Disco Airlines

•05/28/2018 • Leave a Comment

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Listening to an old interview with Eric B on the Combat Jack (RIP) radio show prompted me to put together another disco mix. Apparently Frisco Disco was the first record he played when getting his break as a DJ in Queens; so that classic break kicks off the mix and gives it its title. From air travel to space travel, next up is a spacey Salsoul cut with great percussion and production. East Harlem Bus Stop is also heavy on percussion but more raw, earlier disco. Then it’s back to Salsoul and a couple more tracks that sit somewhere between jazz-funk, funk and disco (you can watch the Soul Train dancers show you how to “get yourself together” to Movin’). Next is the prelude to Relight My Fire, which I never liked so get out in time via the same riff in a Began Cekic production.

Three much more well known tracks follow: Spanish Hustle was a favorite at the Positively 4th Street parties; as I said in my earlier long post on disco, Can You Feel The Force was the soundtrack to trips down the A4 with the JAC; and Le Freak’s one everyone’s heard (probably too often but the bridge is still great). It was originally called “Fuck You!” by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, who composed it after being turned away from Studio 54 – many of us have said the same thing when asked to play it [right El Grito?]. Staying with freaks, the mix ends with a more raw and rarer number on Sound Of New York.

        1. Frisco Disco – Eastside Connection
        2. Into The Milky Way – Jimmy Briscoe and The Beavers
        3. Let’s Get It On – East Harlem Bus Stop
        4. Getaway – The Salsoul Orchestra
        5. Express – BT Express
        6. Movin’ – Brass Construction Band
        7. Vertigo – Dan Hartman
        8. Let’s Get Horny – Hi Voltage
        9. The Spanish Hustle – The Fatback Band
        10. Can You Feel The Force – The Real Thing
        11. Le Freak – Chic
        12. Dance Freak – Chain Reaction

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Mega Disco

•01/08/2018 • 1 Comment

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Sadly Nicky Siano didn’t throw a party at the Coney Island bumper car rink this year, so no disco extravaganza to bring in the New Year. But the last one is still fresh in my mind, and missing out inspired me to put together another disco mix, incorporating some of the tunes he played then and back in the day. Nicky’s a great DJ – for anyone not familiar with his history as resident DJ at The Gallery (he started it in ’73) and Studio 54 (fired for excessive drug use), I recommend checking out Tim Lawrence’s Love Saves The Day – apparently there’s also a documentary.

The new mix is in the same vein as my earlier disco/hi-NRG mixes (here and here). It starts with a slow burner from France, then switches to the megatronics of Patrick Cowley (the tribute Tom dropped on July 4th). Between the sides is Harry Thuman’s monster Underwater. I remember buying this from Max Rees at Hot Numbers – if you’ve never heard it on full volume while fat Max, eyes closed, foot up on the store counter, plays air guitar, you’re missing out. Do You Wanna Funk appears in the megamix but I couldn’t resist adding the full version after. Most of us first came across it in that scene from Trading Places, but it always reminds me of Kamal (bottom left here): we played it over and over on his beatbox hanging out on the beach that time in Spetses years ago.

R-521013-1281995891.jpegThe Machine and Inner Life tracks are classics that made the crowd go wild at Coney Island: There But For The Grace of God probably has my favorite lyrics of any disco record. The Nuyorican rework of Roy Ayers is a bit anachronistic but packs more punch than the original. I’ll forever associate it with driving through San Francisco in a convertible Ford Thunderbird with Tony screaming “Sweet tears just keep falling from your ass!”. Next is an Al Hudson production sampled by various people (including Joey Negro as Doug Willis here). The mix ends with bunch of Prelude tracks that were on permanent rotation in Pantonville. I think In The Bush wins the prize for Saul’s favorite disco lyrics.

