Well, that statement didn’t date too well! The curious response given to The Orb’s Alex Paterson when he tried to sign Larry Heard’s publishing in the mid-1980s…

As I might occasionally mention on this blog, I’m utterly intrigued by the history of house music. This is most particularly because there’s a lot of it, but very little of it has been recorded properly. Even now in the digital age, this remains a problem which needs fixing sooner rather than later.

The earlier back you go, the less information you’ll find. Which is why next to nothing is known about the really early days of house music – I’m talking around 1986 and further back. I know that Jazzy M started the first house music radio show in Europe that year, but not a great deal else.

And part of the reason, from what I’ve learnt, was many people didn’t believe it would last. When house music first came along, it was scorned by many musicians who saw no merit in it. The use of synthesisers and drum machines meant it wasn’t “real” music, in their eyes. And initially, there was a body of opinion which said this was just a fad.

This was something that The Orb’s Alex Paterson found out in either 1986 or 1987 – I haven’t been able to establish exactly when. Whilst he was A&R at E.G. Records in London, he wanted to sign Larry Heard’s publishing. Paterson loved the music Heard was putting out in this period, in particular his work as Fingers Inc with Robert Owens.

Others weren’t so keen. According to an interview with 909 Originals back in 2018, he recalled “When I was in charge of A&R at E.G. Records I tried to sign Larry Heard’s publishing, only to be told that this house music craze would blow out in a year!”.

I wonder whether the person who said that is feeling stupid yet…

So how DID house music come to the UK? Jazzy M – who was there when it happened – is due to give his valuable insight into the subject later this month for Lenny Fontana’s True House Stories…

There are few things more likely to provoke disagreements, heated debates and fall-outs than dance music history. When you have a bunch of mostly men who have widely differing views over the past and very little written down from the time in question, this is hardly surprising.

This blog has previously spoken a little about how the Belleville Three story is a myth. In a nutshell, the claim was made by journalist Neil Rushton to sell this new music from Detroit to the British. Saunderson, Atkins and May were portrayed as three poor black men who’d made this revolutionary new music. They weren’t quite as poor as the story made out…

I’ve also tried to dig into the story given by Danny Rampling over the holiday to Ibiza he went on with some friends in 1987 – but so far, this one checks out. However, there are a few other people who also had a role in house music coming to the UK, who are hardly ever mentioned.

One of those is Michael Schiniou, better known as Jazzy M. And he’s decided he wants his say. He’s going to be interviewed by Lenny Fontana’s True House Stories – a brilliant series once you cast aside the series’ name’s similarly to a programme hosted by Piers Morgan.

I know that he started playing house music in 1985 in a segment for his show on LWR Radio. I also know he did the first ever radio show in the whole of Europe with just house music on it from 1986 – and it’s highly possible he was one of the first in the whole world too. And finally, I know he dabbled in some productions and remixes over the years.

But that’s about the extent of my knowledge. So on the evening of September 29th, I’m going to try and make space in the busy schedule to listen to this. It could be very interesting indeed to hear what he has to say…

A rare piece of early house history! Shoom flyer from March 1988 hits eBay with the price already in three figures – and it’s all for a very good cause…

Regular readers will no doubt know by now that this blog loves a bit of history. Not a lot of the stuff from the early days of the dance music scene has survived, and stories of highly questionable accuracy linger to this day – the myth of the Belleville Three being one, for example.

This means flyers and other memorabilia can be worth a lot of money. I recently wrote about how a Shoom fanzine from 1988 sold for £450 on eBay – and now there’s a flyer up there for an event which took place on March 12th in the same year.

At the time of writing this article, bidding for the item – which contains a curious piece of text, “no ruffians” – is at £235, and the online auction isn’t due to end until this coming Sunday. Whilst I have no estimate this time, the highest price a flyer from this era got to was £1200 – and that was for the first Hedonism event which took place around the same time.

