Traxbox Sleevenotes: Part 2
Trax Records sits at the very summit of House music’s history – the mother of them all, Larry Sherman’s shady empire was the vehicle through which House music was pushed out beyond the confines of Chicago and into the ears of the rest of the world. With a hugely comprehensive 75 track compilation (made up of the first 75 releases on the label) out now, we’ve been granted permission to serialise the equally comprehensive sleeve notes. Second in the series, we have the pleasure of letting you in on an interview between Bill Brewster and Co-Compiler Jonathan Woodliffe, taking in everything from the first house records and the first time drugs appeared in clubs to working at Arcade Records.
Bill: Can you remember the first time you saw a house record for sale?
Jonathan: I remember going into Arcade records in Nottingham to buy some new releases and Kev Thomas the owner of the store showed me Grant Dance on Precision Records. This would be around June / July 1985. I bought the record and having listened to it thought this might work in my set.
What was the first time you heard a house track played in a club?
I played Grant the next Friday night at Rock City. It sounded great on the sound system however the response from the dance floor was only OK. You have to remember at that time there where so many new releases each week – often I would buy up to 30 new 12s and a few albums each week. My sets were just new releases – no oldies or classics, so if a record didnt get a reaction within 2 weeks it was dropped. Unfortunately that was the fate with the Grant track which was dropped quickly because of the sheer onslaught of other new releases.
What sort of reaction were the house records getting when they were played?
I need to explain what was getting played at Rock City and some of the other clubs I played at the time in order to put everything in context. The big records at that time for me in 1985 were Serious Intentions You Dont Know Remix on Easy Street, Hanson & Davis Tonight Dub Mix on Fresh, Harlequin Fours Set it Off on Jus Born, Subjects The Magic The Moment on Pow Wow, so the tempo was absolutely perfect for these new records from Chicago to explode. That autumn, the first records to become massive were Quests Mind Games, Chip Es Like This and J M Silks Music Is The Key and these records would very much demonstrate the early appetite for house music in the Midlands and North of the UK. Other records I can remember from that period included, Jack Master Funks Funkin With The Drums Again & Jack The Base as well as Ron Hardys Sensation. Then, in early 86, Adonis No Way Back was released and that just exploded! I remember the first night I played it and roof was well and truly blown off! Also massive at the time were Wired To The Beat Of The Drum, Mr Fingers Washing Machine, Adonis Were Rockin Down The House, the House Master Boyz House Nation, Marshall Jeffersons The House Music Anthem, Mr Fingers Mystery Of Love, Fingers Inc The Path, Duane & Co Hard Core Jazz and White Knights Never Give Up. From that point the list just goes on and on.
Do you remember ecstasy arriving in clubs? If so, what changes did it make to dance-floors and clubs?
Drugs were not a big part of the Jazz-Funk or the Funk and Soul nights in the midlands and the north. It was all about the music and our audience were a predominantly black crowd who just wanted to dance and they trusted the DJs to introduce them to new sounds each week. I guess looking back late to 1988 -1989 the traditional All-Dayers had begun to lose their appeal as new clubs opened up on Friday and Saturday nights specializing in playing House and Acid House to a whole new audience and drugs were the inevitable consequence of that.
When did you start working in Arcade Records?
I started on Saturdays in 1986 selling all the new house imports and then went full time in 1988 until 2000 when it closed.
What is your best memory of working there?
We shipped records from Greyhound Distribution in London 5 days a week at that time – we must have been their biggest account in the midlands, so every day was like being in a sweet shop. I also used to get records mailed directly from American labels, so my collection built rapidly in those days.
Now that the world has fallen out of love with vinyl, does it feel slightly strange having worked in somewhere like Arcade for so long.
I have never ever fallen out of love with vinyl some people may even call it a curse! The sad thing is young people today may never experience the thrill of going into a record store and the exhilaration of discovering music themselves or having music recommended by the guys behind the counter or other customers. Its a real shame that this environment is dying out but I guess thats what they call progress.
What records do you collect now?
I still buy 45s, 12 & LPs and even a few CDs every now and then. Im a long-term Soul Music addict and have been actively going top record stores since 1975.
Tell me about putting Traxbox together?
I file my U.S. house and garage 12s by label which came in handy when I was asked to supply a list of the first 75 Trax releases and pull out all the physical 12s. However I soon found out a few releases were missing plus some of my copies badly needed cleaning so luckily Id already bought a VPI record cleaner a few years ago from the U.S., so I spent several hours (if not days) physically cleaning them so theyd be in the best possible condition ready for any potential mastering issues.
Hunting down near mint copies of Trax Records is not easy at the best of times, and in some cases we needed several copies in order to get one decent full version of a track without the usual hiss, crackles, pops and pressing malfunctions which traditionally went hand-in-hand with the Trax releases. We had to source good copies from all around the globe and with help from a few people we managed to do it.
So here are the first 75 releases on Trax Records all completely re-mastered and, in some cases, completely re-built. This was label that released some of the most influential records in dance music history and introduced some truly great artists. I sincerely dont think these records have ever sounded better than they do on this collection.
Whats your favourite memory of playing in clubs and working in dance music?
Playing a record for the first time and seeing an audience go crazy dancing to it and then coming up and asking what it is. The sign of a hot record! Its a very spiritually rewarding experience to know that youve enhanced someones life with a track theyve never heard before which somehow makes it all worthwhile.
Part 3 soon come…
Traxbox HUTBOX003 is available now from all good retailers.