Frankie Knuckles 1955 – 2014
April 1, 2014

I found out last night that Frankie Knuckles had died aged 59 and I cannot overstate how gutted I was. Frankie Knuckles wasnt just a DJ or Producer, he was one of a very small cadre of people responsible for creating the sound that has played in my head and heart for as long as I can remember. Sounds a bit spiritual I know but its hard to explain that music to me has always been about the kickdrum, the high hat and piano or soulful vocal hook. Sure my tastes have mellowed over the years but at the very beginning of my own personal musical journey, it was House music and specifically the Soulful House sound synonymous with ChiTown/NYC that I loved. Imagine me. locked onto as a young 8 year old lad, the John Peel radio show on a Sunday night, taping the imports that he played during the show. House music is probably the first thing I would say that defined me as my own person with my own taste. The first thing I found on my own.

Frankie Knuckles was responsible for the music at the Warehouse in Chicago, often credited with the origin of the name “House”, a shortened version of “The Warehouse” music that was in such demand in early 80’s Chicago record stores. The history of House Music is littered with DJ’s and producers held in high almost godlike reverence but almost all agree that Frankie was deserving of his title as the “Godfather of house”. A guy who took the records available to him after the death of commercial disco, rolled in a drum machine in the booth thanks to Derrick May and helped pioneer a sound that has dominated global music for over thirty years. Sure it was going to happen sooner or later but this soon, man I wanted to see Frankie just one more time…

So today the web has been rammed full of tributes to Knuckles, Twitter exploded last night with tributes, Facebook has been busting at the seams with friends all posting their favourite Frankie Knuckles cuts. He has a legacy that transcends his death for as long as there is a Kick Drum, a snare, a highhat played over a soulful vocal and an uplifting piano riff, therein lies some of Frankies DNA, a fingerprint that will outlive all of us left here reflecting upon his body of work.

Thank you for the music Frankie.

Rhythim is Rhythim – Strings of Life (Piano Mix) [1987]
December 31, 2011

Its New Years Eve so allow for the sentimentality of this one. A track that really doesnt need any kind of introduction, its Derrick May’s seminal classic released some 24 years ago and still bumps as hard today as the day it was committed to vinyl. Many have tried to deseminate why the track touched and continues to touch so many people and a lot more simply dont give a shit.

Derek claimed in the documentary “Pump Up The Volume” that the track actually scared him, left him reflective and in his own words “Buck naked wandering around my place”. Surely a track that can have that kind of impression on the guy who composed it was always destined for great things. For me, despite the fact that its been remixed to death, the original still retains the most important components of any classic house record for me. A pounding kick drum, amazing strings and the catchiest piano riff you can imagine.

No matter where you are, what your doing or who your doing it with this New Years Eve, have a great great night.

Happy New Year!

From Discogs
I read somewhere that Strings Of Life is about the dream that Martin Luther King Jr. gave to the world. Perhaps in the Detroit of 1987 that dream seemed to have died with King but listening to this song, I know that cannot be true. There is an energy in this song, a sense of movement, that I have never heard in another techno song. Somehow the string stabs chafe against the piano line and the drums in a unique way that electrifies my body. Judging by the response I have seen to to this song in clubs, other people have the same reaction. You cannot stay still when the song kicks off after the short introduction, and if there is more than one person listening, something special will happen between the two of you.

Sometimes I feel sad when I look at Derrick May’s catalogue and see that he stopped giving us music after only a few magical years near the end of the 20th century, but when I listen through, I find it full of emotional explosions like this one. They are focused and cut like a scalpel to the heart. Maybe he got sick of the pressure, maybe he is lazy (doubtful), or maybe he just burned out after producing a dozen odd songs like this one. I want him to produce more music, but I also feel satisfied with what he has made so far.

It became a common sense the fact that ‘Strings Of Life’ was the most important Techno classic of the early period, most precisely the eighties. On this matter, this English Twelve Inch pressing of the tune by the label Kool Kat became among the main responsibles for the Techno explosion in Europe (together with ‘Techno! The New Dance Sound Of Detroit’ compilation and the Inner City massive hits ‘Big Fun’ and ‘Good Life’). According to Mark Archer, ‘Strings Of Life’ (present in the ‘Deep Heat 89 – Fight The Flame’ compilation) was “one of the tunes of the year of 1989 and the tune of 1990”, though being conceived in America years before, in 1987. The Burden brothers from Octave One didn’t hesitate to claim that, “with Strings of Life, Derrick was the real precursor”, for “that was the track that started bending things”. They also said that, without this essential anthem, there probably would be no ‘Jaguar’ or ‘Blackwater’. The last track of the B Side of this single, ‘Nude Photo’, also released originally by Transmat in 1987, was included later on WARP 10+1 Influences compilation. All of these facts (among others) lead us to the conclusion that this English single, packed with a gorgeous sleeve cover of an android in the middle of musical notes, was one of the main reasons for the Techno definitive invasion in Europe.