The list below first appeared on The Opinionated Diner in January, 2006, and appears here as an archive, pretty much unedited, aside from a mistake or two corrected.
No Tricks in '86
This started life, as per my earlier post, as an attempt to do a personal top 100 12” singles of all time.
Actually it really started life as my top 100 albums of all time, inspired by this rather good list, full of the sorts of things lists usually miss. The Q & Mojos of the world are always so scarily, nay, drearily, predicable in their lists…. which we all devour anyway: Velvet Underground, Beatles, Iggy, Love, Exile on Main Street, Radiohead, token Black artists like Aretha (well, maybe not in Q, a magazine that once described Gregory Isaacs as a “Dennis Brown sound-alike”) and Pet Sounds at number one. But none of that disco.
I have trouble with any list that excludes Another Side by Fingers Inc.
And the likes of Rolling Stone and Spin are simply dull, filling such lists with a litany of the seriously mediocre offerings that mainstream USA regards as worthy. The stuff that masquerades as real rawk…No thank you. Some critic in The New York Times recently negatively compared Coldplay to the likes of The Police and Nirvana (Teen Spirit was a classic single but Nirvana was really all about mainstream America discovering what the rest of the planet had known for a decade...they were the ultimate and inevitable corporatisation of the punk dream, and more to the point, they gave the world the odious Foo Fighters, another band the American media regards as worthy) and decried the lack of “worthy” “bands” in 2006. Oh dear…
And I no longer understand the use of “bands”. The media still loves the term but contemporary musical forms moved beyond the simplistic nature of that straightjacket years ago. Don’t get me wrong, I love a great noisy trio or quartet. There is a beauty in the chaos of the electric rock band that is not repeated anywhere else, but the traditional band is simply such a small part of the language of pop music now that its time to get over it, it really is.
I’m still scouting around the edges of that album list and I guess I’ll get there eventually but the twelve inch single is as important in my life musically as the album, probably more so truth be known, thus it makes more sense for me to start there. The 12” vinyl single, born in New York City in the mid seventies out of demand and necessity from the clubs, and delivered by the seminal independent black and disco labels of the era, is perhaps the greatest musical medium of the past thirty years.
The resounding and crucial influence of the first generation of Jamaican dub remixes and the likes of King Tubby edged the medium to the next level.It opened doors and expanded the contemporary musical artform as nothing else did.
The CD was simply a delivery package, which as often as not removed the need to be concise, but the 12” did, and still does, allow the musician, the producer, or the remixer, a new vista with no boundaries beyond the self imposed. The intended end use generally imposes a conciseness that the CD lacks. And an audio depth and warmth that the CD can still only hint at.
I have to wonder what a mind like Duke Ellington would’ve done with modern recording techniques and a twelve inch format. The 12” single, when utilised to advantage is so much more than a song on a bigger bit of vinyl for marketing purposes. Whole genres exist primarily on 12” single and countless artists and producers use the medium almost exclusively for their work. Others, such as David Morales and Frankie Knuckles, have made serious albums which are averagely pleasant, or redundantly dull, but they, as remixers, verge on the genius when they design for the twelve inch vinyl single.
For me, the impossibility of listing my 100 greatest 12” singles was immediately obvious as they rolled off the keyboard and I decided to modify the brief to 100 singles that I couldn’t live without, and even that didn’t work.
I applied a few rules: Firstly, the record had to be a vinyl single I owned, secondly it should not be newer than 2000, which meant it had to exist within a 25 year span, and had to have staying power beyond the rush of a great new record; thirdly I was going to try to limit myself to one single per artist. This last rule was broken several times and there are also times when I decided, as with Todd Terry, simply to put in a representative record to cover a whole bunch that I really couldn’t do without. Actually all the rules were broken except the first. And now I sit here thinking of records I’ve missed and there are so damn many.
I’m quite proud to have been responsible for the first 12” single released in NZ; the first 12” remix released by an NZ artist; and the first 12” house track written and released in NZ. The first two are in this list but the last is, thankfully, not.
Oh, and there are really 119 records in this list….so, in rough alphabetical order (and the listed label herein is the one on my copy so please, no trainspotter-ish “it came out on….”)…and no links or scans..its a labour of love not stupidity..
- 2 Puerto Ricans, A Black Man and a Dominican- Do It Properly (Fierce)…the original bootleg house mash up single, from the late David Cole, Robert Clivillies, David Morales and Chep Nunez. I think the kitchen sink is in here. Everything else is. Playing this out last year got a dozen or so frenzied “what the hell is this” questions. This later got an “official’ release on London & Cooltempo with quite a bit removed or watered down, so it’s this boot you need..
- 23 Skidoo
- Coup (Illuminated)…My copy of this survived falling under a bus in Willsden in 1984 which made me love it even more. The tyre marks are on the sleeve. The supremely great UK punk-funk record, oft sampled, and for me a bridging record between where I was in 78 and where I was in 85.
- 33 1/3 Queen – Searchin’ (Nu Groove) ..just an incredibly raw, very simple rhythm based around a Guy Called Gerald track and produced by the guys better known as the Basement Boys. This record is also a catchall for a couple of other productions by the Baltimore crew, specifically Tonight as Those Guys, and their killer 1987 cover of Rose Royce’s Love Don’t Live, under their own name.
- 69 – My Machines (Planet E)..see, more the cheating...this record, which is as punk a record as Anarchy In The UK, represents the swathe of extraordinary early Carl Craig productions that I’d find it hard to live without. There are so many and it’s silly to try, so why bother. This record, to me, is the fusion of everything that is black music from Detroit over the past fifty years.
