The Great EDM Boom has finally carried over to music sales. As Spin recently pointed out, sales of dance music recordings have surged in the last year: Daft Punk and Avicii both snagged high rankings on the Billboard Top 200, and artists like Zedd, Martin Solveig, and Afrojack sold 1 million downloads each. And then, of course, there's the barely-legal electro-house heartthrob Martin Garrix, whose single "Animals" topped the UK charts a few months ago.
All this makes it seem like EDM has finally "made it" in America—and in a way, it has, because dance music has never sold so many recordings, even during the disco and electronica booms of decades past. But let us never forget the house hits that reared their kandied heads on the international singles charts of yesteryear. I graduated high school in 2007, meaning I can only remember as far back as Aqua and the Vengaboyz, so I had to make a couple phone calls and hit the history books to assemble this list of historic rave crossovers. We wouldn't want to forget the classics, right?
In 1991, a British synth-pop remixer by the name of The Source released his version of "You Got the Love." Believe it or not, the 1986 single by soul singer Candi Staton was originally recorded to soundtrack a film about a 900-pound man on his quest to lose all of his excess weight. It didn't reach widespread claim until The Source dug it out of the vaults.
"They were calling my house saying I had a number-one record in England," Staton told The Guardian in a 2006 interview. "And I said, 'What song? I haven't released any song.'" Initially unaware that the single had even received the remix treatment, she had to get lawyers involved to make sure she got properly paid when the single sold 2 million copies. "The English releases can't rip me off any more—hopefully," she said.PS: don't skip the XX remix of the 2009 Florence and the Machine cover of the 1991 version of the 1986 single. Honestly, I can't even make this shit up.
Speaking of rip-offs, the Italian superstars Black Box have seen more lawsuits than a self-accelerating Toyota. They were initially busted for sampling disco diva Loleatta Holloway without permission on their 1989 number-one single "Ride on Time." Later, they were sued by their own vocalist Martha Wash, who felt snubbed because she was replaced by a lip-syncing French model at the group's live engagements—and because she initially never received credit on their albums and singles.
Is it embarrassing that the first time I heard this was when I bought a Girl Talk CD in 2007? Yikes.
Few synthesizer sounds are more iconic than the big bad motherfucker of a Hoover synth that opens the Prodigy's 1991 debut single, "Charly," which reached No. 3 on the UK singles charts in September of that year.
They call it the Hoover because it sounds like a vacuum—a huge, cosmic vacuum that will suck the ego out of your skull and leave you a frothing, hysterical shell of a human, writhing in ecstatic communion with the gods of rave. But who wore it best, really?
1991 saw Joey Beltram harnessing the same synthy black magic on his single "Mentasm" for Belgian techno label R&S, under the name Second Phase. Then there's another R&S track from the same year: "Dominator," by Dutch techno pioneers Human Resouce, which is so hardcore that it makes me want to go throw this fresh pot of green tea on sombody's face and spraypaint an anarchy symbol on the doors of the VICE office. Either way, Prodigy went biggest on the pop charts.
Ugh. This fucking song. Not only did it take the number-two spot on the UK charts, but you Americans out there may recognize "Kernkraft 400 (Sport Chant Stadium Remix)" from any number of beer-soaked college basketball games. And while most of these throwbacks never made a splash with us across the pond, this one definitely tapped something in our tiny American pea-brains. I even remember hearing the 1999 high-NRG anthem at my eighth grade after school dance, though I can't be sure because I was fixated on touching a titty for the first time underneath the bleachers in the gymnasium.
1998: SONIQUE - "IT FEELS SO GOOD"
Fun facts from Wikipedia: "On 27 June 2008, the Official UK Charts Company named 'It Feels So Good' as the biggest selling dance song of the 21st century." In the UK alone it sold over 650,000 copies. In the US, this catchy trance hit peaked at No. 8, and clocked in at the end of the year at No. 34 in the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Singer, producer, and DJ Sonique was a resident DJ in Ibiza for a few years in the late 90s, grew up playing in a reggae band, and then beat breast cancer in 2010. This lady is too cool. Sonique—you can roll with me and the homies to the club any time you want. We will steamroll that dancefloor.
