HOUSE HUNTING #67 – JAMIE PRINCIPLE

Now it wouldn’t be Chicago if there weren’t a twist in the tale that’s pure wild Windy City Mid-West…

HOUSE HUNTING #67 – JAMIE PRINCIPLE

Now it wouldn’t be Chicago if there weren’t a twist in the tale that’s pure wild Windy City Mid-West…

So been super slack on the lyrics front of late but for good reason as I’ve been house hawkin’ at a load of record fairs over the last month! These included the Hackney Record Fair where I was reppin’ with Ransom Note releases and totes along with the second-hand hauls plus the 20/20 Vision Saturday social in hip Hoxton haunt The Lion & Lamb where I brought a few of my choice crates early doors. Also was at the controls of last month’s Ransom Note Record Fair which played host to the usual vinyl vendors including choice comp curators BBE, haute house vendors Vinyl Underground, Manchester mogul Irfan Rainy City plus indie labels From The Depths and South London stable Ears Have Eyes – ran by Ransom Note’s very own Joe Europe!

I also had my House Hunting crates housing choice Chi cuts and NYC necessities complete with some WBLS and WBMX wax weapons in the form of boogie bombs, disco diamonds and Italo flow – no speculator specials just house hustles and decent deals to be done… Shout to all who jetted down again for a crate cruise and Saturday social nice one for the support and hope you all scored some serious slices! As well as the record dealin’ we had the More Downstairs massive recording the fair and sharing DJ duties with guests spinnin’ their scores from the fair so an excuse for a social – check out this lil’ snapshot here…

Next R$N record fair on Sunday 14th May which we’ll be hosting in a bigger venue with twice as many vendors so get it down in the diggin’ diary full details soon… In the meantime, I’ll be hosting a stall on Saturday 16th April for The Diggers Record Fair at NT’s so hit me up with your wax wantlists all info here. Anyway, as reppin’ at so many record fairs naturally I’ve had to source and stockpile some second-hand scores. There’s been the odd eBay bargain and Gumtree grab but majority been through hustlin’ hauls at house calls with one raid resulting in me coppin’ a clean copy of Joe Lewis’ legendary joint ‘Love of My Own’ – no it weren’t Southside Chicago but Barnet of all places super score! As well as the home vinyl visits did some deals with shops including a store in South Africa – all the SA slices goin’ like wax wildfire at the Hackney Record fair was rinsed of all the Bubblegum bombs and Kwaito kuts so will score some more! However, my most trusted source that has been sourcing me stashes over the last six months or so is across the Atlantic – no not in the Chi or NYC but the Missouri city of St. Louis. Ain’t probably the first place that’s on your rack raiding radar but it’s home to Mid-west wax emporium Endless Planets. Founded in 2015 by kindred spirits Scott Trausch and Jeff Michael, to me their joint is joining the ranks of prime purveyors such as Invisible City Editions, Rush Hour et al with their carefully curated cuts. To get a flavour of their serious stock check out their blog (Jeff’s pet project that preceded the launch of the shop) where they upload unearthed records like the private press pressure of Labrys’ superior slice ‘Sisterlove’. Jeff’s focus with his encyclopedic expertise is more on the records on the deeper end of the sonic spectrum whether it’s avant-garde allure, jazz joints, leftfield lacquer or obscure oddities whereas Scott’s more four to the floor with the dubbed-out delights of boogie, disco, house and Italo. Check out below the choice cuts they’ve had on heavy rotation in the shop of late including some haute house, prime private-press platters and St. Louis local lacquer…

Scott’s the main source of my Italo inventory (and other killer kuts) so it’s only right I do a lil’ House Hunting tribute and hear his story… Scott got into records by watching old DMC clips on YouTube with DJ Shadow's opus 'Entroducting' a significant influence – he always wanted to be that killa kutz type DJ who’d just rip on wax. Turns out he had work to do when he lost a DJ comp in his second year of uni to some guy awkwardly beat juggling Beatles tracks – as you do! The hurt was deep but not for long, because he was hooked on a new drug: diggin’ and flippin’ through the 12" collections of some new friends he’d fallen in with at school.  Some of the choice cuts they rocked set the direction of Scott’s tastes and collecting from then on whether it was Windy City Trax wax like Ron Hardy’s ‘Sensation’ and Sweet D’s ‘Thank Ya’, the Italo flow of Klein and MBO's ‘Wonderful’ and Fun Fun’s 'Color My Love' plus some Hi-NRG histrionics in the form of some Bobby O sleaze. Also at the time they somehow got their school to sponsor and support DJ’s playin’ in their remote town of Ithaca, NY which included Dance Mania mainstays and Juke heroes Traxman, DJ Spin, DJ Rashad, DJ Deeon and DJ Clent playing all their Juke joints to Scott and his 11 housemates – proper private party! The ensuing years at uni Scott stepped up his collecting game which was fast-becoming the biggest and most rewarding thing in his life then it was game over when he hit NYC for grad school as he rinsed all his student loan on records – we’ve all been there a sound investment! He hooked up with Phil Lembke (aka DJ Sticky Dojah), Dan ‘Diz D’ Doct’rin’ outta Montreal and Noah Freeman who were all major influences and no doubt helped him securing a spot on WNYU 89.1 with his live mix show ‘Bodyshine’ which was the perfect platform to showcase his skills as a serious selector.