- Aleem – Get Loose (Nia)…The great Leroy Burgess has made so many spine tingling disco, soul and funk records in his time but this mid eighties electro anthem captures his essence so well. Primitive and raw electronic funk that sounds as good now as it did twenty years ago.
- Alexander O’Neal
– All True Man (Frankie Knuckles remixes)..Alexander had at least half a dozen great 12”s and I really couldn’t figure out which I wanted to include here. So I went for this because All True Man, in its Big House mix or the associated dub stretches out and displays all that was so good about the great soul man. It teases out his voice in such a throbbing way, bringing out the (not so subtlely) implied sexuality with the keyboard.
- Barbara Mason - Another Man (Streetwave)…Morgan Khan’s Streetwave setup exposed me to all sorts of records I might otherwise have missed in the mid eighties, and not least is this funny tale of cross-dressing and love lost, over a shimmering urban groove. It also references some of the Philly soulstress’ earlier classics.
- Barry White – Playing Your Game (20th Century)…yes I know it’s not strictly a twelve inch but the album version, in all its glory, gets a new life with the width of the grooves found on the 12” German issue I have. Barry’s finest moment, although I have a hell of a soft spot for the Roger Sanchez mix of The Icon is Love.
- Benji Candelario And Arnold Jarvis – Learn To Give (Hysteria) ..just sneaks in (came out in 2000) and plays to the old garage head in me. It was my idea to have this tune as the last track on the second Nice’n’Urlich album but Peter and I had to fade it down and lost a fair bit from the twelve inch, to fit the CD. We never told Eric Kupper, who owns it. A lovely warm rolling track from one of the greatest voices in house music.
- Black Riot - A Day In The Life (4th Floor)..another coverall record. This could just as easily have been Dreams of Santa Anna, Can You Party, Back to The Beat, I’ll House You, Weekend, or a dozen other concise slabs of rough cut’n’paste genius produced by Todd Terry in his “Todd is God” era between 88 and 92, when I bought everything he did. Sadly virtually everything he’s done since is complete crap, but for a period the crudely drawn line between hip hop and house was never as happily undefined.
- Bobby Konders
- The Poem (Nu Groove)...for the flute and the bassline…no-one has done The Poem better though god knows many have tried. I watched in bemusement a year or so ago as new, beautifully pressed, copies of this sat in the sale bin at Conch untouched by those supposedly in the know. Both Cian and I scratched our heads with the irony of it all. Dear oh dear - a record to make you weep with joy.
- BT – Moment Of Truth (Deep Dish)..cheating again, but I won’t make any excuses. Carl Craig’s mixes are the ones here of course. BT is the man who later became Brian Transeau and made some of the more heinous records of the mid to late nineties, but for a brief moment with this and his other Deep Dish single, also mixed by Carl….
- Carl Craig – Science Fiction (Kenny Larkin mix) (Blanco Y Negro)…off the mighty album, Landcrusing, perhaps the greatest techno album ever but the burning Kenny Larkin remix, on the B side of the twelve, takes it to another dimension altogether. Damn, I love this record so much….
- Cash Money & Marvelous - The Mighty Hard Rocker (Graham Park mix) (Sleeping Bag)…just to upset the purists, this UK only 12” was remixed, almost in the cheesy style so in vogue in Britain at the time, but not quite, by the Hacienda’s resident. In 2006 it would probably be classed more as a re-edit but it’s nicely twisted and stretched into something quite cool. And its fun.
- Cesaria Evora – Angola (lusafrica)..yep, it came out after 2000 so it doesn’t count. Yes it does because its such an amazing record and I can’t find it in me to exclude it..
- Chez Damier – Close (Balance)..I’m not sure how many different copies of this I have. What I do know is that I find it hard to choose between the Derrick Carter mix which takes me on a wild tangled trip somewhere, and the completely different, sensual, Damier original. A Chicago classic for the ages.
- Code 718 - Equinox (Strictly Rhythm)…Danny Tenaglia has made quite a number of other killers in his time, including his mini epics on Tribal, but this is the one for me. Put the headphones on and let the piano slide over you. Brings out the closet hippy in me I guess.
- Common Sense – I Used To Love H.E.R. (Relativity)…a potted, rather despondent, history of hip hop from the man who would become Common, told as a love lost story. An addictive bridge between old school, circa 88, hip hop and where we are now..
- Dajae - Is It all Over My Face (Cajual)…On Curtis Jones’ seminal gnarly Chi-funk label, one a of a batch of truly great singles by Dajae, produced by Cajmere, that started with Brighter Days, which could easily sit here instead, if it wasn’t for the remixes of Face which are so damn good. Nice album too, not too wailing diva-ish
- Dave Clarke – Red 1 (Bush)..at a pinch it could be Red 2 instead, but one comes before two, so... Big, dramatic, techy anthems from the heart…
- Digital Underground - Packet Man (CJ Macintosh mix) (Tommy Boy)…I really like the original of this but CJ Macintosh had the knack of making records roll and smile and his mix is a perfect example of that.
- Dinosaur L - Go Bang (Sleeping Bag)..I think this was the first release on Arthur Russell’s groundbreaking label and the remix, from Francois Kevorkian, is inspired. Todd Terry deconstructed it and turned it around, as only he could, a couple of years later, as Bango (to the Batmobile Lets Go) and gave it new life, but the FK mix is still the one.
