12 Inches Of History Part 2: Night Versions 1982-86

And so onto the glory days!  By ’82 the 12″ was well established, having spread from the disco to mainstream rock and pop. Record companies welcomed the few thousand extra sales to completists and the music scene as a whole was moving towards greater emphasis on the clubs and danceability.   Digital recording was still in its infancy so to create longer versions of their singles artists had two options; record extra breaks, choruses etc at the session or get out the razorblades.  Most 12″ mixes were part recorded, part edited but some leaned more one way than the other.  To my mind the mid-eighties saw the most innovative craft of the remix and no selection can do more than scratch the surface.  Before the rise of sequencers and drum machines and easier cut and paste you sweated to stretch out baby!

George Clinton Atomic Dog (1982):  The legendary P-Funk collective member George released a solo album in 1982, one of the last old skool funkateers to hit big in the 8ts.  He also made full use of the 12″ with this epic electro-funk track which has been sampled and canibalised repeatedly since, Was (Not Was) probably only owned this one record.  I remember cradling the sleeve in Our Price marvelling that a song could actually last 9 minutes!!!  Here’s the original promo, watch it three times over for the desired effect.

Duran Duran Hold Back the Rain (1982):  Masters at the racking of their tunes, Duran’s Night Versions were recorded at specially convened sessions and used a minimum of editing to create dancefloor platters.  This was double the work but double the impact as the bass, drums and rhythmic overdubs could be hyped to make everything sound larger than life to the Blitz crowd.  This is one of several songs from Rio that remixer David Kershenbaum pumped up for the US market but only a B side in the UK.

Fun Boy Three The More I See (1983):  Some labels had a bit of difficulty with the VFM concept that the 12″ entailed.  For the extra moolah you wanted ideally a remix and an extra track.  Not the single edit followed by a crap dub reproduced on both sides, naughty Chrysalis!  Added to the uncompromising political message about the Troubles, these factors saw to it that this was easily the poorest selling single by the Fun Boys.  This is the promo video, part 2 isn’t really worth hearing.

U2 Two Hearts Beat As One (1983):  The notion of a club mix of a U2 song is anomalous shall we say but the enterprising Francois Kervorkian took the dollar from Island and did a pretty good job of getting Bono and co to lighten up.  Many more fanboys would have bought this to complete their collections than heard it spun at some nite spot yet rock bands were now expected to pander to the dance fraternity.  The times were changing.

Freeez IOU (1983): The march of technology.  Four years earlier this would have been a disco record with real drums and strings or keys holding down a beat.  But sequencers and MIDI allowed the digital elements of a track like this to be cued up and triggered repeatedly.  Even if you were recording to analogue tape you could still automate the remix.  Is it any wonder that mixes started to get really long around now as everyone in the control room had a go at sc-sc-scratching?  Freeeeeeeze struck lucky with this tune catching the hip hop craze, the follow up was awful.  Once again the vid is the MTV promo.

FGTH Two Tribes (1984):  Line extension.  That’s shifting 25000 copies of an exclusive remix to you and me.  Followed by another and another and another.  It all adds up y’know.  The 12″ remix came of age with Frankie.  Taking a leaf from Duran they were drilled in the studio by Trevor Horn, providing new beats, exclamations and riffs which he fed into his samplers to provide raw material for dozens of recombinations of the same song.  Relax and Two Tribes were strong enough to withstand this mangling but some tunes that followed maybe weren’t.  Another interesting thing about Horn’s remixes were that they always placed the meat of the song (the bit from the 7″)  at the end thus building the maxi single to an explosive climax.  Predictably, the soundtrack to the barbarous video was a stew of various mixes plus new samples of Nixon and what sounds like the feed from a mic in the studio toilet.

Bruce Springsteen Dancing In The Dark (1984):  This decade was a time when you could make a good living as a remoulder of other people’s material, somewhere between a producer, editor and DJ.  Often you were hooked up with the artists by the record company but sometimes you were hired to destroy and build anew.  Arthur Baker meet the Boss.  ‘Yo what you need is your weedy drums turned into midnight at Khe Sahn, tinkly glockenspiel to show how heavy the rhythm is now, cut up dub vocals, female backing call and response, but most of all drums drums drums!’  The result may have been one of the biggest selling 12″ singles in the US in 84 but long-term fans hated it with a passion.  Undeterred, Arfur meted the same treatment out to Cover Me and Born In The USA then went into hiding.

Tears For Fears Shout (1985): TFF were an eighties group who provided lots of nice extended versions of their songs, building the dynamics without too much repetition.  This 8 minute US remix of Shout keeps to good dub principles, albeit with no grungy tape echo.

New Order Subculture (1985):  How it’s not done.  Two years on from Blue Monday, New Order commisioned John Robie to do a remix of this track from Low Life.  The result is a total mess, perhaps created by spilling tea on the mixing desk while pressing every button and turning the power on and off.  I popped my copy in the oven and created an attractive fruitbowl, FAC999.  If you get as far as the horrible cut up at 5.39 you might be thinking that perhaps the remix is not such a great leap forward.

Peter Gabriel Sledgehammer (1986):   One of the first CD singles (which would of course lead to excessive remix madness in time) and one of the first major exposures of Nick Park’s stop motion animation in the excellent video.  A great makeover, the drums and horns are real which gives it some air and the thunderous phased breakbeats and slinky bass make it very funky.  Textbook example of how to remix rock/pop, textbook example in how to do a montage video, loads of cats, get in!

Age Of Chance Kiss (1986):  Indie kids get with the program.  AOC were a sort of bargain basement Bomb the Bass.  Indie in outlook and level of royalties they cross-bred hip hop with punk and picked up on Prince’s Kiss early on.  John Peel played it a lot and it was remixed and re-released in 1987 but failed to get into the top 50.  The 12″ remix was a marathon of scrap metal guitar, amateur scratching and shouty vocals but has period charm. The Shamen transcended similar origins to move mountains but the Leeds cyclists er, didn’t.

Mel & Kim Showin’ Out (1986):  The three horsemen of the apocalypse arrive P! W! L!  All I will say about this record is the four on the floor kick drum, compressed to fuck and twatting the beat incessantly, sounded the death knell of the remix.  Now you didn’t need to creatively dub, edit or vary the rhythmic landscape, you just switched on the sequencer and set that sucker punch going, leaving your shop-bought stars to singalong, sometimes in tune.  Really cack-handed edit at about 2.04 I’m guessing it was done on tape.   The rave scene would complete the erasal of the old skills, it was nice while it lasted.


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