Tuesday, 5 February 2008

INDEEP: Last Night A DJ Saved My Life

It's always a delight to hear records again, effectively for the first time, through the ears of another, and while listening to Sunday's Pick Of The Pops 1983 rundown Lena's ears perked up noticeably when this song came on- quite rightly so since "Last Night A DJ Saved My Life" is a pivotal record in the history of dance music, standing at one of the most important of crossroads. The single only made number 13 in the UK - as I recall, InDeep did not fly over to promote it and indeed didn't realise they'd had a hit here until some time later (since there was also no video, TOTP duties were fulfilled by Legs & Co) - but that substantially underestimates its omnipresence and omnipotence on the dancefloors of the period. For this budding occasional student disco DJ the late James Hamilton's weekly Record Mirror dance pages became essential reading; packed full of simple, utilitarian information about that week's new 12-inch releases, including the different mixes available, BPM details, etc., coupled with pungent but usually on the mark opinions about their merits - and as a DJ, I found his weekly BPM summary of that week's new chart entries indispensable for mixing purposes (thus did I discover, among many other miraculous combinations, the seamless glide in and out of the Human League's "Mirror Man" to the Maisonettes' "Heartache Avenue" and vice versa) with the occasional caustic aside ("'Robin (The Hooded Man)' by Clannad - undanceable").

Anyway, he raved with particularly concentrated enthusiasm about "Last Night A DJ," in that year exceeded only by his being (understandably) bowled over by Herbie's "Rockit," and since he was usually right I rushed to pick it up on import. What struck me most about the record was its tightrope strut betwixt human and machine - a medium-paced but determined strut which may in part have derived from "Stayin' Alive" - with added elements from what was then left of New Pop and NY No Wave (InDeep were essentially NYC producer Mike Cleveland plus singers Réjane "Reggie" Magloire and Rose Marie Ramsey). It comes across as a spacious, less obviously ironic cousin of the Tom Tom Club, but retains Weymouth and Frantz's indestructible awe at the world-altering power of music; two years ahead of "Into The Groove," Magloire sits in her room, or at the back of the club, bored to death by what's coming out of the speakers, until suddenly a record materialises which changes her entire perspective, on life as well as music - and "Last Night A DJ" was Cleveland's attempt to make that record a reality.

The guitar frisks funkily, the bass is Jah Wobble-immense, the telephone and especially the flushing toilet FX the very definition of punctum. As Cleveland drawls his stoned cure, he suddenly snaps with a grin, "Dub time!" as the record then folds back upon itself with echoes and canyons of snatches and beats. In an environ of Men At Work and Dire Straits it was startling enough, but it then became a crucial bridge in itself, played by both Larry Levan at the Paradise Garage and at the nascent Warehouse in Chicago - thereby providing a missing link between disco and House. Everyone with a New Pop brain from Green Gartside downwards surrendered to it - and here also is enclosed the embryo which would later flourish in France; one listen, or more importantly one dance, to Daft Punk's "Da Funk" is enough to demonstrate the immense future it helped to create.