Super Selections and Wonderful words by Balearic Mike.
I contributed an article about a few great New York house records to the latest issue of Faith Fanzine. This one was WAY too long to be included…
The Look – Glammer Girl – Sexy Records 1993
The fact this record turns 30 this year chills my heart, and yet it also puts a huge smile on my face. The first time I heard Glammer Girl is etched firmly in my mind, for a couple of reasons, and still brings me out in involuntary goosebumps!
In early ’93 LuvDup started running a weekly Friday night party at the already legendary Number 1 Club. I choose the term ‘legendary’ deliberately. Through the late `80s and `90s the Number 1 was a gay club, owned by Peter Stringfellow’s brother Geoff, with resident DJ Tim Lennox cultivating a dedicated following. For LuvDup to land this coveted space was quite a coup, and the night was a phenomenal success from week one, with Daniele Davoli (DJ Lelewel) gracing the decks on the opening night. They called the night “HELL” and ran a brilliant poster campaign of black gothic script on a blood red background which simply said, “Go To Hell!” On some nights it was so hot in the 250-capacity sweat box, you thought you really had!
Number 1 was where I became a full-time part of LuvDup. Before that I’d done the odd bit of DJing with Mark and Adrian, and let them borrow my records, but now, with a Friday night residency, they realised that quite often they would either have to turn down gigs or leave their own club night. Enter the ‘Junior LuvDup’s’! Yes, following on from Boys Own’s appropriation of the Junior Gaultier moniker, it was decided what works for them works for us, and Alan (Stephens) and I were duly christened. This enabled Adrian and Mark to have some wiggle room, and run a regular residency, as well as jaunt around all over the country spreading the Luv! On the night in question they were both booked to play out of town, which meant that Luvdup managr, Big John, was running things, which was pretty normal, and Alan and I were warming up and closing the club for our fabulous – in every sense of the word – guest DJ that night; Jon Of The Pleased Wimmin!
I’d met Jon a couple of times, and once, while trashed in some hotel room during the In The City Festival, we’d bonded over our shared love of Patrick Cowley and Bobby “O” records. Jon was one of the most exciting and original DJs around, and I’d heard his unique mix of the hottest new music and the most outrageous and exciting obscurities you’d never heard before blow the roof off clubs on several occasions, and we were really excited to have him play. He certainly lived up to our expectations, AND saved the night from disaster…
Jon opened his set with Glammer Girl, which he`d been sent that week. No one I knew had heard it yet, and he let the previous record end, and just dropped the entire track with that incredible intro. Those haunting, eerie synth strings, with that hilariously camp spoken word vocal from Mink Stole and David Lochary, sampled from the John Waters’ film “Mondo Trasho“, filled the room. It was like the entire dancefloor paused, took a deep breath, and then boom! The massive synth bass and thundering drums all kicked in at once and the entire club exploded! I stood, awestruck, and just mouthed to Jon “What the fuck is this?” He smiled back and said “Good, isn’t it?” Something of an understatement. The word ‘fierce’, might also be apt… and no wonder when you look at who’s behind the record – written and produced by New York heavyweights Peter Daou and Danny Tenaglia, with Benji Candelario and Matthias Heilbronn also involved. This was obviously produced with The Sound Factory firmly in mind, where resident DJ Junior Vasquez had picked up the mantle from his hero, Larry Levan, and created a club environment that many said continued the legacy of the Paradise Garage.
The Sound Factory was not only the most important dance-floor in New York at the time, defining the city’s club and music scene through the first half of the 1990s, but its influence stretched to Europe, and especially the UK, where many producers also began tailoring their work specifically for its dance-floor. For me this Glammer Girl is the pinnacle of that sound. A perfect mix of the harder synth sounds being produced in the UK and Europe, with those swinging, funky, cavernous drums that could only come from NYC! On a side note, Peter Daou now has a very successful career in politics, and was part of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, but I digress…
There were a couple of things I remember that night at the Number 1 for. In 1993 Manchester, and Manchester clubland in particular, was no longer the happy, smiley place it once was. Manchester has always had ‘an edge’. It’s a tough city, with tough people. However, in ’93 things were a little over the top, with the term ‘Madchester’ a distant memory, and the city now often referred to as ‘Gunchester’. Violent incidents were common, including shootings, stabbings, and CS gas attacks. For the most part this was happening on the doors of clubs, as gangs fought with each other over the drug trade, and with security, with the aim of partying for free.
