12”/80 Club ClassicsWritten by Matteo Sedazzari
© Words Matteo Sedazzari
The origin of the 12” single originated from Jamaica in the late 50’s, and developed further into the sixties with the birth of ska, rocksteady, early reggae and sound systems, where party goers would dance to the beat of home grown talent that was longer than the three minute single. Furthermore, with the birth of disco in the 70’s, with the clubs of New York and such like, soul, funk and r ‘n’ b influenced tunes, in 4/4 time, with the bass pumping the music along, the disco dancers needed the groove to go on forever, beyond conventional airtime.
A big gap was seen by the record companies in the US and using the innovation of the Jamaican musical pioneers, the 12” inch single was born, initially to accommodate the club scene, and what a nice piece of commercial enterprise it was, for it is a win win situation, the record companies can make more money from an artist, buying/selling 2 formats, 7” and 12” singles, as well as an album. Of course the artist benefits from the royalties as well as being able to express themselves musically and the listener/dancer gets more music, musical bliss, no?
By the early 80’s, 12” singles were not just part of ‘dance’ genre, rock to pop acts were all releasing music on this format. Even with the growth of downloads, the 12” inch is still going strong in the dance scene (please note I use the term dance, very loosely) which is good to know. In addition, Universal Music have released a triple CD of 12”/80 Club Classics from UK and USA artists, predominately aimed at the UK, an ambitious project because with so much of a back catalogue to choose from, where do you start? (I bet the researchers had a great time listening to club greats from yesteryear). However the final track listing is strong, and there are many gems ranging from David Joseph You Can’t Hide to Erik B and Rakim I Know You Got Soul. Lovers of soul, funk, house, hip hop, Acid House and rare groove are all catered for.
It is much more than a greatest hits album; it is an anthology of dance music and a celebration of British club culture. 33 12” singles in total, available on CD and MP3 download, it would be clumsy and costly to reproduce this on vinyl. Recommended to listen from the opening track, the hip hop sound Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five The Adventurers Of Grandmaster On The Wheels On Steel to the Acid House S’Express Hey Music Lover, which is an epic conclusion to the album. Overall 12”/80 is an enthralling and inspiring voyage into dance music, hearing different styles, artists over a ten year period, shows how intelligent and innovative dance music was.
To break each track would move away from a review to an essay, but if you love dance music, then this is an album for you. For the old it will invoke wonderful memories and for the young will make you wish to go back in time. Of course, I have my personal favourites, such as Teena Marie Beyond The Groove, wow could that woman sing, N.W.A Express Yourself, attitude and positive aggression with soul, Ten City, That’s The Way Love Is, happy times. On the negative, perhaps is disc two, with Cameo She’s Strange, Colonel Abrahams I’m Not Going To Let, Rochelle My Magic Men. It is an over produced and compressed sound, which does sound dated, a horrible drum machine, and synth bass line. Even though the artists on these mentioned tracks may have come from a humble background, you get the image of a club in LA, with men in double breasted suits, sleeves rolled up , mullet hair styles and women in dresses with power shoulders, red stilettos and large curly hair with layers of hair spray, listening and dancing to these tracks, whilst clicking their champagne glasses saying in unison “Thank you Ronald Regan, may you never come to harm”. There was a big decadence back in those days, and let’s not forget it. Like I said, this is an anthology, a history lesson in dance music, and in order to move forward, we can’t always look at the past through rose tinted spectacles. However, Neneh Cherry’s Buffalo Stance closes disc 2, asking for a beat and you know that disc 3 is going to be good, real good.
12”/80 Club Classics Available Here