- Disco Evangelists - De Niro (Black Sunshine)..an absolutely exhausting record which from time to time may be my favourite 12 inch record of all time. For some reason I’ve always thought the inspiration for this may be the helicopters at the beginning of Apocalypse Now, although what that has to be with Bobby de Niro I have no clue. Certainly Ashley Beedle and David Holmes have made other great records but this almost gothic gem is a career peak for both
- Double Exposure - Ten Percent (Walter Gibbons mix) (Salsoul)..allegedly the first commercially released 12 inch single back in 1975, so it rates inclusion simply for that. But not just that. Gibbons’ swirling introduction, stretching into the little stabs of guitar and then the explosion into the vocal must’ve sounded so damn revolutionary in its day. The reason why the 12” single was invented, all nine minutes and forty three seconds of it
- Doug Lazy – Let It Roll (Grove Street)..I lost my copy of this on the original label. It was stolen from my car and I was gutted. A copy on Atlantic was all I had and it wasn’t enough. I finally found a copy for some silly money on GEMM but you have to do what you have to do…just don’t tell my wife. I like hip house…..
- D-Train - You’re the One For Me (FK mixes) (Prelude)..it was the young Francois K, at Prelude Records and elsewhere who added the dub, inspired by what he was hearing from Jamaica, to the dub mix. His mixes, along with Larry Levan, Shep Pettibone and Jellybean Benitez, in the early to mid eighties changed the preconception of what could be achieved on the b side of a single. And achieve they did, as the flip of this illustrates
- Dunn Pearson – Groove on Down (Shrylden)…I found this in a junk shop in Bristol many years ago and loved it big time immediately. It wasn’t until last year I found out exactly how rare and sought after it is on the original twelve. Lucky indeed. One of my all time favourites, it swirls and dances around the strings and the female vocal hook never quite going anywhere, not that it matters one iota.
- E Dancer – Pump the Move (Kenny Larkin Mix) (KMS)..the beginning of this is like falling shards of glass until the warmth of the keyboard line lifts it somewhere else altogether. A Latin disco record made with machines. I love Kevin Saunderson’s work so much and I’ve been privileged enough to tell him a couple of times(although I don’t know if I made sense either time…)..a catchall for all those Reese records too (and I'm cheating as it's only on the E Dancer album, but it should've been a 12".
- Echo & The Bunnymen - The Killing Moon (Korova)..if any record defines epic, it’s the 12” extended take of this. One of the best British pop records of the eighties and a record the illustrates perfectly the pop possibilities of the 12”
- EPMD - So What cha Saying (UK Mix) (Sleeping Bag)…beautifully sparse with that lovely slippery back and forth from EP and MD and a surge into the chorus that defines the hip hop of the “golden age”. I love the Luther pastiche bit too.
- Eric B & Rakim – Eric B is President (Zakia)….it sounded like it came from another dimension the first time I heard it and it still does, Eric Barrier mutating The Funky President and Rakim sounding other worldly drenched in echo. Hip hop would never be the same again.
- Fallout – The Morning After (Azuli)..such a classic deep, almost otherworldly record and the first release on Azuli in its UK form. Shivering-ly beautiful. Even more so when you consider that it was co-created by the techno sledgehammer himself, Lenny D
- Fingers Inc – Never No More Lonely (Trax)..I still have a problem figuring out how these early Fingers Inc records were made on cassettes, and, yet still, in 2006 sound better than half the records made today. Robert Owens voice dropping in at thirty seconds is one the most sensual moments in soul or whatever this is. It continues to build until at about 4 minutes he sighs “lets begin” and that devastating piano drops in…..this really is another cover-all record for virtually everything these guys did before 1990 (and beyond to be honest)
- Francois K – The FK EP (Wave)… a record that, to me, really sums what was so wonderful about the fusion and clash of cultures that was New York and East Coast dance music in the early to mid nineties before it lost its way for a few years.
- Gallifre – Don’t Walk Out On Love (Frankie Knuckles mix) (Gherkin)…so moody, so subtle. I have two records by this artist in the list, both produced by Larry Heard but under different names, and this is also about the Knuckles remix. Is it house, is it jazz, is it garage, is it soul, who cares….
- George Clinton – Do Fries Go with That Shake (Capitol)…Clinton solo was more about his albums but this single, on twelve inch was extended right out and ground its way across the dancefloor via backwards loops and a myriad of effects. And the flip is just sick…
- Giorgio Moroder – The Chase (Casablanca)..a soundscape from that movie, Midnight Express, about the idiot who found himself in a Turkish jail for trying to smuggle hashish. The single, one sided and thirteen minutes long, is a movie in itself.
- Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five - Scorpio (Sugarhill)..a bubbling electro masterpiece. Radical in 1982, radical in 2006.
- Green Velvet – The Preacherman (Relief)…I fell in love with Cajual’s sister label, Relief, and own every last single on it I think. Noisy, fucked up, walls of sound that took the spirit of Chicago ‘86 to new levels. The problem I had was that I could never play them anywhere apart from in the solo privacy of my home or office. Anyone else I exposed to this irreverent noise thought I was mad. This tune was the first on the label, nice green vinyl too
- Gregory Isaacs – Rumours (Greensleeves)…I’m a sucker for the Gussie Clarke digital, almost metallic, productions that revitalised Jamaican music for a period in the mid to late eighties, and when they are applied to one of my favourite singers I’m slayed…..
- Gwen Guthrie – Hopscotch (Larry Levan mix)….I’ve always loved the bit towards the end where Gwen goes “ahh hopscotch y’all”. The Levan mixes of the late, and exceedingly great Guthrie, are the holy grail of mid eighties dub influenced funk, with productions by Sly & Robbie at their peak and rubber remixes that sound better every year
- Hardfloor - Acperience (Harthouse)..I guess this is the result of too many nights in The Box. I don’t mind at all….
