Chicago threw a huge stone into unfished waters, and it made an enormous splash, with ripples that eddied in ever increasing circles across the dancefloor Earth. Many agree that the first house record per se was Colonel Abrams’ Trapped. It had all the hallmarks of the genre that would obsess the music world of the mid eighties, looking for a way out of the chintzy, hi-hat smothered world of disco. So it took the bass drum-led guide track, added a heavy electronic synthesiser bass, electronic drums, electronic effects, electronically re-arranged vocals, and, most contentiously, SAMPLES.
In Abrams’ day, this direction was never really fully explored, although cuts like Grandmaster Flash’s Adventures On the Wheels Of Steel borrowed heavily from other discs. No, if you want to talk about house and sampling, take a leaf out of the book of M/A/R/R/S, which was really just Colourbox and A R Kane together in a one-off collaboration (though it has to be said that it’s difficult to hear anything of A R Kane’s contribution to the finished product). They were both signed to the 4AD label, and the legendary founder Ivo Watts-Russell suggested a song that could take advantage of the burgeoning house scene. Since the two bands found it virtually impossible to work together, their tracks were recorded apart, and two DJs brought in to add scratches and sampling. Wikipedia comfirms at least 17 records were used in the process, not counting Ofra Haza’s memorable Arabic chant. The result pounded the clubs and the UK charts into porridge: no mean feat for a 12 inch single. Sales had not been seen like this since the days of Blue Monday.
Needless to say, Pump Up The Volume (FF 1987 #46) was a glorious Frankenstein experiment that ran wild, but was never, and could never, be repeated. Even the sour grapes of Pete Waterman (see my entry on Girls Aloud in my other blog for more Grandad-related shenanigans) and his lawsuit, claiming that the song had lifted a few seconds from SAW’s Roadblock single, didn’t stop the steamroller of the dance.
In the same year, two girls who decided they had more to offer than the collective rap combo they were in hit the charts, albeit with another collaboration. The Cookie Crew (MC Remedee, born Debbie Price, and Susie Q, a.k.a. Susan Banfield) were formed in Clapham in 1983, and won a national rap competition in 1985: this led to two Peel sessions and a contract with Rhythm King. Their label paired them with The Beatmasters for the thrilling hip house epic Rok Da House (FF 1987 #49).
By the time it entered the UK charts, soaring to number 5 in early 1988, it was already old news
to Peel listeners. It was a stunning call to arms, and led to more reasonable chart hits before the girls split with FFRR, who saw them as the new London Boys (or something like it), and semi-retirement from the music scene. It still sounds fresh and invigorating, and throws one back to a time when something new was always just underground, threatening to move your ass and blow your mind. Madchester would steal wholesale from this scene and substitute shell suits for baggies before the decade was out.