An alternative view on the history of the UK Garage scene by
Underground Garage. Tha Sunday Scene. UK Garage. Speed Garage. Ragage...
Garage has always been a style of music dat gets you up and movin'...
it's also always been a style surrounded by controversy - all tha way
from Larry Levan to DJ Luck... It's come a long way from tha Paradise
Garage, tha club that gave it it's name, and it's changed and split into
one of tha most varied scenes in modern music. A lot of well repected
US Garage DJs and producers, most notably Tony Humphries, have rejected
tha UK's version of Garage, and called it a cop-out from tha old skool
New York vybe...
... but as far as Garage in tha UK goes, there are no
rules - as we've all heard...
Back in 1993 and 1994, Garage had moved away and back into tha underground
due to its rejection from mainstream clubs playing more house, jungle
and even hardcore. Tha sound moved down to the unlikely location of tha
South coast of England, where DJs such as tha Tuff Jam duo and the Dreem
Teem would play at events like 'Deja Vu'. Small raves and parties were
springing up around inner city London and tha Jungle pirates were dying
off in favor of tha new wave of underground Garage stations. Old skool
originators Girls FM, London Underground, and Freek FM were joined by
ICE, Magic and others later on (we now have over 30 when they're all up).
Most of tha DJs were playing their US Garage pitched up for these new
audiences, and dropped these old classics alongside tha new tunes that
were starting to emerge.
So why 'Sunday' then? Well it came about because of
this rejection from tha mainstream clubs. Tha UK Garage sound wasn't so
popular at this stage, so tha only nights that venues could be rented
out on were Sundays. It also seemed that tha number of clubs turning tha
black Garage crowd away from their doors was increasing. Those clubs that
did were to learn this mistake tha hard way when tha UK scene broke.
As far as I can remember, tha most famous of these Sunday
nights were 'Spread Love' at tha Gas Club in Leicster Sq., 'Open When
Shut' at tha EC1 in Farringdon, and 'Twice As Nice' at tha Coliseum in
Vauxhall. As time progressed, Fridays and Saturdays were taken in by tha
Garage sound. Cookies & Cream at tha Leisure Lounge in Holburn (originally
in Picadilly - now without a regular venue) were to join them. Tha massive
McMahon promotions 'Obsession' and 'Exposure' nights were to rule tha
fit-mass-audiences-into-small-spaces genre, and tha old favorites 'Sun
City' at tha Adrenaline Village and 'Num Numbs' (@ all over tha place
;) were just some of the other main players.
So who were tha people involved at the start? - Why
If you ask most people about which tune broke tha scene, they'll probably
tell you that it was Van Helden's mix of CJ Bolland's 'Sugar is Sweeter'
('96). Even though I must admit that Van Helden's much-rinsed mix did
have a big effect on this scene (and others), I don't think it deserves
tha high accolade people give it, and it's definitely not his best remix
to date. I still play his mix of Kim English's 'Nitelife' more than 'Sugar
is...' just because I reckon it's a better tune. I respect tha guy, but
I don't reckon tha glory is all his. Not at all.
Double 99 (DJ Omar and Tim Deluxe / 'RIP' / '10 degrees
below' etc.) and 1997's anthem, 'RIP Groove' - First appearing on their
'Volume 10' double pack (on their own Ice Cream Records label), this tune
(like Van Helden's) was received as well by house audiences as tha Garage
kru. As soon as they tested tha water at 'Twice as Nice' @ Tha Coliseum
in Vauxhall, it broke so quickly that tha double packs were said to be
changing hands at £50 - £60 a piece. Then BMG bought tha tune, and tha
much hyped sell-out began. Now I don't blame them for this, I would have
done tha same thing in their position. They used tha tune as a stepping
stone to go on to produce some of tha finest slices of UK Garage, such
as their mixes of Stephen Emanuel's "What U Do", Kele Le Roc's "My Love"
and Roz White's "Little More Love". Absolutely rinsin' tha US vybe, UK
Tha evolution of tha Garage vybe
Well as you can hear, tha tunes we hear today are just a bit different
(!!) to those that tha late, great, Larry Levan used to play at tha Paradise
Garage in tha 1980s. It seems that here in tha UK, we like our sound to
be tuffer than tha more traditional US style. Just look at what many people
believe to be our equivalent to Hip Hop (Jungle - or d&b for those that
care ;) and you'll see this definitely is tha case... Here's a short run
down on what's been goin on in tha past few years...
Looking back @ 1994, when tha uk underground scene was begining to move
forwards, this is when tha scene was known as tha Sunday scene. Back in
those days tha basslines weren't so ruff, but tha Garage sound we had
previously known had become tougher and faster. Even though this style
was very much 4-to-tha floor orientated, tha long sustained organs had
become stabs, and tha vocals were either cut up or pitched up. However,
there was no denying that this music was a descendant of full-on gospel
Garage... Tha DJ's back then were often jus' pitching their US Garage
up for tha uk audiences (we like it rawer! ;)... hence tha Sunday vybe
was not too ruff, but getting harder... more dubs that sounded "uk" were
emerging... examples @ this time were tha "Hard Dub" of Logic's "Blues
For You" (US on Strictly Rhythm) and Grant Nelson / Steve Firmin's "Together"
& "Allnighter" (UK on Nice'n'Ripe). Classic choons, in my oppinion.
