Class of ’99, Vol. 5
“I’ve got an idea: let’s go to the rocks!”
So begins this month’s mix, as captured on camcorder, proposed as a solution to the dilemma of where to go after the rave is over. At this point, the sun has already come up, so there’s not much point in going to sleep. You might as well keep partying.
Chicago had a number of bizarre after-party locations, including brownstones that were gutted from the inside, semi-functional bowling alleys, and even a funeral home. But if you couldn’t find an afterparty, there was always the lakefront.
Chicago has very few actual, sandy beaches; instead, the shoreline is filled with boulders and chunks of concrete. On Saturday and Sunday mornings, ravers would crawl out of the warehouses and beach themselves on the rocks. Northsiders met at the Belmont rocks, and Southside kids had ‘The Point’, A.K.A. Promontory Point in Hyde Park.
The rocks often felt like a giant cosmic bust, the horizontal sun blasting in your face like God’s flashlight. However, it was an important bonding experience, I think, because you could meet other ravers and actually have a conversation, which was almost impossible over the deafening din of a typical rave party.
At some point, the cops started kicking us out at the Belmont rocks, but I don’t even remember why. It wasn’t illegal to be in the park after dawn—although I vaguely remember people bringing huge tanks of nitrous oxide down there, and selling it in those giant punch-balloons that little kids tie to rubber bands. That was probably why we were cleared out (though I think NO2 was also technically legal). After that, some kids moved on to the Montrose rocks, and then were chased up to the Foster rocks, and after that, who knows.
As a teenager, my best friend lived with his mom, across the street from Juneway Beach in Rogers Park. I would tell my mom I was sleeping over at his place, and then we could crawl out the bedroom window of his basement apartment, run around all night, sneak back in the next morning, pretend we just woke up, and then go out to the Juneway rocks. A little known secret, even to most Chicagoans, is that Rogers Park has the best beaches in the city.
A Saturday In 1999 is dedicated to the rocks—you can decide which ones.
About the cover
This graphic comes from a record release party thrown by the Dust Traxx, a Chicago House label. The flyer was perforated into several mini-flyers, each featuring a Sonic the Hedgehog character. Brand parodies were an iconic element of the Rave aesthetic, going way back to the beginning, when Rave culture overlapped with the gay ‘club kid’ culture.
MTV used to air this video in the early 90s, of George Michael covering an early Rave anthem called “Killer”. I was 13 when I first saw this, and while I’ve never been a fan of George Michael, the video was one of the first mainstream glimpses into Rave culture that I remember seeing on TV, and it totally rocked my world.
David Alvarado — Dub Plate No2 (1997)
Awesome record, centering around abstracted samples of "Tomorrow Is Now" by Brass Construction, from Brass Construction II. This was on a DJ Sneak tape, and I never owned it. I thought it was literally an acetate dub plate, and was impossible to find, but somehow Discogs has it, and it's relatively affordable.
Cricco Castelli — Roman Holiday (1998)
I always liked this record, though there's something about the production on this EP that sounds too hollow to me, or too splashy, or something. It's a very Japanese, Shibuya-Kei sounding track to me. Sometimes, the production sounds like Hideki Matsutake, and it uses the same sample as a Towa Tei record. I don't know where the sample comes from, but I'm curious. If you know, let me know in the comments.
Jamiroquai — Cosmic Girl (Full Intention Mix) (1996)
For this track, my friend Reyna offered up an old snapshot and the following review:
July 1999. A summer of so many fun memories. Among the top: a Jamiroquai concert at The Riviera. It was an 18 and older show and the general admission ticket price was a reasonable $24, including tax and handling fees. My bestie and I purchased our tickets at a music store that sold vinyl, cassette tapes, and CDs. We counted out the exact amount owed in dingy paper currency and grimy coins. The clerk recorded our purchase with a ballpoint pen in his green and white three-hole punched ledger that was kept under the register. Tasked with the safekeeping of such important documents, I took the neon orange cardstock tickets straight home. Kept them in a standard number 10 envelope on my dresser. Every so often pulling them out to read them, obsessively checking the time and date. How would I get there? When should we plan on meeting up if doors opened at 7pm? Mental note: buy a new disposable camera. What should I wear?
