When I was hired at Wherehouse Records in 1994 I was one of three new hires. One of the other two newbies was a fellow named Jim. Jim was (and is) a DJ and he was pretty instrumental in opening up my enjoyment of dance music. He would hip me to things I wasn’t listening for and I never forgot those little things I learned. In all the time I worked with him I only saw him spin live once, at a gay bar in Lansing. It was an eye-opening experience, both the music and the club. Years later I would spend Fridays hanging out with him at a club in East Lansing. I’d get out of work and walk the few blocks and descend the stairs into the basement club. I would hang out with him in the DJ booth, one of the greatest places in the world. See, there was a safety in the booth. There was no embarrassment about being out on the dance floor or at the bar. It was a sense of control. And at the same time it was sort of practical, I kind of learned to DJ while in the booth. I learned about beat matching, moving the crowd, feeling and learning to move the crowd with music, sight, and sound. I remember watching the crowd as Jim played some track all the while listening to the current song in one earphone while hearing the upcoming track in the other headphone. It was something else, feeling the energy in the room and continuing the vibe, directing the vibe and building to something. You would field requests, cop feels, drink, smoke, make fun of people.
God, it was great.
A few weeks ago I was dipping around YouTube and finding these great dance videos. Well I started posting these videos on Jim’s Facebook page. And in return he started posting links on my page. It was great! Like a DJ battle, back and forth trying to not exactly one-up each other but keep the energy escalating. I’d post Betty Boo videos and wacky, very fruity Italian house cuts, while Jim would retort with Sash, Vincent de Moor, other trance cuts as well. Everything I posted was so much fun to listen to and everything he posted was just as great. As I listened and listened I came to realize something about the style of music. It ages fantastically.
What do I mean? Well, dance music — techno, trance, big beat, whatever — is music made purely with enjoyment in mind. Call it hedonism, call it anything you want, but that association is what makes this music (at least at this point) age incredibly well. BY associating the music with such highs the music itself does not date. Sure some of the music sounds dated, that happens with any genre, but the thrill and rush of the music is still powerful and you feel it deep down. Pete Tong, the grandpappy of UK dance music, remarked after the first airing of a new Chemical Brothers track that “You’re never too old to rave.” Is that line accurate because of the rush of adrenaline dance music? Energy is energy. I think that the energy is what infuses the music with those powerful connections in your own mind. The two fuse and that euphoria is flash frozen, instantly available in your brain to vibe off of again. The highs provided by the genre are amazing. Maybe taking drugs while listening changes this equation, I wouldn’t know, I only drank during those times. But maybe not, maybe nothing will cease those associations.
Music I listened to when I was 17-18-19-20 generally has not aged well to my ears. We all have those moments, busting something out for the first time in a while. Put it on, give it a listen and just realize how SHITTY you find the music now. Maybe not shitty, maybe more like boring. You know this happens to everyone, you as well. I read a tweet from the Nation’s Chris Hayes who commented on how poorly The Promise Ring aged. The group the PROMISE RING! AN EMO BAND! Well duh, of course they didn’t age well! For me the first time I really noticed this was listening to some Pearl Jam. Oh man I loved me some Pearl Jam right around the time I graduated high school. I bought bootlegs, I bought their music on LP and CD, I remember catching hell from friends of mine who loathed the band.
I can remember my excitement, my fandom, waiting in line for the release of Pearl Jam’s Vs CD in 1993. I can remember almost everything about the music but the music itself. And I listened to that CD multiple times a day and I remember nothing about it. When I tried to listen to it recently, to try and hype myself up for their new documentary, I found that the music held no thrill. It didn’t hold any of the same passion or energy or anything like it used to. It sounded a bit stale. I never thought it was an all-time classic but I did live and breathe the disc for some time yet I was totally shocked to find it sounding like a burnt match. But put on Rave Til Dawn from 1992, cue up the music and I start to shimmy, jimmy, skip and shake around the room with a HYOOGE smile on my face. Not only that but I can smell the air in East Lansing, smell the air in Montie House, remember sunsets. Hell I even remember walking through Jocundry’s to hit up Wherehouse Records to buy the disc. Listen to the cuts, do they sound modern? No. Do they make you want to dance?
Now the version of the disc I had was the second version. The first version needed scrubbing due to one song in particular. I don’t know why it was scrubbed but good ol’Jimmy had a copy and I still have the burned CD with this song. I’m sorry but nothing but good can come from a remix entitled the APOCALYPSE MIX! Yes, this is the song you are thinking of, yes you’ve heard the original everywhere, and yes this is a great song for dancing to.
One song I posted for Jim is called “Meet Her At The Love Parade” by Da Hool. I know nothing of Da Hool but I do know where I heard the song the most: on the radio in Australia. I can see the Telstra Tower in Canberra vividly when I hear the song. After those memories fade I just think of looking out of the observation deck watching the city below in absolute slow motion. I ordered a CD at Wherehouse when I got back from Oz that contained the song as well as many other that I ended up posting on Jim’s Facebook wall 13 years later. The threads in the video are way dated, but the music is still so much fun to listen and remember to.
Of course the best dance music is made, in my opinion, overseas. Not only that but the genre occupies a more prominent place in the day-to-day world. Smaller countries with different genres hitting the charts, setting the pace in terms of enjoyment and enthusiasm. I know I’ve posted a butt-ton of videos in this reflection but I need to post one more, a video that when I first saw I completely fell in love with. It isn’t a music video, per se, but a scene form the UK programme Spaced. Hounded by a maniac bicycle delivery man the main characters go out to a club. And the six or so minutes they show that takes place within a club it as real an experience as I’ve seen on TV. When is saw Fatboy Slim in Pontiac years ago I remember lights and legs and sweat and communial enthusiasm. I remember feeling like the world was alive and on fire.
Will I feel the same way in ten years? Stay tuned.
Mike Vincent is a skeptical, weight obsessed fellow with a tremendous memory for conversational minutiae. He spends his days dancing to Fatboy Slim mixes with his kids. He wishes he could dance like the Techno Viking.