One of the biggest changes in music industry was the use of magnetic tape to record audio, in the 50s and 60s the music industry exploded with the limitations from recording direct to phonograph records lifted, it allowed studio engineers to re-record performances and then tape could be cut and spliced to rearrange or edit the musical arrangement, other inventive use of reel to reel machines were used from artist like the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix, by playing recorded parts backwards or adding recorded sounds layered on top of the original piece of music.
But it’s the DJs who took this piece of studio engineering and turned it into a new form of art, a new way of creating music from other peoples music.
From the sound system culture in Jamaica, the way a DJ stood out was creating his own version of the popular tracks of the day, a remix of a kind but not quite how we understand them today. Throughout the 70s legendary block party DJ Kool Herc and other less known DJs, were using the actual records to loop a section of the recording for the dancers to get down to the break and then later to loop a beat for a Rapper to rhyme over, thus again creating something new with the original piece of music, two legendary Hip Hop records were made basically using the same process Grandmaster Flash - Adventures on The Wheels Of Steel and Africa Bambaataa - Planet Rock.
The remix story really begins in early 70s when Tom Moulton (pictured above) frustrated at watching the flow of dancers interrupted at the ending of records made a homemade mixtape, It took him over 80 hours to make a 45 minute tape with no breaks in the music using tape to layer or splice the end of one track to the beginning of another. So here we have the start of DJ mixing, but Tom also lengthened the tracks by extending or looping sections of the original music and the remix or re-edit was born, it wasn’t long before he was involved in the original mix of a recording bringing his touch to the record even before their release, changing the face of music forever along this journey he even invented the breakdown section in dance music and the commercial use of the 12” single format, when in 1974 with a shortage of 7″ acetates for Al Downing’s track ‘I’ll Be Holding On’, Moulton argued it be pressed on the 12” acetate so he could get his mix out to the label that weekend but with wider grooves giving the record a crisp and punchy sound quality sound and a longer recording possible a new format was born and then went onto create the breakdown or disco break concept on ‘Dream World’ as Moulton gets creative with the kick drum and bongos, not content with that, next came the first ever megamix or continuous mix on Gloria Gaynor’s LP ‘Never Can Say Goodbye’ in 1975.
As well as Tom Moulton producers like Walter Gibbons (pictured above), have had a lasting impact on dance music history, Walter challenging Tom Moulton for the very first remix with his interpretation of Double Exposure’s ‘Ten Per Cent’ rearranging the normal structure of a traditional soul or disco record and starting with the break, this originality would become Walter’s forte, many more notable tracks have become club classics many years after the original release, his version of Gladys Knight ‘It’s Better Than A Good Time’ only available in Canada in 1979 now considered one of the best tracks of the era and is possibly my favourite ever disco record, Walter disappeared from the scene for various reasons and then in 1984 his 10 minute remix of the unusual track ‘Set It Off’ by Strafe gave dance music one of its most legendary tracks, genre bending part freestyle part proto house but essentially paving the way for more experimental electronic music.
It should be noted for those that don’t know the history of dance music, many of original disco/early house DJs and producers were gay as were most of the clubs that lay the foundations for the more commercial dance scene of the late 80’s and beyond. It was in clubs like the Galaxy21, Better Days, The Gallery, Paradise Garage, The Funhouse, Sanctuary, Limelight, of course the celebrity haunt that was Studio 54 and then the original, the start of modern dance music culture at David Mancuso’s The Loft (more a party than club, but that’s a whole other story).
The next generation of producers learnt the techniques and discovered the sounds that would shape a scene, in these clubs, DJs like Francois Kevorkian who worked with Walter at Galaxy 21, starting as a drummer accompanying the seamless beat mixing and hip hop style cuts of the DJ.
John Morales famed for his M&M mixes with Sergio Munzibai also started his career in this period using the same cut and splice tape techniques, creating individual acetates to play in clubs, like many of the DJs at the time soon found himself in the studio and was involved in countless uncredited mixes including Patrick Adams studio band Universal Robot Band with the track ‘Barely Breaking Even’ and more production duties came in the mid to late 70s on labels like Philadelphia International Records, Motown and Prelude, it was on Prelude that John released his first credited release on Inner Life ‘Caught Up In A One Night Love Affair’, moving forward into the 80’s and the M&M team was much sought after working with artists as diverse as Tina Turner, The Rolling Stones, Spandau Ballet, Aretha Franklin, Shalamar, Hall & Oates, Dan Hartman, Candi Staton, Melba Moore, Rose Royce, Billy Ocean, Debbie Gibson, Odyssey and The Commodores, overall it is estimated his involvement in over 650 remixes and he is still a working producer, remixer and DJ today.
Remix originators like Larry Levan who was involved producing in many classic remixes, but just as important breaking many new dance records, sometimes by playing them over and over until the crowd got them at the Paradise Garage. Tony Humphries still renowned as one, if not ‘the’ best beat mixer in the business, many of his remixes took the name of the club night he was synonymous with ‘Zanzibar’.
Many other DJs and producers like David Todd & Nick Martinelli, Shep Pettibone and Arthur Baker also laid the foundation stones for what later became house music, incorporating electronic instrumentation, drum machines and dub techniques into their remixes and productions, so much so that the change from disco to house in New York was a seamless transition.
In the early 80s a group calling themselves The Latin Rascals took the cutting, pasting, splicing and editing to a whole new level in what was became to be known as the cut and paste edit, they wanted to create something new out of parts of many musical genres, r&b, hip hop, new wave and freestyle, adding some spoken word elements from sound effect records, overdubbing parts of the origins record or individual sound, create loops or breaks in the record all this combined in a rhythmic manner to make music for the dance floor.