- Hashim-Al Naafiysh (Cutting)…the future began here, back in 1983. The comments I made about Scorpio above apply here, just more so. On to my fifth copy….
- Houseparty – Dangerous Love (Southside)…I love this record. New Zealand’s only contribution to the NY / Jersey garage sound was a complete accident. I doubt if Phil Fuemana or any of the rest of his family had any knowledge of the sound or the lineage when they made this in 1990. And it sold virtually not a copy although I was given dozen or so and I’ve handed a few out to appreciative touring DJs and it’s appeared in a few playlists. A true rare groove….
- Ian Pooley – Chord Memory (Force Inc)..Pooley used to be really quite good many years ago as this proves, before the noodles ate his muse. Like another great track on the label at the time, Mike Inc’s New Jack Hustler, it came on a picture disc, which, of course, was a complete pain in the arse, as you could never see the grooves in the dark. A monstrous technoid anthem, with just a hint of pop.
- Indian Ocean – Schoolbell / Tree House (Sleeping Bag) the great Arthur Russell again and probably his finest moment. As Woebot says so well: Its hook so slight yet so intoxicating. Mixed to perfection by Walter Gibbons
- Inner City – What you Gonna Do With My Lovin’ (David Morales & Frankie Knuckles remix) (Virgin)…piano, Paris Grey, strings, def mix, what else….
- Inner City - Ahnonghay (6 x 6)…An intoxicating mindfucker from Kevin Saunderson that is a long way from what we normally assume Inner City sound like. Comes with mixes from Carl Craig and Dave Clarke plus the original. If I could only have one record for the rest of my life this would have to be it
- Intruders – I’ll Always Love My Mama (Tom Moulton mix)(Philadelphia International) …this wends and winds its way exquisitely through about four minute of untouchable orchestral majesty before the vocal hits. If there was ever any question as to why Gamble and Huff are two of the greatest producers of all time listen to the way the vocal is recorded on this, dropping in and out of itself and bouncing off the strings. Unbelievable.
- Jah Wobble, Jaki Liebezeit & Holger Czukay - How Much Are They (Island)…as Lydon turned into a self parody post 1980 PIL, apart from the majesty of Rise (and sadly remains there), his former bass player, John Wardle teamed up with a couple of Teutonic legends to realise the potential of Metal Box. A beautifully disorganised bit of black vinyl. It used to be a massive club record about 83 and pretty much crossed every boundary.
- James Ingram - Ya Mo Be There (Jellybean mixes) (Qwest)…whooo, it gives me warm fuzzies even thinking about it. Although this was produced by Quincy Jones (its on his label), the essence of this amazing single is the euphoric vocal interaction between Ingram and Michael McDonald and Jellybean Benitez’s elastic understated mix. And then you flip it for the dub which is even better….
- Jamie Principal & Frankie Knuckles– Your Love (Trax). So bloody simple, but the essence of everything that house was and is, is contained in the sheer, uncompromised beauty of this record from 1984 or so. They did it again the same year with Cold World and then Jamie, with a Steve Hurley production, took Eddie Kendrick’s already seminal Date with the Rain in 1990 and made it his own. In between of course he remade his own Baby Wants To Ride, another record that defies criticism. A true great…
- Jus Friends- As One (Massive B)..produced by Bobby Konders but it’s the vocal on this which makes it so damn special, and the way its entwined in the remix on side two of the single. The singer, of course, is the untouchable Robert Owens and this to me epitomises what deep soulful house music should sound like. International Deejay Gigolo did a Konders retrospective a few years back but they used the wrong mix…
- Karen Pollack – You Can’t Touch Me (Murk mix) (Emotive)…grinding dark soulful house as only the Murk guys could do. For three years or so they were the shit, big greasy throbbing basslines and filthy keys until it all went pear shaped (actually they realised the money was in the crap and rolled over). Just once I’d like to know if they could still pull it off again.
- Kerri Chandler – Glory to God (Subwoofer) ..this is actually on the Ionosphere EP from about 1994, a standout track on a standout record in a standout career which still rolls on in 2006. Big intense electrified southern church gospel, dramatically edited and deftly mixed by a true musical wunderkind.
- Kerri Chandler and Arnold Jarvis - Inspiration (Freetown)..perhaps the most beautiful tune in contemporary dance. Arnold Jarvis’ delicate but powerful gospel bred chocolate voice is layered over the subtly of Chandler’s blue keys and symbol crashes before it breaks. I read somewhere that this record could stop wars. I’m with that….
- Klatsch – God Save the Queer (Fresh Fruit)..Giorgio Moroder’s bastard child. Almost clinically soulless at first listen. How wrong can one be….
- Kraftwerk – The Telephone Call (FK & Ron St Germain Mix) (EMI)..I know Tour De France is the obvious and favoured Kervorkian Kraftwerk mix, but I’m kind of over it right now (it will swing back, it’s over-exposure). The simplicity and humour of the original of this tune, coupled with FK’s Prelude sensibility here is what makes it work so incredibly well. That coupled with a taut dub on side two, and the German version as a bonus. Big tune for me about '87.
- Leftfield – Not Forgotten (Hard Hands)…the first few Leftfield singles were the bomb, and more than a few remixes too. Dark, expansively dubby epics, which realised the possibilities of the Jamaican experiments of the previous decades. And then it all went horribly wrong, after, I think, the Lydon thing, and I assume, massive pressure from Sony. Neil Barnes is an old mate of mine and taught me so much…what happened bro?
- Lidell Townsell – Get With You (Mercury) ….”all I wanna do is to be wid You”…produced by Cajmere. The killer mix is the ten minute Riot mix from David Morales and Todd Terry on the B side. Dirty sexually powered garage soul..
