History Sessions: 1980’s House & Techno (1986 – 1989)

Like the electro that preceded it, house music was an electronic genre that began life stateside in the 1980’s. Originating from Chicago, early house music was heavily influenced by disco, electro, and electronic pop – but what characterised it as a genre of music in its own right was the repetitive 4/4 rhythms and minimal nature of the songs.

One of the pioneering labels of the early House scene was Trax Records. Legend has it that Trax employed a less than professional business model, with numerous artists allegedly not being paid for their work. Releases were also pressed straight onto the top of old 2nd hand vinyl, which explains that ‘sandpaper’ sound quality. Cost-cutting and dodgy business practices aside however, the influence that early Trax releases had not just on Drum & Bass, but on dance music in general is undeniable. Anyone who has been to a club in the last 30 years will instantly recognise the familiar bassline of Frankie Knuckle’s ‘Your Love’, and from a D&B perspective you only need to compare Mr Fingers ‘Can You Feel It’ with the Nasty Habits release ‘Liquid Fingers’ to appreciate the influence it had on Doc Scott’s music.

House music soon spread to other areas of the U.S. One of the most fundamental offshoots in the evolution of Drum & Bass would be the Detroit Techno championed by the likes of Kevin Saunderson, Derrick May, and Juan Atkins. Fabio has cited the seminal track ‘Strings of Life’ by Derrick May’s Rhythm Is Rhythm outfit as one of the key defining moments in electronic music’s history, and Kevin ‘Reese’ Saunderson’s ‘Just Want Another Chance’ is the origin of the legendary ‘Reece’ bassline which has been tearing up D&B dancefloors since it first appeared on Ray Keith’s ‘Terrorist’ in 1994.  Dillinja’s ‘Deadly Deep Subs’ was also heavily based around Reese’s 1988 original track.

House music hit UK shores in 1987 when Farley Jackmaster Funk’s ‘Love Can’t Turn Around’ and Steve Silk Hurley’s ‘Jack Your Body’ both charted in the UK top 10. This inspired UK producers such as Coldcut, Bomb The Bass, and S-Express to get in on the act, with The classic M/A/R/R/S track ‘Pump Up The Volume’ being the first UK house release to hit the #1 spot. What set the early UK releases apart from their US counterparts was their heavy sampling ethic and hip hop breaks which would undoubtedly influence the likes of Shut Up & Dance and Rebel MC to follow a more breakbeat and bassline driven direction a couple of years later.

Inspired by what they had seen in Ibiza, DJ’s including Paul Oakenfold, and Danny Rampling decided to open their own dedicated House nights in the UK, which resulted in the opening of legendary clubs such as Shoom in London and the Hacienda in Manchester. This all coincided with the introduction of Ecstasy which served as the perfect partner for the repetitive rhythms of house music by heightening the feelings of euphoria and boundless energy. It would be this relationship between music, club culture, innovation and drugs that would capture the countries attention, and as a result become known as the “2nd summer of love” during 1988-1989.

The tracks selected for this mix have been chosen with the evolution of Drum & Bass in mind. Nearly all of these tracks have themes, whether it be a vocal, drum pattern, or hook that have ended up being sampled, reworked, and reused in Hardcore, Jungle, or Drum & Bass  years down the line. Undoubtedly without the groundbreaking work laid down by the early pioneers of the House and Techno scenes we would not have had the rich tapestry of electronic music which we enjoy today.

Download “80s House and Techno”

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  • The name ‘A Guy Called Gerald’ (accidentally) resulted from Key 103’s DJ Stu Allan – when playing a cassette of one of Gerald’s tunes, before he even had a record deal, Stu introduced the track as being “by a guy called Gerald from Hulme”, and the name stuck since.
  • The vocal sample in A Guy Called Gerald’s classic track ‘Voodoo Ray’ is actually saying “voodoo rage”, but Gerald had run out of time on his sampler which meant dropping the G off the end, hence why the track became known and titled as ‘Voodoo Ray’.