After receiving an inquiry from a list member asking me what the term "303" had to do with the creation of house music, I decided to get off my ass and get this thing moving. So here is the first installment of House Music 101. (By the way, 303 refers to the venerable Roland TB303 invented by Tadao Kikumoto in 1982 intended to emulate a real bass player and drummer.)
In the beginning there was Jack and Jack had a groove and from this groove came the grooves of all grooves. And while one day viciously throwing down out of his box, JACK boldly declared "LET THERE BE HOUSE" and house music was born. "I am you see, I am the creator and this is my house and in my house there is only house music but I am not so selfish because once you enter my house it then becomes our house and our house music and you see no one man owns house because house music is a universal language spoken, understood by all. You see house is a feeling that no one can understand really unless you're deep into the vibe of house. House is an uncontrollable desire to JACK your body and as I told you before this is our house and house music and every house should understand there is a keeper. And in this house the keeper is JACK. Now some of you might wonder who is JACK and what is it that JACK does. JACK is the one who gives you the power to JACK your body. JACK is the one who gives you the power to do the snake. JACK is the one who gives you the key to the wiggly worm. JACK is the one who learns you how to JACK your body. JACK is the one that can bring nations and nations of all JACKERS together under one house. You may be black, you may be white, you may be Jew or Gentile. It don't make a difference in our house. And this is FRESH."
JACK, the GODFATHER of house
A. HOUSE MUSIC HISTORY: The Brief, Generally Accepted Version
House music emerged directly from disco. As Garth says: "Well, there was disco before, and eventually they just changed the name to 'house.'"
DJ Frankie Knuckles left NYC for Chicago in 1977 to become resident at the city's gay Warehouse club at the height of the disco era. Like some other DJs in NYC he took the raw material of the disco he spun and added pre-programmed drum tracks to create a constant 4/4 tempo. The term "house music" derives from his club, the Warehouse.
By the mid-eighties house had emerged in Chicago as a fully-developed musical genre through the efforts of Knuckles and those inspired by him like DJ Ron Hardy of Music Box fame. Two independent Chicago labels, Trax and DJ International, released the first house singles by Steve "Silk" Hurley ("Jack Your Body"), DJ Pierre, Larry Heard, Adonis and Marshall Jefferson. Farley "Jackmaster" Funk, known as the godfather of house music, was a Chicago dj and producer who created the first international house hit, "Love Can't Turn Around", and put this music on the airwaves with his radio show "Hot Mix 5" which also featured Ralphie Rosario, still a top performer and producer.
This house, however, was gay and black. House music was popularized, it is said, by the British who invented acid house and brought the rejuvenated musical form back to the states and into the mainstream (that is, presumably, made it acceptable dance music for straight white folks). House music reached England in the late eighties via, the myth goes, the party island of Ibiza. After that the genre metamorphosed under the UK acid house pioneers Paul Oakenfold, Mick Pickering, Danny Rampling and producers Gerald Simpson, Bang the Party, and Baby Ford into internationally desirable dance music.
This version of house history, among many other terrible omissions, tends to overlook the contribution of Chicago's DJ Pierre to acid house. As early as 1985 Pierre and some friends pushed a button on their Roland 303 and found that that "acid sound was already in it." They produced a track called "Acid Trax" which, they allege, was stolen by Ron Hardy and delivered as "Ron Hardy's Acid Trax."
In answer to Ranger's question: "How long has house music been in San Francisco?" I came here from NYC in 1988 and spun house at some underground gay clubs and parties along with many other native djs far better than I. It will be ten years ago this spring that the wonderful brits who gave you the San Francisco house sound arrived and threw the first Wicked Full Moon.
B. MY VERSION OF THE HISTORY OF HOUSE MUSIC
The simplistic view of the origins and development of house music presented above and in most histories I read omits many important contributors and musical influences, I believe. It also fails to provide any understanding of the complex social and cultural forces that helped build our house. House music arose out of the power of community and the need for music specific to the dancefloor and other venues: the gay and black undergrounds and liberation movements.
So my version of the history of house music begins, not in Chicago in 1985, but in NYC in the early seventies in the gay underground.
Next issue we will begin to build the foundation of our house.