- Lil Louis – I Called You (US Epic)…ahh, I loved Lil Louis so much, his singles and the two albums he did for FFRR / Epic, and its hard to choose a single contender as they all rate, but this five track EP on the US label, built around the single that followed French Kiss, covers most bases as it tells a very funny story about love, betrayal and jealousy from track to track with all the right noises.
- Lillo Thomas- I’m In Love (Capitol) …the big electric soul sound that flowered briefly in the mid eighties before it got swamped by the corporate drive for the sure hit, produced some fantastic stuff, when classic r’n’b mashed with the new technology. The early Teddy Riley productions, and records made by the likes of the Calloway Brothers, provided a prototype that people like Pharrell are still following today. And then there was Lillo Thomas, a voice so sweet and silky over machine rhythms. I bet he had no idea of the fanbase he had in distant South Auckland but it was not inconsiderable. It always reminds me of my friend Roseti and that’s no bad thing.
- Lionrock – Lionrock (Most Excellent Recording Co)…To twist a cliché, if James Brown got drunk with Lee Perry they’d have made a record like this. Justin Robertson’s debut, from a time when progressive house had more to do with King Tubby than overblown clichés. I thought I’d lost my copy of this at one time, the original pressing that is, and spent two days frantically searching the house, the roof, office. It was stuck inside my copy of a Congos album which was ironically appropriate.
- LL Cool J – I Can’t Live Without My Radio (Def Jam)..yep, Coolin in Cali and The Booming System are both huge tunes and stand tall in their own right but nothing sounded as radical as this did, on it’s cool as fuck black US Def Jam label, when it first went bang in 1985. There was a Def Jam promo video back then in which Rick Rubin showed the demo video of 15 year old LL doing this live and said it was the most important twenty seconds in hip hop. Word.
- Lola – Wax The Van (Jump Street). Another re-alignment moment in disco’s thirty five year history. Wacky records don’t sound any better than this. From Arthur Russell (again) and Bob Blank and featuring Bob’s wife. A syncopated ode to anal sex. A killer dub too.
- Loleatta Holloway – Runaway (Salsoul)..of course pretty much everyone in clubland these days thinks this is an MAW & India moment, which is sad. The Nuyorican cover is lovely but it doesn’t hold a candle to the original swaying Latin disco anthem. I dig the cheeky roll on the intro and the choppy guitar bits which Danny Krivit nicely emphasised on his edit
- Loose Ends – Hanging on a String (Frankie Knuckles mixes)(Ten) Its all about the Classic Club Reprise here which only ever made it on to a UK promo 12”, so I’m being elitist. Do I care….
- Luther Vandross – The Rush (Morales mixes) (Epic)..Luther is an album artist and really belongs in an album list with a few honourable exceptions, such as this. The Rush, from an early nineties album of mixed quality, was such a great song anyway but David Morales really toyed with and stretched the elements especially on the magnificent dub.
- Main Source – Looking Out My Back Door (Wild Pitch)..courtesy of the Large Professor, double A sided with Watch Roger Do His Thing, and I dig them both. Actually they had a few great singles and a great album. The beauty was in the simplicity, it really was.
- Mantronix – Bassline (Sleeping Bag)..its hard, looking back, to overstate the revolutionary influence Jamaican Kurtis Mantronik had on hip-hop and electronic music in general. His forays into house in recent years might be a tad embarrassing but his first album and the singles, both by him, and those he produced, changed the world. This single, from its raw little synth refrain that holds it together with vibrating metallic loops, and MC Tee’s confidently naïve, almost high school, rap, sounds a little dated now but so what.
- Marvin Gaye – Got To Give It Up (Motown)…not really a twelve inch as such as it came, in its full extended festive 11 minute glory, not the radically cut down version usually found on CDs, as a bonus track on a Marvin live album, taking up one side. I guess, though, that is, in essence, a twelve inch single. Marvin’s finest party track. That he could produce this and the glorious introspection of his greatest album, Here, My Dear, around the same time speaks to his genius
- MC Tee & Lord Tasheem – Gangster Nine (Profile)..after MC Tee left Mantronix the stories went around that he had joined the US Air Force..don’t cha love hype. Then again maybe he did since this seems to be one of only a couple of things he did after walking from Kurtis, but thank god he did it. The B side club mix is the one.
- Metro - Journey Thru The N.Y. Underground (Republic)..not strictly a 12” but a collection of tracks from various Nu Groove 12” singles produced by the Burrell Brothers, and compiled by Dave Lee for his label. Fluid, subtle, house rhythms themed around the NYC subway systems and unrelentingly beautiful.
- MFSB – Love is the Message (Danny Krivit re-edit) (bootleg)..the definitive version, based around the Tom Mouton remix of one of the cornerstone tracks of modern dance. Mr K’s restructuring gave the song far more edge than it had, more funk, less, as it has been described, Theme from Loveboatness and it still works timelessly.
- Michael Watford - Holding On (Atlantic)…this came out on an Atlantic sampler about 1990, Underground Sounds Vol. 1, or something like that, which also featured a killer Kerri Chandler track which has never seen the light of day elsewhere. Holding On, one of the best things Roger Sanchez has done (someone whose production and remixing career started on a massive high but stumbled within a couple of years and has never really recovered), really epitomises deep soulful, almost religious house and Watford is still one of the supreme voices in US black music in recent decades, if only (but not only) for this and his incredible self titled solo album.
