It Was Back In ’82

Mix by greg wilson for piccadilly radio manchester 1982 reconstructed by pezz 2004

http://soundcloud.com/gregwilson/it-was-back-in-82-by-greg

One of the defining moments of my DJ career took place on Monday May 10th 1982, when my first radio mix was broadcast on Mike Shaft’s show, ‘T.C.O.B’ (Taking Care Of Business), on Manchester’s hugely influential Piccadilly Radio, which played a major part in bringing black / dance music to wider attention during the 70’s and ‘80’s – from Soul, Funk and Disco, through Jazz-Funk and Electro, and on into Hip Hop, House and Techno. I go into its rich legacy in greater depth here:
http://www.electrofunkroots.co.uk/articles/dont_touch_that_dial.html

The mix had been recorded a few days earlier, as live, one afternoon at Legend in Manchester (the club closed at the time). Mike Shaft had brought along a Revox B77 reel-to-reel to record onto, the machine being the portable unit of choice throughout the radio industry in this country back then. This was the first time the Revox, which has since played a constant role in my work, entered my life. At the time I had no means to record at home, but by the end of the year, following the runaway success of the mixes, which would subsequently become a regular feature on Piccadilly, I’d purchase a couple of Technics SL1200’s and a Matamp Super Nova mixer (this was at a time when, with the exception of London DJ, Froggy, who used them for his Roadshow, no UK DJ’s had such equipment at home). To top things off I bought my first B77, so I could put together my mixes at home, which would serve to lead me ever-deeper into my obsession with editing. So glory be to Mike Shaft and to Piccadilly Radio for facilitating this life-defining arc of continued discovery.

The reel of ¼ tape onto which that first mix was recorded onto was, as with most of my radio mixes (the final one, ‘The Best Of ‘83’, being aired in December 1983), lost – probably copied over at some point or other, having been stored at the station. I managed to salvage a few of these mastertapes, most importantly ‘The Best Of ’82, but the original mix wasn’t amongst these, and I only had it on an extremely lo-fi cassette recorded from the radio at the time.

As the author / DJ Dave Haslam once said, the mixes “were probably some of the most taped programmes in Manchester radio history”. These tapes would also spread further afield than the Greater Manchester region that Piccadilly broadcasted to, with copies, and copies of copies, finding their way into cassette players and ghetto blasters in all corners of the country, often without people having a clue about their source – this was the ‘mixtape’ in its earliest form from a British perspective. One such recipient of my mixes was Stafford based Pezz, then a 14 year old lad discovering his musical influences, and later of the fabled Nottingham-based soundsystem and DJ collective, DiY, who were amongst the pioneers of the UK free party scene, having formed in 1989.

I’d meet Pezz at the Liverpool offices of 3Beat, the record shop / label he worked for – this was in 2002, 20 years on from when my radio mixes first aired. My DJ comeback was still in the future, and I was very much an obscure name from the past at best, most people of Pezz’s age brought up on a later generation of DJ’s. So his excitement at meeting me was unexpected – he was talking about this tape from back in my Piccadilly days that had made a big impact on him and his friends at the time, as they set off on their own personal dance music odysseys, and asked me if I could identify a couple of the tracks featured (these id’s having eluded them for 2 decades). It turned out that one of his big mates back then was Dean Meredith, later of Bizarre Inc, who enjoyed chart success in the early 90’s, and more recently Chicken Lips (whose ‘He Not In’ I edited on my first ‘Credit To The Edit’ compilation in 2005), and that this tape had been a major influence on the sound of his latter project, which, along with Bizarre Inc, was produced in collaboration with partner Andy Meecham.

Pezz takes up the story in the sleevenotes of a limited run CD (300 copies only), from 2007, which he called ‘It Was Back In ‘82’:

We all have stories to tell – this one is mine. It’s the story of a tape that has been with me for more than 20 years, which has finally come to light as a major inspiration behind the music of Chicken Lips, who based their style on the type of tracks included.

It was back in 1982 when I was hitting my teens and, as were many others, looking for some direction, something to come along and grab me by the balls, something to show me the way, inspire me…

I lived in Stafford and had a gang of mates as most 14 year olds do. We were heavily influenced by our older brothers and sisters and, in turn, by their mates, the older, cooler crew. They’d stopped looking for that thing cos they had already found it, and were living it up in Manchester at a club called Legends. The thing was Electro-Funk and the guy feeding the crowd was Greg Wilson. Regulars at Legends from Stafford were Dennis Grey, Patrick and Winston Dennis amongst others. Patrick at the time was seeing the sister of one of my friend’s friends. She had boxes of tapes that had been copied, borrowed or even stolen from her boyfriend. These were constantly heard pumping out from her bedroom by her younger brother Steve, who one brave day had sneaked in and taken one, her favourite, from the tape machine and hastily copied it before carefully replacing it before she caught him. The tape was simply labelled Greg Wilson Piccadilly Radio.

Within a week the word was out that Steve Harrison had a tape that contained new music, music that this older, cooler generation was dancing to in their regular mysterious jaunts to Manny. Everyone wanted a copy. Steve was worried his sister and in turn her fearsome boyfriend would find out he had copied the favourite tape. It was kept close to his chest. He did however copy it for Robert Bairstow, who was fortunately a very very good mate of mine! Within hours of Rob getting it the tape was in my hands …..