  1. Carry On, Turn Me On  – Space
  2. Homenaje a Patrick Cowley (Part 1) – Patrick Cowley
  3. Underwater – Harry Thuman
  4. Homenaje a Patrick Cowley (Part 2) – Patrick Cowley
  5. Do You Wanna Funk – Sylvester & Patrick Cowley
  6. There But For The Grace of God Go I – Machine
  7. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – Inner Life
  8. Sweet Tears – Roy Ayers & Nu Yorican Soul
  9. Music – One Way
  10. Work That Body – Taana Gardner
  11. Feed The Flame – Lorraine Johnson
  12. In The Bush – Musique

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Warming up

•09/24/2017 • Leave a Comment

IMG_0001Nights don’t usually start at 100 mph. A DJ usually warms everyone up first by playing a few easier tunes. Sometimes there’s a dedicated warm-up act, and occasionally the night never really progresses beyond that, especially if it’s not somewhere anyone’s really gonna dance. In Ibiza of course, the laid-back early evening sets are legendary, and hipster hotels have cultivated the experience to the extent they even put out compilations themselves.

The mix below is a bit of a warm-up set, put together with a bunch of records you might have heard in a bar a few years ago in Soho or SoHo. It starts with two white labels Tim gave me when he signed Groove Armada to Tummy Touch. I remember playing them early evening over at El Grito’s. For some reason, Mr George and I’d shown up in raincoats looking like a couple of flashers, put the records on, and then immediately proceeded to trash the place by booting a football around (more Peter Kaye than Peter Crouch). I think we ended up at the Blue Note in Hoxton, set up by Eddie Piller – coincidentally the DJ I first heard play the Mr Gone tune. Eddie dropped it at Route 66, I liked it, and McDisco gave me his copy (“It’s rubbish, have it.”).

McDisco also turned me on to Bobby Hughes, who adds a flute to Deodato’s Skyscrapers in Piper Cherokee. Then Terry Farley samples Brother Jack McDuff, and Barry Adamson blends Dusty Springfield with Tom Scott in a track that’ll remind Pete of Lost Highway. Tim also sampled Sneaking In The Back (heard here) – funnily enough  it was my Tom Scott record he used to make the track in this mix. The 45 King loop is a Lost Breakbeat that Crawford put on a tape for me years ago. It’s followed by two riffs on Eddie Russ’s Lope Song. The Young Disciples track came on the Talkin’ Loud sampler that announced the arrival of Gilles Peterson’s new label in 1990 (we were all very eager to hear that when it came out). I get out of that one before the dodgy MC Mello rap begins (so common in tracks from that era) and into DJ Food (before that became a person). A People/Urban classic is the link to a Ubiquity ‘new funk’ track that, if memory serves, was also on one of those tapes sent down from Glasgow. The intro reminds me of Gonzalez’s Funky Frith St and it works as a bridge to the harder stuff we would have dropped later in the evening at Back On The Streets.

  1. Unknown w/l – Groove Armada
  2. Unknown w/l – Groove Armada
  3. D*Votion – D*Note
  4. Just Listen To The Record – Mr Gone
  5. The Piper Cherokee – The Bobby Hughes Experience
  6. America Eats Its Young (Terry Farley Downtempo mix) – Nick Holder
  7. Something Wicked This Way Comes – Barry Adamson
  8. Love’s Gonna Get You – Tim ‘Love’ Lee
  9. The Ave – 45 King
  10. Young Disciples Theme – Young Disciples
  11. The Food Song – DJ Food
  12. Given’ Up Food For Funk – The J.B.’s
  13. Monkey Wrench – Sweet Potato

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Disco Derivative

•07/07/2017 • Leave a Comment

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Celebrating July 4th with Bullock – Tom dropped Ned Doheny’s original of the Tata Vega classic (see below) at sunset over the East River, then a Patrick Cowley megamix for the fireworks – prompted me to post a new mix. It’s a follow up to earlier disco mixes that illustrates some of the directions disco took later: in some cases, disco became more electronic, progressing to Hi-NRG as drum machines replaced Earl Young’s four-to-the-floor kick drum; in others, the drum pattern changed and it became boogie – a sound I always associate with Prelude and West End.

