Classic House Series Episode #30 – Gym Tonic(Thomas Bangalter Mix) – Bob Sinclar

As house tunes go, there are few tracks that have been surrounded by as much controversy with respect to authorship and release as Bob Sinclar‘s (more accurately, Thomas Bangalter‘s) 1998 French-house anthem “Gym Tonic“.  A classic example of the French Touch sound, this particular track has become almost mythical in terms of its origins, release and legacy.  With all the conflicting stories going around the net about this one, this post will be based largely on what seems to be the most reasonable and accepted versions of the story and, hopefully, will provide the most accurate version of the facts without getting Mr. Bangalter and Mr. Sinclar in the same room to sort it out (because that will likely never happen).

Let’s go back a few years to the 1998 Winter Music Conference in Miami.  Thomas and Bob meet and hit it off.  They start talking music and in the discussion it is revealed that Bob wants to make a track using the funk classic “Bad Mouthin’” by Motown Sounds.  Allegedly, Thomas quickly produces the track and adds a cheeky vocal sample from a Jane Fonda‘s  Workout record (2-3-4-5-6-7-8 and back along with some intro snippets).  With the track done, Bangalter hands it over to Sinclar for use on his debut album “Paradise“.  Bangalter’s only request is that the song not be released as a single and that his name is not anywhere on it (likely for not having cleared the rights for either sample).  Sinclar agrees and the track is added to the album.

Fast forward a few weeks to when the initial feedback for Sinclar’s album starts coming in.  The album is great (and it is), but DJs are going bananas over one particular track:  Gym Tonic.  This is where things get interesting (and complicated).

Despite promising Bangalter that he wouldn’t release the track as a single, the pressure is starting to come down from Warner Music, the label responsible for distribution of the album on Sinclar’s Yellow Productions imprint.  There is allegedly some attempt from Sinclar to reach both Bangalter and his manager Pedro Winter.  No success on either attempt.  With increased pressure to get a proper single out to support the album, “Gym Tonic” is released as a single albeit with the words “promo only” tacked on to it.  This reaches Bangalter’s ears and the lawyers start going at it.  But there’s one more heavyweight about to get involved.

The single attracts the attention of Jane Fonda herself and her legal team who are none too pleased about her vocals being sampled without permission.  This further ramps up the litigation with rumours that Fonda wanted as much as $30,000.00 to clear the sample.  Meanwhile, Sinclar’s album is in stores and selling well, all thanks to Bangalter’s production work.

The fallout from this whole episode had some stiff ramifications for Sinclar and our ears as well.  In response to Sinclar disregarding his wishes, Thomas Bangalter removes Sinclar’s remix of Music Sounds Better With You” – Stardust from all future pressings of the CD single (the initial run of discs did include and are now highly sought after).  In addition, Warner goes ahead and commissions a “re-make” of the single by Spacedust under the name “Gym & Tonic“.  While the Motown Sounds sample remains, the vocals are re-recorded (poorly) by a session vocalist and the Spacedust single ended up hitting #1 on the UK singles chart (with a dreadful video to boot, see above).  Lines are drawn and it is assumed that Bangalter and Sinclar will never work together again, or even speak to each other, over the mess.

Controversy aside, one can safely say that the original Thomas Bangalter mix of “Gym Tonic” is a bona fide French-house classic and one of Bangalter’s best productions.  He even goes so far as to include snippets of the scratch samples that he used on his solo production “Spinal Scratch“.  The result is a pumping, swirling dancefloor bomb and if the vocal hook doesn’t get stuck in your head, the insanely catchy Motown Sounds sample will definitely do the trick.  It’s still a treat to drop this one on an unsuspecting crowd today and despite the controversy and fallout from its creation, this one has held up extremely well and your crowd had better be ready for a good workout here (pun fully intended).

 

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Classic Compilation Review – My House In Montmartre – Various Artists

My House In Montmartre

When I first got into house music, compilations were a great way to keep up to date with what was hot at the time while being exposed to new music as well.  With the advent of music going digital, the compilation has in many ways gone the way of the dinosaur, however, if you regularly troll for used CDs and vinyl like I do, you’ll be able to appreciate the value in coming across a great compilation that sees a lot of classic tunes assembled in one place.  And for anyone who is looking for an enjoyable lesson in classic French house music, My House In Montmartre remains a great place to start.

