House Hunting #57 - J.M. Silk

So if you regularly tune in you know I’ve been scoring a lot of collections of late where I’ve cherry-picked the choice cuts and stockpiled the surplus ready to move on.

House Hunting #57 - J.M. Silk

So if you regularly tune in you know I’ve been scoring a lot of collections of late where I’ve cherry-picked the choice cuts and stockpiled the surplus ready to move on.

So if you regularly tune in you know I’ve been scoring a lot of collections of late where I’ve cherry-picked the choice cuts and stockpiled the surplus ready to move on. I had a box of bargain bin belters that needed a new home so just took a snap and hit up a few FB groups to see if it would generate any interest. I advertised it as £100 for 100 records – yeah some cookie cutter in there but I always like sortin’ heads out so whacked in some joints by House Hunting heroes such as Ben Cenac (Pump featuring Russ Brown ‘Makin’ Love in The Jungle’) and Paul Simpson (Simphonia ‘You And Me’) plus the Profile pressing of ‘Drink On Me’ by Teule aka Kerri Chandler and Don Carlos’ ‘Mediterraneo’ EP so not bad… Straight away I had a few offers from Italy and Spain and just as I was gonna get a crate courier on the go Theo at Yam Records hit me up to see if the box was still available. As Yam Records just south of the river in Peckham this would be loads easier to sort out so agreed to sell to Theo plus gave me some crate comfort as I was supporting a record shop!

So I was gonna sort a courier but as it was my day off in which I initially planned to go on some rack raiding recreation, I had a brainwave and proposed to Theo I could book an Uber cab and jet down to Peckham that afternoon which would present the perfect opportunity for some prime platter perusal. I also had a load of house bundles in decent condition that meet House Hunting quota (original sleeves, shrink covers) on labels like Hi-Bias, Maxi, Power Move and Smokin’ that totalled about 50 records and would be perfect second-hand shop stock. Theo was interested in these too so bagged all of ‘em up along with the box and got in an Uber to jet down for a slice of second-hand spontaneity. On gettin’ there turns out the shop which on my previous visit was housed in one small space had now expanded to two units opposite each other in the Holdrons Arcade on Peckham Rye Lane – encouraging signs as more records to seek some second-hand solace in! However, turns out as I gatecrashed an interview that was being filmed in the shop with Peckham institution Rhythm Section so we had to do our wax wheelin’n’dealin’ in hushed tones – trust me not easy with my low larynx waxin’ lyrical about house! 

Anyway, so the £100 for the box was agreed and Theo offered me another £50 for the label bundles which considering I wanted to get rid of was fair cop. However, if you know me I do love a good house haggle so countered £70 due to the near mint condition plus the Uber I paid to jet down there which he agreed. Naturally I wanted to check out their stock as the potential for a trade so even though they were still filming the interview they let me have a rack raid – after all it’s a record shop and would add a bit of authenticity to proceedings. So when the doc gets aired watch out for me and my dodgy barnet raiding every rack – House Hunting live! Even though I delved deep with a dose of dusty fingers I left the racks empty-handed though I clocked on the display shelves some House Hunting flavour including the Strictly Rhythm slice ‘The Warning’ by Logic aka New Jersey house hero Wayne Gardiner plus the killer KMS cut ‘Images’ by Dionne (of Bigshot fame) with motor city marvel Kevin Saunderson on production duties. Both these in VG condition and at £11 a pop not bad, however the choice cut displayed was a Major Force 12” that Theo scored on a trip to Tokyo by T.P.O. aka Japanese icons Hiroshi Fujiwara and Kan Takagi – as featured in House Hunting #33 . This one was £35 and though a seldom seen slice I sensed a deal on the cards… I already got a copy but as ever if I see something in better nick I gotta cop it so I countered to Theo I’d accept £150 and the T.P.O. record for all my stock. Naturally after some hesitation he reluctantly agreed to the House Hunting haggle so a great score for both parties. Check out Yam Records’ Facebook page and Instagram account for regular updates and fresh stock that’s touched down – I know I’ll be back… Time to get into the record – all about the ‘Tokyo Club Mix (Light Of Love)’ version of ‘Hiroshi’s Dub’ pure paradise and B-side bliss…

