In the Heartbreakers series, we look at the dance floor tearjerkers that make your night special, whether that's at the height of your high or the plateau. Electronic music has the power to break hearts and this is an appreciation of those songs. This edition comes from DJ, producer and Simple Records/Aus Music main man Will Saul. Saul's Heartbreaker takes him back to his early forays into clubbing in the pre-streaming salad days of mid-90s London.
When THUMP asked me to write about a record that's never failed to move me in some way, the choice was an obvious one: "Papua New Guinea" by Future Sound of London.
My clubbing nights and days started when I was underage. Way back in 1994, I was 17 and that's when me and my friends edged towards becoming regulars at the sadly now-closed Turnmills in Clerkenwell. As time progressed the music policy shifted, as sometimes happen with big clubs like that, and I became less enamoured with the place as a result. But when I first started going it was magic. You'd regularly get to see someone like the Chemical Brothers comandeering the decks in the smaller second room, which was called, somewhat cheesily, 'Eclectronica'. That room's resident was a guy called Carl Clarke. He'd regularly end the night with "Papua New Guinea". It's incredibly likely that the first few times I heard that song I was, shall we say, worse for wear, but it was a brain-melting experience all the same.
I grew up in the middle of nowhere, down in deepest, darkest rural Somerset, at a time when the only access one had to music was via tinny radio broadcasts or trekking to the closest record store – which for me involved a half hour bike ride to Glastonbury, the nearest proper town. Even when you made it to a record shop you had to dredge up knowledge gleamed from reviews you'd read in that week's or month's music magazines. Developing taste in that manner meant relying on your own sense of divination, of working out which writers you trusted and which one's record collection's you'd run a mile from. I was the eldest of three siblings so I didn't even have a brother or sister to pinch tunes from. Not to sound like a grandad, but things are so much easier now. I can read a review of a track and know that within seconds I'll be able to hear it. I didn't even have a computer in the house when I was growing up, and even if I'd been able to regularly access one I'd have been stuck with whatever tunes came bundled with Windows back then: we lived in a world without iTunes, without YouTube, without THUMP.
So I'd hear this track at the end of another great night and leave baffled by it. I'm quite sure that I asked Carl Clarke what it was time and time again, probably much to his annoyance. But then I couldn't leave a reminder on my phone, like you can now, and in my altered state I was never able to remember what it was. I used to walk about with these euphoric rave chords playing in my head over and over, taunting me over my inability to give them a name, to solidfy them into something real, something that I could go out and buy and wear out replaying in my bedroom. I've got memories I've tried to repress of singing the lead riff to a number of snooty and highly amused record shop sales assistants but even if they actually knew what it was I was after, they preferred to keep me hanging.
Then, like magic, Carl handed out a few mix CD's at the end of a gig one time. I had it! I had the name! Finally! Looking back, I think the fact that certain tracks were inaccessible back then made unidentifiable tunes I heard while out much more exciting. You'd walk down the steps into a club knowing that for the next few hours you were going to hear things that you'd never heard before and you probably wouldn't hear again until the next time you went out.
I think that, alongside it being a massive, massive tune, is the reason that "Papua New Guinea" holds a special place in my heart. It encapsulates my days as a teenage clubber, and reminds me of both how exciting things were back then, and how lucky we all are now.
Will Saul plays alongside Huxley, Raresh and Rhadoo at Fabric on 6th of December. Tickets are available here.