A Running Melody 004 - Black Fan's 'We Used to Call it Garage 87-91'

Without saying too much here, the goal of this series was to give people the opportunity to showcase the music they love and are passionate about.  This couldn't be more in line with that.  

From Black Fan...

A Running Melody, a pleasure to be asked to contribute to a mix series with a refreshingly different concept.

My intial response was great, a chance to do a disco Boogie mix for a change, then that thought quickly morphed into doing something that goes all over the place, but is set in a certain period of club culture development in the UK, 87-91, and represents the many styles and sounds that were prevalent throughout that period.
A period that in personal terms saw me go from an enthusiastic teenager cobbling together all the cash I could to buy 'import' records to fumble around with on two second hand belt-drive turntables (only one with pitch control) through a Tandy (Radio Shack) mixer in my bedroom, to professional DJ on the Rave and club scene in the UK, sharing the music I loved with a passion, to like minded people who week in week out would often travel miles to let loose and dance all night.

As I started to dig, it seemed there was a sound that had fallen out of favour in European clubs today.
Through the multiple genres of club music that had made their mark over that time, Hip Hop, House, first wave Detroit, Acid, Italo House, Belgium Techno, Balearic to Hardcore, there was one sound standing out as forgotten.
"We used to call it Garage"

New generations have retrospectively explored Disco, Chicago House, Acid, and 90's House even became a thing, but that beautiful sound we called Garage is for most part left on a well played mix tape in a box in someones attic, some records down the charity shop, or a youtube channel of a nostalgic 40 something ex raver like myself, though I'm pleased to say still retaining the moral high-ground over Hip-House for most.
Perhaps it's the sometimes dated, dare I say in some cases 'cheesy' lyrics, perhaps the more traditional arrangements and song structure, or perhaps just the legacy of a washed-out Soulful House scene that probably overstayed it's welcome, and left one too many people "waiting anticipating", whilst someone took something "like a thief in the night" again, that doesn't resinate with todays generation of club goers so much.

OK, so the genre title is arguably a puzzling anomaly given that it pretty much came to the fore the year The Garage closed, and although very much a progression of the later years of The Garage, in reality if you wanted to pin 'that sound' to any one club, it would have to be The Zanzibar.
However name debate aside, for a small, and about to explode underground UK club scene that had embraced Hip Hop, and Chicago House, that distinctive vocal heavy, usually string/piano laden, up-beat sound struck a chord for sure.
Songs of unity, songs of hope, anthems for an army of music hungry dedicated club music fans, a disaffected, disconnected youth growing up in a class divided country, a country watching it's industrial cities get decimated, and communities destroyed
The 88/89 summers of love, the big Raves of 90, 91, the seminal underground clubs, 'this sound' was a key part of the rich musical tapestry that made all that happen.
We had our music, we had our community, all we wanted to do is dance all night, and we did!

So soap box over, and onto the mix.

Black Fan's home rig!

Black Fan's home rig!

From a short list of about 60 records there are plenty that unfortunately have been left out.

Although Garage was a distinct NY/NJ sound, and arguably their answer to Chicago House, I wanted there to be plenty of Chicago on there too, as this is just as much about how we enjoyed that collective sound in the UK, and people like Marshal Jefferson, Ten City were very much part of that sound as a whole.
No Kym Mazzelle, no Shay Jones, no Easy Street, and not as much Boyd Jarvis & Blaze as I anticipated, It's easy to forgot just how much Josh Milan & Kevin Hedge contributed to that time.

Not just the Blaze releases. but sifting through the short list, they're credited on so many records, and thankfully went on giving us amazing records long beyond.

Initially I wanted to start at more of a mid tempo and build it up, but as I started, I pretty much got in there.


Dionne, Come Get My Lovin. 

Straight in with that early Rave sound. the remix that came out a year later in 89, and the one that did the most damage in the UK.

Deep chugging groove, with that wall shaking bass, sultry vocals, and Serious Intention 'esque' key stabs, it's all there.

I think a lot of people think Rave went from Acid to Hardcore without much else, but records like this, Sha'Lor I'm In Love, Kariya, Let Me Love You were big.


Kenny Jamin Jason, Can You Dance. 

I got locked into the Rave groove, simple as that.

Not Garage, but a great early House record that did serious damage, from one of the Hot Mix 5 heroes.

It was a club & Rave anthem, and hung around in the clubs in the UK for years. A fave of Graham Park & Mike Pickering at the Hacienda, and often dropped to a big response at the Blackburn Warehouse parties. I even danced to Mark E playing it just the other week.


Liz Torres, Can't Get Enough. 

The mesmerizing Liz Torres. There was just something about her voice that just did it for me every time. Perhaps that thick accent just has a unique quality, the flip of this like many of her records is in Spanish. Living in Chicago, she was embraced by the NY scene, and a great link between the two sounds, and as a regular performer at The Garage, a piece in the puzzle of that Garage sound debate.

Great rumbling bassline that just locks you in on this one, I just had to let it play to the end.


Sublevel ft Andrea, Don't Blame Me.

