Archive for the GREG WILSON Category

ELECTRO FUNK ( another essay written by GREG WILSON)

Posted in GREG WILSON on July 7, 2008 by bangtheparty

Electro-Funk is undoubtedly the most misunderstood of all UK Dance genres, yet probably the most vital with regards to its overall influence. Central to the confusion is the term itself, which during 82/83 (before it was shortened to Electro) was specific to the UK. From a US perspective this music would come under a variety of headings (including Hip-Hop, Dance, Disco, Electric Boogie and Freestyle), arriving on import here in the UK mainly on New York labels like West End, Prelude, Sugarhill, Emergency, Profile, Tommy Boy, Streetwise, plus numerous others. Just as Northern Soul was a British term for a style (or group of styles) of American black music, so was Electro-Funk, and, like Northern, the roots of the scene are planted firmly in the North-West of England.

Although this has been documented in a number of books and publications down the years, often with a fair degree of insight, the subject is rarely approached with any true depth and attention to detail, the information all in fragments. Perhaps the main reason that Electro-Funk remains a mystery to so many people is because its audience was predominantly black at a time when cutting-edge black music (and black culture in general) was very much marginalized in the UK, and as a result essentially underground. To keep up to date with what was happening on the British black music scene in 82/83 you’d have had to have been a reader of a specialist publication like Blues & Soul or Black Echoes.

In the UK scheme of things Electro-Funk eventually took over from Jazz-Funk as the dominant force on the club scene, but not without major controversy and upheaval. The purists regarded electronic or electric (as they called it) with total contempt, rejecting its validity on the grounds that it was, in their opinion, not real music due to its technological nature (although Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing” would put paid to that theory). However, as time went on and audience tastes began to change, even the most hostile DJs were forced to play at least some Electro-Funk. Despite all the resistance, the movement slowly but surely began to gain momentum, sweeping down from the North, through the Midlands and eventually into London and the South.

The reason the Electro scene took so long to fully establish itself in the capital was down to the stranglehold the all-powerful Soul Mafia DJs held on the Southern scene. The Soul Mafia, with big names like Chris Hill, Robbie Vincent, Froggy, Jeff Young and Pete Tong, continued to concentrate on Jazz-Funk and Soul grooves (later referred to as “80s Groove”). It wouldn’t be until ‘84 that their virtual monopoly of the clubs, radio, and the black music press began to erode as a new order of music replaced the old, laying the foundations not only for Hip-Hop, but also the subsequent UK Techno and House scenes.

As has often been said, Electro is the missing link of Dance music. All roads lead back to New York where the level of musical innovation and experimentation throughout the early 80s period was quite staggering. It wasn’t one narrow style that never strayed from within the confides of an even narrower BPM range, Electro-Funk was anything goes! The diversity of records released during this period was what made it so magical, you never knew what was coming next. The tempo of these tracks ranged from under 100bpm to over 130, covering an entire rhythmic spectrum along the way. There was no set template for this new Dance direction, it just went wherever it went and took you grooving along with it.

It was all about stretching the boundaries that had begun to stifle black music, and its influences lay not only with German Technopop wizards Kraftwerk, the acknowledged forefathers of pure Electro, plus British Futurist acts like the Human League and Gary Numan, but also with a number of pioneering black musicians. Major artists like Miles Davis, Sly Stone, Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder, legendary producer Norman Whitfield and, of course, George Clinton and his P Funk brigade, would all play their part in shaping this new sound via their innovative use of electronic instruments during the 70s (and as early as the late 60s in Miles Davis’ case). Once the next generation of black musicians finally got their hands on the available technology it was bound to lead to a musical revolution as they ripped up the rule book with their twisted Funk.

Before Afrika Bambaataa & The Soul Sonic Force’s seminal Electro classic, “Planet Rock” (Tommy Boy) exploded on the scene in May 82, there had already been a handful of releases in the previous months that would help define this new genre. D Train’s “You’re The One For Me” (Prelude), which was massive during late 81, would set the tone, paving the way for “Time” by Stone (West End), “Feels Good” by Electra (Emergency) and two significant Eric Matthew / Darryl Payne productions, Sinnamon’s “Thanks To You” (Becket) and, once again courtesy of Prelude, “On A Journey (I Sing The Funk Electric)” by Electrik Funk (the term Electro-Funk originally deriving from this track, “electric-funk” being amended to Electro-Funk following the arrival of Shock’s “Electrophonic Phunk” on the Californian Fantasy label in June).

