Ah, the re-remix. Knives out, everyone.
There are two schools of thought on the subject of unearthing a track for a modern-day update. There are those who are turned off by the limited production techniques of the time when the song was originally recorded, and would prefer to give said song a studio upgrade, while another group believes that running a song through this week’s drum machine of choice actually makes the song even more dated than the original, and at the same time strips the song of the very qualities that made it so unique and likeable in the first place. Over time, as dance music
mutates evolves, people in the former group will join the latter group, though the opposite almost never happens. The only ones who stay in the former group are professional DJs, but only because they have to.
People actually started tackling music from the ’80s as early as 1987, when Dead or Alive producer Zeus B. Held turned in a fabulous – though very timely – mix of Gary Numan’s “Cars.” By 1989, re-remixes were all over the place, notably Real Life’s “Send Me an Angel” (which bests the original) and M’s Robin Scott giving his lone hit “Pop Muzik” the house treatment. Some of the best re-remix work, though, was being done by a group of DJs from England who worked for a company called Disco Mix Club, or DMC for short. The truly amazing thing is that, up to this point, they never had access to the master tapes of the bands they were “mixing.” They were just editing the existing mixes, but they were so good at it that eventually they were granted access to the masters. Quite an honor, to be sure, and they did not disappoint.
The best remixer of the bunch, for my money, was Steve Anderson, one half of the production duo Brothers in Rhythm. He made what I still consider to be the Best Remix Ever (sadly, you’ll have to wait until the September 24 installment of Mope Like Me for that one), but his take on the Human League’s “Love Action (I Believe in Love),” which he mixed in late 1992, is not far behind. Anderson definitely had a pattern to his work – start with a brand-new slate, add layer upon layer of synths, vocals, and percussion, then slowly fade in the song’s key riff – but once that meow-meow keyboard comes in and the kick drum starts thumping, it’s off to the races. Anderson had a thing for opening the first verse without a drum track, too. Not sure how that worked in a club, it made for some mighty fine home listening. Also, check out the “Once in a Lifetime”-ish keyboard during the “I believe, I believe, what the old man said” bit in the bridge.
It’s been a long time since anyone has made a mix of an ’80s song that I can listen to without wanting to put knitting needles in my ears – Irene Rockstar’s mix of Book of Love’s “Boy,” from the Future Retro compilation, is the only one that comes to mind. Like my Popdose bio says, once they changed what “it” was, and once what I was “with” wasn’t “it,” what became “it” was weird and scary to me (i.e. relentless, droning trance music at 180 beats per minute). I think about the fact that I once considered working as a club or party DJ for a living, and all I can say now is: thank God that never happened. The window closed on me almost immediately after I decided against it, the Chemical Brothers excepted.
So, for your ‘simpler times’ listening pleasure, enjoy the Human League’s original version, followed by Anderson’s 1992 makeover. See you in two weeks, club kids.