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MUSIC IS BETTER RE-EDITED HIGHLIGHTS 20.12.03
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When I upgraded my SoundCloud account it was with the intention of adding selected mixes from the period 2003-2009, bringing everything under one roof by placing them alongside the ongoing additions that have been continually made available since I uploaded the first of my SoundCloud mixes, recorded at Café Mambo in Ibiza exactly 2 years ago today (27.09.09). So it’s fitting that Music Is Better Re-Edited Highlights, the mix that marked my return to the DJ world, should kick off this process, with further uploads to be added periodically.
The following piece was written in 2004, some months after the Music Is Better mix had been made available as a limited CD via Manchester's Piccadilly Records.
MUSIC IS BETTER RE-EDITED HIGHLIGHTS:
Last December, twenty years on from when I stopped deejaying professionally, I came out of retirement, so to speak, and made what seemed like, as I described it at the time, a ‘second debut’ (my first being way back in 1975). In the two decades that have passed since I decided to call it a day, I’ve made the odd guest appearance here and there, but had no inclination to seriously start up again.
That all changed during 2003, with the launch of the electrofunkroots.co.uk website, which I’d set up to document the crucial early 80’s period, when dance music (or black music as it was still referred to) was going through some radical changes that would have a huge bearing on the subsequent course of club culture. It was at this point in time that I was fortunate enough to find myself behind the decks in two of the greatest British clubs of the era, Wigan Pier and Legend in Manchester, where I’d bring a new flavour of music to the table, along with a fresh (from a UK perspective) approach to the way I worked, as one of just a handful of British DJ’s back then who had made the decision to switch the emphasis of their presentation style from microphone to mixing.
I had no idea that, all these years on, an ever-increasing amount of clubbers were now beginning to look back to exactly this time and rediscover the great underground music, mainly from New York, that preceded House, and which was originally played here in the UK on the specialist black scene. Having decided to become pro-active in drawing people’s attention to this hugely important, but largely overlooked period, it was a pleasant surprise to realise that this process was already underway. Before I knew it, I began to receive enquiries about possible DJ bookings and it soon became obvious that the logical next step for me to take was back into the clubs, so I could actually play these records to an audience who’ve finally come to appreciate their significance in inspiring the music that inspired them.
Had this been all about playing some tunes for old times sake to the people who were there at the time, there’s no way I’d have been into it as anything more than an occasional one-off. However, the fact that there’s a whole new generation who are looking for a return to underground values, as well as an older audience who (having maybe got into dance stuff at a later stage) missed much of this music first time around, prevents it from becoming a purely nostalgic exercise and, instead, presents a whole new dynamic. For this is something relevant to now, which is rooted in the past, yet forward looking.
To further emphasise this link, the equipment I decided to use was a Revox B77 reel-to-reel (past), vinyl (present) and laptop (future). It was also important that I didn’t just stick to the records that I used to play, but included a few more recent releases, from artists with a clear respect for what’s gone before, like Chicken Lips, Metro Area and Diplomat. The laptop would also allow me to feature my own re-edits and the Revox to add live sounds and effects. Having been regarded as progressive in my approach to deejaying back then, I figured it was only right that I should continue to work by the same principles, trying new ideas alongside the old ones in an effort to highlight the ongoing links between then and now.
The night I chose for my ‘comeback’ appearance was called ‘Music Is Better’. It was held at The Attic in Manchester. It obviously had to be Manchester as this, although not my actual home, is certainly my ‘spiritual home’, the place where I found my ultimate DJ highs – so it was important to make that vital connection with the past immediately. ‘Music Is Better’ was the perfect type of night for me, suitably low-key, whilst attracting the kind of people who understand that four-to-the-floor isn’t the be all and end all.
I’d planned to use the night as a tester, so I could identify what worked and what didn’t, before I started accepting the bookings I’d been offered in other parts of the country. I’d anticipated a gradual acclimatization for myself, estimating that once I’d got 3 or 4 appearances under my belt I’d be able to gauge things better. In no way did I expect this first night to go so well for me, without any of the teething problems I’d envisaged.
The night wasn’t recorded, but it was decided that, to mark the occasion, I’d re-create it track for track for a limited edition CD (edited down from the two and a quarter hours I played to single disc length).
So this is how ‘Music Is Better – The Re-Edited Highlights’ came to be. The 500 copies that were made have now all gone, the response to the CD echoing the positive reaction on the night. I’ve since taken bookings (and often re-bookings) in Birmingham, Bristol, Dublin, Glasgow, London, Leeds, Limerick, Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham, Plymouth, Sheffield and Wrexham, along with further dates in Manchester. 2004 has been a year I’ll never forget and I can’t thank everyone enough for their support, their warmth and their energy. Having been totally detached from the club scene for so many years, it’s all been a bit of a Rip Van Winkle re-awakening for me!
I never thought I’d say it, but it’s great to be a DJ once again.
Hope you enjoy this mix,
WRITTEN FOR SIX MILLION STEPS WEBSITE IN 2004
UPLOADED ONTO SOUNDCLOUD 27.09.11