One of the most famous cut and paste records came about from a competition run by record label Tommy Boy, when they asked in Billboard magazine for DJs or producers to remix Globe and Whiz Kids track Play that Beat, the winner was from Double Dee and Steinski, not DJs but a sound engineer and advertising executive, the track was titled The Payoff mix it would later go on to be known as lesson 1, as after the underground success of the first track (it wasn’t commercially released at the time) lessons 2 and 3 would follow.
The most commercially successful record of this kind at the time was the 7 minutes of madness remix of Eric B & Rakim - Paid in Full although not for Coldcut as they released a instrumental version called Not Paid Enough which might tell us what they thought of as their alleged £750 payment for the remix.
This become one of many cut and paste records that stormed the UK charts around that time from Pump up the Volume, Beat Dis, Theme from S Express onto the KLF album - White Room.
These edits and remixes of course come from a different time when computers weren’t as prevalent and now these tricks can now be done on a I Pad with a few apps at zero cost, all in a morning's work, as I did with my one and only addition to the 10’000’s of edits on Soundcloud. Check out track 50 on the list, my edited version of 80s house classic Pleasure Control by Marshall Jefferson and Curtis McClain, simply removing the parts Curtis did a voice over on that now sounds rather dated and then editing together two versions of the track, as one harder to find version has a third verse on it, my edit is pretty shit and after listening again today for the first time in years you can hear every blend but it did made me smile when Curtis McClain heard a version and sent me a message explaining he’d forgot about that verse and it was nice to hear again.
Even in the early 80’s inventive producers like a young DJ named Smoove, yes him of Smoove and Turrell fame didn’t let the lack of technology stop him creating new sounds and rhythms from what went before, using the most basic equipment to make a pause mix tape of 80’s Hip Hop, Beats and Breaks, I’ve also included Smoove’s version of classic B’Boy track Kings of the Beats by Mantronix, recreating the track using all original samples and using Breaking Atoms by Main Source both on the Soundcloud list below and on our featured Spotify playlist above. Smoove is currently presenting a radio show with John Turrell in which he plays a classic Cut and Paste mix each week, it’s well worth tuning in for.
Producers now use software like Ableton and can edit tracks with ease and mash ups can be found all over YouTube, Soundcloud and various online edit sites, like hype edit, the Nu Disco scene of the last few years has been built on edits, so the challenge for new budding producers is to make something fresh and creative, one of the best is legendary DJ ‘Greg Wilson’ he was one of the original UK DJ’s from the early club scene in late 70s - early 80s Manchester, like his contemporary’s in the US like Larry Levan and Frankie Knuckles, Greg used the Reel to Reel to make edits of Soul and Disco tracks and then over twenty years later his his career was brought back to life because the re-edit scene one that he had himself helped to create, so with 100s of mixes on his soundcloud page where do you start to catch up, only one place the amazing essential mix back in 2009 which for many was the first experience of Greg Wilson, at least for those that forgot his appearance on The Tube, introducing the UK to scratching for the first time back in 1983, also check out his blog as Greg was one of the first to explain to many dance music fans the history of the scene and still continues to shed knowledge on many faces and places of interest, you can also find a few of Greg’s edits the the list above.
In an interview with 5 magazine, one of the best new producers linked with the reedit scene, Australian Dr Packer explains “There’s an on-going discussion in the dance music community about the line between re-edits and remixes. Some producers and music fans think a re-edit has to be only made from the original track with no extra production or processing, while others are happy to quantize entire songs, add extra drums and production touches, moving more into remix territory. As a successful producer who has made a career from working with others music, Greg is at the heart of this discussion as his productions often substantially add to the original source material. So does he make re-edits or remixes? It turns out neither: “If you are quantizing/warping, adding drums, replaying bass and adjusting the arrangement, that is remix territory or as I like to call it, a ‘Rework’. An edit is when people just chop up the original (cut and paste) and make it more DJ-friendly and usable in their sets.”
So this week a break from Spotify and we share a Soundcloud playlist with some of my favourites from the last few years and some just found this week as I had a dig around, the first 50 are also mostly free downloads. I start the list with super talented Mark Rae, he’s from the north east of England like me but most well known for his time in Manchester with his record shop ‘Fat City’, record label ‘Grand Central’ and popular club night ‘Friends and Family’ (You can also find regular guest DJ Monk One on the playlist) Then going on to releasing some of the most soulful electronic/dance music of the 90’s as one half of Rae and Christian, head to Mark’s Bandcamp page below and check out his long list of edits and have a read about his autobiography, a first of its kind with it being released as the inner gatefold of his latest LP, ‘Northern Sulphuric Soulboy’
I was kindly given a copy my Mark at a DJ gig last year and it’s a great read, he also has a great edited audio version on his Soundcloud profile, all accessed on the links below, but a great place to start is with this Youtube video, part 1 of 14 to date, as Mark gives something back to the scene, explaining how his edits are made and the history behind some of the artists and their music.
Music from most of the artist featured here can be found on the main playlist above and many of the tracks mentioned can be found on the playlist I did for the curator interview here at ‘Music to Reminisce Over 1987-1988’ all the music I was listening to in my youth and then a selection of edits from this post’s featured artists and many others on our new soundcloud playlist below.
These track are now in our archived playlist but you can still listen here check out the latest music added to the playlist above
You can learn more about Mark Rae
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When did the blues become indigo is a reference made by a music journalist I read some years ago, it’s meaning is about how one genre of music mutates into another, we continually search to discover new shades to add to that spectrum and tell the story of how the blues transformed into today’s dance music.
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About The Curator - Paul Sims
I’m passionate about music and always enjoyed sharing what I discover, first on mixtapes and now with playlists, follow me on Spotify for over 50 playlists from They Reminisce and Shake A Hoof.