The mix starts with Began Cekic’s rework of Jimmy Bo Horne’s Spank (heard here), which I first heard on Tel’s Warehouse Rave tape. That’s followed by a Jazzy Dee tune that was sampled by Cambridge’s own Undergraduates (not actually students if I recall) in Funk On Up (heard here). The third version of Hamilton Bohannon’s classic is next (I put the first version in this mix). Then there’s a Kliger classic that takes me back to boot fairs in South London, and the brilliantly titled Loose Joints tune both Paul and Jools played over and over in Pantonville.

R-7368536-1439977314-5567.jpegThe long version of Can You Handle It deserves a paragraph of its own. One of my favorite records – and definitely the best of the genre – it has everything: great drums, tight horns, cuica, jazzy keys, phasing, and superb vocals that start with Sharon Redd’s amazing scat alongside the guitar. I’m not sure if I was actually playing it then, but I like to remember this was the record I was playing when Hoppo (RIP) charged the decks, screamed “Scratchy guitar disco!” at me, then threw himself to the ground and thrashed around delightedly for a few minutes – one way to get people on the dance floor and far from the craziest thing the Good Times promoter did.

And The Beats Goes On I first heard as a kid on a Thames TV ad. More boogie follows, and then there’s Tata’s version of the track Tom played. A gift from the Turk that Mr George always said was written for Eddie D. (“Don’t hold back, if it feels good to Ed!”) is next, and the mix ends with an Instant Funk track that if you are of a certain age you first heard as De La Soul’s intro to Roller Skating Jam.

  1. Sixty-nine – Brooklyn Express
  2. Get On Up (Instrumental) – Jazzy Dee
  3. Let’s Start The Dance III – Bohannon
  4. Haven’t Been Funked Enough – Ex Tras
  5. Is It All Over My Face (Female Vocal) – Loose Joints
  6. Can You Handle It (Extended Version) – Sharon Redd
  7. And The Beat Goes On – The Whispers
  8. Extra Special – Atmosfear
  9. The Music Got Me (Instrumental) – Visual
  10. Get It Up For Love – Tata Vega
  11. Don’t Hold Back (If It Feels Good Do It) – Chanson
  12. I Got My Mind Made Up – Instant Funk

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Back to the masterplan

•05/08/2017 • Leave a Comment

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As the rare groove scene tailed off and house music began to dominate in late 80’s London, one response was acid jazz; another was a new blend of street soul/funk typified by Soul II Soul. Jazzie B’s journey from dole to soul is covered in a recent BBC documentary. Soul II Soul started as a sound system but evolved into a band. Come 1989, Soul II Soul records weren’t just being played in the clubs, they were charting. The members continued to DJ (I remember playing with Aitch B around 1995), and a bunch of similar new artists began to feature in their and other DJs’ playlists, alongside older soul/funk and increasingly jazzy hip hop.

The mix below brings back memories from that period. It starts with Loose Ends’ downtempo rework of Summer Madness and the P-funk classic. The B-side to Revival (‘yellow’ version) follows. Then echoes of Twin Peaks lead into a track Lucy the Swing Beat Queen put me on to. Next is a classic from Duffer and Sharpeye founder Barrie K. Sharpe, an icon of the rare groove movement whose recent autobiography is an interesting read. The Masterplan is one of those tracks I heard early (not quite sure where – possibly a clothes shop in Camden, maybe Iffley Rd), then played to death (my speakers facing out the window, people dancing in the courtyard below) and tired of by the time it blew up that summer; but I came round to it again when making this mix. I feel the same about Back To Life, the track that pretty much defined the era.

t55681851-b358798147_s400For a while, it seemed like all these club tracks had a rap in the middle; QRZ flipped things by putting a Pharaoh Sanders-style sax amid a rap (first heard Jazz FM 102.2), while for Keep on Movin’ Jazzie B created a beat that could be heard on everything from adverts to novelty ambient records. A classic UBB break sets off Set Me Free, the perfect downtempo club track. Boundaries, built on the Average White Band’s Stop The Rain, came a bit later that decade but fits the vibe. The Fresh 4 track blends Faze-0 with the Funky Drummer – it always reminds me of doing step overs with Justin and Andy one night in Deptford. And I never tire of that D-Influence track, which is surprising given that I permanently associate it with being sat up in my room listening to Kiss FM, cramming for finals.

