“Move your Body (the House Music Anthem)” (Marshall Jefferson, 1986)

by Konrad

Ok, wow. This was a four course meal. It took me THREE attempts to get through all the material, all the videos, and then properly digest and integrate the experience. Where to start…

  • You are right, I did NOT see that coming!
  • That said, aren’t most of life’s best moments actually surprises and serendipity?
  • Your notes on the 10-min long version are like reading an annotated text of the Orthodox Old Testament. If Moses was a funk guitarist and Abraham had scorching vocals and the Egyptians were a brass band. 
    • p.s. check out this video edit of that long version. Look at that show, that crowd, those outfits…you telling me we wouldn’t have CRUSHED the 70’s??!!
  • Love that they are from Philly. Could definitely here that MFSB influence (some of the session players from MFSB played with the Trammps per the Wiki), as well as the Philly sound in those Hammond keyboards.
  • The SNF clip will be something that future generations 1,000 years from now hold up as the pinnacle of “ancient” 20th century culture. Also, can we talk about a few things:
    • By 1978, disco had peaked. This movie breathed life into a dying genre. All the dope disco shit happened in SF and NY in 1973-1976…this was mainstream culture “getting it”. Think about what it took for a bunch of Italian yobbos in Queens to absorb black/latino/gay culture, put on bell bottoms, and dance
    • DJ Cokes-a-lot. OMG. He is BLASTED.
    • Love how Travolta just leaves the chick behind. “I can’t keep up, Tony! You’re too funky!”
    • The crowd parts like the Red Sea for his awesomeness. Again, you telling me we wouldn’t have CRUSHED the 70’s???

So that one came out of left field and leaves me in a quandary: Where to go next? I don’t think we want this to be a disco playlist, which, while awesome wouldn’t really be the spirit of the list. So what’s the pivot from Donna Summer > Sylvester > Bronski Beat > The Trammps (and yeah, two ‘m’s, not two ‘p’s. Who knew?!) How do we go from funk groove bassline, full brass section, and gospel tinged vocals to the next dance banger.

My line of thinking is this: I want a track that represents the transitional evolutionary step from the funk of disco and the energy of “white people” Hi-NRG and bridged the dancefloors into the era of house, techno, and beyond. What track was an international bomb track, a grenade rolled into every disco, warehouse party, and house party from SF to Chicago to Detroit to NY to London to Berlin and beyond? What took us from a lazy 104 BPM and brass bands to electronic tools, loops, and synths?

Most of what I found were classics that may or may make this list but all of them seemed to represent classic House tunes that demonstrated the best producers and DJs had already found their footing by 1987/88/89 and were destroying dancefloors with the sound of Chi-town (via Frankie Knuckles at the Warehouse) and in NY (via Larry Levan at the Paradise Garage.) [SIDE NOTE: give yourself about half hour or more to full digest this history of house music…fuuuuuucking WOW]

What was that proto-house track that gives us glimpse of the work being done deep underground to take disco off life support (because it was indeed dead) and resurrect it with a new, faster beating heart, more precision, and an entirely new flavor. 

Then I found this…

There it is:

  • The funky piano riff at the start that continues to burn – incidentally, this is purported to be the first house track to use the piano that quickly became a staple of Chicago house!
  • The hi-hat kicking in (tissip – tissip – tissip – tissip!)
  • Then a pulsing bassline that throbs and grooves but has dropped that slappy funk of its descendants
  • An urgent, anthemic vocal deep in self-reference (“Gimme that house music to set me free!”)
  • And at 7+ mins, fully built to just keep everyone dancing

This feels, to me, like the missing link, the bridging type between the dying corpse of disco and the burgeoning form of Acid House that was bubbling and brewing in the after-hours clubs, far away from the bright lights. 

I remember moving to Seattle in fall of 1989 during my gap year, having a fake ID, going to house music nights at The Vogue in Belltown and listening to these acid house tracks and wondering what it was like in the bigger cities. Hearing this track, I realize how dope that would have been. This track and a few like it were the ones that exploded house and what would soon follow was a rapid branching of sub-genres that I have little doubt we’ll explore: hip house, deep house, techno, rave, drum n’ bass, club music, and more.