- Mike Delgado – The Murder Track (RFP) …this is part of an EP called, appropriately enough The Murder EP. Just very cool mid nineties Latin styled soulful New York house music and I love it…
- Mondee Oliver – Stay Close (Gherkin) it comes in two flavours, with red or yellow labels and the good mixes are spread across both unfortunately. Deep deep deep jazzy soulful, almost-house that leaps and bounds via the massive vocal and the drama of Larry Heard’s co-production and mix.
- Montana Sextet – Who Needs Enemies (With a Friend Like You)(Virgin) …the legendary Vince Montana (and you haven’t heard of him..shame) released this record about 1983. An incredible groove(and sampled everywhere) especially when one considers that the bassline doesn’t drop until thirty seconds before the end. I bought this for 10p in a little record shop in West Hampstead in 1984, the same day I bought the Yello record (for the same price) below. It was a good day…
- Moodymann – In Loving Memory (KDJ)…Kenny Dixon Jnr goes off on some bloody odd tangents at times but he’s a damned genius and I won’t hear otherwise. This record, is such a warm sparkling song that no-one could fail to be moved by it. Moodymann’s records embody the history of black music in America, so much so that they seem to emphasis the stupidity of the petty narrow biases that you encounter against “disco’ or “hip-hop”. It’s all a part of the same living breathing musical tree. KDJ understands….
- New Order – Everything’s Gone Green (Factory Benelux)..still identifiably Joy Division here, but half way to Bizarre Love Triangle
- Nuyorican Soul – The Nervous Track (Nervous)..its odd really, after half a decade of astounding record after record this, in retrospect, almost seems like a signing off moment for these two. There have been moments since…the James Ingram track was very cool as were the first few on their own label, and bits here and there, but nothing has since scaled the heights for the Masters at Work since, as this did. Its almost as if they realised that this record was so big in every way that they were facing an insurmountable task. I saw a Tito Puente doco recently which featured a live track from the fifties which sounded like the bastard father of this.
- Paperclip People - The Floor EP (Open)…you get Floor, C2’s best disco record, even if is more or less a Salsoul retread (that’s cruel and totally unfair), but what a retread; and you get the mighty Steam, a track which is really just a good old fashioned funk workout.
- Paul Rutherford – Get Real (4th & Broadway)…the last person I would’ve pick to release a seminal acid club track was the dancer with the ‘stash from Frankie Goes to Hollywood, the guy posing out the front looking ever so clichéd Oxford Street (Sydney not London) on that famous Tube appearance. But, with more than a little help from ABC’s Martin Fry, who produced this, here it is. I really like the bit about half way through when you can hear the engineer twisting up the 303…a very classy record and one of the few decent UK acid releases. He lives quietly in Queenstown, NZ now…
- Pere Ubu – 30 Seconds Over Tokyo (Radar)..if you don’t think this is a disco record, you are not listening. I’m not sure if the original was (as I suspect) a 7” or a twelve inch, but, to me, this will always exist on the Radar 12”. I used to play this in clubs in the early eighties and it worked, as it should. An angular blueprint for so much…
- Pete Shelley – Homosapien (Genetic)…ummmm, I think this is an anthem to gay sex…”homosuperior / in my interior”…what do you reckon? Produced by Martin Rushent and on his label, the former (and current) Buzzcock made one of the electro anthems of its time which sounds incredibly contemporary right now. The Elongated Dancepartydubmix might have a silly name but without records like this, no Ewan Pearson, DFA, no !!!, no Out Hud, no Soulwax….
- Phuture – Acid Tracks (Trax)..the argument as to which was the first acid track never really abates, but does it really make a difference. The sound of machines making love…
- Phuture Scope- What is House Muzik? (Emotive). My favourite Wild Pitch record. Wild Pitch unfortunately opened a few doors and gave birth to some less than pleasant sub cultures but it’s rather unfair to blame DJ Pierre as Nick Jones was known, for that, its like blaming Steve Hurley's early house for Kid Crème. Another record that completely wears you out simply by the pleasure of listening to it…let alone dancing to it.
- PIL – Memories (Virgin) …this mix has, so Lydon claims on his website, never been on any other format than the original 12”, slightly longer I think but definitely beefier, more muscular than the album mix. The revolution was short lived but a revolution it was…..
- Prince – America (Paisley Park)..all twenty one minutes of it. If Jimi Hendrix had been around in the 12” era, this is what they would’ve sounded like. A psychedelic symphony for the dancefloor.
- Princess – Say I’m Your Number One (Supreme)…I released this back in 85 in New Zealand but the bugger only got to number two, going gold, however, in the process. It was a dance floor staple for years in NZ and it’s ever so charmingly cheesy but I still love it. The best, tougher and faster, mix was on second 12”.
- R Tyme – Use Me (Trance Fusion)…loved this big time for so long. It swings between the second Carl Craig mix on side two and the Mark Kinchen mix on side one but usually it’s the later. It just makes me gasp with joy, if you know what I mean….
- Ralph Falcon – Every Now and Then (Deep South)..the second Murk on this list. It could’ve been Coral Way Chiefs or Interceptor or a bunch of other simply amazing records they effortlessly released every second week or so, in the first half of the last decade, but it really had to be this one. A bonfire classic, a conversation stopper ( “You’re a whore / you’re a whore / you’re a whore” tends to do that) on first listen and one that was sympathetically remixed a couple of years back.
- Raze – Break for Love (Grove St) the original mix...forget all the drop your panties, Spanish fly mix stuff, its all about that timeless lazy loping rhythm, so influential over the past 18 years, and Keith Thompson’s vulnerable, hopeful vocal. How good can a record be….
- Rhythim Is Rhythim - It Is What It Is (Transmat)…how can someone so hyped up, so electric, so mentally noisy, make records this subtle. To, me, his finest moment amongst a swathe of finest moments by the man.