Songs like "Good Life" inspire fierce and nauseating debates over the terms "house" and "techno." The track was made by Kevin Saunderson, a pioneering producer from Detroit, a city known for its contributions to the development of techno—but it sounds like house! Those chords! That unforgettable Paris Grey vocal! What does it mean??
Well, it means that "Good Life" is a track as timeless as the hackneyed controversies it inspires. Saunderson unleashed the classic anthem in 1988 under the moniker Inner City, the name he used whenever he teamed up with Paris Grey. By January of 1989, "Good Life" hit No. 4 on the UK charts. In 2013, the track proved to be as powerful as ever when Saunderson played it during his closing set with Derrick May at Movement. It was cold as fuck, and it was raining, and the two Detroit kingpins were late to take the stage. But when Grey's voice ripped through the amphitheater with the words "No more rainy days," the freezing, soaked ravers rejoiced. It was a super PLUR moment. (Elissa Stolman)
1997: THE CRYSTAL METHOD - "BUSY CHILD"
The undulating synths and cosmic voiceovers of "Get Busy Child" take me back to a time of UFO pants, Surge soda cans from the video arcade in Somerville, and that fantastic Rob Zombie rave scene where Neo first meets Trinity at a leather club in post-apocalyptic Los Angeles.
I first heard this jam when I was ten years old and my cool uncle bought me a copy of N2O: Nitrous Oxide, the 1998 Playstation sleeper that was soundtracked by this homegrown rave-rock duo. Did you know they just released their fifth studio album? Yeah, neither did anyone else. This one came in at No. 17 on the Hot Dance Club Play in the US.
If you listen to enough 2-step / garage mixes, you'll start to recognize certain tracks that pop up over and over. There's "Scrappy" by Wookie, Dem 2's "Destiny," Colour Girl's "Joyrider," the Resevoir Dogs Vocal Mix of "You Don't Know" by 702, and Artful Dodger's "Rewind," which features vocals by Craig David. The R&B stud faded into obscurity after releasing a few albums and lending his sensual singing to a handful of Artful Dodger productions, but in 2013, he burst back into the spotlight after he tweeted a picture of his insanely yoked body and exchanged tweets with Justin Bieber.
The track that David mentions in his tweet to Bieber, "Fill Me In," was originally released in 2000. David's vocals are as silky as a pair of satin boxers, and the lyrics are as corny as the type of douchebags who wear satin boxers; The song details David's love affair with a girl whose parents are "trying to find out what we were up to" as the couple does "things that young people in love do." In other words, perfect fodder for a radio hit, and still better than anything Bieber has made to date. (Elissa Stolman)
The Bucketheads was an alias of New York City house legends Kenny Dope and Louie Vega, aka Masters at Work. You know, the guys also responsible for "Deep Inside" as Hardrive and "The Ha Beat," which became anthemic in New York ballroom house music and the worldwide voguing scene at large.
The unedited version of this track is one of the longest house records of the 90s, apparently because producer Kenny Dope left the drum machine on repeat by accident. "The record's 14 minutes long but it was actually a mistake," he told the audience at his Red Bull Music Academy lecture. "If you play the original song it doesn't do that: the way the hooks are laid out, the way the anticipation is with the whole horn intro and all that… it was me missing the sequence."
The whole point of a perfect groove is that people won't even notice that they've been dancing for 15 minutes to the same seven-second loop.
2001: DJ RUI DA SILVA - "TOUCH ME"
Comments on this one include: "second best song of the earth ," "Beefy track this how i feel in side of me," "junkie fuck," and "Shaggin tune" [all sic]. Trance fans are a special bunch, aren't they?
This euphoric slammer—by Portuguese DJ Rui da Silva and singer Cassandra Fox—charted in almost every country with a decent dancefloor, soaring at No. 1 on the UK chart for a week. It was the first time that a Portuguese single took the No. 1 spot on the British singles chart—and he promptly disappeared back into weird progressive house circles afterwards. I did, however, find his remix of Yoko Ono, which is pretty tits.
Max Pearl has opinions. Follow him on Twitter. -@maxpearl