Ball is in your court. Consider your next move carefully, because we just took the party up a notch.

K

“Disco Inferno” (The Trammps, 1975)

by Jamie

Ok- finally getting around to making my next pick.  Let me start by saying that this is NOT where I thought this would go.  I had a bunch of 80s tunes lined up but when you came out with an 80s dance track that says, “Wait. Hold my beer.  Watch this” to others 80s dance music (still can’t believe I don’t remember ever hearing that song!) I had to go in another direction.  My plan was to move it forward in time and pull out something from this millennium.  And then this happened:

Sometimes the mix just leads you to a place that you need to go.  Hear me out.  But to do this right, get your phone out and (if you haven’t already) build your Epic Dance Trax playlist with the first 3 tracks and then put the “Disco Inferno” 10 min saturday night fever soundtrack version in at number 4.  Now- let “Hit that perfect beat” run out and forward to “Disco inferno”.  BAM!  you’ve gone from “I feel love”, 10 min of trancy, funky, bassline grooving to the slightly more upbeat and funky “You make me feel (might real)” to a higher bpm groover “Hit that perfect Beat” and now transitioning back to a straight bassline groover.   A bassline that you could literally dance all night to.  Cue up the 10 min version and lets break it down:

  • Opening.  Is there a more recognizable 1st beat?  “I can name this tune in 1 note!”
  • That bassline tho.  Close your eye and listen for a second to the first few minutes.  The foundation of good dance music but is a bassline that you connect with.  But to make it special, you need something interesting going on out front.  True to this era of ensemble funk bands, this track has it all- horns, funk guitar, lead voice, backup singers.  its all happening.  Its like eating an ice cream sundae with all kinds of toppings.  “Yummy…this is really good ice cream!  Ooooo- whats that? Hot fudge? Nice…..oh wait, is that a cherry? Tast-EE….” Something new every few seconds all while enjoying the basic foundation.
  • 2:34.  Lead singer blows the roof off his vocals.  He was hinting at this a little earlier, but really shows off the pipes here.  An adrenaline boost for dance floor and then back to the groove and little more vocal flexing
  • 3:30.  Into the dance section.  Funk guitar backing to help the dancers get a little fonky with some call and response with the vocals.  
  • 4:20.  Wait.  What?  another guitar? Oh yeah.  Funky guitar solo over the top of a funk rhythm guitar backing.  RAD.
  • 5:40.  Lead vocal comes back.  Talking to the dance floor.  DJs- take note.  THIS is how to talk to the crowd.
  • More call and response vocals
  • Don’t forget to listen to the guitars
  • Did I mention the horns?  Notice how the trumpets alternate with the blaring trombone sound at times.  Happens throughout the song but you can hear it around 7:30
  • 7:50.  Hammond organ FOR THE MF WIN YALL!!  
  • Funky electric guitar sound or synth behind the organ sound?
  • 9:30ish.  Just adding in all the instruments.  A veritable funk olio.  
  • 10:10.   aaaaaannnnndddddd we’re back.  40 seconds of the base melody/sound to take us out

While its not electronic, its certainly a dance track.  Came out it originally in 1976 and hit #1 on disco chart, #9 on black singles chart but only #53 on billboard.  Then got to #11 after being released on the SNF soundtrack and playing a key role in the movie about white disco dancing.  Seems about right….

There are better disco tracks and better dance tracks, but this one fits into the slot in this set.  I also love listening to this thinking about what it would be like to be in a club listening to them play this live for 15 to 20 min. Not to get grumpy ol’ man on this thread, but the original DJs had a live band to get their sounds from!  (When you come back, we should see if we can get a night at the sea monster on the 45th.  they have a house funk band that is exactly like this.  a great experience.) Additionally, “I feel love” feels like it owes something to this track a propos the ice cream sundae analogy.  So.  there it is.

Final comment- I always thought it was the Tramp.P’s.  Nope.  Its the Tram. Mp’s.  Live and learn.

Important links:

1st disco scene in SNF:

wiki on the song:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disco_Inferno

wiki on the trammps (surprisingly sparse…)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Trammps

“Hit That Perfect Beat” (Bronski Beat, 1985)

By Konrad

Fantastic first back-and-forth volley. Portends well for where this can go. 
First, responses and comments on some of your initial notes, and then we’ll get to tha’ tunez.