Released by acclaimed electronic label Astralwerks in conjunction with MTV, the disc serves as a real “who’s who” of the French House music scene in 2002.  The Daft Punk crew is well represented with Stardust’s Music Sounds Better With You appropriately appearing as the opening cut, my favourite cut from “Discovery“, “High Life” coming in at track 3 and the inclusion of their brilliant remix of I:Cube‘s “Disco Cubizm“.  Roule label-mate DJ Falcon‘s legendary remix of Cassius‘ “La Mouche” is a welcome addition in its full-length form, together with Alan Braxe & Fred Falke‘s live bass anthem “Intro” which received a huge response worldwide when originally released.

Other classic cuts include the Buffalo Bunch remix of Phoenix‘s “If I Ever Feel Better (I’ll Go to the Disco)“, “Grandlife” – We In Music and “Lucky Star” – Superfunk.  Add all of these to a plethora of great tracks and remixes from the likes of Air, Alex Gopher and others and you have yourself one very versatile comp which would well suit anyone looking for a thorough snapshot of what was hot when French House was at its peak.

This one is definitely worth tracking down and is very DJ-friendly given that the majority of the tracks appear in full-length form.  In fact, grab two copies if you can and work the floor with these classics!

Classic House Series Episode #21 – T.I.T.T.S(Take It To The Street)/ Music Box – The Buffalo Bunch

Any Daft Punk fan worth their salt knows that beyond the scope of their studio albums and live shows Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo have forged their own successful solo projects through their labels Roule and Crydamoure respectively.

Thomas’ Roule label was arguably the more commercially successful of the two, particularly with the massive worldwide popularity of Music Sounds Better With You” – Stardust, and later releases featured Thomas’ collaborations with DJ Falcon under their Together alias.  Roule also released the debut single “Vertigo” by Alan Braxe and singles from house legends Roy Davis Jr. and Romanthony, who would provide vocals on “One More Time” and “Too Long” from DP’s Discovery album.

The Crydamoure sound was also built on the above formula but took an even more bare, stripped-back approach to production and focused on sampling (and microsampling) obscure R&B and disco loops, then drowning them in effects and filters.  The bulk of the Crydamoure catalogue comes directly from Guy-Man and label partner Eric Chedeville under their guise of Le Knight Club, together with collaborations and releases from DJ Sneak, Sedat the Turkish Avenger, and the Buffalo Bunch.

Consisting of Guy-Man’s brother Paul de Homem-Christo and Romain Seo, the Buffalo Bunch have the distinction of being the only artists to have a release of Roule’s sister label Scratche.  The single, “Buffalo Club” was well received but it wasn’t until the release of their double-single on Crydamoure that people really took notice.

The A-side, Take It To The Street, loops a portion of Leo Sayer’s “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing” over the hi-hat and cymbal heavy percussion the Bunch are known for.  Definitely a decent tune, but IMHO the real gem lies on the flip.

Music Box is an absolute cracker of a tune and was created by combining three different samples; “New York City” – Boney M. and “No, No, Joe” and “Thank You, Mr. DJ” both by Silver Connection.  The samples are delightfully obscure, but come together over some tough-as-nails beats to create a delightful disco house stomper.  Check out the video above to see how the sampling was done as this remains my favourite Crydamoure release and whips a crowd into a frenzy.

thekeytothehousemix 2012 – Mixed by DJ Shawn Austin

It’s been a great year here at thekeytothehouse so here’s my way of sending another big thank you and a little Christmas present to all of you!

This 75 minute DJ mix features many of the tracks that have been featured in my posts and reviews here on the site including:

Happy Days – P.J., Do You Know What I Mean? – Fresh Tunes #1, I’m In Love With You – B.K.S., Music Sounds Better With You – Stardust, Lovelee Dae – Blaze

I definitely wanted to give this one a classic feel, and I hope you enjoy the trip back in time including a simply incredible house re-edit of one of my all-time favourite tunes, “Why” – Carly Simon courtesy of Redondo, a duo to watch out for in 2013.  Please be sure to check out my Soundcloud page for the full track listing and more of my tunes and remixes.

I’d like to wish everyone who visits this page warmest wishes for a happy holiday season and a prosperous 2013!  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from thekeytothehouse!

DJ Shawn Austin

The Greatest Club Record Ever Made

For some it’s “Blue Monday” – New Order.  For others it’s “I Feel Love” – Donna Summer.  Everyone has their favourite, the one, the ultimate club track for life that will never lose its magic no matter what.

For me that track happens to be “Music Sounds Better With You” – Stardust.