However, the most significant of all the early releases was “Don’t Make Me Wait” by the Peech Boys (West End), for this was no longer hinting at a new direction, it was unmistakably the real deal. An extreme chunk of vinyl moulded by Paradise Garage DJ Larry Levan, “Don’t Make Me Wait” would quickly become a cult-classic, and eventually even manage to scrape into the top 50 of the British Pop chart, purely on the back of underground support (as would a number of subsequent Electro-Funk releases).

As the first British DJ to fully embrace this new wave of black music, I came in for a lot of personal criticism. Having already become an established name on the Jazz-Funk scene I was seen as a heretic for playing these soulless records, especially those that were regarded as the more blatant ones (for example, the dreaded “Planet Rock” and the rest of the Tommy Boys stuff, Warp 9 “Nunk” (Prism), Extra T’s “ET Boogie” (Sunnyview), Man Parrish “Hip Hop, Be Bop (Don’t Stop)” (Importe/12), and Italian Zanza 12″, “Dirty Talk” by Klien & MBO). I generally opted for the Dub or instrumental versions, mixing them in alongside the more orthodox Funk,

Soul and Jazz-Funk releases of the time at my weekly residencies, Legend in Manchester and Wigan Pier, where the scene first took root. These venues, both state-of-the-art US styled clubs, would become central to the movement throughout the 82-84 period, attracting people from all over the country. The music would also gain further exposure via my regular mixes for Manchester’s Piccadilly Radio (beginning in May 82), and in August 83 I’d introduce Electro to a new audience, when I became the first Dance resident at the Haçienda club.

Electro-Funk’s legacy is huge. It announced the computer age and seduced a generation with its drum machines, synthesizers and its sequencers, its rap, cut and scratch, its breaking and popping, its Dub mixes, its bonus beats and its innovative use of samples. Made to be mixed it inspired a new breed of British DJs to cut the chat and match the beats. Now legendary names like Grandmaster Flash, Tee Scott, Tony Humphries, Larry Levan, François Kevorkian, Shep Pettibone, John ‘Jellybean’ Benitez and Double Dee & Steinski became role-models for tuned-in DJs and would-be remixers, whilst pioneers of the new digital sampling technology, including New York producer Arthur Baker and his collaborator John Robie, British producer Trevor Horn (via “Buffalo Gals”) and, of course, the Herbie Hancock / Bill Laswell combination, with their Grammy winning “Rockit” (Columbia), not only revolutionized black music but instigated a whole new approach to popular music in general.

Electro-Funk was the channel that finally brought the Hip-Hop movement, and all its various creative components, firmly into the UK mainstream, helping to spread its message throughout Europe and beyond. To all intents and purposes Electro-Funk pre-dates Hip-Hop in a British context, the term not coming into common use here until much later. We were more or less clueless when it came to Hip-Hop until late 82, when Charisma Records in the UK unleashed Malcolm McLaren & The World’s Famous Supreme Team’s “Buffalo Gals” video, which came as something of a culture-shock to say least, bringing the full force of NYC street-style out of The Bronx and into our living rooms, and inspiring a carnival of breakdancing in cities and towns throughout Britain during the summer of 83. Eventually we’d learn of its origins with Kool DJ Herc, spinning his famous merry-go-round of breaks for the b boys. Before this, most people had presumed that the break in breakdancing referred to the damage you might do to your bones if you got the move wrong!