  • This isn’t intended to be a critical consensus on “the best” dance tunes of all time. Just a definitive list of the tunes WE love. So yeah, “Jamie loves this tune and it makes him dance” is a rock solid grading rubric. 
  • Genre – look, I’m not intending for “electronic” to eliminate GREAT dance music tunes. It’s more of a productive provocation. The magic will come both from tunes that are right in the middle of the bullseye AND the tracks that sit on the fringes and for which we have to make a case. Your Sylvester nomination is a perfect example – without this track, you wouldn’t have a HUGE part of the dance music canon through the 80’s, including House (and yeah, Hi-NRG)
  • Rod Stewart. Wow. You do know that the Rolling Stones had their “disco moment”, too, right? Emotional Rescue.  It’s basically the spiritual twin tune to “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy.”
  • Also, I love your frame of “The Peak Hour Playlist”: make this the playlist we’d groove to at the best house part every, starting after the drugs hit and riding it through peak and into the wee hours (you’ll just have to trust me on this one.) There’s a magic period from about midnight to 3AM that is just on fire. You definitely can go later, and we often do, but it’s a different energy. Not the high energy dance vibes. By 4AM, it’s a more visceral, dark vibe. The “cute and sparkly” has worn off. You feel like you survived the night and are committed to seeing the sunrise, not out of any sense of joy, but of a deep sense of duty and obligation. But from midnight to 3AM, its pure dance energy. Let’s build the playlist that captures THAT!
  • Side note on substances – I’ve always found it fascinating how the “weapons of choice” for ingestion align closely to the music/crowd/cultural context (again, trust me on this one) (also, for fun, this NSFW Reddit thread where a guy describes every drug he’s ever taken as a person…absolutely spot on and hilar.)
    • Alcohol – pretty universal. Just your every day go-to.
    • Cocaine – perfect for disco/1970’s and clubs in the 80’s.
    • MDMA – Ideal when the BPM went up to 120+. Like, it was made for 4-on-the-floor beats. It’s not so much “people love to combine EDM with MDMA,” it’s more like “I can’t imagine disentangling EDM and MDMA.” Also: Doesn’t mix well with rock, country, anything with guitars. Nails on a chalkboard.
    • LSD – Raves and psychedelic rock.
    • Ketamine – late, late into the night, combo’d with something else or it’s just a lonely experience. Some people can deal with it  and guitars at the same time but it can get dark.
    • Mushrooms – Just, no.
  • Your point about Hi-NRG is well taken – something’s gotta fuel the ride. 

Ok, on to the pick.

First off, AMAZING bounceback with Sylvester, “You Make Me Feel.” Absolutely perfect. You cannot not dance to that track. And did you know that his two backing vocalists (“Two Tons of Fun”) became “The Weathergirls” who knocked out “It’s Raining Men“? And one of the women is Martha Wash, who sang the female vocals on Black Box’s album (maybe a future entry into this list?!?!) as well as C + C Music Factory’s album,  and was part of a big lawsuit claiming she was denied royalties on the  “Gonna Make You Sweat” tune!

What a first couple of entries. Pressure is on. I was tempted to go with something apparent, a direct, straight line evolution from Disco to a proto-house track, or a late-80’s club banger. But I wanted to challenge us both to find the gems on the edges.

So, with my “build the playlist” hat on, pivoting us in a new direction inspired by Hi-NRG, a tune that feels like the natural descendent of disco, run through the filters of U.K new wavers…

Definitely a tune that I remember from middle school when we were all into new wave and dance music, but were blissfully unaware of the radical political and gay liberation vibes of the groups original members, particularly lead singer Jimmy Somerville who had left the band when this tune was made. We just thought the track was bangin’! (compare to their openly gay coming out anthem, “Smalltown Boy“, full of the angst and yearning of The Smiths but with dance club sensibilities.)

You can tell how the pace has picked up, artists have figured out how to use their synths and vocals to drill it to an almost aerobic-class level pace. Nothing deep or fancy. Just straightforward club dance heat. 

Excited to see where this leads us, what it opens up. Or even better, what unexpected left hook you pull out next!