As I was in Peckham I thought I’d check out Rye Wax http://www.ryewax.com as only round the corner. This cultural hub is housed in the basement of the Bussey Building and is a hive of activity selling not just new and second-hand records but a range of ephemera including tees, books and comics. In contrast to my first visit this time there was far more new releases and reissues with the second-hand selection taking a step back so on this occasion I came away empty-handed but perfect for a perusal pit-stop to get a caffeine hit at the café cum bar – what every record joint needs! Still needing my black crack fix, I thought I’d check out Do!! You!!! Records run by omnipresent NTS breakfast host Charlie Bones. I’ll be honest I barely have time to listen to my own records let alone mixes and radio shows but I’ve seen Charlie hosts some choice guests on regular rotation  including Dego, Ge-ology and Theo Parrish – who soundtracked my uni days years ago with his Plastic People residency. One show I need to tune in and get on rewind is the Mark Grusane guest show who was the proprietor of legendary Chicago South Side institution Mr. Peabody’s so you know has a serious selection…

Anyway, back to the records and Charlie’s shop can be found in the Sky Shopping Centre just a few doors from Rye Wax and Yam Records. As I got there it was being opened up by his right-hand man Lorenzo who was at the controls for the day. If you ain’t been there then it’s a bijou jewel of a joint with choice collection in the racks and on the shelves – amongst all the soul, funk, disco and boogie I scoped a Salsoul box set (coincidentally Lorenzo had on the shop stereo the Shep Pettibone mixed Salsoul slice ‘Such A Feeling’ by Aurra all about ‘Part 2’ proper face-melter…) and a score of Sound Signature releases no doubt sourced from Theo via Charlie’s connection with him. Though the Salsoul box-set was tempting I didn’t need to succumb to that right now so my attentions turned to the house racks in front of the counter. On flicking through there were a few DJ International records including J.M. Silk’s ‘Shadows Of Your Love’ which though one of the easier releases to find I’ve never copped a copy. This one was a fiver in VG condition but with the cover havin’ seen better days (such a superficial sad-act) but to my amazement a few more flicks and came across the same record but this time NM and in shrink! I couldn’t say no second-time around and I didn’t mind paying the extra couple of quid more for this piece of house history by Chicago house hero Steve “Silk” Hurley and vocalist Keith Nunnally of Full House fame. I’ll kick off my love letter to these powerhouses with the video of ‘Shadows Of Your Love’ filmed in Riviera Theatre aka ‘The Riv’ – so house it hurts…

So let’s hark back to Steve’s beginnings in house… Steve first caught the DJ bug when first tuning into Kenny “Jammin” Jason and Peter Lewicki’s ‘Disco DAI’ mix show back in ’79 on WDAI FM. This show was the catalyst in DJs mixing records on the radio, with these blends also known as a ‘hot mix’ and was a precursor to the WBMX wizardry of the Hot Mix 5 whose alumni included Kenny “Jammin” Jason. On hearing these hot mixes Steve was hooked and hustled any dollars he could to save for a set of turntables and mixer. Like many DJ’s of the era, Steve cut his chops at the ‘Sock Hop’ parties at high school where with the primitive equipment he tentatively moved the mic from deck to the other so there was still a transition between the records. To further hone his craft he practiced his spinnin’ skills religiously whether improving his scratching, learning new techniques or even inventing tricks. His dedication earned him a break at the El Panama Club on the South Side and he impressed resident Herb Bertha to the degree that he got him a DJ battle audition at The Penthouse. He won his first battle and that was the catalyst in his DJ career – his first residency was held on Friday nights at Candy Store (where Farley “Jackmaster” Funk hosted the Saturdays) where he played all the underground post-disco, proto house records he heard at club sanctuaries like The Music Box and The Powerplant. On winning further battles he secured a spot at Sauer’s where he made a name for himself with the club’s illustrious DJ alumni including Frankie Knuckles, Lil’ Louis and Jesse Saunders.

