Confused Beats For Electro Freaks

1983 Proto Mash-Up

http://soundcloud.com/gregwilson/new-order-rockers-revenge

In the summer of 1983, DJ Greg Wilson launched his weekly specialist dance night at Manchester’s Hacienda club, playing the New York Electro-Funk he’d championed across town with the mainly black audience who attended his seminal Wednesday night sessions at Legend, then the most cutting-edge black music night in the country.

From May 1982, the month The Hacienda was first opened by Factory Records, Legend had been drawing capacity crowds, with those who attended coming not just from Manchester, but from all over the North and Midlands, even as far away as London. Wilson was acknowledged as not only the leading club DJ in the region but the most innovative, for he was one of the few DJ’s in the UK who was actually mixing records in his venues back then – these, from a British perspective, still being in the days of the ‘personality DJ’, with the microphone all important.

It was during this same May month that two highly significant developments took place that would prove to have a major bearing on the course of Manchester club culture.

Wilson began to put together regular mixes, the first of their type, for Mike Shaft’s Soul show on Piccadilly Radio, featuring the biggest underground club tracks of the time, almost exclusively made up of U.S. imports. Piccadilly was one of the most popular ILR stations in the country, and as Dave Haslam observed in his book, ‘Manchester, England –The Story of The Pop Cult City’ these mixes were “probably some of the most taped programmes in Manchester radio’s history”. Further to this, he began to feature a radical new record that no other DJ, on what was then known as the Jazz-Funk scene, would touch; the truly seminal ‘Planet Rock’ by Afrika Bambaataa & The Soul Sonic Force, a massively influential Arthur Baker production that would subsequently re-define the entire approach to dance music. Electro had arrived on the scene in a blaze of controversy and Greg Wilson would be its biggest supporter.

Whilst the Soul purists cried ‘heretic’, Wilson put his full weight behind this new direction, giving many future Electro favourites, like ‘Pack Jam’ by The Jonzun Crew, Klein and MBO’s ‘Dirty Talk’ and ‘ET Boogie’ by the Extra T’s, their first UK plays at Legend, plus his other main night of the era, Tuesday at Wigan Pier.

Klein and MBO would also make a big impression on the influential Manchester indie band, New Order (who co-owned the Hacienda, where DJ Hewan Clarke had picked up on the track). New Order would use its arrangement as the basis for their forthcoming classic, ‘Blue Monday’, soon to become biggest selling 12” single of all, following its release in March 1983.

By this point, Greg Wilson had become nationally known within the wider club community, following his appearance, the previous month, on the cult Channel 4 music show, ‘The Tube’, when he became the first DJ to demonstrate live mixing on British TV. His radio mixes were also becoming more complex as he got increasingly deeper into tape editing, buying his own Revox B77 reel-to-reel, plus a pair of Technics SL1200’s (which were only installed in a handful of clubs back then), so he could now work on his mixes at home.

This also brought him to the attention of the Manchester Indie audience, who would watch ‘The Tube’ religiously every Friday. However, he was already well known to Factory Bands like A Certain Ratio and 52nd Street, who’d been attending his nights for some time. ACR’s Martin Moscrop, nowadays a DJ himself, cited Greg Wilson as a big influence and remembered how the band had tried to get away from the Indie tag in the early 80’s and would have loved to have had their tunes played by Wilson at Legend. Although this didn’t happen, Moscrop’s other Factory project, Swamp Children, found their way into Wilson’s Jazz breaks on a Wednesday.

New Order’s manager, Rob Gretton, a former Soul boy, and other members of the band had also checked out Legend and tuned into the Piccadilly Radio mixes. New Order, having been to New York and checked out the club scene there, were impressed by what was going on at places like The Funhouse, Danceteria and NYC’s greatest venue of the era, The Paradise Garage. With his reputation for playing the best dance records fresh out of New York, it made perfect sense to bring Greg Wilson to The Hacienda, as this would give the club a much higher profile with the black music crowd, who they needed to attract if the club was to transform itself from a struggling alternative venue, with the emphasis on live acts, to the temple of dance it would eventually become later in the decade.

In August ’83 he kicked off his Friday night sessions at The Hacienda, whilst guesting on the Saturday, in order to help acclimatise the club’s existing audience, predominantly white indie kids, to the music he was playing to a black crowd at Legend.

Although he was only at The Hacienda for a short time (Wilson retired from DJ work at the end of 1983) with the Friday night, for a variety of reasons, proving difficult to establish, the seeds were sown and eventually his successor, Mike Pickering (originally the club’s promotions manager), would find the right formula on a Friday, via his famed ‘Nude’ night.

There were, however, some memorable Greg Wilson nights – the live appearances of Whodini and Newtrament, plus the final of the ‘North-West Breakdancing & Body-Popping Championship’, the first B Boy competition of its type in Britain, His Saturday spots, when Manchester break crew, Broken Glass, who he managed, would dance on the stage, became the subject of a double-page feature in the Observer Colour Supplement and ‘The Hacienda Review’, a short tour featuring Wilson, Broken Glass and Factory recording artists Quando Quango (including saxophonist/vocalist Mike Pickering), would result in Wilson meeting a young DJ called Quentin in Brighton, who he subsequently taught how to cut and scratch. Quentin would later change his name to Norman Cook.