1995 / 1996
Moving thru 1995 and 1996, a similar sounding style was established. Based
on US flava's, this newer underground Garage was becoming more popular,
and tha ever-increasing-in-number uk crowd's need for speed was joined
by a need for more bass... basslines got brought forward in tha choons,
and use of sub-bass was on tha up. Todd Edwards was right @ tha forefront
here, even tho he's from New Jersey, US, he had 'that' vybe. Still has
it, in fact!... Some interesting developments were also gwannin'... tha
first tunes were appearing that didn't have tha old skool 4-to tha floor
beats - more like up-tempo R&B. And 2-step was born. There was a lot of
controversy about who actually produced tha first 2 step tune. Some say
it was Kelly G and his mix of "Never Let You Go" (Tina Moore). Others
say it was tha Dreem Teem's mix of "My Desire" (Amira). Another early
example was a rare white label called "Good Thing" (Chris Mac), and then
there was tha massive bass bin thumpin "Gabrielle" (Roy Davis Jnr.)...
No one really knows - or really cares - tha tunes were classics and provided
floor material for tha eager crowds to bubble to.
As we move into 1997, people are goin' crazy with this new ruffer style.
Out go tha regular Garage organs, in come short resonant stabs. Bass guitars
stop, sine, square and pulse basses are in every choon u hear. Tha 2-step
that had appeared seemed to dissapear during this year. If any style had
tha shitty, media hyped "speed Garage" tag, then this was it. Of course
this 1997 vybe learned a lot from tha Jungle ppl, and of course there
was tha massive "Dread Bass" argument. Which is a load of bollox anyway.
Tha whole underground Garage scene did not decend from Double 99's "RIP
Groove" (that sampled the bass sound from "Dread Bass") and Bolland/Van
Helden's "Sugar Daddy"... Ragga b-bwoy vocals, spin backs, reversed drums
+ cut up beats were all around... Tha jungle ppl's piss take name for
our scene at tha time was "Raggage" (u work it out)... fu*kers! How dare
they! ;)... Garage as a scene exploded, and we have tha emergance of tha
'Garage Anthem' phenomenon. Julian Johna's mix of Boris Duglosh/BOOOM!'s
"Hold Your Head Up High", Industry Standard's "Industry Standard Vol1."
(what u waaaant... ;), Tywanda's "Rush", Andy Mowat's "Give Ya Funk",
Big Bird's "Flav", even Antonio's "Hyperfunk" had appeared ('bout tha
only non-4 to tha floor choon around ;), Ramsey & Fen's "Style" and loads
This pushed us into 1998 with a 2-step bump. 1998 was tha year our scene
recovered from tha bass. Everything suddely became funky, bass guitars
were back, R&B remixes and R&B vocals were in. Garage producers were remixing
all tha old Sunday choons into newer 2-step skippy versions (e.g. remix
of Indo's 1995 choon "R U Sleeping" wid Bump 'n' Flex / G.Nelson on remix
duties there). And it seemed that 4 to tha floor was no more (except for
Booker T! ;). All tha choons became >very< soul and swing orientated.
This probably happened 'cos Garage as a whole was becoming more popular
in all tha clubs - 2-step is easier for non-Garage headz to digest than
tha 1997 stuff. Ramsey & Fen's ex-engineer, Matt Coleman (MJ Cole) was
brining a lot of this funk back. Some say MJ Cole is a lil bit like a
uk version of Todd Edwards, and I suppose there are similarities there...
anyway, towards tha end of 1998, a new breed of choons had begun to emerge
- MCs would replace or chat along-side vocalists. "G.A.R.A.G.E." and of
course tha "Red Rose e.p." were two of tha biggest choons over tha end
of '98 - and tha crowds were lovin it.
1999, and it all went a bit pear shaped, in most people's opinion... underground
Garage at number one in tha charts, underground Garage at number two in
tha charts, DJ Luck and MC Neat on top of tha pops - all tha choons sounded
so similar, and every other choon was a remix... tha old skool idea of
sampling from tv and film came back wiv a vengance, producing choons such
as tha much detested "Casualty"... but don't get me wrong - 1999 was also
a ruff year for Garage in other respects - lots of producers, such as
tha infamous Zed Bias, tha Artful Dodger and many more were producing
quality choons... 1999 was even tha year dat Todd Edwards finally (!!)
released his 1998 album...
Tha Future of Sunday
Well, as usual, it lies in tha fickle hands of tha majority of music listeners.
1999 raised tha oldest argument in music once again - should underground
stay underground? Well, I'll leave you to decide... although it may not
be in our hands... my personal view is dat underground Garage may well
survive for a lot longer... At present, it seems that it might split in
two - one half might run alongside british R&B as our new mainstream music
- and tha other half of underground Garage will return to being just that.
We'll probably see it influencing some new genre. That's
just my prediction anyway. Only time will tell, I suppose... personally,
I'm sittin here hoping dat some of tha Sunday will flavas return, while
2-step will continue to change and evolve... both styles have their plus
points and their downfalls...
Anyway, all you need to know is that it's "UK Underground
Garage", and you'll be fine. Don't call it "Speed Garage" or "Raggage"
or I'll come and beat tha shit outta ya... ;)
So, hold tight Garage nation - it ain't over 'til tha
Garage diva stops her soulful groove...