle little Balearic elements, fused with what would come to be called progressive house. His remixes were great as well. I bought pretty much everything he touched for a few years.
I’ve only kept a few records from those early UK ‘progressive house’ days, but I still have this, and it was always one of my favourites by Fabio. Although it was the title track, Cool Lemon, which became really big, it was the old “second-track-B-side” number that was the standout for me. I recall the first time I heard it quite clearly. I knew Moonboots had bagged me a copy of the new Fabi Paras record over in Eastern Bloc, but I hadn’t picked it up yet. I was at Most Excellent with Adrian LuvDup, so it would have been a Thursday night, as the club had moved from Mondays at The Brick House on Whitworth Street, to the bizarrely named Wiggly Worm, or Millionaire’s Club (it seemed to be called both names at different times). I can’t remember if there was a guest that night, but Justin Robertson played Sounds Rum, and it completely floored me. A joyful cacophony of bongo drums, a rubbery bassline, and that joyous brass-riff. I turned to Ade and asked if he knew what it was, and of course he did. I was in E-Bloc pretty sharpish the next day to pick it up. I played this constantly for a couple of years; it’s a brilliant warm up track. I still love it.
While I’m on the subject of Fabio Paras, this is something from that fantastic live DJ set at Smile…
Sonic Solution – Get On The Move (Mix 2 ‘The Acid Mix’) / Beat Time – R&S Records 1991
A whole LuvDup ‘club-gang’ had piled over to Liverpool for the gig. Sometime in early 1992, I think? It was a completely brilliant night. Lovely hosts and a great, up for it, local crowd, in a nice intimate venue. LuvDup would play there in the summer celebrating their 1st birthday, and I had a tape of that night as well.
Fabio played a completely masterful set. Tremendous selection, programming, technique; completely took the roof off the place. That set was the start of the Charles B Lack Of Love revival amongst us, as he dropped it during his set. I recall he also teased the vocal intro to Road To Nowhere – just the line “And we know where we’re going …” – throughout his set, playing it over the house tracks, before dropping the full song towards the end of the night. However, the track that I had to find after the gig was this Belgian gem. Specifically, this version – Mix 2 – which is radically different from the version on the commercially available 12”. It’s that wonderfully intense 303 line which kicks things off, and continues to morph and twist throughout the song, even once the joyous Italo-style piano riff comes crashing in. I had to own it, but none of our lot knew what it was.
Luckily a week or so later we got sent a tape of the night, possibly from the promoters – they were in touch with Adrian and Mark about playing for them. So, we had this 90-minute chunk of a Fabio Paras set, with this tune on it. Thankfully that eliminated the need for me to sing / human beat-box the fucking thing to everyone and anyone until someone could ID it for me. It was Huggy who came up trumps, knowing exactly what it was – only the green label promo has this version on! They’d sold out long ago in E-Bloc, but one turned up in Vinyl Exchange a few weeks later. Working in a record shop was the best job in the world back then!
Rozlyne Clarke – Dancing Is Like Making Love (Bruce Forest Dub 2) – ARS 1991
I hadn’t listened to this record in decades and pulled it off the shelf while looking for some New York records for something I’m writing for Faith. Although remixed by native New Yorker Bruce Forest, he was living and working in the UK by this time, and as Rozlyne is Australian, and the label is Belgian, I thought it might be a stretch to include this. But I`m glad I plucked it from the racks anyway, as I`d honestly forgotten what a fucking beautiful piece of house music it is. The track was massive when it landed in Eastern Bloc on Belgian import late in 1991. It crossed over to every type of house club, from the Balearic Network to Graeme Park at the Hacienda on a Saturday night, to the harder, more rave orientated end of the spectrum.
Head straight to that old favourite, the “second-track-on-the-B-side” (that`s 3 of those in a row from me now!), and the phenomenal Dub 2. It’s a perfect blend of so many styles of house, and that`s what makes it so unique, and allowed it to crossover to so many different clubs. It has some very New York swinging drums, big, throbbing Chicago bassline, that scratchy synth and warm strings which give it a UK progressive house feel, and those gentle pianos and big brassy stabs which suggest an Italo-house influence. This mix has it all, and still sounds wonderful…. which is probably why I got the shock of my life when I looked it up on Discogs to add to my collection! This track was huge, also getting a UK release, so that after about a year it became really commonplace secondhand, and we ended up putting copies in the bargain bins in Vinyl Exchange. The cheapest NM Belgian pressing when I looked today was £65, and that’s now sold! There are UK promos graded VG+ for £45 to £50! Blimey. If you wait long enough, things come back in fashion.
Aren’t you pleased – and surprised – that I managed to avoid making the old Swiss Tony joke!
The Future Sound Of London – Papua New Guinea – Jumpin’ & Pumpin’ 1991 / 1992
Quite simply one of the most beautiful, unique, timeless, and important records from the post-acid-house club / rave explosion of the early `90s! At its core, it’s really just a big collage, a cut-and-paste of samples from other records.. and yet the overall effect is quite overwhelming, and far greater than the sum of these individual parts.