By 1999 I was a big Jamiroquai fan. The first time I heard Jamiroquai, it was a few years prior on the interactive UHF TV channel, The Box: a by-request music video jukebox. Their tagline was: “The Box. Music Television You Control.” Between blocks of music videos, and on a scrolling banner at the bottom of the screen, there was a menu of videos. Each video had a three to four digit code. Want to hear a video? It’s so simple! Just wait to see your video show up on the menu, write down or memorize your video’s code, pick up your landline telephone (hope that no one else in your household is on the phone, tying up the line), dial the station’s 1-900 number, carefully follow the recorded instructions, punch in your video’s code when prompted, pay $0.99 (charged to your phone bill), wait for confirmation from the system that your request was processed, hang up, sit back and wait anywhere from five minutes to an hour to hear your track. 1990s interactive entertainment—at its finest.
Having bought the Jamiroquai concert tickets as soon as they became available, my friend Gigi and I waited weeks for the big day. Part time summer jobs meant we had plenty of time and cash to shop around for cute clothes and accessories. At a small storefront thrift store that looked less like a retail establishment and more like a roomful
of someone’s desperate attempt to unload burdensome remnants from their past, I found a trippy 60 cent polyester shirt straight from the 1970s. Influences from the 70s figured strongly into popular music and fashion in the 90s. Body glitter. Bell bottoms. Platform shoes. And for, me, yes, super thin over-plucked eyebrows. At Medusa’s Circle, a boutique shop on Chicago’s northside selling make up, clothes and accessories, Gigi bought a goldchain with a pendant spelling out the word “DISCO” in rhinestones. She also bought another one that spelled “FUCK.” She wore them both to the concert.
Being young with seemingly endless banks of time and little real-world responsibilities, my friends and I developed a simple yet effective protocol to get the best dancefloor position in any general admission concert situation: show up ridiculously early. It was a winning strategy.
On the day of the Jamiroquai concert, we met at The Riviera at 3pm. Doors opened at 7pm—but really more like 8pm. After meeting for lunch, we hung outside the Riv, and prepared to wait. And wait we did. About an hour and a half in, we saw a dude who kind of looked like Jay Kay. And as he got closer, well SHIT. It was Jay Kay. It was so early, he was out probably looking for a cup of coffee or just stretching his legs or something while this crew set up inside.
As he approached us, we excitedly introduced ourselves. And there we were, on an uncharacteristically empty Chicago street in Uptown, mid-afternoon, all alone with Jay Kay. I remember him being super nice with a great smile. Before posing for a picture with us, he leaned in and looked at Gigi’s necklaces.
In his English accent Jay Kay said, playfully feigning outrage, “Hey! Does your necklace say ‘Fuck Disco’?”
Gigi said, “No! It says ‘Disco Fuck!’”
Jay Kay chuckled. “Right on!”
This Full Intention remix was only ever available on a bootleg, but you can still buy it online.
Deep Down - Give Me Your Love (1999)
"Deep Down" is another moniker of Dave Lee, AKA Joey Negro, who put out a lot of disco dubs and reworks throughout the 90s, and who did a lot to promote House's Disco roots with his mixes and compilations.
UBQ Project — Groove It (1996)
UBQ Project was a pseudonym for the late Joey Donatello, who released a lot of great material for Vibe Records, which later became Music Plant. "Groove It", from the Ubiquity EP, samples "Cosmic Lust" by Mass Production, from the album Believe.
Chaser — Tall Stories (Pooley's "Lars From Mars" Mix) (1997)
I don't know much about this collection of remixes from Ian Pooley. I used to have this cut on a tape called Northside Chronicles by DJ Sativa, who worked at Gramaphone Records. If you know the sample, let me know.
Disco-Tex — Clap Your Hands (1997)
Daft Punk — Burnin (Ian Pooley Unreleased Mix) (1997)
The video for Daft Punk's Burnin' may have inspired an article that ran in the print edition of The Onion, back in 1999, where an exasperated firefighter describes the futility of trying to evacuate a group of 'party people' from a club whose roof is on fire. The party people at this disco inferno include several Chicago DJs and producers, including Hyperactive (behind the piano), DJ Sneak (in the white beret), Paul Johnson (in the wheelchair, behind the decks), Lego (bald guy with the soul patch), and surely many others. I could use your help identifying all the other heads in that room, who I'm sure are almost all Chicago producers and DJs.
I also haven't been able to figure out what building they're in. Based on the position and the look of the lobby, It seems like it should be Trump Tower, but that didn't exist in the late 90s so I'm not sure. If you have an idea, let me know in the comments.
This remix, first heard on an Ian Pooley mixtape, was recorded as a dubplate and never released. What you hear is actually a bootleg that someone remastered from a mix he broadcast on German radio.
