For those who don’t know, Bebop & Rocksteady was my ‘Leftfield Electronica & Future Soul’ column for 10 years in (free Sydney street press) 3D World and Drum Media magazines.
In 2007 perennial Bebop & Rocksteady faves Jazzanova released a compilation entitled Ten Years, Who Cares? And so, in homage it’s with this kind of self-effacing tone I thought I’d take on the last ever Bebop & Rocksteady column. In July of 2003 I approached 3D World Magazine to cover the ‘other’ side of dance music; for the broad spectrum of people who dabbled in a bit of this and that and would never necessarily gravitate to just one genre, taking in Funk, Soul, Jazz Remixes (which was the tradition at the time), BBQ friendly Hip Hop, Chill Out, a bit of World Music, light House and yes, lots of Nu Jazz (which was the tradition at the time).
Before iPods, Seratos and even CDJs, DJs were DJs because they spent the time and money researching the records. Like me, you didn’t even have to be particularly good; you just needed to have the records. Bebop & Rocksteady hoped to join the dots for listeners and DJs alike and at the time, as disciples of cats like Thomas Crown, JD Walker, Pete & Heidi Pasqual, Soup, Tim Ritchie, Steven Ferris and so on, the extended fam would push our wares in the background whilst noisey white dance music came to fore. None of this is a gripe, mind you. Anyone that doesn’t embrace change, be it technological or stylistic, will never survive in the music business, unless they’re Nick Waterhouse. It’s irrefutable, though, that the noughties were a huge step away from the sounds of Big Beat, Golden Era and Backpack Hip Hop, Acid Jazz and Disco House (ala the French Touch) which dominated the mid and late nineties. So whilst Le Tigre and Princess Superstar were teaching a bunch of young folk that distorted guitars did have a place on the dancefloor, a lot of my colleagues and I weren’t making the connection between what was going on then and the late seventies and eighties movement of genuinely cool bands like ESG and Tom Tom Club who were blending Punk with Dub and Disco and other worldly fusions. We may have saved ourselves a lot of grief if we did!
So here we are, full circle after a decade and what do you know? Daft Punk have made a Disco record with Nile Rogers, Jurassic 5 have reformed, The Bamboos have been nominated for an ARIA, Deepchild is a globetrotting Dance superstar, Disclosure have a number one record and one of the most popular Australian songs of all time is backed by a cruisey Brazilian Jazz guitar sample! Yay! We won!
Music journalism is not a competition but at times, writing Bebop & Rocksteady has felt like a marathon. That’s why, coming out the other end it’s been wholly rewarding to get pulled up at bars and clubs on records people either agreed or disagreed with my opinion on and that’s always been my motivation: to create a dialogue on what were, for a long time, the ‘underground’ records. It’s satisfying as hell to think in my first column ten years ago I was talking about a record called Hard Groove by The RH Factor that featured Erykah Badu, Q-Tip, D’Angelo and other artists who are still innovating today whilst at the time, I thought they were peaking! It’s been a wonderful experience for me and I want to thank all of the editors I have worked under and the brilliant staff at 3D World and Drum Media for putting up with all my missed deadlines, overly conversational tone and sometimes very uninspired work (remember the ‘Mosquito House’ column?). I especially want to thank everyone who’s ever read this column and gone out and investigated one of these records for themselves. Ten Year rant over.