- Rhythmatic - Take Me Back (Warp) of the early bleepy Warp singles I probably prefer Testone, or the mutant disco of Tricky Disco but this was such a Box anthem, we tuned the PA to it, to emphasis the bottom end after the voice goes “hey dj / drop the bass now” and it goes all whooompph….
- River Ocean feat India - Love and Happiness (Strictly Rhythm)…there needs to be a coverall record here for the Masters at Work, but this is not it, that’s below. This record, in its lovely Tribal EP doublepack complete with a pleasant Xpress 2 remix, stands above most of their work, even though strictly this is Louie solo (albeit with Kenny doing drum programming) with his missus, as a masterpiece - the whole record . But if only one bit, the drop out with the vocal at about five and a half minutes into it, existed, that would be enough to qualify this as one of the greatest moments in popular music. And you need the double packed 12”, as all the CD editions differ quite a bit from this, being based on the vastly inferior one sided blue vinyl edition mix, and simply don’t convey have what this does.
- Roach Motel – Wild Luv (Junior Boys Own) "Wild Pitch I think I love you....", yep I’m well aware it’s a record of its time and that time was a decade ago, but I was there so I don’t really care. There was a great Tom Neville remix a year or two back. Junior Boys Own was good at borrowing DJ Pierre’s trademark sound, this was simply an admission of guilt but a fine one…
- Ron Trent - Altered States (DJAX) the double pack, includes the original, which I own too but I prefer this because you get the Carl Craig and the Terrace (of which I prefer his first) mixes as a bonus. The moment when Chicago and Detroit mashed together. Such ethereal beauty from a record created by a fifteen year old.
- Roxanne Shante - Queen of Rox (Pop Art)..in its simplest terms hip hop is simply a series of stories over a groove and I love the early naïve way it didn’t try to be more than that in records like this. Marley Marl is a genius and his work was never better than with the now retired Roxanne. This is so simple but so devastating, especially on the remix…why’d ya wanna make a record with me… she asks after telling the story of how it happened.
- Roy Ayers - Poo Poo La la (CBS)..I always link this track with the Barbara Mason record above, partially because I bought them on the same day from a shop in Chapel Market, and partially because it too is a very funny but twisted tale of love begotten. My favourite single from Roy, especially the Barry White imitation. You also, as a bonus, get Running Away on the flip.
- Shay Jones - Are You Gonna Be There (ID).. urban black female soul with echoes of Betty Swann, Gwen McCrae, Barbara Mason and the ilk, written and produced by Steve “Silk” Hurley, and the first in a style, with little stabbing synths which, for some years was his trademark and produced quite a few remarkable records from the likes of Jomanda and Kym Sims before it got a little formularised. But this was the best of the lot. Such a great record and I never come close to tiring of it.
- Shut Up and Dance – Twenty Pounds to Get In (SUAD) it’s a shitty record anyway you look at it but the shittyness is what makes it work. If it was polished it would be a waste of space and wouldn’t have made a difference. And make a difference it did…so much British pop and dance can draw a line from this label. And it’s a funny bit of cut’n’paste
- Sly & Robbie – Boops (CJ Macintosh Scratch mix)…fresh from the UK DMC champs (which he won in 1987 I think, from memory) a very young CJ Macintosh went to work on this Materiel produced classic, taking it to pieces and rebuilding it using his turntables.
- St Etienne - Only Love Can Break Your Heart (Kenlou mixes)…the Weatherall mix is rather cool but, really it’s the Louie Vega and Kenny Gonzalez mixes of this cover of Neil Young’s tune that matter. The b-boy mix and the housier MAW dub are both so devastating, and at the time, so radical, they sold me on The Masters at Work and I bought virtually everything they did for years; until it all went pear shaped about 97 and the spirit and edge seem to evaporate somewhat from their work. I have a section on my twelve inch wall that’s about three feet across, all MAW and associated records and this is the reason. So instead of naming them this is a catch all of sorts. Its just a shame that the two BBE boxes of their work were such wasted opportunities and so patchy. The definite collection is still waiting to be compiled
- Sterling Void & Paris Brightledge – Its Alright (DJ International)..Marshall Jefferson’s powerful politically driven chi-town anthem. Been sampled once or twice…..
- Sueno Latino - Sueno Latino (Derrick May Illusion mix).. Manuel Gottsching gets Latinised complete with, at the time, obligatory bird noises and then put through the ringer by Derrick May. Just lovely, there really isn’t another word for it
- Ten City - That’s the Way Love is (Atlantic)…in the grand tradition of the Philly, NY, and Motown vocal group, Ten City, produced and mentored by the truly inspired revolutionary, Marshall Jefferson, swept across the (gloriously) machine driven face of Chicago House in 1987/88 and added a new dimension to the new urban soul that was house and techno. There were at least half a dozen classic singles, and I have a soft spot for the first two, but this one reminds me of the first time I played it, at The Siren in 1989 and the anticipation and joy on the dancefloor.
- Terry Billy – Don’t Lock me Out (Atlantic) the extra bass mix is the one, especially the breakdown where Terry does the call out to her producer, Kurtis Mantronik. This is a natty piece of electro pop of the sort that Mantronik was so good at turning out for four or five years between 1985 and 1990 (probably the last great one was the Ruth Joy single Don’t Push it) and I think it’s the only thing she ever did. It flopped but it’s an inspired six minutes.
- The Believers - Who Dares To Believe In Me (Strictly Rhythm) …I guess what I love about the likes of Roy Davis and Larry Heard is the obvious line from people like Thelonius Monk and Horace Silver, people I played to death in my teen years. On the surface this may be a house record but, listen again and this is a jazz record, and an inheritor of the mantle of albums of albums like Genuis of Modern Music, as is so much of the best house music.