  1. Feel The Vibe – Loose Ends
  2. Nothing’s Gonna Change – Martine Girault
  3. Ghetto Heaven (Jazzie B & Nellee Hooper Remix) – The Family Stand
  4. The Masterplan – Diane Brown & Barry K. Sharpe
  5. Back To Life (Jam On The Groove mix) – Soul II Soul
  6. This Is Calling You – QRZ?
  7. Love Or Nothing – Diane Brown & Barry K. Sharpe
  8. Set Me Free – The Bygraves
  9. Keep On Moving – Soul II Soul
  10. Boundaries – Leena Conquest
  11. Wishing On A Star – The Fresh 4 feat. Lizz. E
  12. Journey – D-Influence

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Rare House Waves

•03/18/2017 • 1 Comment

R-421447-1274369611.jpegI wrote about house music a while back, but a recent night out with citizen Kang got us reminiscing about old times and prompted a mix of some of the house/techno we used to hear. As I’ve said before, I was never a big house fan, but when the rare groove scene died, it became almost inescapable at clubs, parties and, of course, raves. Unless you sought out a dedicated night like the Mo’ Wax sessions or headed down to somewhere like Dingwalls, chances are it’d be house everyone was dancing to. A trip to Ibiza (Al fell into a sewer); pulling moves on the floor at Riots with Kempski (sadly no longer with us); shaven-headed, wearing monks’ robes to a party for assassins (Eric wore a dog collar); traffic jams at 4 am on the M25 trying to find Energy (oh dear, the dancing…); hanging out at Ennerdale Road for days (Soph lipsynching to Alison Limerick); Tom playing ‘green’ house on his keyboard; or scanning the FM dial for pirate stations on a Friday night: for a couple of years all of this seemed to be accompanied by the same chords, jacking tracks and 303 squelches.

The mix below recalls the sound of those times. It starts with clubbier tracks and piano house, then a bit of “euphoric house” for Sean (pretty sure only he uses that term…). Next there are a few moodier tracks, including Chubb Rock’s hip house soundtrack to an early anti-Ecstasy campaign (“But he’s our friend..”). Corporation of One and Swan Lake opened my ears to fact that you could sample things other than old funk records (Queen and The Thompson Twins were their sources), while Together had a hit sampling Obi Wan Kenobi. Todd Terry makes the hip hop connection as Royal House, bringing some classic samples, including Jimmy Castor and Atmosfear, then reappears as Swan Lake. Next, Humanoid provides a bridge to more techno. Eon uses the darker sci-fi voices of the Guildsmen and Baron Harkonnen rather than old Ben, before the Scientist steals the intro from the satanic J.B.’s incarnation (heard here) to end the mix.

  1. You’re Gonna Miss Me – Turntable Orchestra
  2. Rich In Paradise – FPI Project
  3. Everybody All Over the World – FPI Project
  4. Move Your Body (Elevation) – Xpansions
  5. Too Blind To See It (Hurley’s House Dub) – Kym Sims
  6. Alright (Club Mix) – Urban Soul
  7. Ya Bad Chubbs (Crib Mix) – Chubb Rock
  8. The Real Life – Corporation Of One
  9. Neuromatrix – Neutron 9000
  10. Hardcore Uproar – Together
  11. Hardcore Uproar (Dub mix) – Together
  12. Yeah Buddy – Royal House
  13. House Nation – House Master Boyz & The Rude Boy of House
  14. In The Name of Love – Swan Lake
  15. Humanoid – Stakker
  16. Spice – Eon
  17. The Exorcist – The Scientist

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Eclectic Company

•12/31/2016 • 1 Comment

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Back in the 80’s it was common for a DJ to play a variety of music styles in one night, slipping house in with hip hop, rare groove and synth tracks of various kinds. Things became more siloed in the 90’s as dedicated funk/jazz, techno and hip hop nights sprung up, along with umpteen sub-genres of house music. But eclecticism made a come back with self-proclaimed champions like James Lavelle, crate diggers unearthing gems in all manner of obscure rock records and, more recently, the rise of mash-ups from groups like 2manyDJs.

