Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Can You Jack? Part 2
A picture of the Music Box taken in 2001
Sleezy D (Marshall Jefferson), "I've Lost Control"
Roy Davis Jnr., "Acid Bass"
Two Of A Kind, "Like This"
I wanted to pick up on a part of the alternate history that Can You Jack?: Chicago Acid and Experimental House 1985-1995 discussed. House music lore claims the Warehouse as the club where it all began, which isn't surprising since 'house' music was an abbreviated version of Warehouse music. This was Frankie Knuckles' place, a stalwart in an anti-disco city, a keeper of the flame if you will.
It is that precise connection to disco that allows Tim Lawrence to argue for an alternate history, one which locates its epicenter at the Music Box at 1632 South Venues Avenue on the city's South Side. The most interesting aspect of this shift is that it takes the music to a mainly black, straight crowd, a poor and working class group, who suddenly became the artistic driving force behind the music. Even better, it helps the listener distinguish what was coming out of Chicago during this period and why it was different than music in other cities. This was not disco, this was something unique and different, something that Chicago created and they should be credited for that. It shouldn't be underestimated how brilliant and radical this Chicago house music was, and it surely shouldn't be disrespected by lazy or narrow histories.
The man who was the catalyst for all of this was Ron Hardy, the unheralded adso DJ who spun at the Music Box and existed under the shadow of Frankie Knuckles then and now. Hardy was not as skilled a DJ as Knuckles, nor did he have the built-in fanbase that Knuckles brought with him from the Warehouse. All of this is reflected in the history of house, as Hardy is a bit player compared to Knuckles starring role. However, this lesser fame meant a smaller ego and less distance between him and the audience. Quite literally, in fact, as the DJ booth was within reach of people, so that they could say hi or hand over their new tape. This was also a reflection of the fact that Hardy never felt too important or above the music. He would oftentimes take tapes from people and play them that night, sometimes a multiple times.
Tomorrow, we'll wrap all of this up with a look at the actual music and how it developed. The tracks above should give a clear idea of what this music sounded like coming out of Chicago during the mid 80s, as the acid sound forced its way to center stage. I'll get to talk about the 808 and basslines tomorrow, so you know I'mma be real happy.