Here’s a record that landed upon this planet like a nuclear bomb.  Its impact has been seen through countless imitators, but no one, NO ONE, has even come close to replicating the sound created by members Thomas Bangalter, Alan Braxe, and vocalist Benjamin Diamond.

I clearly remember the weekend it descended on Toronto.  I was watching the Electric Circus (this should bring back some good/bad memories for fans of dance music in Toronto) broadcast live from Canada’s Wonderland and the guest DJ for the show was none other than Chicago/Toronto house legend DJ Sneak, whose strong ties to Bangalter and the whole Daft Punk crew came through loud and clear during his set.  He simply played one record for his entire time on air:  Music Sounds Better With You.

I knew the record was something truly unique and special as soon as I heard it.  The formula was simple enough:  a pounding 4-4 kick drum, a disco loop and a very catchy vocal hook.  I won’t lie, I LOVE DISCO HOUSE and the fact that this was the only record Sneak played for his live set told me this was something I’d better add to my collection in a hurry.  Never mind the fact that I heard it AGAIN that night on the radio while moving my mom’s car.

The next day, I promptly made my way down to Toronto DJ institution Play De Record not even knowing the proper title of the track nor the artist.  Clearly, Eugene Tam and crew had been tipped off about this one(no surprises there) as a batch of 12″ vinyls bearing the iconic Roulé label and the simple title “Music Sounds Better With You” – Stardust were displayed very prominently upon my arrival.  As I was examining this somewhat vague single-sided pressing, the remaining copies were scooped up and paid for by about 6 other DJs who clearly had had a similar experience to mine.  I have never seen anything like that at any record store since, so I promptly paid for mine (the $14.99 import price being well worth it) and headed home to give this tune a proper spin on my home system.

My 12″ copy is now so worn from beating the hell out of it over a period of many years that you can hear the wear from cuing when you first put it on.  But back then, the first thing that hit me was the absolute THROB of a bassline that Bangalter and Braxe laid overtop of the sample (I’ll get to that in a minute) and how the arrangement was so simple, yet so very, very effective.  You could sing it, it was easy to groove to and Ben Diamond’s vocal hook stayed in my head for the rest of the weekend.  I spent that time mixing it into essentially every other house tune I had at the time, and MSBWY stuck out like a sore thumb for just how incredibly GOOD it was.

How the record came into being is a unique story unto itself.   The song was conceived in Rex Club, Paris, where the trio were playing a live set. If anyone out there has audio or video footage of this landmark event, please let me know!  Bangalter and Braxe created the instrumental, which Diamond instinctively sang the title words over. The next day they laid down the track in the studio, adding the sample of Chaka Khan’s “Fate”(explained in the video above). The group then wisely handed mastering duties over to Nilesh “Nilz” Patel at the Exchange in London.  RIP, our friend in house music.

The demand for the single, only available on 12″ initially, was so great that there were literally people lined up at the ferry docks in England waiting with cash in hand to buy copies as soon as they arrived from France.  The tune would eventually sell over 1 MILLION COPIES ON VINYL (let’s see that happen today) and let’s not forget the success it had with the CD single version (first disc in my CD wallet, every time).   I even went out and tracked down the Chaka Khan album the sample came from, What’cha Gonna Do For Me.  Great album, BTW.

The single spawned a host of imitators who essentially copied Stardust’s formula of house groove+disco sample+vocals(live or sampled).  Phats & Small had a hit with “Turn Around” as did Armand Van Helden feat. Duane Harden with “U Don’t Know Me”.  NOTHING, however, has ever come close to the magic of the original.  Countless bootlegs have surfaced, my favourite being the mash-up with Madonna’s “Holiday” by the Stuntmasters (played out many times by Bangalter himself), but the original, I’ve discovered, can work on so many levels with just about any kind of crowd that there really isn’t a reason not to play it to this day.

So whatever happened to Stardust?  Thomas Bangalter carried on his ingenious production methods with Daft Punk after turning down a reported $3 million deal to deliver a full Stardust album, stating he couldn’t possibly top MSBWY.  Alan Braxe came into his own as a producer and formed a successful collaboration with fellow Frenchman Fred Falke to deliver some of the best original productions and remixes that truly helped define the “French Touch” sound.  Benjamin Diamond release a solo album, Strange Attitude and was briefly a member of the short-live group We In Music.

What are your thoughts on this epic tune?  Please post your thoughts and comments below and let’s hear what you have to say about this timeless piece of house music.