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.
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