The wonder years of House Music: A homage to a revolution

For many of us growing up in the 90’s was a time when we dunked on Pop and Rock of the time, yet take the other side of the music industry and when you flip that coin, there are a lot of us who believe that those were the wonder years, the years of super clubs and super raving, the other side of the coin showing off dance music. It was the time of starting out as club bunnies, and it’s easy to see that they were the most fertile years in dance music history. A foundation had been laid by the producers and DJs of the international electronic scene, to which current standards try to reach out to even today.

I recall my first encounter with club and Trance tunes came from picking CDs of US House and Techno, quite by chance. I didn’t know then, that US party music would influence the British club scene to such an extent that, the reverberations would be felt world-wide for years to come and thank god for that, what would I be, if it were not for those tracks that hit my sensory spots and made me to the person I am, is a question I wouldn’t want to dwell on for too long, as the writings on the wall.

Here’s a listing of my favorite top 20 House tracks, an homage to the producers, DJs and labels who were revolutionary with these evergreen offerings, it also brings classic remembrance of sounds that bomb your senses even today. It also tickles me to think if anyone would be brave enough to put one of these gems on, in a club today. However several of these tracks are hard to find, I wish I had done more to preserve my copies, cause they are worth Red Rackham’s gold.

Your Love/ Frankie Knuckles & Jamie Principle.

An ever-shiny vinyl and unarguably termed the first House track. This 1986 wonder, is a collaboration between Chicago legend Jamie Principle and Frankie, their signature: a staccato beat supplied by Knuckles that pulses and escalates, with Principle inhaling and exhaling to the instrumental until it sounds, in no small way, like he is reaching orgasmic release. It is one of the sexiest songs in the annals of electronic music, and, since Knuckles began DJing it in and around Chicago back in the day, this one is also one of the most enduring. It was published by Anon on BMI.

Move Your Body/ Marshall Jefferson.

Another 1986 House anthem came from sometimes knows as the father of House Marshall Jefferson remains one of the original Acid House producers of the time and this track can only make you feel luscious. Out on D.J. International Recording, its claim to fame was the unusual use of Piano in a House record and its path breaking melody line has been emulated for years on at end.

Farley ‘Jackmaster’ Funk – Love Can’t Turn Around.

It’s a cover version of Isaac Hayes’ a Chicago topper that made global impact. Released by D.J. International this cut made Hurley team up with Jesse Saunders to make his own version which would move even further away from Hayes’ original. Keeping much of Hurley’s instrumental arrangement, Farley changed the hook from “I Can’t Turn Around” to “Love Can’t Turn Around” and dropped the rest of Hayes’ original lyric. The new words completely changed the outlook of the song; where Hayes’ lyric had been about finding lasting love, with “I Can’t Turn Around” being a declaration of intent to stay with a partner, the new lyric described a break-up, with “Love Can’t Turn Around” now implying that the affair was over. Vocals were performed by Darryl Pandy, who had been a lead performer with the acclaimed choir of Chicago’s Church of Universal Awareness.

Steve Silk Hurley – Jack Your Body.

This track can elicit a smile with its jacking repetitive taunt, anytime, any day. From American Producer/DJ/ Song writer and four time Grammy nominee Hurley, this song became a major hit on the UK Singles chart, reaching No 01 and staying there for two weeks in a row, it also created path breaking news at the time, as it brought popularity to Acid House more than ever before.

Rhythim Is Rhythim – Strings Of Life.

No one can make them like this anymore, surely a tune to remember by Detroit music maker Derrick May, stamping his presence straight in to the city’s club scene, what’s more interesting is that the title of the track was given by Frankie Knuckles himself. It also made a deep impact in the UK club circuit as an explosion of sorts. “Strings of Life” is based on a piano sequence by May’s friend Michael James. He dropped in for a visit at May’s house and sat down to play a piano ballad he had been working on called, “Lightning Strikes Twice”. This piece went into Derrick’s sequencer and was kept there until Derrick decided to listen to it all the way through. He found some portions which interested him, and he started to work with it. The song was originally at 80 BPM before May increased the tempo, chopped it up into loops, and added percussion and string samples.