Although the media gradually latched onto this new dance craze, the scene that surrounded it wouldn’t receive any serious attention here in the UK until 1984. This followed the runaway success of the Street Sounds “Electro” compilations (Volume 1 released in October 83), which would take the music to a much wider audience, and result in The Face announcing “Electro – The Beat That Won’t Be Beaten” across its entire front page in May 84, a full two years on from the US release of “Planet Rock”. This substantial delay in recognition went a long way towards obscuring Electro-Funk’s essential role in kick-starting the 80s dance boom, with many UK club historians bypassing the pivotal early 80s period and mistakenly citing Detroit Techno as the trigger. Even the track that gave birth to Techno, the Juan Atkins / Rick Davies 12″ “Clear” by Cybotron (Fantasy), was regarded as an Electro classic here in 83, way before the Techno scene began to take shape, and would feature on the first Street Sounds “Crucial Electro” compilation the following year. Little mention is ever made of the fact that its remixer, Jose ‘Animal’ Diaz, was immersed in NY Electro, with previous mix credits including “We Are The Jonzun Crew” for Tommy Boy, and “Hip Hop Be Bop (Don’t Stop)”, which gained a new lease of life following his much sought-after limited edition mix for Disconet (the DJ Only format affiliated to Sugarscoop).

Electro’s star burnt very brightly, initially on the underground and eventually with the club masses. In 1984 the London scene took off in a big way, both in the clubs and on the radio, with the emergence of DJs like Herbie from Mastermind (who mixed the Street Sounds albums), Paul Anderson, Tim Westwood and Mike Allen confirming a radical shift in power on the capital’s black music scene. With the substantial weight of London behind it, the Electro movement quickly went overground enticing an ever-increasing number of switched-on white kids in its on-going search for the perfect beat. With a significant proportion of the British youth, regardless of colour, now grounded in Hip-Hop culture, the new UK Dance era was well and truly under way and it wouldn’t be long before musicians and DJs here began to create their own hybrid styles, most notably in Bristol where Electro was fused with the Reggae vibes of Dub and Lovers Rock, to bring about a unique flavour that would later be known as Trip-Hop. By the end of the decade cities like Manchester and London had become major players on the now global Dance scene, with the UK a veritable hotbed of creativity both in the clubs and the recording studios.

Electro-Funk was the prototype, and Hip-Hop, Techno, House, Jungle, Trip-Hop, Drum & Bass, UK Garage, plus countless other Dance derivatives, all owe their debts to its undoubted influence. Without it’s inspiration, it’s unlikely that British acts such as Coldcut, 808 State, A Guy Called Gerald, Soul To Soul, Massive Attack, The Prodigy, William Orbit, Goldie, the Chemical Brothers, Underworld and Fatboy Slim, to name but a few, would have emerged. When all’s said and done, Electro-Funk (or Electro or whatever people choose to call it) was the catalyst, the mutant strain that bridged the British Jazz-Funk underground to the Acid-House mainstream, Until this fact is fully recognized the UK Dance jigsaw will remain incomplete and confused, with countless clubbers, twenty years on, having no idea of the true roots of the music they’re dancing to.

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BOOGIE ( an essay written by the one and only GREG WILSON)

Posted in Boogie, GREG WILSON on July 7, 2008 by bangtheparty

Back in mid-80’s London, the term Boogie was used to describe a style of dance music, mainly from the early 80’s, but also the late 70’s, that was popular on the black scene. Many of these tracks had originally featured at the time of their release at specialist club nights in venues like Crackers and the Electric Ballroom, but had subsequently been revived during the Rare Groove era.

We never used the term in the North, although many of the same tracks had been massive with the black music audience following their arrival as US imports. We regarded them mainly as Disco Funk, or in some cases Electro-Funk, which utilised elements of the (then) new technology (Disco Funk being recorded in a more orthodox way, with drum kit as opposed to beat box).

It was also an unfamiliar genre name in America, where these records had originated. London DJ and collector, Sean P, renowned for his encyclopaedic knowledge of Boogie, plus other forms of dance music, recalls some friends going into record shops in the US and receiving blank looks when they asked for Boogie; the staff even enquiring if they wanted recordings about ghosts! This misunderstanding was down to the fact that what we call the Bogeyman in the UK is the Boogeyman in the States.