“You Make Me Feel” (Sylvester, 1978)

by Jamie

I’m finally getting a chance to knock out my response- which is good since I’ve done nothing but think about it for the last 3 days…

Firstly, the stress of having meaningful contributions to this list has been REAL!  Given the fact that my knowledge of dance music consists mostly of, “I know what I like”, this list could be closer to the greatest electronic dance songs of all time and some of JLPs faves.  At times like these, I think back to a piece of advice Dean Nicolls once gave me.  “If you wanna improve, just get in the pool with guys that are way, way better than you are.  You’ll get crushed, but you’ll also get better.” So- yeah.  just take it easy on me.

Second, my kids might be more into this email chain.  I read them your email and Lizzy asked if I’ve saved all these emails from over the years and then her and Tory started riffing:

  • Lizzy:  You could publish a book about them when you’re older
  • Tory:  Yeah- it would be so quaint that you guys were writing emails to each other.
  • Lizzy:  “Konrad and Jamie:  an epistolary relationship”
  • Me: Wait.  What?  How come Konrad’s name is first?
  • Tory:  C’mon dad, of course his name goes first?
  • Me: Why?Tory: (eyeroll)
  • Me: (looking at lizzy)
  • Lizzy:  (nodding knowingly)

I still have no idea.  but I guess my kids see you as a headliner and me as supporting cast.  whatEVs.

Third, throwback to another classic chain, I’ve included the backyard BBQ playlist in case you need it for a summer cookout.  This was started in april of 2016.  finished in June.  The impetus was a quote from then president Obama…..(half an hour of sobbing…..ok, I’m back) recommending “Rock Steady” as the opening track on DJing a party. 

Fourth, the genre.  yes- very complex.  There are songs that you can dance to, and made that way purposely, but don’t have that as a primary target.  “Thriller” and other MJ classics are primary examples.  But then, what to do with disco- an entire genre which has dancing as its primary target?  Keeping, the list as Best Electronic Dance songs wipes most of those out, but that feels harsh.  Without disco, there is no club dance music.  Is there any set played today that doesn’t use at least one bassline from the 70s?  In a quasi-related informational note, its interesting to note how so many of the disco era songs come in at over 5 minutes with a 45-60 second dance break in the middle.  Clearly designated for club playing.  To wit:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6F9N-6ITFnA.  Rod Stewart with the song that may have created the I hate disco movement.  Often mocked- but I stand by it.  this is a jam. And its just in the last year that I noticed the dance break is the part where they are banging.  (How I missed it, for 47 years, I’ll never know.  The sexy sax always denotes banging! duh.) Anyway- I’ll limit it to one, but just be prepared for one choice that prob doesn’t meet the criteria.  If it happens, you’ll understand though.

Fifth- the list.  How do we build the list?  While it would make sense to build it chronologically, I suggest we take a page out of the backyard BBQ playbook. Consider this a playlist.  This is the set that starts at about midnight in the club.  Its starting to get crowded.  Substances are ingested or starting to be and the dancing part of the night is about to get serious. What does the next 90 to 120 minutes look like?  How does one song flow to the next?  Look at the backyard bbq list again….there is some solid work there.  Lets see if we can do it again!

Sixth (as I said- I’ve been thinking about this alot.  had a lot to get off my chest!), the pick.

While I said the list shouldn’t necessarily be in chronological order, it feels right to put this after “I feel love” since it directly steps off that as a link between disco and EDM.  News to me that there is actually a genre that defines this link:  “High-NRG”.  From the wikipedia page:  Hi-NRG was totally reliant on technology and was all about “unfeasibly athletic dancing, bionic sex, and superhuman stamina”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hi-NRG

“Superhuman stamina”?  Oh, so, yeah…ecstacy!

Sylvester was known as a High NRG act and this song is easily his most popular and considered a disco classic. its got all the hallmarks of a great dance track- driving bassline, funky overlay, “four on the floor” syncopation, has the electronics that put it “in category” for this list and is a nice flow from the slower beat of “I feel love”, picking up the tempo for the dance floor. The fact that this came out in 1978 from an out, crossdressing black man is crazy to me.  watch this clip from AB https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nz9CPABNMWo  

Pick it up at 4:00 for the Dick Clark interview.  It makes me cringe to listen as Dick Clark presses sylvester about why he moved to San Fransisco.  but maybe this was a way for him to acknowledge that he was “in on it”…this open secret about the fact all this dance music that was so popular was rooted in gay culture?  crazy stuff.  Sylvester is also known as an early gay rights advocate especially around HIV/AIDs which he eventually died of.  the history of dance music and its development might be as interesting as building the list itself!

