Back in the early 2000s, when I began to explore the internet properly, discovering a number of DJ forums discussing dance culture and its history, it was clear that the early ’80s had been largely obscured. This was the period that followed the supposed death of Disco in 1979 (prompted by the vitriolic racist / homophobic ‘’Disco Sucks’ campaign fronted by WLUP Chicago shock jock Steve Dahl), and preceded the emergence of House music during the mid-’80s.
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Today marks the 40th anniversary of my first club appearance. Last night I played for 5 hours at The Garage and tonight I’m at The Jacaranda to conclude a celebratory weekend in my home city of Liverpool with a talk about what it was like to be a DJ back in those proto-Disco days.
I’m all about connections. What really turns me on is when two previously separate areas of interest suddenly collide head on thanks to the discovery of a new piece of information. The connections are already there, it’s just that we’re blind to them much of the time, so when John Higgs, the author of ‘The KLF: Chaos, Magic And The Band Who Burned A Million Pounds’, does the detective work and pieces of the jigsaw fall together in a way that reveals a different picture to what we may previously have envisaged, that’s a deeply nourishing feast for me.
Liverpool is on the cusp of something special. I firmly believe that the cogs are clicking into place and the connections are being made as we enter a new cycle in this unique city’s cultural quest.
Sometimes you share in an extra-special gathering that, even just a few days later, leaves you wondering ‘did that really happen?’ Such was the case with the Super Weird Substance Record Store Day event that was held at Dry Bar in Manchester last Saturday.
During recent times I’ve been intrigued to hear about the growing schism on the House scene here in the UK, brought about by the introduction, primarily by young black dancers, of ‘foot shuffling’ (aka ‘cutting shapes’), an increasingly popular style of dancing that has been met with much hostility in certain quarters, and, somewhat bizarrely, resulted in shufflers being banned from some clubs for dancing in this way. The accusation is that not only do they take up too much dancefloor space, but there’s a general ‘moodiness’ with regards to their attitude. Although it no longer seems to be online, there was even an ‘Anti Foot Shuffling Campaign’ page on Facebook, with some of the posts suggesting underlying issues of racism. As one person commented, “It’s not that all these people on here hate shufflers, they just don’t like fact that black people are into House music now.” Although this comment may be well intentioned, it’s also somewhat misguided given there are, and always have been, plenty of black people in the UK who are big into House – it’s just that their presence is usually to be found away from the mainstream, in more specialist avenues like the Deep and Soulful House scenes. Furthermore, some of the older black crowd are also resistant to this new wave of shuffling, so to present it as a purely black / white issue would be wrong.
Just back from a flying visit Stateside, playing consecutive days in 3 of dance music’s seminal cities – Detroit, Philadelphia and New York. The Detroit and New York parties were both really special, but not all ran smoothly, for sandwiched in between the Philly gods conspired against us.
Exactly 30 years ago today, on 25th February 1983, I appeared on Channel 4’s influential music show, ‘The Tube’, demonstrating mixing for the first time on live TV in the UK – just my luck that the very point I was encapsulated in a cultural moment, it coincided with a brief phase where I looked like an extra from the Hair Bear Bunch, but that’s the way the mop flops. The footage is nowadays fondly regarded as part of British dance heritage, illustrating how the New York innovation of mixing was finally finding favour on this side of the Atlantic, where the microphone was still a key component of the DJs approach. For a full account of how UK DJs gradually put down the microphone and embraced mixing, check out ‘How The Talking Stopped’, an in-depth step by step account of its British evolution:
Just uploaded the December ’82 edition of ‘Early ’80s Floorfillers’, which re-visits the biggest tracks I was playing on my nights back in ’82/’83, when I was a black music specialist, resident at venues including Wigan Pier, Legend, The Exit, Berties and The Haçienda in Manchester, and The Stars Bar in Huddersfield. The series is available to stream / download via SoundCloud and my Electrofunkroots website, which includes label / record sleeve scans for all the tracks that make the chart, along with a list of ‘other big tunes’ that month.
EDM (electronic dance music), as they like to call it in the US, has never been bigger, America now fully embracing it, having previously regarded it as a little more than a side-issue, always the bridesmaid and never the bride. Now, the more curious minded dance music enthusiasts Stateside, wishing to avoid the mainstream commercialisation of a previously more underground club culture, are, often for the first time, excavating the mid-late ’80s period, when Chicago House and Detroit Techno emerged (finding far more love at the time in the UK and Europe, than in the country of its origin).