What does house music mean to me? To put it simply, it means everything really. As Marshall Jefferson famously says: “With that house music you can’t go wrong.” I wholeheartedly agree with that melodical statement!
The love of house music ingrained within me originates from my mum. Many hours have been spent listening to tracks in the house that she and her friends put on the stereo at some sort of gathering, remembering their youth.
The first song that springs to mind as my earliest memory was ‘Show Me Love’ by Robin S. The first time that song hit my ears it blew me away – everything that it did I just connected with – from the astounding beat, to the way it made people in the room react, I knew that this was for me. As time went by I heard more and more records that just reaffirmed the fact that I loved this music, such as Nightcrawlers’ ‘Push the Feeling On’, and Livin’ Joy’s ‘Dreamer’. I suppose as a nine- or 10-year-old you don’t really see or think about the impact it would have further down the line – I just knew that I loved it.
Over the years the feeling grew stronger, through listening to tracks such as ‘Pump up the Jam’ by Technotronic – my love strengthened. But it was only really when I got to the back end of high school that I discovered that this was a love affair that was never going to diminish. It was a very stressful time for me around that period, and virtually every single night I sought out solace from the stresses of school life by listening to music, especially house.
This was born out of an overall love for the 90s era. I don’t know what it is about that era but I just feel deeply connected to it – from the set of values people appeared to carry, to the way the music sounded, it all had an individualistic feel.
People sometimes say to me I was born in the wrong era and I think I was! I would have loved to have sampled the atmosphere in Britain and across the world at that time. Times were changing in many different ways, such as young people’s views… they wanted to be free from the constraints of Margaret Thatcher’s Britain, and so illegal raves were born. Playing cat and mouse with the police every weekend, it would’ve been great to be involved in a movement that was against the establishment.
Football violence and crime at matches also dropped due to the spread of ecstasy. West Ham’s famous ICF firm were often seen embracing other rival firms such as Millwall and Chelsea due to this new-found ‘free love’. This for me even benefited the government slightly, as football violence and related crimes were at their peak in the early 80s. This eventually resulted in all English clubs being banned from playing in Europe for five years in 1985, due to the Heysel disaster in Brussels, in which 39 fans tragically lost their lives.
One place I would have loved to have gone to was The Hacienda. This will come as no surprise to anybody reading this who knows me, as music is one of the major subjects I always talk about – potentially boring people to death! The Hacienda itself is something I was mesmerised with through the TV screen, by watching films such as 24-hour Party People, a film about the creation of Factory Records, and the ultimate rise and fall of that enterprise created by Tony Wilson, Alan Erasmus and the members of New Order. Forgetting about the disastrous way it all ended for them, I like to focus on the unity they created within the people at the beginning, especially the musical footprint they and others have left on Manchester – with many people dubbing the city the real capital of Britain, spawning the nickname “Madchester”. It certainly lived up to its name at that time.
As much as I loved the Hacienda scene, in my earlier years I was naive to think that house music started there, but the real birthplace of house was in Chicago and Detroit, (for techno) in the early 80s. Larry Heard, Marshall Jefferson and Derrick May were just a few of many pioneers of this pivotal movement.
However, I learned the individual seen as the Godfather of House is Mr Frankie Knuckles. His track ‘Your Love’ seemed to kickstart a vibe that was ever-growing across America, which eventually moved all across the world. So Chuck Roberts’ affirmation “Let there be house” from the Mr Fingers track ‘Can you Feel it’ was taken on board and house continued to grow.
In the summer of 2017, my cousin created a Chicago vs Detroit playlist for me, which featured some familiar classics such as Marshall Jefferson’s ‘Move Your Body’ and Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley’s ‘Jack Your Body’. It also unearthed some new tracks to me that I have now grown to love, such as ‘Strings of Life’ by the fantastic Derrick May (Rhythm Is Rhythm). These all provided great medicine during the summer, being confined due to an operation. If you wish to learn more about house and its impact, documentaries such as ‘Summer of Rave 1989’ and ‘Pump up the Volume’, the documentary originally shown on Channel 4 in 2001, provide great insight and can be found on YouTube.
In a modern world that is ever changing and tagging on to the latest trends, I certainly feel better suited to the ‘free love’ era – these people knew how to party hard! Hopefully one day I get the opportunity to do a DJ set and show people old skool house is still very much alive and where it’s at! I hope through reading this article you have been able to feel the passion in my words because that’s how much music means to me… “On the seventh day God created house music!”
I’d like to say thanks to my cousin Conor for giving me this opportunity to write this… he and the rest of my Irish family have become great friends of mine, as well as a family. Music is a common love. Our sort of party experience together is being in The Shakespeare pub in Padiham, Lancashire, where the DJ was eating sausage rolls and playing the rave tune ‘Sweet Harmony by Liquid’. He played it three times in a half hour. I mean it’s a top tune, but three times?! To quote a famous English playwright, “If music is the food of love, play on…”
My top 5 dance tracks…
A Guy Called Gerald – Voodoo Ray (1989)
My favourite track of all time – check it out if you’re into the free love vibe.
Xpansions – Move Your Body (Elevation) (1991)
You will literally move your body!
Alison Limerick – Where Love Lives (1991)
The piano sound is incredible!
Rhythm Is Rhythm – Strings of Life (1987)
Derrick May’s classic sends me off into a trance like state!
Black Box – Ride on Time (1990)
What a powerful voice.
To put these songs in any order and miss out others is kind of doing them a disservice, as so many tracks I’ve come across from this time period have blown my mind! Honourable mentions go to Soul to Soul with ‘Back to Life’ and K-Klass with ‘Rhythm is a Mystery’, and ‘Let Me Show You. Also Kariya’s ‘Baby Let me love you for Tonight’ – that track encourages you to live in the moment and absorb the feeling – which I certainly do when listening to it. The YouTube channel davepeo77 is an amazing source of classic dance tracks.
There are so many more tracks I could write about, but quite simply there aren’t enough pages in one edition to do so. However, if this resonates enough, maybe a follow-up is in order, so who knows!
About Joe Skinner…
I’m a 19-year-old wheelchair user from Padiham in Lancashire. As well as being bang into music, football is my joint favourite pastime.
I’m an avid Burnley FC season ticket-holder, and I also help set up the Danny Ings Disability Sports Project. This came about after a photo taken of him giving me his boots went viral. From this photo we have built up a friendship and as a result a string of wonderful events have occurred – such as me delivering talks at Parliament and a BT Sport feature on disability inclusion in sport which resulted in me going to Buckingham palace which was great.
More importantly than all that, I just buzz off being around good people, going to gigs and the football!
PS… Rrrrave on!