Originally released back in 1986 Jesse Saunders now revisits the number with a fired-up, fresh enthusiasm. Featuring several interpretations covering all sorts of angles this feels very much more than a re-release, more like something new for 2021. Col Lawton’s addictive remix begins with insistent keys peppering the grooves full of excitable energy. Next is Mike Dunn’s deeper, equally captivating techno flavoured BlackBall version, followed by Jerome Baker’s brilliant Originator remix capturing the essence of the past reworking it with contemporary fervour. A loose funkiness is then crafted by the Thommy Davis & Sahib Muhammad Battery Acid Remix, leaving further takes by Rubber People & Jay B McCauley, Scottie Soul & Sen-Sei, and BB Hayes to all work magic.
Located in-between the gentle wash of spine-tingling Rhodes and Angelala’s sensuous vocal is the soul of this latest release on Jesse Saunders, Broken Records. Accompanied by an unfussy arrangement of punchy drums and smouldering bass this feels just right for the arrival of breezy late nights/ early mornings. Col Lawton then adds a tougher rhythm section to his remix while retaining the emotive flavour of the original, leaving the BB Hayes Tech House version to syncopate the bassline adding even more weight to the production.
Some books you just race through I guess fired up by the excitement of reading about what you love. In this case House Music and if you find yourself here you’ll know the feeling. Jesse Suanders who history records as producing the first House release: On & On in 1984 (co-credited to Vince Lawrence) charts the history of the music beginning with the diverse set of influences which informed its formation.
In turn the pure style of Disco is said by Jesse to begin with MFSB: Love Is The Message. While also saying that House Music was very much a phenomenon attributed to his native Chicago, which included the post-punk and European records also feeding into the mix, along with new drum machines, synthesizers and of course American Disco to create what became recognised as the House sound.
The intimate testimony of those who populated the clubs are what defines this book lending the pages an excitable, I was actually there, dimension which befits the energy of the story rather than a dry retelling. The chapter and verse on the Windy City documents plenty of detail you would be hard pressed to find elsewhere, creating much more depth and nuance than is usually described, expanding what happened in people’s lives and how that fed back into the clubs. To say that lives were lived as part of an underground culture would be the truth. The vital importance of radio is also highlighted as a medium of communication beyond the clubs, and in particular the significance of certain shows.
In ways with what has happened because of the Covid 19 pandemic in 2020 it all feels / seems like a world away. Then again those who danced, DJ’ed and ran clubs in the late 70’s through to the 1980’s couldn’t observe all this on a screen, they had to experience it in person.
Ron Hardy’s history beginning at Den One in the city is a fascinating read, and it’s most welcome that other Dj’s and clubs are also rightly namechecked for posterity. So often with stories like this people and places get left out when in fact they were key parts of the picture. Robert Williams’s story is also invaluable and the detail of The Warehouse with Frankie Knuckles and then subsequently Music Box with Hardy are, once again, wonderfully involving. Likewise Jesse’s own story.
By chapter 5, House is then being talked about in terms of its global impact as further testimonies from the UK to Europe and beyond relive how the music effected those invloved, leaving the final section to expand into the broader terms of Rave Culture.
However, for me it’s the time and space occupied by the early days in Chicago which are the most fascinating, partly because I wasn’t there but also because it sounds like they were having the time of their lives. This is an invaluable book.
When the voice and music works together in harmony the results are rather delicious on this latest from Broken Records. Moving straight to DeMarkus Lewis and his Deeper Edit which marries melody and atmosphere together with heady organ chords alongside irresistibly swinging grooves. Next on the agenda is the tougher version from Needs No Sleep who hit hard on the low-end while adding fizz via the vocals on top. A range of other takes are also available each breathing a different slant into the affair, although for me it’s clearly the first and foremost that works best.
Tell us about the idea behind your new album: Old Skool New Skool (Vol 2) and how you went about choosing which tracks to use?
The Old Skool New Skool compilation series are intended to bridge the gap between that old sound that started it all, and the new sound which incorporates new tools and sounds while supporting the foundation. The tracks I choose always have an old school “feel” while contributing something new.
You are credited with producing/ releasing the first House record: On And On back in 1984. What were the instruments used that defined that unique Chicago sound – was European music as important as American to you in forming the House sound?
The Electric Disco sound of Europe was very influential in forming my idea of the House Music sound. Songs like “Feel The Drive” by Doctor’s Cat were imbedded in my soul in the early 1908s. The instruments used to create OP & ON were a Roland TR-808, Korg Poly 61 synthesizer and Roland TB-303.
What/who inspired you to begin Dj’ing and what were those early clubs like?
My brother Wayne Williams (currently VP of A&R at Sony Music) taught me how to DJ. I never had aspirations to be one prior to that. Sure, I had been making tapes from all the hottest records and blasting them on my Boom Box to everyone that would listen…and of course I edited songs to make “Disco Versions” that would emphasize the dynamic parts, but I never dreamed of being in front of thousands of people being the catalyst for their dance experience. But once I did, and I found I could make the crowd react to whatever I did, I was hooked!
How would you compare music/clubs now with back then – what are the positive/ negative changes that you have seen?
The NEGATIVE change is that people don’t go out to dance anymore, they go out to see who can pay the most for a Bottle. The whole idea of Bottle service has ruined the club experience. Clubs were created for dancing, not drinking. The best clubs don’t even have alcohol; i.e. The Warehouse! I can’t find any positive changes in clubs in today’s culture.
The only place that still carries on the tradition of dancing your ass off all night long are EDM festivals such as my Annual Chosen Few House Music Reunion (ChosenFewDJs.com) event that my brother Wayne, and our original DJ Crew produce in Chicago. It’s the the biggest PURE HOUSE MUSIC event in the world. We had over 50,000 House-Heads from all over the world in attendance. We featured Frankie Knuckles and Ten City, as well as, myself, Terry Hunter, Alan King, Tony & Andre Hatchet (original Chosen Few members) and Wayne Williams, our founder. We also got massive live stream and TV coverage around the world. Next year we will be even bigger and better. I’m also planning a sister event in Las Vegas for September 2012!
My label Broken Records (www.BrokenRecords.us) will continue to grow and support the Pure House Music Movement, and up and coming Producers and Artists to carry on the tradition of the world’s 1st House Music label, Jes Say Records!
My Music & Arts Society non-profit is expanding and teaching kids in the After-School programs the Artistic and Technical sides of being a DJ/Artist. We have just inked a deal with the National Urban League to teach their entrepreneurial programs in the arts in-conjunction with Wells Fargo who is financing it. This is by far the most rewarding of everything (www.MusicAndArtsSociety.org)…