Inner City – Big Fun.

Techno monster if ever there was one. A crossover hit from number 1 in the American charts all the way to the UK Top Ten countdown, this one is unforgettable. It is perhaps song writer/ producer Kevin Saunderson’s finest work.

A Guy Called Gerald – Voodoo Ray.

Marvelous then as now, it came out in the year 1988 under a prolific Acid House release from Gerald Simpson on Rham label and subsequently from Warlock Records the following year in America. An interesting fact is that comedians Dudley Moore and Peter Cook’s voice samples are littered all over the song. “Voodoo Ray” combines a sample of Cook delivering the phrase “voodoo rage”, truncated due to the recording equipment’s lack of memory and also Moore forcefully delivering the word “later!”. In each case, the samples are shifted in pitch, and electronically processed. Artist Danny McCluskey titled a portrait of Peter Cook ‘Voodoo Ray’ in reference to the song. The vocal was sung by Nicola Collier, who had worked on other tracks with Simpson. In an interview with Mojo in 2005, Gerald explained that “Voodoo Ray” was recorded over 2 days in June 1988 at Moonraker Studios in Manchester. Rham initially pressed up 500 copies of the record and it sold out in a day.

Lil Louis – French Kiss.

Featuring an orgasmic breakdown that got all of us going all right and has the power to do the same till date. For all the pseudo-romantic flailing’s of contemporary EDM diva anthems, it’s hard to match the raw sexiness of this track, whose vocals came courtesy of Shawn Christopher. But Louis also stretched house’s characteristic build-ups to their most dramatic extreme for the era. This cut is one long drawn-out crescendo to climax — get it? — and it hits an almost techno-like, robotic trance high!!

808 State – Pacific State.

Extravagant beats and rainy samples along-side birdsong and saxophone one all-time favorite, mellow yet insistent. You’ll often find me point out how I hate that 80s-porn-sax, labeled so by me cause it evokes the feeling of “hey it’s the 80s so let’s use this cheesy sax sound to complement a cheesy 80s erotic scene in a cheesy 80s movie”. I’m always willing to make an exception though.

Frankie Knuckles – Tears.

One of the finest tunes, do any of you know that the key- boards played in this track are from a biggie in international dance music now, Satoshi Tomiie, it is also one of the most lushly arranged and beautifully done track rise, to ever release from the house master and legend Frankie Knuckles.

These above mentioned have been carefully selected as it meets the higher halls of dance music through the impact, popularity and influence it created globally and in timeless fashion. Here are a bunch of some more House cuts that complete this Top 20 list that get honorable mention amongst so many others.

Raze – Break 4 Love [Groove Street Records]
De’Lacy – Hideaway [Easy Street Records]
The Source feat. Candi Station – You Got The Love [Positiva]
M.A.R.R.S – Pump Up The Volume [4 AD]
Muzik X-Press – X-Press 2 [Skint Records]
Danny Tenaglia – Elements [Twisted]
Heller & Farley – Ultra Flava [A.M. P.M]
Beloved – The Sun Rising [WEA]
Strike – U Sure Do [Fresh Records]
KLF & The Children of the Revolution – Three a.m Eternal [KLF Communications]

In the world of fast paced electronic music, where one track replaces the other within minutes, these are the essential tunes that one needs to hear, that have stood the test of time, its tracks like these that make up the special list. These tunes transcend all the sub-genre titles, and stand out simply as the best electronic songs of a decade past.

My hats are tipped off to cutting edge electronic music, not only does it speaks of a revolution; it harks out a way of life that will remain unforgettable “forever”.

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About the Author

Priya is based out of Mumbai and is a DJ/Producer plus contributor to Decoded Magazine, plus hosts her own monthly radio shows in multiple music channels internationally.