By 1983 the hip hop movement was beginning to evolve. Electro had become slightly more prominent and with the video to Malcom McLaren’s ‘Buffalo Gals’ the UK had suddenly been shown how to ‘break’. In Stafford there were little pockets of b boys. Two of whom were Dean Meredith and John Parkes. (Dean later moved on to produce his own tracks as a member of Bizarre Inc, Psychedelia Smith, Senseteria and, more recently, as Chicken Lips – John on the other hand, after a spell in the early 90’s dancing for Altern 8, moved back to breaking and recently danced for UK Rock Steady). It was inevitable our paths would at some time cross, Stafford being the small town it is. When we did meet, thanks to this common music bond, we all hit it off big time. Moves were exchanged, stories told and, above all, music, especially tapes, were passed between us. Before long ‘The Tape’ was in Dean’s hands, and here it stayed, until years later (following the rave days, during which time Dean had a run of hit singles and I became manager of 3 Beat, the record shop in Liverpool) it was pulled out by Dean and presented to his co-producer Andy Meecham.

The tape was, I believed, all of Greg Djing and talking on the radio, but later, upon meeting him, it became apparent that only certain sections of the tape were actually him. The presenter, Mike Shaft (whose voice had been mostly pause button edited out), was the person whose show it really was. However, it was Greg who was stealing the glory with his New York influenced ‘mixes’ – the highlights of this legendary tape.

Following a chance meeting with Greg, when I told him this very story, I said I’d send him a copy so he could identify some of the tracks for me, tracks I’d known and loved for almost two decades, but which I’d never known the titles of. However, it wasn’t going to be that straightforward, for my tape, most inconveniently, had gone missing. So then began 10 months of hell trying to retrieve a copy, for both myself and for Greg…

As soon as I’d met Greg, an excited call was made to Dean. ‘…. Hey kid, guess what! I just met Greg Wilson – No way – I need you to send me a copy of the tape up as soon as possible….’ Then came the months of waiting more phone call’s hassling to get a copy before eventually with the bribe of digitally remastering it onto CD it finally arrived!

In the meantime I’d had many conversations with Greg and e-mail’s were exchanged, one of which contained a list of essential Electro-Funk releases. This list was full of records I, and anyone I showed it to, had never heard of, apart from some obvious classic’s such as the Peech Boy’s ‘Don’t Make Me Wait’, and Afrika Bambaataa’s ‘Planet Rock’. When I finally sent him a copy of the tape I’d got from Dean he identified mysterious artists and titles like The Gunchback Boogie Band’s ‘Funn’ and Jimmy Spicer’s ‘The Bubble Bunch’. I began hunting down these tracks on the internet, the first to arrive was Larry Graham’s ‘Sooner Or Later’, and the excitement of finally getting my hands on these tunes was unreal, mindblowing! I hadn’t had such a buzz from buying records in years. A goal was then set to collect every track on the tape. Gradually over the coming weeks all but a handful were found. In the meantime, Greg found the old tracklistings for his first ever mixes for Mike Shaft, which just happened to be the two mixes contained on the legendary tape. I was then able to find all but two tracks, or rather two small drum sections he used in the first of the mixes. Not even Greg can recall where these came from!

Before long it seemed obvious that listening to this 20-year-old tape was not enough. After collecting these, and a host of other early 80’s Electro-Funk releases, I decided that the only thing left to do was to re-create the mixes myself! Rather than just re-do them as Greg did back in ‘82 on the decks at Legends. I decided to use the computer to ensure the tightest of mixes and present them in today’s highly polished manner (I also lifted and cleaned the missing drum parts direct from the tape). The whole concept of taking someone else’s work and re-creating it is quite strange, and actually completing it and then re-presenting it to Greg felt even more bizarre. Thankfully he was really into what I’d done, especially as the original ¼” masters have been lost and, like myself, the only copy of these mixes that Greg had was recorded onto cassette from the radio.

The actual mixes themselves were re-constructed using Sound Forge and the audio arranging software Vegas Pro. Whilst the theory of mixing using these tools is quite simple, to mimic exactly what Greg did was at times fairly complex. Until I came to do the mixes I was totally unaware that Greg had used more than one copy of the same record to create his own ‘turntable edits’, by switching between the various versions. The task was not only to work out the mix in a track-to-track sense, but to re-create these live edits too! There are obviously a few of my own subtle touches in there, but I tried to keep the whole thing as authentic as possible.

I’ve also included my own ‘Emergency Mix’, concentrating solely on tracks issued on this influential label that Greg would have played at Legends and his other major venue of the 82/83 period, Wigan Pier.

I hope you enjoy these seminal mixes, just as I have for more than two decades now.

Pezz

Tracklisting for Mix #1 was:

Michelle Wallace – Tee’s Right
Linda Taylor – You And Me Just Started
Kasso – Walkman
Al McCall – Hard Times
Electra – Feels Good
Touchdown – Ease Your Mind (US mix)
Sinnamon – Thanks To You
Peech Boys – Don’t Make Me Wait

The mix would be the first of its type on British radio, and following the fantastic response to this initial offering, Mike Shaft decided to make it a regular feature, with new mixes every 3-4 weeks. It would have an instant impact in the clubs, with Legend’s attendance, which was already on the up, going through the roof in a matter of weeks. It was a momentous month, which also saw the release of the seminal Electro track, ‘Planet Rock’ (see: http://www.electrofunkroots.co.uk/articles/when_the_planet_rocked.html) and the opening of a new Manchester club, which I’d DJ at later down the line, called The Haçienda.

My career was about to go into overdrive, and ‘The Greg Wilson Mix’, as Mike, in his distinctive mid-Atlantic drawl, would introduce it, was a major part of this process.


© Greg Wilson, May 2012


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