The Number 1 Club was quite unique in that such incidents were almost unheard of. The fact that it was a gay club, plus its location, tucked away off the beaten track in a quiet street near the Town Hall, meant that it stayed off of the radar for most gangs. Until that night. I was by the DJ booth, which was near the entrance to the club, when I noticed something was happening. Big John was trying to reason with a gang trying to force its way. His clever gambit of “It’s a gay night lads, you won’t like it, you’ll get your arses pinched”, seemed to have done the trick, but suddenly they changed their minds. As they piled through the entrance to the dance-floor, they turned to see Jon, resplendent in full drag, smiling at them as he shimmy’d away in the DJ booth.
The leader turned to his boys: “It’s a gay night lads, let’s get the fuck out!”, before casually tossing a CS gas canister in the direction of the dance-floor. Luckily it didn’t hit anyone, and security were well drilled for this kind of shit at the time and had the canister out the back fire escape before any real damage was done. Someone asked if we’d put poppers in the smoke machine, but I think we got away with it. It all seemed very exciting at the time. Mad, isn’t it! Bloody great record too!
I finally own a copy of this great record, just 25 years late…
Massive Attack – Mezzanine – Circa Records / Virgin 1998
What? I hear you all cry. I know! Mad isn’t it. I didn’t own a copy of Mezzanine on vinyl until last Saturday. It happened to be mine and Balearic Wife’s 10th anniversary of moving to Brighton, so we had a few nice things planned. Balearic Wife bought it for me from the new Capsule Records shop in Hove, while we had a coffee. Both she and the shop owner both asked “How come you don’t already have a copy?”
Well, here’s how. Back in 1998 I was still on a few mailing lists even though I wasn’t really DJing anymore, and I was sent the promo 12”s of all the singles from this LP, which cover quite a lot of it. I think I might have picked up a CDR as well, and the album was on in the shop (Vinyl Exchange) a lot. Which reminds me of this story, which I have told before, but it amuses me, so I’m going to tell it again:
“Working in Vinyl Exchange during the spring of 1998, pretty much everyone who worked in the shop was a big fan of Massive Attack, and the boss, Jo Bindley, returned from one of his buying trips with an advance promo CDR of the then new Mezzanine. We’re all really excited to listen to it – I can’t remember the full starting line up, but I’m guessing Steve, Kath, Si, Ade and myself. We pop it in the CD player and blast it out of the downstairs system. When it finishes, I turn to Si G, now sporting something approaching a grimace, and say “Well Si, what do you think?” He turns to me and says, “Sounds like they’ve been listening to too much Brian Eno, and not enough Barry White.” It`s hard to disagree.”
While Si G was absolutely right, the album is now rightly considered a masterpiece. It was a huge step forward from their previous record Protection. It is far more electronic. It’s much darker, claustrophobic, with an almost suffocating atmosphere in places. It’s also the most coherent and accomplished album they had as yet recorded. It isn’t my favourite, but that’s a high bar to clear. It’s also mad how it seemed like an age between albums at that point. Mushroom left the band after completing Mezzanine, and it had been 4 arduous years in the making, with it originally pencilled in for release the previous year, only to be delayed, and delayed, as 3D remixed and remade it.
One of the points of contention was apparently the choice of vocalists. While regular collaborator Horace Andy returns to the fold, it’s also graced with the wonderful addition of Liz Fraser, fresh from the split of the Cocteau Twins. Her tracks are all highlights, but none more so than the single Teardrop. Although this, again. caused a rift in the band, as Mushroom had sent the song to Madonna and wanted her to sing it. Both 3D and Daddy G insisted on Liz, and the results are spellbinding. Teardrop is still their most successful single, and endlessly turning up in film and TV.
Massive Attack have only released 2 further albums in the 25 years since Mezzanine, with the last the excellent Heligoland, over a decade ago. So, yeah, I didn’t own a copy, although a few years back my friend Jolyon Green posted a rave review of the 2013 180g repress, which planted a seed. Over the past few years I’ve been putting copies into my basket on various shop websites, sometimes even picking up physical copies in actual record shops, and always putting them back and buying something else. Balearic Wife put an end to this madness, just a few days before the album celebrated its 25th birthday on April 20th.
Released late April 1983, so 40 years old and still sounding contemporary…
Blancmange – Blind Vision – London Records 1983
Though nowhere near as ubiquitous as Blancmange’s previous hit single Living On The Ceiling, and lacking a line as memorable as “up the bloody tree”, there’s a good shout for Blind Vision actually being a far superior dance record.
Neil Arthur and Stephen Luscombe made the trip to New York, to record at the legendary Sigma Sound Studios with Boston DJ and producer John Luongo – who was fresh from the success of his remix of the Visage track Night Train for the US club market. Luongo’s credits include a dazzling array of remix work on some of the finest dance records ever made, including Patti Labelle’s Music Is My Way Of Life, Melba Moore’s You Stepped Into My Life, Dan Hartman & Loleatta Holloway’s Vertigo / Relight My Fire, and The Jacksons` Shake Your Body (Down To the Ground), and his influence on Blind Vision can’t be underestimated.