The proceeds this time are going to a man who aspires to get back into DJing. He’s having a bit of a hard time at the moment – and music would really help him out. Even as someone who’s only done a tiny amount of DJing in the past, I can understand its cathartic effects on the brain.

If you want the flyer, go make an offer. Don’t want it or funds not exactly flush at present? Go and send him some money here…

Think slagging off the dance music press is a new thing? Nope – the tradition has been going strong for at least 20 years now…

There are people out there – and if you don’t know one, you probably are one yourself – who think everything was better in the past. You know the sort. They’d have you believe not a single decent dance track has been released since 2000, or that life was better in the days you could leave your front door open at night.

And they’ll no doubt tell you that dance music journalism in the past was brilliant and the stuff today isn’t a patch on it. And whilst I agree that what consists of journalism in dance music today is mostly terrible, the idea there was some kind of golden age is a fantasy. It might have been less bad, but that doesn’t mean it’s good.

Journalists suffer typically from having to retain a certain closeness to their subjects, because they need to be able to talk to them in the future. Dance music, being still run by quite a small community, suffers from this problem more than others – hence why dance music magazines almost venerate those they write about.

Of course, complaints about this aren’t new. Here’s one from the letters page – remember those? – from Muzik Magazine.

This letter was published in the May 2001 issue. I’m not exactly a pioneer…

As Michael K Williams is tragically found dead at the age of 54, did you know about his roots in the world of 1990s house music?

I was saddened to hear last night of the death of Michael Kenneth Williams, who has passed away at the age of 54. No one knows why – all we know is that his nephew went to his house in Brooklyn and that he’d already died. Condolences go out to his family and friends at this terrible time.

Last year, a video did the rounds of Williams dancing to house music, which seemed to surprise some people. It shouldn’t – in the early 90s, he was homeless and looking for work. He found it as a background dancer for a certain Kym Sims, who was touring to promote her 1991 hit “Too Blind To See It”.

The two remained in touch over the following 30 years. Infact, Sims revealed that her last message from him was only sent a week ago. He said he was in the process of writing a book, and he also touchingly said “Thank you for giving a confused young man his shot at pursuing his dreams”.

He also did the choreography for “100% Pure Love”, the Basement Boys produced single of Crystal Waters in 1994. You’d be surprised at how many people who are famous today have some kind of roots in 90s house music…

Derrick May claims he was six months into negotiations to sign with ZTT in 1991 – but why did the deal fall apart? The truth is out there, somewhere…

One of the questions that has been asked of Derrick May over the years is why did he stop producing music in the early 1990s. Records like “Strings Of Life”, “The Dance” and so on came out frequently between 1987 and 1990, but very little new material appeared after that. The same story could be seen on the remix front – the last remixes credited to Derrick May were his reworks of “Sueño Latino” by the band of the same name.

Back in the early 1990s, the dance music press was full of rumours of new material by Derrick May being imminent. It never actually materialised, for reasons that will become clear later, but it’s true to say there was a period in the 90s when big labels were very interested in signing May.

In 1991, he was contacted by Trevor Horn, the man who ran ZTT Records – they’re the label which gave a head start to Frankie Goes To Hollywood, to name but one. The story goes that Horn asked him to remix some songs by a then unknown artist called Seal. May listened to the records and turned down the offer, saying he thought the songs were excellent in their existing form.

This wasn’t the response Horn wanted, but May shot back with another proposal. He wanted to create a band, with Juan Atkins and Kevin Saunderson also being involved. Some six months were then spent putting the band together and getting contracts and legals sorted out.

Just days before the final contracts were due to be signed, Horn asked to see May in his office – where he asked him, in the event of the band having a really big hit, would he be prepared to appear on a British TV show called Top Of The Pops.

Having spent some time in the UK previously, May was familiar with the show and didn’t rate it, so he said no. Horn was somewhat surprised by this response. The show did well in the UK and its broadcast on a Thursday evening often helped increase sales on Saturday – the busiest day of the week for selling music back in the 90s.