Daddy's Favourite — I Feel Good Things For You (1997)
Mike Delgado — Byrdman's Revenge (1997)
Solar Sides — Side's Effects (1999)
Solar Sides were a French House Fusion act whose Electrolyse album included covers of a lot of old Jazz standards, plus some original compositions like this one. I used to own this on CD, and it definitely holds up as an unmixed album for general listening.
Gusto — Disco's Revenge (1996)
Smoke city — Mr. Gorgeous (Mood II Swing Dub) (1997)
The dub I've included on this mix is exclusive to the Japanese release of Smoke City's Flying Away album. This happened a lot in the 90s, and I read once that it was because of a trade deal the US had with Japan. It was cheaper for the Japanese to simply buy the license for a recording, make the CDs in Japan, and then distribute them directly, but part of this trade agreement stipulated that American albums would be manufactured in the states and then exported to Japan. The Japanese agreed to this only on the condition that they would get bonus tracks that would only be available for Japanese listeners.
For that reason, I only just discovered this dub recently. The version I had, and the one heard out at raves, was the Mood II Swing Vocal Mix. The lyrics seem to be vaguely derivative of "The Girl From Ipanema", and the slighly-eurotrance style made this an unlikely hit on the rave circuit, but it was supposedly popular with meth heads. I don't know if that's true, but I had a close friend who claimed that all the gay guys who did glass would hit the dancefloor when this dropped, and start petting their faces and pretending they were Mr. Gorgeous. Whether his claim was true or apocryphal, I'll never know, but I always think of that when I hear this song.
Danell Dixon — Yeah (Get Hype Mix) (1996)
House music in its truest form. While 90s House borrowed a lot from Disco and Funk, these stripped-down, repetitive dubs seem to capture the true essence of the House genre, and I think that's hard to appreciate unless you hear them in a mix, blaring through massive speakers, out on the dancefloor. This one is available on Discogs.
H2O — Nobody's Business (Deep Zone Club Mix) (1996)
"Nobody's Business" is a reinterpretation of an ancient cabaret number called "Taint Nobody's Biz-ness If I Do", which has been covered countless times over the last century. The Deep Zone mixes of this song got a lot of rotation in both underground circles, and also with the B-96 set. There was also a bootleg a capella that was popular with DJs at the time.
Paul Jacobs — Soul Grabber Pt. 3 (1997)
1997 was a massive year for Chicago house, and I had high hopes for 1998. It was January when I took the Fullerton bus all the way to Hip House Records at the Brickyard Mall, in search of the first big anthem of the year. And so, I asked Mark Almaria, who worked there, and he pulled out this record.
Toronto was putting out a lot of mediocre House material at that time, and I was skeptical that this track would really get big. And I was right: this one was kind of a flop. I'll always remember it as the '98 anthem that wasn't.
Raven Maize — Forever Together (Future Shock Remix) (1996)
I added this tune as an alias for "House Music" By Eddie Amador, which was a much bigger record, but which carries bad memories for me, personally.
I've tried not to glorify drug use in this series, or even really touch on it, but the truth is that the Rave scene was a drug culture, no doubt about it. Drug use was so ubiquitous that it became hip for kids to claim they didn't do drugs, even if they did.
I went to a party once at Route 66, the Southside roller rink-turned-rave venue, where some guy was selling DXM, the active ingredient in Robitussin. It didn't seem like much of a risk to take what seemed like an over-the-counter drug, except that a dose of Robitussin only has 20mg of DXM in it, and this was a giant horse pill containing almost an entire gram of powdered Dextromethorphan.
I bought a pill, swallowed it, and started experiencing these extreme temporal distortions. I remember throwing a glow stick in the air and having it just hover there, like I was on the International Space Station. Every record sounded warped, and nothing seemed to keep a steady rhythm. It was in this context that I first heard "House Music", and the self-referential lyrics seemed to break the fourth wall in a way that I found weirdly upsetting.
Anyway, this party seemed to go on forever, and at some point I wondered if I was in a time warp and would just be stuck there forever. I was relieved to finally get home and into bed, and dismayed to wake up and realize that horse pill hadn't worn off, not even close.
That DXM must have stayed in my system for at least 4 grueling days, in which I tried to reconcile the possibility that I might be stuck like this forever. Perhaps a part of my soul is still stuck on that dancefloor, at Route 66, in 1998, for all of eternity.
Basement Jaxx — Bingo Bango (1999)
Basement Jaxx had a tendency to produce a perfectly fine House record, and then put a bunch of Speed Garage all over it. I don't know that this tune needed all the timestretched shouting, dub sirens and ululating, but such was the custom at the time, and this trend persists across their much-anticipated debut LP.