While Blancmange always had a rhythmic, dancefloor friendly quality to their music, under the influence of Luongo they created an incredible, epic 12” version of Blind Vision which clocks in at just under 10 minutes and has ‘club classic’ written all over it. An insistent electronic bassline is augmented by even fatter sounding live bass, a thundering drum machine is swarmed by ecstatic hand claps and clattering cowbells, and the incredible synth hooks are given a fuller sound as David Rhodes plays some incredible funky guitar parts – and a brass section joins in just to up the fun! Trumpet is played by Bob Funk! If that wasn’t enough, Jocelyn Brown contributes backing vocals! Blancmange were so pleased with the results that they recorded the entirety of their next album, Mange Tout with Luongo, telling Smash Hits magazine, “He’s virtually one of the group now, and tells the most fantastic jokes.”
The single was quite rightly a decent sized hit, peaking at #10 in the UK charts. It sounds like it was recorded yesterday, and I still play it a lot. I’m not sure why I have 2 copies though… As a side note, I should also mention the wonderful B-side, On Our Way To? It’s a totally brilliant piece of instrumental Drexciya-esque techno! Insane!
I spotted a post from Greg Wilson the other week which made me dig this out again…
Visual – The Music Got Me (Tony Humphries Mix) – Prelude Records 1983
The post was titled ‘GREG WILSON EARLY ‘80s FLOORFILLERS APRIL 1983’ and was a top 10 of his biggest records across his DJ residencies that month. It was quite a chart, but this absolutely astounding record by Visual was sitting pretty at #1, and 40 years later it’s easy to hear why.
Visual were 5-piece from New York City, who included Boyd Jarvis and Timmy Regisford amongst their members. They only released 2 singles, both on Prelude, both in 1983, and both now considered classics. This was the first. Although technically it’s electro-disco or electro-funk, this record sounds so similar to the house that was about to dominate clubland, so I suppose you could tag it as ‘proto-house’ or, more accurately, ‘proto-garage’, as it was no doubt aimed squarely at the dancefloor of The Paradise Garage. However, I’m guessing that it actually had more of an impact on the dancefloors of Chicago’s Warehouse / Power Plant and Music Box than in New York. If you analyse the record, all those early components of house are there. That thumping four-to-the-floor kick drum, that electronic bassline, which sounds like early Marshall Jefferson, the haunting synth parts, and that chanted vocal of “Move, move, move, free your body” – every part of the early house template is there. The mixes from Tony Humphries are extraordinary in their simplicity and arrangement, particularly on the slightly longer instrumental mix, where it really does just sound like a house record from 1986. A huge tune then, and 40 years later still sounding huge.
There was a nice reissue on Ransom Note a few years ago with a killer remix from Idjut Boy Dan Tyler and Nick The Record, which ramps up the dub factor a bit. The music has definitely got me!
(When I heard David Mancuso play this in Tokyo, at Cay in Aoyama, it sounded absolutely incredible – it must surely have been the template for Marshall Jefferson’s House Music Anthem – Rob)
I’ve been revisiting the sleeve notes from mine and Kelvin Andrews’ old Down To The Sea And Back compilations, comparing some of the things I’m writing now to those early daubes. They’re not bad as it goes, but I didn’t write about this track, Kelvin did, so here’s my go,
Bell X1 – Flame (Chicken Lips Mix) – Island Records 12”
This record is an abject lesson in how making something too easy can make you very lazy. Look at this record – go on – look at it! It might as well have ‘Giant Balearic Disco 12” made specifically for Balearic Mike to play!’ written in large fuck-off letters across the top of the sleeve… Vintage style `80s Island Records disco bag! Check! Retro style Island label! Check! Subtle tribute to The Slits on said record label! Check! Remixed by cool disco-not-disco outfit whose records you always seem to like! Check!… and yet, despite copies turning up in Vinyl Exchange in some numbers and having casually put one aside to listen to, several weeks later I still hadn’t. It wasn’t until I was gloriously ‘refreshed’, round at my mate Ged’s house – the notorious afterparty venue in “Too Far Gone” Close – when he casually popped it onto the deck. I nearly had a minor seizure, but managed to refrain from bursting into tears when I realised that it wasn’t some long lost, unreleased Francois Kevorkian dub remix of Talking Heads that I was never going to find, but was in fact that promo, with the remix done in Stafford, that I quite simply hadn’t been arsed enough to listen to over the last couple of weeks! I rectified that first thing Monday morning, and became quite evangelical about the track, furnishing Kelvin with a copy, and proceeding to shift a big pile of them that we had in stock. It was a track that both Kelvin and I thought of immediately when we started to put the first DTTSAB comp together.