BAM!

  • Respectfully submitted – Jamie

“I Feel Love” (Donna Summer, 1977)

by Konrad

I’m going to start us off with a tune that I’ve talked about so much it’s almost cliche but I wanted to learn more so here we go…

Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love”, Donna Summer, 1977 (prod. by Giorgio Moroder)

Mindblowingly this was originally a B-side to another track that I haven’t heard but which did quite well in the US R&B charts (“Can’t We Just Sit Down And Talk It Over”)


When re-released as the single, it blew up, hitting #1 around the world, peaking at #6 in the US. 


David Bowie proclaimed it “the future” and said it would change dance music for the next 15 years, which was, of course, off by 25 or more years 🙂


The song has landed on many, many “all time” lists including MixMag, Rolling Stone, and Pitchfork. The tune was pegged as the one song that kicked off the blossoming of electronic music in the 80’s and beyond. Which we have always known. 


I have heard this song mixed into sets as recently as February of this year when Carl Cox mixed it into a set in Downtown LA We heard it two years ago at a major Halloween party  in NYC spun by South African DJ Culeo de Song. Tech/Deep House DJ The Scumfrog mixed it into a bangin’ Tech House set in London in 2019 I heard this mixed perfectly with Moloko’s “Sing It Back” by a pair of DJs in an underground warehouse in SF back in 2016. 
I’ve heard it in clubs, parties, and on the Playa, and I’ve banged Jenn to this track at least 1,000 times.


This is simply the most entrancing, futuristic, trance-inducing, piece of pure musical heaven ever made. 


Ok, there it is. I’m starting at the start. Let’s see where we go from here.

  • Respectfully submitted – Konrad

The Greatest Electronic Dance Songs of All-Time: an open thread

Ok. Let’s light this candle.
The objective is simple but deceptively complex – catalog the ‘best’ dance songs of all time. Seemingly straightforward objective but we will need to define a few terms and set some guidelines to ensure the list is representative of the best of the best.
First off, what is the genre? A person can certainly dance to country-western (“we’ve got both kinds!”) or to polka but those songs shouldn’t be on this list. Hewing closer to electronic, a person can dance to hip hop or electronic influenced alternative (such as The Farm, EMF, or Erasure) but those probably aren’t in the spirit of this list.
These would be songs that one might expect to hear on a house music night at a club or the electronic/dance stage at Coachella.

There will be some close calls and we should expect some spirited discussion: “Moira Jane’s Cafe” by Definition of Sound. Is that a pure hip hop song because it has rap style lyrics…or with that looping guitar hook and drop beat is it an electronic song? “Back to Life” by Soul II Soul – R&B? Or do we count that classic late-80’s proto-house beat and echoing piano as “dance”? 
We’re the nominators AND the judges so let’s see where the chips fall.
Each email nomination should at least include the following:

  • First (and importantly!) add the song to this YouTube playlist so we have a running and permanent playlist.
  • In the email, include the basics (song name, artist, year, link to the video on YT)
  • As available, include some background info, fun facts, and artist details.
  • Where possible, any personal anecdotes or memories of the song that might give a clue to why this goes beyond simply being a good or memorable song and into the pantheon of true classics.

Like I said, let’s light this candle!

Introduce Yourself (Example Post)

This is an example post, originally published as part of Blogging University. Enroll in one of our ten programs, and start your blog right.

You’re going to publish a post today. Don’t worry about how your blog looks. Don’t worry if you haven’t given it a name yet, or you’re feeling overwhelmed. Just click the “New Post” button, and tell us why you’re here.

Why do this?

  • Because it gives new readers context. What are you about? Why should they read your blog?
  • Because it will help you focus your own ideas about your blog and what you’d like to do with it.

The post can be short or long, a personal intro to your life or a bloggy mission statement, a manifesto for the future or a simple outline of your the types of things you hope to publish.

