From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
House music is a style of electronic dance music. The earliest forms of the genre originated in Chicago (United States) in the early to mid-1980s descendant from disco. In 1986, Trax's releases of "No Way Back" by Adonis, Larry Heard's "Can You Feel It?" and the first so-called house music anthem in 1986, "Move Your Body" by Marshall Jefferson gave the genre a massive boost.
Chicago years: early 1980s - late 1980s
- Main: Chicago house
The style started out in gay clubs and warehouses of Chicago. People started going to these nightspots to hear this new style that was still called "Disco". Soon people shortened the phrase to "I'm goin down to the house...." and the style became popular in straight circles as well.
In 1983 the Music Box club opened in Chicago. Owned by Robert Williams, the driving force was a DJ, Ron Hardy. The chief characteristics of the club's sound were sheer massive volume and an increased pace to the tunes. The club also played a wider range of music than just disco; artist such as Kraftwerk, Man Parrish, Yello and Blondie were played along with the "Disco" songs.
Two music tracks were arguably the first House music, each arriving in early 1983. The tune that was chronologically first was Jamie Principle and Frankie Knuckles' "Your Love", a huge hit in the clubs, but only available on tape. The second, "On and On" by Jesse Saunders was later put on vinyl (1985). Immediately on the tails of these recordings was Chip E.'s "The Jack Trax" featuring the songs “It’s House” and “Time to Jack”, which defined the genre with its complex rhythms, simple bassline, use of sampling technology, and minimalist vocals.
By 1985, house music dominated the clubs of Chicago, in part due to the radio play the music received on 102.7 FM WBMX as the radio stations mix shows progressed from an Italo Disco, Hip-Hop, Pop format to one of House Music. This was made possible by WBMX then program director Lee Michaels and WBMX's resident DJ team, the Hot Mix 5.
The music and movement was also aided by the electronic music revolution - the arrival of newer, cheaper and more compact music sequencers, drum machines (the Roland TR-909, TR-808 and TR-707, and Latin percussion machine the TR-727) and bass modules (such as the legendary Roland TB-303 in late 1985) gave House music creators even wider possibilities in creating their own sound, indeed the creation of acid house is directly related to the efforts of DJ Pierre, Larry Heard (Mr. Fingers), and Marshall Jefferson on the new drum and rhythym machines.
In 1985, two of the important record labels in the Chicago house music scene were DJ International Records (owned by Rocky Jones) and Trax Records (owned by Larry Sherman). Many of the songs that defined the Chicago house music sound were released on these two record labels. Steve “Silk” Hurley's "Music is the Key", Chip E & K.Joy's "Like This" (1985), and Fingers Inc.’s "Mystery of Love" (1985) were released on DJ International. In 1985, Trax released "Jack the Bass" and "Funkin with the Drums Again" by Farley Jackmaster Funk.
In 1986, Trax released "No Way Back" by Adonis, Larry Heard's (as Fingers Inc.) "Can You Feel It?" and "Washing Machine", and an early house anthem in 1986, "Move Your Body" by Marshall Jefferson. This latter song helped to boost the popularity of the house style outside of Chicago.
Steve 'Silk' Hurley became the first house artist to reach number one in the UK in 1987 with "Jack Your Body". This and other tracks such as "Love Can't Turn Around" by Farley "Jackmaster" Funk helped moved house from its spiritual home to its commercial birthplace —the United Kingdom. The Acid house and hip-house scenes were dominated by international producers like Tyree Cooper, Mr. Lee, Fast Eddie, Kool Rock Steady and Ralphi Rosario at the end of the 1980s. Other Notable DJ's that came from the House movement in Chicago were Bad Boy Bill, Mike "Hitman" Wilson, Julian "Jupin" Perez, Lil Louis and Derrick Carter.
US developments - late 1980s to early 1990s
Back in America the scene had still not progressed beyond a small number of clubs in Chicago, Detroit and New York. Paradise Garage in New York City was still the top club, although they now had Todd Terry, his cover of Class Action's Larry Levan mixed "Weekend" demonstrated the continuum from the underground disco to a new House sound with hip-hop influences evident in the quicker sampling and the more rugged bass-line. While hip-hop had made it onto radio play-lists, the only other choices were Rock, Country & Western or R & B. Other notable New York producers and DJs of the time were Bobby Konders, Tommy Musto, Frankie Bones all of whom had their work licensed internationally in the 1980s. In fact, many of the recordings on the nascent XL Recordings (UK) came from those artists.
Other influences from New York came from the hip-hop, reggae, and Latin community, and many of the New York City super producers/DJs began surfacing for the first time (Erick Morillo, Roger Sanchez, Junior Vasquez, Danny Tenaglia, Jonathan Peters) with unique sounds that would evolve into other genres (tribal house, progressive house, funky house). Producers such as Masters At Work and Kerri Chandler also started pioneering a richer Garage sound that was picked up on by 'outsiders' from the worlds of jazz, hip-hop and downbeat as much as it was by House aficionados.
Influential gospel/R&B-influenced Aly-us released "Time Passes On" in 1993 (Strictly Rhythm), then later, "Follow Me" which received radio airplay as well as being extensively played in clubs. Another US hit which received radio play was the single "Time for the Perculator" by Cajmere, which became the prototype of Ghettohouse sub-genre.
Cajmere is held by many to be one of the revitalising forces in Chicago Houses's rebirth of the early 1990s. Most of the 1980s generation were burnt out by bad contracts or had moved to New York or Europe. Cajmere started the Cajual and Relief labels (amongst others) offering a home to any producer in Chicago, no matter the style. By the early 1990s artists such as Cajmere himself (under that name as well as Green Velvet and as producer for Dajae), DJ Sneak, Glenn Underground and others were bringing out fresh records at a furious pace. Artists from the also recently-revitalised Dance Mania such as DJ Rush, Robert Armani and his cousin Paul Johnson recorded for both and were in high demand as DJs in the lucrative European club circuit. Derrick Carter also became a deeply respected producer and a legendary DJ at this time.
Detroit was mostly known for techno and large labels such as 430 West, KMS and Serious Grooves with producers such as Kevin Saunderson, Marc Kinchen, Octave One (as well as fellow travellers from Chicago such as Chez Damier & Ron Trent who released records on Detroit labels regularly). During this period Underground Resistance were just as likely to release a pumping piano and vocals garage track as they were an electro track and had their Happy Records subsidiary.
Also at this time stirrings of a chilled dance scene relatively unconnected to the Chicago, Detroit, and New York scenes was springing up in the Los Angeles area with parties organised by Hardkiss and UK expats like DIY and Charles Webster. House music eventually came to clubs in cities like Boston, Massachusetts, Providence, Rhode Island, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington D.C..