Oh, whaaaaat a record. The original demo mix, so so deep, so so raw. That vocal is just so powerful. Turn out the lights, find your space on the dance floor, feel that bass hit your stomach, and get down and sweat like you've never sweat before. A proper club record.


Jay Williams. sweat.

Great little dub. Very much that NJ dubbed-out House sound, and a formula still followed today.

It has that House dance groove, great swing. You know what to do. Sweat.......


Before The Storm, I've Got The Music.

This had to be on there. For me it epitomises the pioneering elements of that sound, and that time.

The incredible Boyd Jarvis, who has made so many great great records, and mixed by Tony Humphries.

This is in my mind very much a record made by a DJ with a specific dance floor in mind.

It's one of those Humphries records that has 4 mixes and you never know which one to play, because every one works.

In this mix he strips it back and teases out the layers, filling it with anticipation in the way he was the master of. Is the song gonna come in is it not?

The mark of a proper DJ and remixer. I'm speculating but I'd be pretty certain that pretty much stems from the influence of Larry Levan at The Garage.

Anyway speculation aside this is a great record, that never fails to move every inch of your body, and if you ain't down to this, then you ain't House!


Gina Stewart, Dance All Night.

Another that had to be on there. As much for personal reasons as the fact it is a great record.

This alongside Shay Jones 'Are You Gonna Be There', became anthems for me at my Tolerance residency, and never left my box until I left at the end of 93.

It's a big lush production, and Gina's vocal is both subtle and incredible. But as a club record at the time it just said it all and set the tone for the night.

It's one of those records that resonates the club experience, in the same way Una & Oji's The Sanctuary did years later.

And that one little bit where it say "vibrate the walls" never failed to raise the hairs on the back of my neck every single time I played it.


Adeva, Warning. A poster girl for Garage House, with so many great club records and commercial success under her belt.

A Paul Simpson & Zanzibar mix to choose from, peak time floor filler guaranteed.


Cannelle, One Man.

We're staying with peak time floor filler, it's all lights on for the chorus with this one.

Blaze on production, David Morales & Frankie Knuckles on remix duties.

1989 and very much a blueprint for Soulful House, emulated but never matched in many cases.


Libra Libra, I Am Music.

Taking it back down here, and to that rawer Chicago proto House Sound.

I love that Libra Libra sound, simple drum machine grooves, bass accompaniment, and dare I say 'nagging' vocals.

And thanks for the English accent on the speaky bit guys, appreciated

Works at the right time for sure.


Marshall Jefferson, We Are Unity.

Deep chugging bass, grooving percussion, a very raw mix, especially for 91, but that vocal from Umosia makes it, and again sings to the dance floor.

And of course that Marshall Jefferson piano lick.


Devastating, Wherever You Are Right Now.

Again another that set the pace for that NJ dubbed-out House sound that went on long into the 90's

From a great label 'Bottom Line', this and many other from the label hung around in my record boxes for a long time.

That sub bass throbs away with the swinging beats, and that vocal hook and contrasting soft piano just sets it off.

Phase II, Reachin. 

Another that had to be on there, especially if Turntable Orchestra wasn't.

This was such a big record and anthem at the time, and if I remember rightly even eventually achieving chart success in the UK.

US release on the wonderful Movin records, and Republic in the UK.

I don't think enough credit can be given for what Dave Lee and Republic did for bringing the more soulful side of House to a wider audience in the UK.

Great label and this and TTO must have sold be the absolute lorry load.

9 times out of 10 I'd play the 'Brotherhood mix', and I did intend for it to be the last record on the mix, but when I got locked in the grove I decided to drop the 'Latin Workout Mix' here.

Let's face it this record works wherever you put it!

Find your space, bust out those hi-kicks, and don't forget to "keep on reachin"....

Colonel Abrams, Music Is The Answer.

OK, so few years before 87, but as a House record championed by Larry at The Garage that does make it literally a Garage record.

The link to that sound "we used to call Garage" is right here.

The drum machine is an instrument in itself, and is dominant throughout the track.

The great soul of The Colonel, a song of unity, and the community of music.

Music is the answer!


Subculture ft Marcus, The Voyage.

What a beautiful record. Deep House, Garage, Soulful House, call it what you like, this is a timeless House classic.

Deep chords, floating pianos, oh and that vocal.

Very much in the vein of, but up there with the best Robert Owens records.

I'll shut up now and let the record do the talking!

Ten City, Right Back To you.

Well I had to really. Byron Burke, Herb Lawson, & Byron Stingily were the masters of their art, and my life is richer for their music.

Not the obvious selection here, but what track do you choose.

I think this one rounds of the mix nicely.

Perhaps aptly the NY mix, warming and building to a glowing finish.

Thank you A Running Melody, it's been a pleasure.

I hope I conveyed the message I intended to, I certainly put a piece of myself into it.

The mixes are a little sloppy in places, and I'm sure to some that period could have been done differently, but it represents a time and feeling to me, I hope it does to others, and I hope if this is completely new to you, that you get as much pleasure from the music as I and others have.

Press play, turn it up, and keep on keepin on.........

Black Fan.