The next significant step for Scott was hookin’ up with his Endless Planets partner Jeff Michael who is the host of 'Endless Planets' on Frission Radio. As is always the case with these chance encounters they met either by complete happenstance or by some order of the universe (diggers destiny?) outside a St. Louis pizza joint while Scott was spinnin’ some records outside on the sidewalk. He threw on a local boogie 12” from an East St. Louis underground hero, who had released on Cadet and Stang, but also had a private label that was a wax weapon. This stopped Jeff in his tracks and he asked Scott if he knew who and what he just played, so they began talking and couldn’t believe the other was a deep digger, or that they’d just returned home from MA programs with very similar interests. They harbored mutual dreams in owning their own diggers paradise one day, but as an eventuality, a dream that would likely never come to pass fast-forward to the present and their dreams are now a reality. Jeff more than anybody really turned Scott into a choice curator, influencing him to want to dig deeper than ever before.  A voracious audio archeologist and cuttingly insightful musico-futurist with incredible ears, insight and foresight, Jeff has constantly pushed Scott further and farther into the wonderful and terrifyingly vast vinyl universe…

After meeting Jeff for the first time and exchanging info back in the Autumn of 2015 they didn't hang out for months but during that time Scott got his dream gig as he secured a position at a new record shop in town. The record store job more or less brought ‘em back together in a way; Scott would talk about the job with Jeff and what he was stocking and they’d dig there together and with Jeff turning Scott on a load of sleeper scores. They also hooked up at Scott’s spot a few nights each week, staying up way too late to spin, trade and talk records. They had similar ambitions, ideas, and ideals for how the record game in St. Louis could go and then, on a cold winter’s day their talks about about "what are we doing with this records thing; where's it going" began. Not long after these late night sessions, Scott began to realise that the direction the record store he was behind the counter at and what he and Jeff envisioned were irreconcilable, so he jacked the job at the shop. With his new-found free time and an something of an insight into general business practices, Scott and Jeff began to think increasingly about the "what if?" scenario. Then, one morning Scott received an early morning phone call from Jeff. He hit him up to say he had quit his job and was ready to dive in to realise their dreams. Without skipping a beat Scott started scouting cheap locations. 

Whilst on the prowl for prime shop space they jetted on short buy/sell daytrips and pop-up sales to raise funds, and eventually found a nice basement location on one of the the fastest developing streets in St. Louis. Having found their basement treasure trove, they began the process of turning the diggers dwelling into a legitimate store.  All said and done, from paper work to painting, Endless Planets opened its doors for the first time on April 16 last year initially stocking the store with records from their personal stashes. Fast-forward to 2017 and they’ve left the subterranean charm of their basement abode, and upgraded to a bigger space with a superior interior just a few blocks down the road from the old shop. With the newly gained visibility on the local level alongside the support of some major international players in the record game, they’ve been digging deeper and farther than ever before – last November they jetted north of the border to Canada between Toronto and Montreal, selling and buying at public and private digs as often as they could. Their main goal is to keep the store stock impeccably curated -  never buying lots, just cherry-picked cuts and handpicked hauls.

 

So what house hotplate have I hauled off Scott that I can wax lyrical about? One choice Chicago cut that I’ve copped with every haul (sometime multiple copies) is the prime Persona platter ‘Waiting On My Angel’ by house hero Jamie Principle – the last Endless Planets prime package no different with this one housed in it. I’ve yet to compose a House Hunting letter to Jamie Principle so let’s have a house hark back with this Chicago Icon…

To begin let’s rewind to the early eighties where a primitive demo of Jamie’s classic Chicago cut ‘Your Love’ had been circulating on tape for a couple of years. As opposed to the primitive productions that were synonymous with the emergent house scene of the city, Jamie’s opus was much more of an artistic arrangement with a more European feel akin to Italo and new-wave. No doubt that the track’s styling was inspired by his youth… Born Byron Walton, he grew up in a strict Christian household where any form of dance music was considered secular and was forbidden. However, his roots of being a classical drummer in a church choir laid the foundations for his love of music with influences and inspirations including David Bowie, Depeche Mode, Heaven 17, Parliament, Prince and Visage – all of which you can hear in Jamie’s early records including ‘Waiting On My Angel’, ‘Your Love’ and ‘Baby Wants To Ride’. 

