5 Unusual House Music Hit Records from the 90s
The pop music charts have more often than not been very predictable through the ages. Being a very controlled and rigged industry where corruption regarding the sales of records was a standard way of building the careers of boy bands and singers etc. The major label reps were infamous for the practice of giving away lots of free copies of the latest single in their campaigns to encourage the record store workers to occasionally scan a few copies a day through the Gallup machine so that by Sundays top 40 countdown their promotion would be higher in the charts. For those who are not aware, the Gallup chart system was the use of a digital pen that connected to a small keyboard which was a direct link to the telephone system in the pre internet days. The Gallup system was replaced by Millward Brown but still the same system applied. Each scan of a records bar code would count towards one sale of a record, album or a cd single or cassette single etc.
This was how the charts and major record labels operated, and I became actively involved in this practice for several years during the 1990's, so if you disliked a certain hit record from the past, chances are I was one of those people contributing towards that scam, just like every other record shop worker in music retail during the late 20th century.
Even in today's streaming digital world this corruption still exists. Now we have fake Spotify play farms who continuously play an artists work for a small fee in order to build up the stream count. So it still goes on, just in a digital realm instead of a physical one.
However sometimes the charts and the subcultures of the world would throw out a surprise hit record that would appear in the underworld and crawl its way into the top end of the national pop charts. Below are five records that during the heyday of the 90's UK house music scene became massive sellers, and I am not talking about big vocal anthems that were drenched in pop potential in the first place. I am talking about underground and sometimes deep & moody records that belonged not in the pop charts but in the seedy clubs and the underground nightlife. Here they are in no particular order. 5 records that were surprise pop chart hits.
ALCATRAZ GIVE ME LUV. YOSHITOSHI / A&M RECORDS 1995/96
Released on a US label called Yoshitoshi in 1995, this was licensed by A&M Records after making a massive noise in the clubs. It peaked at number 9 in the UK charts in early 1996. The reason this was unusual was its clangy almost industrial sound. It belonged in the clubs such as the Sound Factory where Junior Vasquez would grace the decks. It belonged on the dance floor at 2am. It certainly is a great heavyweight track and still sounds fresh today. It had one small vocal hook and a strange loop that just played over and over. But for some reason it crossed over into the mainstream and became a successful hit.
SANTOS CAMELS. INCENTIVE RECORDS 2000
This track was very odd. it had all the elements of classic standard disco house, but without an obvious catchy sample loop. Most successful disco house records always had a really uplifting hook loop taken from a previously big disco hit from the late 70's. But here the loops were taken from lesser known source material, more notably two tracks called The Beginnings by late 70's Disco band Destination, and the Taj Mahal by Crystal Glass in 1979. It is clear to see when the feel for this track is dark and dirty, as it simply has a real edge to it by combining these two short and interesting samples.
It has a raw quality about it which makes it odd that this record crept into the UK charts and peaked at number 9. Another striking feature is that it has a tiny almost inaudible vocal at the start, which makes it stand out as an odd entry for the charts. This was originally an Italian import but was snapped up by the Incentive label for commercial release. It was a gamble that paid off for the UK label. An unusual hit but a pretty good one at that.
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DAFT PUNK DA FUNK VIRGIN RECORDS 1996/97
Nowadays Daft Punk are revered as Gods to most dance music lovers. They have continuously been successful since they began. But with Da Funk it was very odd for it to chart. They had just released their debut album and yes the dance music community were raving about it. However the group were largely unknown to the masses and were not really a pop dance act at the time. They were just raw French house music producers who released dirty Techno and Disco house. There is not one commercially sounding track on the album except maybe "Around The World" but they still went on to have three more hits from it.
This one however was the lesser commercial than the three others they had from the debut album. It is a slow mid tempo groove with a nasty acid 303 riff half way through. It peaked at number 7 in the UK charts in early 1997. It certainly was unusual. But as we now know the group for what they produce, it seems ironic that their early singles were not commercial compared to what they record now.
RUFFNECK. EVERYBODY BE SOMEBODY. MAW/PEPPERMINT JAM POSITIVA. 1995
Maw Records in conjunction with German label Peppermint Jam dropped this mellow bomb in the mid 90's but nobody could have ever predicted that this was bound for the pop charts. However it was a hit once licensed to UK label Positiva Records in 1996. It has a nice vocal hook in there but the main sample comes from the underground mid 80's dance floor track Bostich by the group Yello.
Bostich itself was a track that was famously sampled by Todd Terry for his club anthem Jumpin. However here they have used a really aggressive shouting vocal hook from Bostich which is very repetitive and does not make it a hit record at all, But having said that it peaked at number 13 in the charts and remained in the top 100 for 7 weeks which is not bad going for a record that even now over 26 years later still sounds very underground.
GUSTO. DISCO'S REVENGE. BUMBLE BEATS / MANIFESTO RECORDS 1995.
Back in 1995 saw this obscure label release a killer of a track. It soon took centre stage in many DJ sets during that time across the UK. This was for several months only available as a 12" single on US import. That was until it had completely blown up in the clubs and UK label Manifesto signed it. Again it uses very small vocal snippets which were taken from the Harvey Mason record Groovin you which was a Disco/Funk track on Arista Records in 1978.
Taking the main loop of the vocal which sounds like the original group had just hummed it over the bassline, that is the basis of the track. Very simple and very direct. There have since been many different versions of this as it has gone down as a true disco house classic. This original version in 1996 peaked at number 9 which just shows how big it was for an underground disco house record. Unusual to say the least.
So there you are. 5 unusual dance music tracks that became massive hit records in the pop charts. Thank you for reading. RobJamWeb @ Waxadisc Summer 2022