At its best, playing across the board takes a lot of skill and produces interesting juxtapositions that are great to hear and fun to dance to – think DJ Harvey dropping Crosby, Stills and Nash’s Dark Star at sunrise, Neil playing the NBC Nightly News Theme at Back on The Streets, and the hilarious Mark Moore spinning Rupert The Bear at the Mud Club. At its worse, it’s just a random collection of CDs played by someone who isn’t actually a DJ (so often the case in various ‘chill out rooms’ in the 90’s).

Perhaps my favorite eclectic night was upstairs at Apple Crumble, Mr George and (Don’t Hold Back, Because It Feels Good To) Ed’s night at Herbal. They played everything from the Idjut Boys to Talk Talk and latinized Deep Purple, Lucy Loose had her finger on the trigger, Saul performed auto-erotically on the dance floor, and Miss Stinks once led me through the women’s toilets in a conga line.

The mix below tries to captures the eclecticism of such nights, including sources from Baloo to the Ballistic Brothers. It was fun to put together – if a bit challenging to mix Clyde Stubblefield over the top of The Who! Some of the tracks will be familiar; some won’t. But many evoke memories for me: Fashion played over and over on a C90 as a kid in Paris, Pink Panther movies at The Odeon Westbourne Grove, Radio Nova in Paris years later, K-creative and Ollie’s Pushmipullyu at the Orange, and years trying to track down that loop from De La Soul’s Roller Skating Jam Named Saturdays (heard here).

  1. Intro – MC Solar
  2. Manteca (Funky Lowlives remix) – Dizzy Gillespie
  3. Wack Wack – Tim “Love” Lee
  4. Breakin’ – The P.T.A.
  5. Untitled – Coldcut
  6. Funky Drummer (Bonus Beats) – James Brown
  7. Eminence Front – The Who
  8. Return of the Pink Panther – Henry Mancini
  9. Superkato – Sinclair
  10. Fashion – David Bowie
  11. Heavy Vibes – Vince Montana Sextet
  12. To Be Free (Brother John) – K-Creative
  13. Spanish Grease (Dorfmeister Con Madrid de los Austrias Muga Reserva Remix) – Willie Bobo
  14. Good Vibes, Good Night – Ballistic Brothers vs Eccentric Afros
  15. Evil Vibrations – The Mighty Ryeders

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the-control-panel-of-vostokThe second mix is one I’ve posted before. Almost as eclectic, it’s tied together by a theme rather than a genre. Here the challenge was to mix together only records about space – a constraint that was fun to work with and made for some interesting choices: a lot of Mars references inevitably, the soundtrack to Erik von Daniken’s Chariots of The Gods, Mr Fingers underneath Gil Scott Heron, Cambridge’s own Joe 2000 in the form of RPM, among a mix of disco, techno, Moog madness, trip hop, funk, and house. Space Funk always reminds me of El Grito at Tunizzia, Space Face was one Ald and I listened to a bunch on a cassette taped off a London pirate radio station back in the day, while Outa-space I first heard amid the punk and robots at RV’s place in Corona Road.

  1. Intro
  2. 2000 – RPM
  3. Kosmos (Lynch Mob Bonus beats) – Paul Weller
  4. The Planet Plan – UFO
  5. Stars and Rockets – Peter Thomas
  6. E.V.A.- Jean Jacques Perrey
  7. Deep Base Nine – Atmosfear versus Idjut Boys
  8. Finding ALH84001 (Ashley Beedle Live on Mars Remix)- Outside
  9. Dancing In Outer Space (MAW Lunar Beats remix)- Atmosfear
  10. Space Face – Sub Sub
  11. Reach Up To Mars – Earth People
  12. Life On Mars – Dexter Wansel
  13. Reach Up To Mars – Earth People
  14. Space Shuttle (Deep Club Dub) – Gil Scott Heron
  15. Clear Space – Sudden Impact
  16. Space Funk – Manzel
  17. Galaxy – War
  18. Outa-space – Billy Preston

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