As all the DJs were spinnin’ the same disco records he wanted to make his sets more unique so invested in a Casio Drum Machine to produce some raw rhythms to layer over his sets. This was a hit with the crowd so he saved for the more advanced Boss Dr. Rhythm Drum Machine and started producing primitive versions of club classics like Isaac Hayes’ ‘I Can’t Turn Around’ (more on that in a minute…) which again went down really well so it was only natural that this would inspire Steve to lay down some tracks of his own. When DJing he was known as Steve “Silk” Hurley however he intended to rename himself ‘Jackmaster Silk’ for his productions but another Chicago House hero got there first. Allegedly the story goes that Steve told Farley that he was gonna call himself Steve “Jackmaster” Silk and when driving to the WBMX station to deliver a mix he heard Farley on the airwaves announce himself as Farley “Jackmaster” Funk – even though they were best friends this just goes to show the standard backstabbin’ practice of the era with the house hustlin’ that went down in the Windy City Wild Mid-West. Undeterred, the first song he wrote was ‘Music Is The Key’ and after getting some advice from Jesse Saunders that his raw version needed some polish with a vocal for him to consider to release on his Jes Say Records label, Steve took Jesse’s advice by borrowing some money off his Dad so he could record professionally. He recruited Keith Nunnally to lay down the vocals for their debut production and J.M. Silk were born. However sensing a greater opportunity, Steve didn’t send the finished article to Jesse and instead partnered with Rocky Jones who launched his legendary house institution DJ International with the record and it hit the top ten of the US Dance chart so a legacy was born and the rest is house history…

Their next record on DJ International was this week’s House Hunting score ‘Shadows Of Your Love’ which was released a year later in ’86 and was an even bigger hit entering the US Dance chart at number three. Their initial success caught the attention of label major RCA who released the aforementioned ‘I Can’t Turn Around’ the same year. The track was inspired by Isaac Hayes’ ‘I Can’t Turn Around’ which was the lead single for his album ‘Chocolate Chip’ which was a departure from his funk roots as he embraced the emergence of disco. The original was a firm favourite in the Chi where you’d hear Frankie playing it at The Warehouse so when Steve recorded another version on cassette with a house flow no doubt it was a hit with all the Chicago DJ’s. Now with newfound success as J.M. Silk, Steve and Keith re-recorded the track and upon release was an instant hit – securing the number one spot on the US Dance chart. However, the track wasn’t without some of that Chi-town controversy that was synonymous with Steve’s early recording career and it was that man Farley again who was the bone of contention… 

Farley saw the potential of ‘I Can’t Turn Around’ being a bigger hit and he approached Jesse Saunders in reinterpreting the production as a more musical composition. Aggrieved with Steve going to Rocky Jones with ‘Music is The Key’, Jesse agreed and brought in fellow house forefather Vince Lawrence of Mitchbal fame to co-write the lyrics plus Jesse’s Gang alumni Duane Buford (who composed a piano solo with his dexterity on keys) and lead vocalist Jurhonda Patton who contributed with backing vocals. Add to this the flamboyant man-mountain of a diva Darryl Pandy house hollerin’ his grandiose five-octave range and the track was reborn as ‘Love Can’t Turn Around’. Rocky Jones sorted out a manufacturing and distribution through Quantum distribution and the track was released on Farley’s House Records stable in ‘86 with Farley including both his and Jesse’s name on the release to add more gravitas. Naturally they pushed the track via Farley’s Hot Mix 5 show and it was an instant hit in the city with Rocky later licensing the record to London Records in the UK which along with it’s more commercial appeal contributed in the song being the largest selling house record of all time hitting the UK Top 10. Though ‘Love Can’t Turn Around’ a guilty pleasure for many for me it’s all about Steve’s more raw rendition of the Isaac Hayes original though shout to Muzic Box messiah and Chi DJ deity Ronnie for his even rawer reel-to-reel re-edit that was doing the rounds before the official release and saw the light of the day via his nephew’s Partehardy Records label. Check out all the versions here – I’ll let you decide what’s the choice cut…

