This time, a playlist that doesn’t tell the story of a subculture but rather that of a geographical area: my home country of Belgium. This is a collection of records that have an international appeal, but have slipped into relative obscurity. It’s a trip starting in the clubs, moving past trip-hop, visiting rock venues and ending up in a tropical ska atmosphere. Isn’t Belgium wonderfully diverse? Full track listing if you continue reading.
Recently, I’ve told you about two historical Belgian subcultures that featured playing pitched-down versions of songs: Popcorn and New Beat. There’s another fairly recent example of this phenomenon, with a surprisingly pleasant result. When Dolly Parton’s Jolene is played at 33 rpm (in stead of 45 rpm, or slowed down by 25%), a completely new kind of song, with a spooky male voice appears. Eerie, isn’t it?
Last time, I told you the story of Popcorn music and how it was the precursor to modern day nightlife and the record culture. Just like its cousin Northern Soul, Popcorn eventually gave way to the disco era. Belgians hadn’t lost their eclectic taste and preference for pitched-down records and soon grew tired of disco. In the mid Eighties, the first sign emerged in Antwerp’s Ancienne Belgique club were legendary DJ Dikke Ronny (‘Fat Ronny’) started playing a mix of ska, synth pop, new wave, jazz and other obscure records. Initially, this was known as AB music. The real spark came when Ronny played Flesh by A Split second at the slower 33 rpm (+8) tempo. The sound struck a chord and Ronny’s successor Marc Grouls labelled it New Beat. The mood was recreated by playing other tracks at the same speed, and the popularity skyrocketed. Because of this, independent labels started producing new records with the same hypnotizing feel and sales went to the roof, unexpectedly. Mainstream media initially ignored the movement which grew to monstrous dimensions, even spawning its very own way of dancing and very specific fashion statements. When radio and television caved, New Beat went mainstream and peaked from ’87 to ’89, in parallel with Chicago’s Acid house movement. New Beat records started being released in extremely high numbers, quality dropped and the audience grew tired. Because of this, many classics slipped into obscurity. The impact and legacy of New Beat should not be underestimated: many producers learned their trade in this short period of time and the movement would lead to the Rave culture in the Netherlands and the UK. That is a story for another time. The playlist contains my personal favorites (track listing if you continue reading). If you would like to learn more, I highly recommend Joseph Devillé’s The Sound of Belgium documentary and this video by the Dewaele brothers.
For the enthusiasts, a down-and-dirty Felix Da Housecat set, like I’ve only heard him play on Belgian soil. Whenever the man headlines a local nightly venue he seems to reach into his dark disco and new wave inspired soul and truly goes for it. In the early 2000’s I have personally seen him play even better sets, with a truly superb one in Ostend that would have fit perfectly in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Anyone who has a recording of that one, please give us a shout. Felix, we need you back, mate.
Popcorn is an underground music style that emerged in the ’70s and ’80s in Belgium. Over the years its true meaning has been misinterpreted and convoluted (in part by many compilations using the Popcorn flag), which has led to the incorrect interpretation as a synonym for Oldies from the 50’s and 60’s, which is not completely accurate. The 1969 synthpop song Popcorn by Gershon Kingsley has no relation to the movement either. The scene emerged in the early seventies in a club called Popcorn (which gave it its name) in Vrasene, Belgium. The music is a combination of vintage Soul, Swing, Surf, Latin and even Broadway Musical scores, typically downtempo and slightly melancholic. Even though Popcorn shares similarities with the UK’s Northern Soul movement, they are distinct subcultures. Most records were down-pitched and not played at their original tempo. In many ways, the Popcorn scene was a precursor to modern day nightclub, deejay and record culture and is one of the factors leading up to to the later New Beat phenomenon. Below is a playlist of my favorite and original Popcorn records. Youtube-user PopcornJef maintains a huge online Popcorn archive if you’d like to explore more tracks. This documentary elaborates a bit further. Complete track listing if you continue reading.
The year is 1997. You’re about to slip into your combat boots, matching your camo pants. A quick look in the mirror reveals no zits … that hair is finally getting some length. Dad will drop you off at the youth center for that alternative party. The operative word being alternative … cannot be associated with anything mainstream. Below is a first grasp from that night’s playlist, focusing on records that were huge in the day. Enjoy! No fronts, no tricks, no soap box politics, I promise. Track listing below.
For years, I’ve been keeping genre-referenced lists of songs I want to use in a mix(tape) one day. While browsing through those lists last night, I started to realize how many of those tracks have fallen into obscurity an decided to share them in ready-to-play playlists. First up in my new series are 15 old-school R&B/Soul tracks, all from the Golden Age of MTV and music videos. Just hit the play button and one will play after another. Complete listing if you continue reading. Who said we need Spotify or a paid subscription to listen to music in curated lists? *Update: Been getting messages that a few videos are geo-restricted in some countries. Working on a solution*
Digging through record crates and CD’s last night, I was reminded of a story few people know. More than a decade ago I was active in nightlife and fondled around a little with music. While playing around one day I created a mash-up of Technotronic’s Pump of the Jam with the vocals to Justin Timberlake’s Like I love you. It was far from a professional production, the sound level was low, but it sounded ace, at least to me. Some friends who spun records at the time, used it and that made me quite happy. Two years later, I was working at Rendez-Fou in Ghent and the mash-up was played. The dancefloor went crazy. It wasn’t my exact copy, someone had made it’s own version, but the principle was the same. Later, I found out that a similar mash-up was featured on MTV Mash. Had a copy of my track gotten out, had someone heard it and picked it up, was is just sheer coincidence? I would never have gotten a dime of the remix as I did not own any of the rights, but secretly … I’m still a little proud and consider it the Glitterati Remix. Gotta let me have that, at least 😉 Below is a copy, not sure what the source is.