To help you get started, here are a few questions:

  • Why are you blogging publicly, rather than keeping a personal journal?
  • What topics do you think you’ll write about?
  • Who would you love to connect with via your blog?
  • If you blog successfully throughout the next year, what would you hope to have accomplished?

You’re not locked into any of this; one of the wonderful things about blogs is how they constantly evolve as we learn, grow, and interact with one another — but it’s good to know where and why you started, and articulating your goals may just give you a few other post ideas.

Can’t think how to get started? Just write the first thing that pops into your head. Anne Lamott, author of a book on writing we love, says that you need to give yourself permission to write a “crappy first draft”. Anne makes a great point — just start writing, and worry about editing it later.

When you’re ready to publish, give your post three to five tags that describe your blog’s focus — writing, photography, fiction, parenting, food, cars, movies, sports, whatever. These tags will help others who care about your topics find you in the Reader. Make sure one of the tags is “zerotohero,” so other new bloggers can find you, too.

Introduce Yourself (Example Post)

This is an example post, originally published as part of Blogging University. Enroll in one of our ten programs, and start your blog right.

You’re going to publish a post today. Don’t worry about how your blog looks. Don’t worry if you haven’t given it a name yet, or you’re feeling overwhelmed. Just click the “New Post” button, and tell us why you’re here.

Why do this?

  • Because it gives new readers context. What are you about? Why should they read your blog?
  • Because it will help you focus your own ideas about your blog and what you’d like to do with it.

The post can be short or long, a personal intro to your life or a bloggy mission statement, a manifesto for the future or a simple outline of your the types of things you hope to publish.

To help you get started, here are a few questions:

  • Why are you blogging publicly, rather than keeping a personal journal?
  • What topics do you think you’ll write about?
  • Who would you love to connect with via your blog?
  • If you blog successfully throughout the next year, what would you hope to have accomplished?

You’re not locked into any of this; one of the wonderful things about blogs is how they constantly evolve as we learn, grow, and interact with one another — but it’s good to know where and why you started, and articulating your goals may just give you a few other post ideas.

Can’t think how to get started? Just write the first thing that pops into your head. Anne Lamott, author of a book on writing we love, says that you need to give yourself permission to write a “crappy first draft”. Anne makes a great point — just start writing, and worry about editing it later.

When you’re ready to publish, give your post three to five tags that describe your blog’s focus — writing, photography, fiction, parenting, food, cars, movies, sports, whatever. These tags will help others who care about your topics find you in the Reader. Make sure one of the tags is “zerotohero,” so other new bloggers can find you, too.

Introduce Yourself (Example Post)

This is an example post, originally published as part of Blogging University. Enroll in one of our ten programs, and start your blog right.

You’re going to publish a post today. Don’t worry about how your blog looks. Don’t worry if you haven’t given it a name yet, or you’re feeling overwhelmed. Just click the “New Post” button, and tell us why you’re here.

Why do this?

  • Because it gives new readers context. What are you about? Why should they read your blog?
  • Because it will help you focus your own ideas about your blog and what you’d like to do with it.

The post can be short or long, a personal intro to your life or a bloggy mission statement, a manifesto for the future or a simple outline of your the types of things you hope to publish.

To help you get started, here are a few questions:

  • Why are you blogging publicly, rather than keeping a personal journal?
  • What topics do you think you’ll write about?
  • Who would you love to connect with via your blog?
  • If you blog successfully throughout the next year, what would you hope to have accomplished?

You’re not locked into any of this; one of the wonderful things about blogs is how they constantly evolve as we learn, grow, and interact with one another — but it’s good to know where and why you started, and articulating your goals may just give you a few other post ideas.

Can’t think how to get started? Just write the first thing that pops into your head. Anne Lamott, author of a book on writing we love, says that you need to give yourself permission to write a “crappy first draft”. Anne makes a great point — just start writing, and worry about editing it later.

When you’re ready to publish, give your post three to five tags that describe your blog’s focus — writing, photography, fiction, parenting, food, cars, movies, sports, whatever. These tags will help others who care about your topics find you in the Reader. Make sure one of the tags is “zerotohero,” so other new bloggers can find you, too.