Two days later, May’s manager received a phone call confirming the deal was off. Or so goes the official story. And for once, I strongly suspect this tale is true – but one crucial detail has always been omitted.

You see, there’s another reason which we now know – Derrick May cannot play the piano. Not one single note. Suddenly, this story he gave to Red Bull back in 2006 can be seen through new eyes…

Was Lee “Scratch” Perry a pioneer of house music? This blog certainly thinks so, as the self-proclaimed inventor of dub music dies at the age of 85

When you think of the pioneers of house music, names like Frankie Knuckles, Larry Levan, Ron Hardy and such come to mind pretty quickly. Allow me to suggest another name – Lee “Scratch” Perry, who has died at the age of 85.

I’m the first to admit that Perry did not produce a house record in his lifetime. He was firmly a reggae and dub man. But let’s have a look at some of what he did during his life, and then try and tell me he wasn’t indirectly responsible for house music becoming what it is today.

Back in the 1970s, the idea of remixing a recording was largely considered absurd by the powers that be. They just didn’t understand why alternative versions of records needed to even exist. Lee “Scratch” Perry thought otherwise. So he started doing his own, and these were referred to as dub music.

The idea was to take an existing recording and reshape it, taking most or all of the vocals out and putting on emphasis on melody, rhythm, basslines and the drums. He wasn’t the first in the world to come up with this idea – Tom Moulton had started remixing records in the late 1960s, but he used notably different tactics.

In contrast, Perry also effectively invented a new genre in its own right. As I said earlier, dub was “taking most or all of the vocals out and putting on emphasis on melody, rhythm, basslines and the drums”. Isn’t that what the likes of Masters At Work and Todd Edwards were doing with their dubs in the 1990s, albeit using new technological advances to do so?

Perry showed the world that you don’t need to be able to sing along to every record. And frankly, house music owes him a grand debt – because who knows how the genre would look today if it wasn’t for pioneers like Scratch doing what they did before even disco music – house’s most direct descendant – was a thing.

Sleep well, Mr Perry. You’ve done more for the world of music than most…

Even the biggest names get rejected sometimes! The story of how David Morales was paid a five-figure sum to remix Simply Red in 1991 – which mysteriously never got an official release

The word “no” is one you must quickly get accustomed to if you’re in the world of music. The same is true in house music, as I learnt more or less from the start. No, you can’t release your track through our label. No, I don’t want to collaborate with you. And no, we don’t like the remix we asked you to do of our track either.

I ended up doing a lot of remixes in my time and was mercifully told “yes” more than “no”.  Disco Balls Records, for example, never turned down a single remix which I submitted to them. And in five years, my record with dub mixes remained at 100% – not a single one of them was ever rejected by the labels, despite me being told by quite a famous name in the scene in 2017 that “no one listens to dubs anymore”.

Initially, it used to annoy me when my remixes were turned down. Then I soon learnt that even David Morales had the same experience. Back in 1991, Simply Red released a song called “Something Got Me Started”. It came with remixes by Perfecto – an early alias of Paul Oakenfold and Steve Osborne – Steve “Silk” Hurley and E-Smoove. My personal favourite to this day remains the E-Smoove Late Night Mix – but did you know David Morales also remixed it?

He did four remixes of the song, and they were never given an official release. Infact, the only place they were released at the time was on a test pressing. I’ve always found this decision utterly baffling – take one look at David Morales page on Discogs and you’ll immediately spot he was in enormous demand for remixes in this period. EastWest Records would have paid a five-figure sum for these remixes – yet they never got a commercial release.

If you want a copy of this, they come up occasionally on Discogs. At the time of writing this post, one copy is currently available from a seller based in the USA. The selling price? $350, or £275 in British money. And the site’s statistics reveal the lowest price paid on the marketplace for this release was £99 and the highest £292.

Rumours over the years alleged that Mick Hucknall of Simply Red personally blocked their release, although this has never been confirmed. Whatever the truth, I learnt to be a lot more comfortable with rejection when I discovered it even happens to the biggest of names…