- The Clash - The Magnificent Dance (CBS) The Magnificent Seven, the A side belongs on a list of my favourite seven inch records of all time, but the dub, as found on a 12” with all the added depth the format gives, was probably the first record by one of the original “punk” bands to cross over to the non rock’n’roll dancefloor and the influence of Don Letts and Mikey Dread is obvious.
- The DOC - Portrait of a Masterpiece (CJ Macintosh mix…the one with the blue sleeve..I don’t have it in front of so no name)..Dre production and from DOC’s long hailed album. There are two 12”s of this, both good, but the blue covered one has the edge. I love this bit where it drops down and he says “excuse me while I clear my throat”…
- The Dream Team – Love is What We Need (Freeze)..it came out on a variety of labels but the pick of the mixes are on Todd Terry’s label. How can a record with Todd Terry, Kenny "Dope" Gonzalez, Roger S., and Benji Candelario producing be anything but classic New York Garage. Easy, actually; most of these superstar DJ type things are a dog’s breakfast, but this isn’t, quite the opposite. Avoid the Roger S mixes on Narcotic as they’re overblown but the Dope mix and the Benji mix are the real deal and the holy grail of mid nineties New York house. Vocals from Michael Watford too..
- The Fatback Band – Spread Love (Spring)..forget I Found Lovin’ or anything else, the 12” mix of this, off the album Is This The Future but fairly radically reworked by the original Eminen (actually M&M), Morales and Munzibai, is easily the grittiest and funkiest thing these, already veterans when this came out in 84, did in the eighties. Massive on central London dancefloors at the time and an anthem for me at The Six Month Club in 85/86. Evelyn Thomas’ vocal just sounds so damned dirty in a high church way, If you get my gist
- The Features - Perfect Features Exposed (Propeller)..a little indulgence here please. I released this in 1980. There were only 750 numbered copies pressed (actually 751 but I have the unnumbered copy as well as number 1) and one recently went on ebay for US$350. But that’s really beside the point. Simply put, it probably stands as the favourite single, 7 or 12, I’ve ever released, especially the bit in Victim where Jed Town takes over the vocal from Karel and he sounds so sad and vulnerable. After god knows how many listens it still slays me. We’ve tried to master this for Cd a couple of times (and it’s on the AK79 reissue I did) but we could never capture the 12 inch’s space and fragility.
- The Junkyard Band – The Word / Sardines (Def Jam)..I think these guys are still going, 20 years after they, as a bunch of fifteen and fourteen year olds made this double A sided percussion fest, probably the best thing to come out of the very short lived global fascination with DC Go-Go
- The Philadelphia International All-stars – Lets Clean Up The Ghetto (Philadelphia International). .its on the album of the same name and that’s mightily fine but I love the instrumental that as far as I know is only available on a UK 12” and is such a sublime MFSB workout I certainly have no desire to ever live without it.
- The Reese Project – The Colour of Love (Underground Resistance Mix)…it’s funny but these old UR mixes from the early nineties, so cutting edge at the time, sound so cheesy now. Do I care?
- The Screaming Meemees - Stars In My Eyes (Propeller)…as far as I know this was the first attempt by anyone in New Zealand to do a proper 12” mix of a single, the extended mix being done by Tom Sampson, Tony Drumm and myself and we tossed in a ludicrously overblown dub of another track on the flip. The master of the 12” mix has long gone and it’s only ever appeared on this numbered (1000 copies) twelve inch.
- The Suburban Reptiles – Megaton (Partisan / Vertigo)..not that great a record. The true classic was the second single, on 7",but it was the first twelve inch released in NZ and I’m reasonably proud of it for that reason so I need it.
- Underground Solution - Luv Dancin (remix)..Roger Sanchez’s finest moment. Such a beautifully deep house record that epitomises that whole early nineties post Nu Groove sound so well. This was a fantastic record until he remixed it and then it leapt to another level.
- Underworld – Rez (Junior Boys Own)..on furiously loud pink vinyl in a pink sleeve with a pink label. Underworld’s crowning achievement….that whole raving all night watching the sun rise feeling was captured in this mini epic. It build and builds, drops down, teases and then explodes with such joy…well, you’ve heard it…Underworld should’ve left it there as they’ve never come close again
- Wham – Everything She Wants (Epic)..pop majesty on the 12” mix. Its all about the bassline….
- Yello – Lost Again / Base for Alec (Stiff)…they don’t come any nuttier and twisted than Dieter Meier and crew. Base for Alec had a one sided clear vinyl re-tweak last year from Output and Lost Again was reissued by Greg Wilson on the Credit To The Edit series, although why he edited out the vocal is beyond me..its the essence of the record.
- Yoko Ono - Walking on Thin Ice (12” edit) (Geffen)..only ever on promo. There were other mixes over the years, and quite a good one appeared on one of the superb Disco Not Disco albums but I’ve always preferred the original 12” promo. Considering this is effectively John Lennon’s last record (he was carrying the mixes when shot) and it became a NY underground staple for years, its fascinating to wonder where he would taken this sound if he hadn’t been shot. Certainly it is identifiably Lennon and a direct descendent of things like the Plastic Ono Band album and Cold Turkey.
And, damn, I forgot about Ice T’s Colours, The K-Scope EP, Acid Eiffel, Cubik, Looney Tunes, Hooligan 69, In and Out, Come Into My Life, The Way, The Gas Face, Alright, The Jungle, Weekend, Carino…..