The word itself has a somewhat dubious background. Here’s something I found online about its origin and evolution, written by American columnist, Cecil Adams:

“Boogie” seems to come, via a circuitous route, from the Latin Bulgarus, an inhabitant of Bulgaria. The Old French term boulgre was used to refer to a member of a sect of 11th-century Bulgarian heretics, and “bougre” first appears in the English writing in 1340 as a synonym for “heretic.” By the 16th century, “bougre” grew into “bugger,” a practitioner of vile and despicable acts including “buggery,” or sodomy. “Bogy” (or “bogie”) first appears in the 19th century as an appellation for the devil; later it came to be used for hobgoblins in general. Hence, the bogeyman, which may be the source of the use of “bogey” and “boogies” to mean “Negro”. Shortly after these usages became common (in the 1920s), there appeared boogie woogie music, and I guess you can figure out the rest.

So it seems that, with regards to black culture, boogie was originally a racist slur, which was intended to demonise black people, before it was adopted in connection with music and dancing by those it was meant to put down. In this way it became a name used for ‘Rent Parties’ within US black communities in cities like Chicago, Detroit and New York during the 20’s, where musicians played in someone’s home and a hat was passed around the audience so they could put in money, which would help pay the rent. It was at such parties that Boogie Woogie emerged, a style that would have a huge influence on the course of black music (interestingly, Disco pioneer, DJ David Mancuso, cites the Rent Parties of 60’s New York as a major inspiration for his Loft parties).

The sub-genre of music that Londoners dubbed Boogie was, in essence, the direct continuation of Disco in its purest form. Many people have forgotten that the genre evolved from the Soul and Funk of black musicians. Later, of course, Disco would become increasingly commercialised, culminating in the blockbuster movie Saturday Night Fever, which elevated the Bee Gees, a white Pop band, to Disco superstardom, whilst a white suited John Travolta would become an iconic figure – the great white hope of the dancefloor. Disco went global, but its original audience, before Studio 54 stole the spotlight, knew that its true stars of the screen were afro haired black kids, who’d been busting all the best moves on Soul Train since the early 70’s.

Throughout the 70’s, the word boogie could be found in the title or lyrics of countless Funk and Disco records, but as the decade rolled on, it was beginning to sound increasingly cheesy to our British ears, especially when a Spanish holiday hit called ‘Yes Sir I Can Boogie’ by Baccara, topped the UK chart in 1977. By the early 80’s a new low had been reached, with Children’s TV character, the robot Metal Mickey, further devaluing the word via his annoying catchphrase ‘boogie boogie’.

However, it began to claw back some of its former credibility thanks to huge underground tracks like Rafael Cameron’s ‘Boogie’s Gonna Get Ya’ and ‘Caveman Boogie’ by Lessette Wilson, plus the Gunchback Boogie Band’s ‘Funn’, and with the emerging Electro scene it’s recuperatation was completed (Extra T’s ‘E.T Boogie’, West Street Mob ‘Break Dancin’ – Electric Boogie’, Man Parrish ‘Boogie Down (Bronx)’ etc).

From a London perspective, the Boogie scene, if not yet born, was conceived in the late 70’s at the West End club, Crackers, where DJ George Power would refer to the dancers, regarded as some of the best in the capital, as ‘boogie boys’ and, as Crackers veteran, Terry Farley, informed me, would frequently use the word whilst talking over the microphone (as DJ’s did in those days). Power was a true pioneer of UK dance culture who has only received a fraction of the full credit he merits. Later down the line he’d be the co-founder of Kiss FM, originally a pirate station, which would play an absolutely pivotal role in bringing London’s dance underground to wider recognition.

But it wouldn’t be until after the Crackers days were long gone that Boogie gradually became a category in its own right. A young Sean P remembers going into a shop in Brixton, called Red Records, in the early 80’s and finding a ‘Soul/Disco/Boogie’ section. It struck him as odd that an old-fashioned word was being applied to such a cutting-edge music.

The sub-genre really came into its own around 1985, when Kiss FM (named in tribute to the seminal New York dance station) took to the air and DJ’s like Gordon Mac, Norman Jay, DJ Tee (Tee Harris), Desi D, Tosca and, of course, Paul ‘Trouble’ Anderson began playing club tracks from earlier in the decade (along with other pirate radio DJ’s like Trevor St Francis on LWR and Lyndon T on JFM), describing them as ‘Boogie’. The word Disco had been out of vogue since the 70’s, with the music played on the black scene, pre-Kiss, usually coming under the blanket terms of Soul or Electro, but then a new movement of mainly black kids from South and East London began to refer to this post-Disco groove as ‘Boogie’. The sound was typified by Leroy Burgess, and the big labels included Prelude, West End and Sam, with club support coming from DJ’s such as Trevor Shakes, Dez Parkes, Cleveland Anderson, Henderson Yearwood, Fitzroy Da Buzz Boy and Derek Boland (aka Derek B).

