Over Christmas I dug into Boy's Own: The Complete Fanzines, 1986-92 with a vengeance. DJHistory.com released this book, a compilation of fanzines (published in London and its surrounding suburban areas in the years mentioned in the title) in 2009, along with the similarly fascinating Raving '89, a photo book. I've long been into electronic music from the UK, of course a lion's share of it is made there, and the culture of the UK seems, more than other places (except, say, select German cities) to be geared towards drum machines, loops, keyboards and the progression of dance and electronic music. Some of my earliest “electronic” purchases were Blue Lines (gripped that at a Circuit City ahhhhhhhh), Warp records, etc. This book is awesome because it shows what happened before the era that I got into. I was five when the first issue came out.
The early issues of Boy's Own lament the shitty, overpriced, over-stylish London club scene of the ’80s, while championing the burgeoning clubs that were popping up around the same time as “acid house”. Subsequent issues reveal what serious cultural business “acid house” (not really Phuture et al, although they were certainly heroes; “acid house” in the UK seems to be a much broader term) became, as it tore down some of the dumb facade, and the Thatcher-era lifestyle of ’80s England, and made way for long-hair, E (getting “right on one”), big ass t-shirts, and trainers (shoes a la Nikes, Pumas, the ever-present Adidas Sambas) in the club.
Trying to compress the stuff in this book into a column on a website would be ridiculous, and a lot of stuff, for instance the intense footie (as in soccer) discussions, are way beyond my scope of understanding. I did used to be able to banana kick in my AYSO league, and I had that vicious goalie shirt that looked like muscles, but that's where my knowledge ends. This book, at its best, documents with humor and knowledge something that became very serious culturally (most rave culture as we know it spawned from these years, and this scene) and it is straight up fun to read. The sheer Englishness of the language is kind of hard to decipher, but I got used to it, and it became increasingly hilarious, idiosyncratic, and sarcastic. Plus, my last name is Pickering, I'm sure I've got some distant chromosomes that made it easier for me to read.
Best of all, though, the book is peppered with LISTS. I love DJ charts and lists because someone always knows some shit you don't, y'know? And this shit is both goldmine and it's hilarious, nostalgic opposite. I was on YouTube at my grandparents' house over x-mas, with absolutely nothing else to do but scour these lists for killer tracks. And, to my surprise, a lot of the tracks were not up my alley, although in the context of the time, and especially the influence of the “Balearic Network” scene and early Ibiza cuts (the early ’90s Ibiza scene was fundamental to Boy's Own's vibe), I can understand why they are in there. I just can't fathom the idea of playing a fuckin GYPSY KINGS (“Djobi Djoba”) song in a DJ set ever. But that's just me.
The lists in the book are the work of any or all of the primary authors of the 'zine: Andrew Weatherall (known as “The Outsider”), Terry Farley, Cymon Eckel, Steve Hall, and Steve Mayes. Some of those dudes went on to form the Boy's Own and Junior Boy's Own labels (I know you US DJs see them when you're digging), responsible for things like Underworld's “Born Slippy”, and a lot of tracks with a lot of piano (that's not always a diss!). Andrew Weatherall remixed a shmillion records and, as a teenager, I definitely heard his name all the time—it's refreshing to put him in context.
Anyway, I relished the opportunity to discover new tracks, good or bad, and the heights are dizzying:
Gary Clail, "Beef"
Nothing quite like a vegetarian anthem helmed by the homie Adrian Sherwood. On-U Sound, as a sound, is some of my all time desert island shit. This track is so tight in its low-slung groove, bridging activism, digital reggae pianos, and bass lazers. Boogie hard.
The Farm, "Steppin Stone"
I ain't never scared of “breaks”. Well, that's not true. But this song is sweet. At some point in Boy's Own, the dudes from this band The Farm pop up to contribute here and there, and they are mentioned by the BO crew a lot. I have a soft spot for tracks like this, mostly because I remember hearing lesser hybrids in this vein on the radio in the US back in the day. I can't even imagine the huge deluge of tracks into UK homes once things like the acid house mix of Happy Mondays “Wrote For Luck” started to influence a bunch of otherwise rote indie bands. I'm particularly fond of how this track incorporates the “Let No Man Put Asunder” acapella, one of house music's classic vocal tools.
Jah Wobble's Invaders of the Heart, "Bomba"
IBIZA and Ibiza alone is responsible for cuts like this. Once the island bug hits in Boy's Own, the tracks slow down, the hair gets let down, and the sky gets stared at. This shit is just so HARD. If a DJ drops this at the exact right time (and I'm talking EXACT) I can see bamas bugging out. Play it too early and its game over though.
No Name, "Hypnotic House (House Nation Mix)"
I knew about this cut from days and days spent trolling the YouTube user RealFreshBlog, but I'm ecstatic (ha!) to hear that music like this was blasted in huge UK raves. This is some extremely rare Jack. Any track with amateur female vocals from old school Chicago gets an almost instant thumbs up from me. You know these girls singing just, like, caught the bus home after they did these vocals, and maybe played some Mario.
Paradiso, "Here We Go Again"
This was released on the Boy's Own label, and appears to be a classic goosebump-causer if you check the YouTube comments. The “here we go, here we go again” vocal is almost too dated for me but the piano chords and vibe of the first two minutes make it so worth it (I would probably just mix it out after the opening glee, to be real). Also, it is a much different feeling to hear vocals like that in your room on YouTube (with that “hmmmm I dunno” look on your face) than to be caught out there in a big room when a track like this hits and a thousand people are losing their shit near you.
A Guy Called Gerald, "Trip City"
The description for this in Boy's Own is something like “the new Guy Called Gerald is great, despite having a name like 'Trip City'” and I can feel them on that. This is apparently some super dumb-rare shit that was originally released on a concept cassette album that accompanied a sci-fi novel called “Trip City” and a promo 12-inch. Guy Called Gerald gives us more Newbuild and less “Voodoo Ray” (though I do love “Voodoo Ray”) on this one, as well as the chills. I bet the novel is fucked up! Shout out to the YouTube soldier/DJ Placid who uploaded this one for the freaks!
OUT NOW: Future Times latest release, a 12” by Protect-U called “Double Rainbow”. Seek it out, and buy it if you dig it! It's available at Rush Hour, Clone, Rubadub, and other fine online stores!