House Music Gonna Set You Free (continued)

No one is entirely sure who coined the the term “House.” No one is entirely sure when, or where it was first used.

What we do know is it’s here, and it ain’t going nowhere.

The past lessons of Disco, New Wave, Hi-NRG, were merging and converging in various cities. The irony is that the music of Europe, in the form of bands like Kraftwerk, Yazoo, Soft Cell, Bronski Beat, and Depeche Mode, hit the shores, naturally establishing a beachhead in New York. From there, visiting DJs spread out to Pittsburgh, Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco, Atlanta and Miami. These songs found their way into the crates alongside Latin dance music and Italo disco. The DJs?

Larry Levan, Junior Vasquez, Frankie Knuckles, Tom Moulton, Farley Jackmaster Funk, among many others were spinning in clubs, but more importantly, they were engineers and mixers at recording studios. Well versed in the arts of making dance records, they took those finely honed talents, along with the now affordable and available synthesizers and drum machines, like the Roland 808 (as in 808 State), these DJs and studio technicians were at the centre of an all too perfect storm.

As I previously stated, this is where things get fun, but tricky. Depending on who you would ask, there are several origins that describe how House gained its moniker.

Story #1: The Warehouse in Chicago. What Mecca is to a Muslim pilgrim, the Warehouse is to House music connoisseurs. Frankie Knuckles is probably its most famous alumnus, but many of the first generation DJs have blessed the decks at one time or another. When the downtown clubs resegregated, Black, Latino, and gay clubbers found a home at the Warehouse, where the DJs would spin their home recorded dance tracks. Eventually they would manage to get a mass pressing of vinyl distributed. It would go on to be known as “Warehouse Music,” which eventually was shorthanded to…(drum roll, please!) House Music.

Story #2: South Side Chicago DJ Leonard “Remix” Roy worked old soul and R&B records into his sets. He acquired many of the records from his mother’s house, hence the term.

Story #3: Clubs in major cities always had at least one DJ who was not just playing records, they were also making records that would be, for the most part, played in that club only. Like the “house” wine or salad dressing, they would have music synonymous with that club or house.

Story # 4 : DJ Larry Heard believes the term was coined from the fact that many of the early pioneers recorded the tracks at home.

Maybe only one of them is true. Maybe none of them. I like to think they all happened around the same time. Like a virus, the idea grew and spread, until it became a concept, then a movement.

So, what was the first track?

Again, it’s tricky. Elements of house were forming as far back as 1980. Hi-NRG had some of the major components, but it was still just a diamond in the rough. Italo Disco was close, but still, no cigar. Jesse Saunders essentially laid down the true blueprint in 1984 with “On And On.” It is to house music what the wheel was to transportation.

There were others released at the same time as “On And On,” but none with as much impact.

Then a fella by the name of Marshall Jefferson came along, and changed the game….


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