All these compositions started out as poems and love letters about a girl he met called Lisa and accepting sexuality as he was adapting to life away from the Church where you were drilled to abstain from sexuality. Meeting Lisa threw his worldview so he was naturally trying to figure out how to balance life and relationships without turning back on his upbringing and what he was conditioned to believe. These lyrics and subject matter struck a chord with Chicagoan clubgoers as his ‘Your Love’ demo was rinsed by Frankie Knuckles at his joint the Power Plant with other DJs coppin’ a cassette copy – even though it was a huge house hit most heads wouldn’t have believed it was composed by a young black man in Chicago (many assumed it was outta Europe). It’s thanks to Jamie’s friend Jose Gomez who was working with Frankie at the time as he handed Frankie Jamie’s tape and the rest is house history… Persona Records (more on them in a min…) signed up Jamie’s ‘Your Love’ and got Mark “Hot Rod” Trollan of Hot Tracks fame to polish Frankie’s original production. He added the arpeggiating synths that formed the spine of the production complete with THAT bassline scored from the Italo flow of Electra’s Emergency EP ‘Feels Good (Carrots And Beets)’ – forget the later Trax and DJ International releases all about the Persona pressing with the lush electronics and haunting melody in perfect harmony with Jamie’s vox taking centre stage and yearning: “When your body's next to me I begin to sweat… When you touch I lose control and you know what's next... Fantasizing all the time of your body next to mine…” Lose yourself to love here…

Preceding the release of ‘Your Love’ was this week’s wax ‘Waiting On My Angel’ that was released on Danny Alias and David Bell’s Persona Records in the Spring of ’85. Persona had just been launched the previous year to release the New Wave styling of Danny’s Cold War cut ‘Civil Defense’ featuring unsung Chicago House hero Brett Wilcots (who was behind the counter at Chicago Institution Importes Etc. and later of Gherkin fame) turning in his first ever mix resulting in a proto Chicago house dub loaded full of lasers, schizoid synths and war sirens blazin’ out – finding favour with Chicago’s DJ deity Ron Hardy who rinsed it at the Music Box. You’re lucky if you can cop a copy for under a ton so seek out the respectful reissue that Ransom Note’s enfant terrible Ivan Smagghe gave the record last year on his Les Disque De La Mort label complete with re-edits from Ron Hardy and Ivan himself! You know me though I’m still hunting down the original pressing complete with Republic Disco sleeve anoraks anonymous… Anyway, there was a release party for the record at the legendary Seagrape Studios where Brett Wilcots and Frankie Knuckles were instrumental in getting Jamie signed to Persona. On hearing the demo of ‘Waiting On My Angel’, Danny and David approved so added a bit of polish and promotion to make it a finished product. It was an overnight sensation and was the first Chicago House record to enter Billboard Magazine’s ’12 Inch Singles Sales’ charts peaking at number 40. Though 5,000 copies were pressed up, demand outweighed supply as the pressing plant couldn’t keep up with the 1,000+ copies sold per day in Chicago alone – kids were lining up on the street and around the block to cop a copy! 

Now it wouldn’t be Chicago if there weren’t a twist in the tale that’s pure wild Windy City Mid-West… Legend has it that Larry Sherman was courting Jamie to release ‘Waiting On My Angel’ on Trax but aware of his dubious business practices Jamie passed him up. Larry was so p***ed that he opted to sign to Persona instead of Trax that as well as blocking the distribution and sabotaging the record in any way he could (including his usual shady practice of pressing up extra copies as he wrangled the rights despite Masterdisk in NYC pressing up the original) he got Jesse Saunders and Vince Lawrence to record and release a cover version. Larry played on that there had been some history between Jesse and Jamie (Jesse used the sequenced synth pattern off Jamie’s ‘Your Love’ for his hit ‘Real Love’ so though technically not falling foul of copyright law naturally Jamie felt ripped off) so Jesse should side with Larry as he’d been spited by his new enemy. Jesse obliged and when he was credited with the release of course Jamie assumed he was stealing again – though it was Larry who masterminded the whole operation. 

