I’m currently recording an old cassette from Feb 1994 into my computer. While it plays in the background I’ll ramble on a bit before sharing a copy of it with you.
The title of the tape is “Can’t stop the Groove“, the name of one of the tracks within. I’ve already heard this thanks to the antique tape player I have in one of my cars.
I don’t actually recall doing this mix, I’ve recorded so many through the years. It would have most definitely been recorded in my council flat on the Bromford estate, a typical area populated with several high rise flats running adjacent to the M6 motorway, opposite from the landmark Fort Dunlop building. I lived on the 19th (top) floor of the very aptly named “Chillinghome Tower“. I lived there from 1991 until 1997 and have some fond memories of the place. It was a two bedroom flat that I eventually shared with Michelle before we were married. We used to have some HEAVY after hours sessions there and it was only after getting burgled one night that I decided it was time that we left the area and bought a house. The roughnecks did us a favour.. maybe I’d still be living there now if they hadn’t ?
It was my move to this estate in 1991 that started me down the road to being a DJ. An acquaintance called Derek Hall (DJ Dexter) approached me one time in a rave and stated he’d seen me locally and that I should pop over to his flat, the next building along, for a smoke and to listen to some tunes. One day I jumped in the piss smelling lift (a pre-requisite of any council flat in Birmingham) and ventured into his abode. In front of me where the hallowed Technics 1200s and he went about showing me his scratching and mixing skills. Passing me the headphones he invited me to have a go, I remember that moment like it was earlier today. For the previous 3 or so years I had travelled the country in search of the best raves and watched some of the best DJs in front of me getting busy on the decks. My heroes back then were Carl Cox, Micky Finn and Sasha. I’m sure there were others.. it’s all a tad blurry as you can imagine.
Two of my very good friends Paul Moran and Steve Warner were also DJs who had played at some amazing places like Shelley’s in Stoke and the Hummingbird in Birmingham. Being a DJ had never crossed my mind.
So, the first thing I did of course, was give the crossfader a good left and right. Own up.. you’ve done it too as soon as you went near a mixer, I know you have ! Now i’d be lying if I said I could remember the two records I mixed together, but I do remember being amazed at how quickly I got the grasp of it, both in theory and in practise. From that moment on I was hooked and never looked back. As luck would have it another mutual friend, Daz Thomas, had been playing for a few years and become disollusioned with the whole thing and decided to sell his decks, mixer and tunes. Touch ! I went to the bank, got a £1000 loan and was the proud owner of my own DJ equipment and some rather tasty music to go with it. I’ll cover the music of this, my starting era, in another blog one time.
So that’s the very short back story. Back to the mix.
Initially set up in the very spacious lounge, my decks were right underneath the massive windows that looked north up the M6 and over the whole of the city and surrounding suburbs. Listening to this tape as I throw my thoughts down, it’s clear that I had “mastered” the art of beat matching in the few years since acquiring the decks, this is actually something I have always loved doing. What is also very apparent, however, is that sometimes a lengthy blend isn’t exactly a good blend ! It hurts to listen to in places. In others I actually find myself happily bouncing along.. I’ve never been a great scratcher, I clearly felt adventurous on this day. Ha ha.
Picture the scene: Me stood in front of the windows, waiting for the breakdown to kick in, arms aloft orchestrating the traffic to get off their arses !!??
Let’s analyse the music.
I am immediately drawn to labels like Stress, Deconstruction and Hooj Choons as being my weapons of choice for this style of music. What I find surprising when doing a search of “House music 1994” is the calibre of soulful U.S tracks out around the same time. Tracks like “The Bomb“, “Voices” and “24hr Experience” were big big tunes for me in this year, so I am shocked to realise I was still playing music like on the tape… but when I think hard it all falls into place. This kind of set would have been my Sunday morning set at Marco Polo’s (as previously mentioned in my last blog), purely put together for those “hands in the air” moments and definitely ecstasy fuelled.
Ouch… Bells of New York mix is nasty ! Key clashes all over the place…
So while this is the kind of set you would have heard me rinsing out at Marco’s on a morning, on the evening you can imagine the total contrast and why I was able to carve a niche for myself away from the madness of the mornings. Actually, there were a few of us that loved the deeper, vocal sounds. Cannot mention Marco’s again without giving credit to the man behind it from day one, Joseph alongside Leighton B and James Dean.
Now I’m definitely going off on a tangent but while it’s all here, I’ll get it down.
While driving in my car I questioned the effects of music on people who have never taken drugs and those that have. I wonder if it can move non users the way it had effected others in the past. I don’t mean the here and now, but in the past. I can definitely hear in certain people’s productions the ones that HAVE taken drugs at one time or another, and those that NEVER have. This isn’t a good or a bad thing, just a personal observation. I remember loving a breakdown, loving the build up and going insane to the drop back in.. I think you can hear that in most of the Soul Central tracks. There is a tune I am loving at the moment that I really don’t believe could have been made unless the producers had taken drugs in the past.. for this reason I don’t feel comfortable naming them.. but it’s bad ass !!
So, definitely rambling, time to wrap this up.
It has taken me almost one side of the tape to get this far, the set is definitely building and I was clearly loving having a scratch throughout this.
My guess is that if you weren’t around clubbing in this era, you’ll hate this set. If you used to go out back then, you may love it. If you went Marco Polo’s you’ll be in your element (the main reason I uploaded this was to share with one or two people, hence not attaching it as a podcast).
Normal programming resumes this weekend as The Vocal Booth show and Club Sessions go out, with me announcing the line up for the Weekender.
Big love from a very nostalgic place right now and the beginning of the Summer. Bring it !!
Andy Ward – Can’t Stop the Groove – 1994 by intothevault