Hacienda Package feat. Quando Quango & Greg Wilson

Wilson was also at the Hacienda the night the video to New Order’s eagerly awaited follow-up to ‘Blue Monday’ was given its debut screening. This was ‘Confusion’, Manchester’s first Electro track, produced by none other than Arthur Baker (the video featuring Baker in the studio, plus footage from the Funhouse).

It was fitting that Manchester, where the Electro scene in this country originated, had cemented its association with New York via this New Order/ Arthur Baker collaboration.

Playing the Dub mix, ‘Confused Beats’, Greg Wilson featured New Order for the first time within a black environment, over at Legend. The very idea of playing an Indie band to a black crowd at this time was unthinkable, but within a few weeks New Order were included, alongside US tracks by names like Planet Patrol, Cybotron, West Street Mob, Captain Rock, B Boys and Arcade Funk on Wilson’s weekly floorfillers lists.

To further emphasise this connection, he began to run the acappella of the previous years biggest tune ‘Walking on Sunshine’ by Rocker’s Revenge, over the top of ‘Confused Beats’, which, given that this was, of course, another Arthur Baker production (that had reached the lofty heights of number 4 on the UK charts after first taking off on the black scene), was the perfect combination.

In September 1983, the month ‘Confusion’ entered the UK chart, Wilson included this ‘version’ in his latest Piccadilly Radio mix, one of his best remembered, which became known as the ‘Freak-A-Zoids’ mix after the Midnight Star vocal part at the beginning.

Wilson was even asked to put together a mix of Factory tracks, for which the catalogue number FAC 95 was assigned. This never materialised and has since become part of Factory trivia, being the first instance of number duplication on the label (FACT 95 being recycled for an album by The Royal Family And The Poor). However, he did make it to vinyl in 1984, co-writing/producing all but one of the cuts on the Street Sounds ‘UK Electro’ album.

A major feature of Manchester’s eventual status as a world-renowned centre of dance culture was the exchange of ideas between the black and Indie scenes in the city – what Wilson termed the ‘black / white mix’. It was no accident that former Legend regulars, like Gerald Simpson (A Guy Called Gerald) and Kermit, would eventually hook up with Graham Massey and Shaun Ryder, people from totally different backgrounds, to form hugely successful hybrid projects like 808 State and Black Grape.

Sadly, following the euphoria of the rave era, much of these roots became obscured, with the pivotal contribution of the black scene generally marginalized in well meaning, but nevertheless misinformed attempts to make sense of what happened.

By 1997, when DeConstruction issued the mix album ‘Viva Hacienda’, to celebrate 15 years of the now legendary venue, the sleeve notes had Wilson at the club two years after he’d actually been there, throwing the chronology completely out. Electro was well represented within the tracklisting, but there was no explanation as to how the Electro-Funk scene had become such a major part of the Manchester soundscape and, most importantly, how it gradually crossed over from the black to the white audience in the city, setting the stage for the oncoming House era (the original House crowd in Manchester being mainly black kids, another fact which is generally overlooked).

Then, in the mix itself, DJ Dave Rofe, who’d been commissioned to cover the early Hacienda period, decided to re-create the New Order / Rockers Revenge mix, genuinely intending it as a tribute to Wilson. Only problem being that there was no reference to this whatsoever in the sleeve notes, leaving just the people who were there at the time with the inside knowledge as to how it originated (however, more recently New Order bassist Peter Hook included the mix on his ‘Hacienda Classics’ compilation, finally crediting Wilson as its inspiration).

Having made a much welcomed return to DJ work two decades on, Greg Wilson has re-constructed and revived this mix (or mash-up as it would now be termed) for an enthusiastic new audience, many of whom were just children or, in some cases, not even born when he hung up his headphones way back when. Its always the source of much bemusement to him when someone, who presumes they’re in the know, attempts to impress him with their trainspotter like ‘facts’, announcing with a nod and a wink that they’re well aware of the source of this idea – something he must have copied from the ‘Viva Hacienda’ album!

Now with the forthcoming release of his eagerly anticipated re-edits compilation, ‘Credit to the Edit’, due out on Tirk (via Nuphonic) in May ’05, we can finally put the record straight by hopefully including what he refers to as ‘Walking on Confusion’ by New Rockers. It’s good to be able to help bring this largely overlooked era to peoples attention.

NUPHONIC / TIRK – 2005

*Tirk were unable to license the ‘Walking On Confusion’ mash-up for ‘Credit To The Edit’. It remains unissued.

**In his book ‘The Hacienda – How Not To Run A Club’ (2009), Peter Hook casts his mind back to a terse exchange with Greg Wilson in 1983, during the period he DJ’d at the club;

“I remember him coming up to me, asking if he could remix ‘Blue Monday’. I told him to fuck off, thinking it was the most disgusting thing anyone had ever suggested – why should we let someone tamper with our work? How times change. Nowadays the remixes are often better than the originals. I don’t remember much of Greg beyond that episode, although I know he mixed ‘Walking On Sunshine’ by Rockers Revenge into New Order’s ‘Confusion’, which was ingenious. The first mash-up.’

 


© Greg Wilson, 2005

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