Persona immediately filed suit with a cease and desist order pending copyright infringement however Larry played his joker in the pack claiming it was only a cover version and filed a counter-suit against Persona for restraint of trade – f**king hell what a crafty c**t! Unbelievably, the Judge sided with Larry and in the process set a legal precedent regards copyright infringement – as long as the cover version is released at least 24 hours after the original with differing lyrics (that aren’t derogatory to the original) then it’s a legal cover with no permission needed from the original author – no wonder there’s a load of s**t covers about! To rub salt in the wounds, as well as losing the case Persona had to pay damages for the restraint of trade counter-suit so Larry proper f**ked ‘em over… Away from that crude cover also worth checking out is Ron Hardy’s unreleased reel-to-reel version and the Bob Heckmann remix on ZYX with both being more club-friendly cuts however the original club mix still my prime Principle platter with the slow-building synth intro that is both beguiling and haunting – get the shivers to that and all the other mixes (well, maybe not Larry’s) here…

Despite the legal wrangle ‘Waiting On My Angel’ was Persona’s biggest hit – surprisingly ‘Your Love’ didn’t even chart probably due to the demo cassette being rinsed the previous years. Larry Sherman still had an ace up his sleeve though as in ’87 he released Frankie’s original version of ‘Your Love’ on Trax without Jamie’s consent. He wasn’t even credited just had his surname ‘Walton’ under the title track – the record was released under the name ‘Frankie Knuckles Presents’ and I’ve known heads think it’s just a Frankie Knuckles record when really the artist was the real architect. Flip over instead for the freaky ‘Baby Wants To Ride’ which oozes sex and sweat with it’s sexual overtones – listen closely to the lyrics and you’ll hear that they’re a form of escapism and politically charged in reference to the Reagan-era’s ultra-conservative ideals “Ronnie wants to ride me, because he thinks he's king… But its hard to ride baby when you living in a fascist dream”. Despite it being an unofficial release the record was synonymous with the house explosion in the UK and was a huge hit with Pete Tong later licensing for FFRR. Following suit was his B-side bomb ‘Bad Boys’ which was a reaction to heads labelling and stereotyping him so bit back with lyrics like “Well you might call me a queer, well you might call me a freak” – you could also argue the track title and chorus “You’re just a bad boy, beep beep” is a thinly-veiled dig at Jesse Saunders. It’s worth flippin’ back to the A-side too with that winning Jamie and Frankie formula again on ‘It’s A Cold World’ where Jamie’s dystopian worldview is backed up with a haunting melody, glacial synths and stark serenade taking the dancefloor into a deeper void…

There was life after Trax especially as Jamie had been f**ked over too many times by Larry so in ’88 he set up his own stable D.J. World which would be a platform for his productions – House Hunting hint the highlight on this label gotta be WBMX wizard Ralphi Rosario’s ‘Quentagious EP’ proper Garage groove that sounds like it could’ve come outta East Orange NJ! Anyway, Jamie hooked up with fellow Chicago House hero Steve “Silk” Hurley who became his in-house producer and featured on releases ‘Rebels’ and ‘I’m Gonna Make You Scream’. Both these had a harder edge complete with Steve’s signature ‘House Of Trix’ mixes more to the floor in contrast to Jamie’s more melancholic records on Persona and Trax. My choice collaboration of theirs was the more obscure ‘Drive Me’ that appears on the Steve “Silk” Hurley comp ‘Work It Out’ and is more reminiscent of the freaky flavour of his earlier trax. Later in ’91 they released ‘You’re All I’ve Waited 4’ which was a hit complete with a video of S&M sex’n’sleaze that is pure pleasure Principle… This preceded Jamie’s debut album the following year and though it was a long time coming my feeling is that it treads a more formulaic path and didn’t realise the full potential initially shown with his Trax releases. However, there were still glimpses of genius with a personal fave being his ‘Principle Tone Track’ remix of Body 2 Body’s ‘Let’s Get Intimate’ where he changes tack with a downbeat interpretation bubblin’ with bass and bleeps soundin’ like it’s straight outta Sheffield. Let’s get into these later works here…

Fast-forward to the present and Jamie’s still releasing records including havin’ a reunion with Chicago House heroes Felix da Housecat and Vince Lawrence on last year’s ‘Touch Your Body’ which also features Moodymann mixes proper old-school scenes! Still, for me it’s all about his prime Persona platters bringing depth and emotion to the primitive artform of Chicago House that changed the face of the house landscape and resonated with so many - never forget the influence of this powerhouse performer…


 

COMMENTS