Moving on and though a blatant rip-off of ‘I Can’t Turn Around’ by a supposed best friend, not to be outdone Steve would go one better and release arguably one of the most successful records of the Chicago House era – ‘Jack Your Body’. Starting life on Rocky Jones’ DJ International subsidiary Underground, it was another house hit in Chicago peaking at number 25. However, licensing the release through London Records exposed it to the UK where it blew up big time and jetted straight to the number 1 crowning Chicago House top of the UK charts for two weeks (Jan and Feb ’87) – all the more amazing considering it received no radio airplay and broke the charts rules as the 12” format exceeded the 25-minute limit which the chart compilers weren’t aware of until it had already hit number 1 nice one! No doubt the record was a precursor to the acid house explosion that would sweep the UK shores later that year… It was also licensed to RCA and though I’m a reissue renegade this one also worth coppin’ just for the killer cover art! Naturally with the success of ‘Jack Your Body’ an album was on the cards and later that year J.M. Silk released their ‘Hold On To Your Dream’ LP on RCA. Housing prior prime cuts such as ‘I Can’t Turn Around’, ‘Shadows Of Your Love’ and of course, ‘Jack Your Body’, the majority of the other tracks such as ‘‘She’s So Far Away’ and ‘Let The Music Take Control’ (both of which were released as singles also via RCA) have a more commercial tint that ain’t really my flow but I got a soft spot for slower flow of ‘Cry Of The Lonely’. After releasing the LP and subsequent singles on RCA there was only one more this time defecting to Damon D’Cruz’s Jack Trax stable in ’88 and releasing ‘All In Vain’ – love both the ‘London Mix’ and the helium-induced hook of the ‘Insane Mix’ complete with that boss bassline. Jack your body to that J.M. Silk juice here…

 

Away from J.M. Silk and Steve released a slew of solo productions with personal faves including the raw rhythm of Sampson “Butch” Moore’s ‘House Beat Box’ on Trax and returning to Jack Trax where he was the controller for Risse’s ‘House Train. As well as his own records in the 90s he was was in demand for his silk touch remixing a host of icons such as Michael Jackson, Prince, Diana Ross, Madonna and New Order though it’s all about his earlier revered remixes – case in point his rework of Roberta Flack’s ‘Uh-Uh, Ooh-Ooh, Look Out (Here It Comes)’ pure Silk flavour. Another Silk anthem you may remember from my youth is ‘The Word Is Love (Say The Word)’ featuring Sharon Pass which was the sound of ’97 and ubiquitous in UK clubland – even the Mrs reminisces being down the front to this one in bassline den Niche up in Sheffield. Bringin’ it back to the underground and another slice of seldom seen obscure allure is his ‘Dubs From The Dungeon Vol.1’ EP released back in 2000 on his Silk Entertainment stable. My advice forget the French-filtered flow of ‘Oom Dah’ and head straight for the proto-jack of ‘I Don’t Know’ which was previously unreleased and spun by the Chi DJ hierarchy of Ron Hardy and Lil’ Louis plus was on regular rotation at WBMX no doubt supported by Farley until their fall out. Though a four-time Grammy Award nominee for me it’s all about those early primitive production that jack you raw to the core…

I could wax lyrical all day here so better wrap this one up... I’ll leave you with some legendary live footage including Keith Nunnally performing the J.M. Silk house hits in Rotterdam at DJ International’s The House Sound Of Chicago concert back in ’88 and of the course the Power House club opening in ’86 featuring Frankie and J.M. Silk jackin’ live JACK-JACK-JACK YOUR BODY!


 

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