Former Black Echoes writer and Kiss head of music, Lindsay Wesker, a noted black music historian, remembers the station, during its formative period, featuring as much Boogie as Rare Groove (which focused on relatively obscure 70’s Funk), making its way onto the playlists of now established names like Jazzie B and Trevor ‘Madhatter’ Nelson. It was such a big deal in London that Kiss would even release two volumes of their ‘Boogie Tunes’ compilation on Graphic Records in the late 80’s, making a number of highly sought after tracks available on vinyl at an affordable price (echoing Northern Soul, collecting Boogie and Rare Groove was both time-consuming and a drain on the pocket).

But, returning to the question of how the term Boogie came to represent a category of music in the first place, the first clue I could find was in a copy of Blues & Soul from September 1981. This was in an advert for the launch of Jazzifunk Club’s Saturday night at Camden’s Electric Ballroom. George Power, headlined, supported by Paul Anderson (who’d cut his teeth alongside Power at Crackers), Chris White, Colin Parnell and Boo, with the ad referring to the venue’s 2 floors, which proclaimed ‘Jazz On Top! Soul, Funk ‘n’ Boogie Down Below’.

During the early 80’s, specialist club nights would list the music featured as Jazz, Jazz-Funk, Soul, Funk, Disco, and later Electro or Electro-Funk, but never Boogie – the Electric Ballroom was unique in this respect. The only exception I’m aware of was a little known venue called ‘Gemas New Caprice Club’ in Watford, which, in London’s Groove Weekly magazine, advertised ‘Up-Front Jazz-Funk and Boogie’ in August 1982, having previously used ‘Jazz-Funk’ on its own). However, the trail came to an abrupt end at that point and I couldn’t find any further mention in either Blues & Soul or Groove Weekly during the coming years. It certainly wasn’t classified as a genre by the main London import specialists, like Groove, City Sounds and Bluebird.

I wondered if there was any direct link to Roller Disco, which had come to the UK, with limited success, from the US. Interestingly, a cash-in Hollywood movie called ‘Roller Boogie’ had highlighted the craze in 1979, and, by co-incidence, the Electric Ballroom would launch a mid-week Roller Disco night in 1982 with Paul Anderson as DJ. Andrew Mason, from New York’s Wax Poetics magazine, had told me that Danny Krivit, who both deejayed at New York’s legendary Roxy (which originally came to prominence as one of the top Roller Rinks in the country) as well being an accomplished skater himself, explained to him that the slightly shuffled clap / snare on the 2 and 4 (as opposed to a steady 4 on the floor beat) was best suited for skaters, who pushed off on alternate legs to that rhythm. Vaughan Mason’s ‘Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll’ is an obvious example, as is Chic’s classic ‘Good Times’ (which, of course, includes the line ‘clams on the half shell and roller-skates, roller-skates’).

So, basically, the best music to roller skate to, especially in New York, where the most impressive skaters were generally black or Latino, was funkier edged Disco, including many tracks that would later be regarded as Boogie classics in London.

Doing some further detective work, I checked with Danny Krivit to see if the term Roller Boogie was widely used in the US, and he informed me that it was only ever something people might say on a mainstream level, following on from the film, and definitely not how hardcore skaters would refer to the music. It seems that, just as over here, the word boogie was actually considered corny, rather than cool.

So, it wasn’t until a mainly black audience of dance music enthusiasts from London re-adopted the term, to describe the retrospective groove they were into, that Boogie reclaimed its credibility. “Nowadays”, as Sean P points out, “thanks to eBay and the general spreading of the word over the past couple of years, people from the US, Europe and wherever use ‘Boogie’ as a generic term, to describe early 80’s dance music of black origin”.

click below to listen

BRENDA TAYLOR – You Can’t Have Your Cake And Eat It Too (Greg Wilson edit)