Kelvin’s sleeve notes were better. You should read those instead.
The Hollies – Draggin’ My Heels (Special Disco version) – Epic / Columbia Records Disco Series 1977
I was having a conversation recently with a friend who’s also a fellow record / music obsessive, and he mentioned something rather nice that I wanted to share. He said that although Kelvin and I had put the DTTSAB compilations together with songs and tracks that we considered to be well-known, anthems even, for a whole swathe of people the pieces were new discoveries, and would now forever be associated with those comps. It was something that I’d never considered, and it made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside!
This is one of the tracks that we pillaged from another DJ – “Musical Host” I think was his preferred term – the godfather, David Mancuso. At the time I was just starting my exploration of the musical legacy of David’s legendary Loft parties, via some less than legal bootleg 12s. This – slightly edited – is what I wrote for the sleeve notes on DTTSAB Volume 1:
“During the Winter / Spring of 1995 and I was on a DJing adventure to Orlando and Chicago with Adrian LuvDup. One of the highlights of the Chicago leg of the journey, was a trip to the legendary Gramaphone record store. In these pre-internet days, this was the record diggers equivalent of a day trip to paradise. The place was jam-packed to the rafters with all manner of vinyl delights. The Disco section was vast, almost intimidating in its depth and scale, and the staff actually named the original artists and track titles on all of the Disco edits/boots they stocked – unbelievable! “SHIT!” I thought. “I’m no longer the smug, superior, fountain of knowledge behind the counter. I’m just an annoying customer!”
I composed myself sufficiently to accumulate a great haul. The staff were great – extremely knowledgeable AND helpful and friendly, and I couldn’t recommend the place highly enough, and thankfully the store is still going. A few hours’ worth of digging brought me a nice pile of treasure. Amongst them were original Chicago House gems (S.L.Y. on PROMO!) which I had missed first time around, some original Disco / Warehouse classics on LPs and 12”s, and a pile of these new Loft / Garage classics bootlegs. Moonboots had already begun stocking this series in Eastern Bloc, but so far only the first 5 or 6 had hit our shores. Here was a whole pile of them that I had never seen before – nice! Of course, I made sure to note down all the artist information from the headers in the racks before skipping off gaily into the sunset.
Back home in the rainy city, and when I dropped the stylus on this track, I needed to have a little lie down. I checked my notes meticulously. “This can’t be The Hollies?!” I ask around, as I can’t quite believe that this Draggin` My Heels originates from here, Manchester, in the dreary, depressing, ‘winter of discontent’ 1970s, but John McCready, our own disco godfather, confirmed the fact.
I have no idea how, or why The Hollies ever produced this wonderful piece of music. Now don’t get me wrong, as an honorary Mancunian I have more than a small soft spot for some of their musical endeavours, but this track is something else. From that opening ‘Balearic-as-fuck’ guitar riff, which sounds a bit “Long Train Running”, it explodes into life. It has a loose, rolling, almost Bossa Nova style rhythm, but with a chugging, Disco back-beat. The vocals are classic blue-eyed soul, with sublime harmonies on the chorus. Jazzy piano tinkles along in accompaniment. What were they on?
I picked up a few original copies on 7”, and LP, which obviously wasn’t too hard given my location, but I immediately realised that the versions on the 45s and the Russian Roulette album were shorter than that on the Loft Classics booty. In those pre-internet days the quest for this full length ‘Special Disco Version’ was a long one. Only pressed on a US DJ promo in 1977, and later there was a little-known US reissue on the Epic “Mixed Masters” series sometime in the `80s. This was one of those classic early eBay ‘up-all-night-with-matchsticks-keeping-your-eyelids-open-because-the-fucker-is-in-the-states’ bastard auctions! I managed to grab a bit of a bargain though! This is indeed a Loft Classic.”
Now that I think about it, I can see that Kelvin and I could have actually titled our compilation series “Draggin’ Our Heels” rather than Down To The Sea And Back, as it took us another 4 years to get around to Volume 2, and it’s been 9 years since that release. How much longer until a Volume 3 emerges I wonder? Tick, tock…
Postscript / Legendary producer and (ex) DJ Richard Barratt aka Parrot aka The Crooked Man saw Mike’s post and sent us this amazing live clip:
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.
You can also check out the super silk screen prints of “Balearic Wife” over at @jo_lambert_print