First up they nick the bassline from that other, quite intense Balearic classic, Radio Babylon, by Meat Beat Manifesto. Then the break-beat from Circuit’s 1990 club hit, Shelter Me, as well as a cheeky wee bit of the vocal. Another break gets pinched from a Fuzzy Haskins LP, and then the icing on the cake – those haunting, ethereal vocals, sampled from Dead Can Dance’s Lisa Gerrard. Discogs lists the sample as one track, while Wikipedia says it’s another, but I think that they’ve combined two samples of Lisa’s voice. First from the track, The Host Of Seraphim, on The Serpents Egg album, and another from the song Dawn Of The Iconoclast, from the LP Within The Realm Of A Dying Sun. Well, that’s my theory! The fact that these disparate elements work together is a minor miracle, but they do more than that. With some subtle keyboard parts and spooky atmospherics, this track becomes something utterly beguiling. Although spawned from a burgeoning club / rave scene, it stands apart, unique.
Brian Dougans and Garry Cobain met while studying in Manchester at the now merged UMIST (The University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology). They should have called themselves The Future Sound Of Manchester, a miles better name! Brian had already had some acid house fame and success, as Stakker, with the 1988 single Humanoid, and the two began working together under various aliases such as Mental Cube, Art Science Technology, Indo Tribe… before Papua New Guinea managed to permeate every strand of club culture.
It forged a following on the embryonic hardcore / rave scene, as a forerunner to the sound of jungle and drum & bass, as well as crossing over to the Balearic Network clubs and the new progressive house sound which was being played. This created a huge demand for the track, which it’s initial, quite limited pressing couldn’t cope with. Hence remixes were commissioned, illustrating that diverse appeal of the track, and it was reissued in spring of 1992. This time it would sell in sufficient quantities to bother the charts, spending a coupe of weeks at #22 in May / June.
One of those remixes was a rather epic take on the track by Andrew Weatherall. I can still remember very clearly the first time I heard it in a club. Andrew was the guest DJ at Most Excellent that night. It was a Thursday and the party had moved to the Wiggly Worm / Millionaire’s, by then. We all knew he’d been commissioned to remix Papua New Guinea. It was spring ’92, and he must have just gotten a promo or test pressing and opened his set with it. The remix has a beautiful, long intro with dramatic string parts, so it wasn’t immediately obvious what the track was, but it just built and built, and when the penny dropped, the entire room had a collective ‘moment’. Ah… to be young, and off your tits on a school night!
Another rather jolly dancing record from when I was still young enough to go out every night of the week…
My Friend Sam featuring Viola Wills – It’s My Pleasure – Ex-It Records 1991
This has about as much energy as it’s possible to squeeze into a vocal house record! Out of Miami, Florida, My Friend Sam was production duo Sergio Hevia & Kiki Quin, or The Sin Boyz. They didn’t have many hits, but on this they team up with legendary LA singer Viola Wills, who’s credits run back to the 1960s and include working with Barry White, as well as a substantial solo career.
This record dropped like the proverbial bomb! Released towards the end of 1991, getting picked up quickly by Network Records for a UK release in 1992, just about everyone loved and played this.
It’s a killer mix of US freestyle, electro-disco bordering on Hi-NRG, house, breakbeats, and a soaring lead vocal. It tore the roof off everywhere it was spun, and I think everyone thought it would cross over to have chart success in the UK, but sadly it didn’t quite make it. Maybe it was too rough and raw sounding? Who knows.
I bought my copy in Eastern Bloc minutes after Adrian LuvDup played the copy he`d just bought in E-Bloc on the Vinyl Exchange shop deck. A monster record! I still love it!
Orbital – Impact USA / Lush (1926 Trancendance Mix) – FFRR 1993
I’m a big fan of dance records which use breakbeats, at whatever tempo. However, in the early `90s most of the music that was using breakbeats tended to be on either the cheesy or hardcore rave side of things. The straight up 4-to-the-floor beat of house was very dominant for a while, but in around late ’92 / ’93 records started to appear from the US which used breaks again, having a knock-on effect over here.
I can still recall the first time I heard this fabulous record. Kelvin Andrews and I were DJing at Wobble, and weirdly, we were both playing downstairs in the more vocal / piano – dare I say ‘handbag’ – room, rather than up in the mad attic that we usually played in. This didn’t seem to bother Kelvin much though, as he launched into his set, dropping both this track, Impact USA, and Red Planet 2 – Star Dancer – and in the process blowing both my mind, and the roof off the place! Not the easiest act to follow though.
I bought this US-only 12” as soon as I could get into Eastern Bloc, and proceeded to hammer the life out of it for the next couple of years. It’s a symphony of breakbeats and techno synth squelches which just tears up the dancefloor. Incredibly musical, funky as fuck, and fierce as hell, and it didn’t leave my record box.
I have particularly fond memories of a gig at The Engine House just outside of Birmingham that Phil and Si from Wobble were running, which must have been in the spring of ’95? I was booked to play early, but Timm & Laurie – Notts legends and Venus’ residents – had to shoot off earlier than planned for some reason, so I had to go on a bit later. I built a set around records like The Bassbin Twins, DJ Icee, God Within`s The Phoenix, and worked my way up towards Impact USA and the Tweekin’ Acid Funk Mix of Josh Wink’s Higher State Of Consciousness. The walls were shaking by about 6PM on a Sunday afternoon. The place was jumpin’! That was a good day.
For more from Balearic Mike you can find him on both Facebook and Instagram – @balearicmike.
Mike has a Mixcloud page packed with magnificent, magical, music, and you can catch him live on 1BTN, from 12 noon until 2 (UK time) every 1st and 3rd Friday.
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