Bill Brewster talks us through ten tracks from his Tribal Rites compilation and why they've had such an impact on him as a record collector.
Last updated: 21st Dec 2017
Image: Bill Brewster (Credit: Bella Fenning)
Bill Brewster's encyclopedic knowledge of dance music makes him one of the most respected figures in the industry. As the co-author of the seminal 1999 book Last Night A DJ Saved My Life, the first serious attempt to chronicle the history of the DJ, his position in club culture is deserved.
His writing has taken him to New York, where he ran DMC office as editor of USA Mixmag, and his love for music lead him to become one of fabric's original residents, not to mention he ran the highly regarded Twisted UK label. But record collecting has always been the foundation of Bill's career.
To reflect this, Bill has recently released a 41 track compilation, the soundtrack to a life spent at the coalface of record collecting, of early mornings at car boot sales and late nights logged onto Discogs. It traces the history of his life in both the music industry and as a collector, going from dub influenced post-punk through disco and house and much more.
We asked him to select ten tracks from the Tribal Rites compilation and explain why they have made such an impact on him ahead of his gig at Electric Chair's End Of Year Riot on Wednesday 27th December.
Deborah & The Puerto Ricans - Side A Side B Side
Dennis Bovell was my first producer hero. I first discovered him when he produced She Is Beyond Good & Evil with the Pop Group and started to look out for anything he was involved in. In 1981, Deborah & The Puerto Ricans’ only single, R.E.S.P.E.C.T., trickled out and sank without trace.
The A-side, a bonkers reading of the Aretha classic, was essentially a Flying Lizards record with Dennis replacing David Cunningham as producer. It was reviewed in the NME the week of release and I bought it then, but got more excited by Side A Side B Side, a crazy, flipped out bit of DB dub genius.
Peter Accident - Turning Black
Sometime in the 1990s someone, I forget who, recommended this track to me. “If you like post-punk,” they said, “You’ll love this.” I took them at their word and spent the next eight years trying to find it, despite having no idea what it sounded like. But the artist and title, for some reason, sounded exactly like something you’d imagine being released on Ze Records.
Anyhow, late one Friday around 1999 it finally came up on eBay as a $14.50 Buy-It-Now and when it arrived it was exactly how I’d imagined and hoped it would sound. It’s produced by Chuck Prophet, the Green On Red guitarist, who told me it was studio time paid for by Peter from an insurance claim (hence the surname). Studio time well spent.
Ruts DC - Push Yourself, Make It Work
As a teenager in punky London, I was a big fan of the Ruts and saw them play a few times at places like the Marquee on Wardour Street, before Malcolm Duffy died prematurely. The Ruts became Ruts DC, who released one album on Virgin before making this astonishing record, Rhythm Collision, with the Mad Professor, from which this is taken.
This record blew my head off when I first heard it. Although the Ruts had dabbled in reggae prior to this and had released their first single on Misty In Roots’ label, this was a completely new direction.
Bobbie Gentry - Thunder In The Afternoon
I’ve got my friend Hayden to thank for this one. “Have you heard of this?” he emailed me one day. I hadn’t. The song was apparently taken from an unreleased session Bobbie had done with Rick Hall at Fame Studios in Alabama (I’ve heard there are more unreleased tracks, but no one seems to know for sure).
Somehow it slipped out on a very scarce compilation CD released in Austria and friends claim they’ve seen it on a vinyl release, but so far I’ve found no evidence of that. Anyhow, it’s a killer song and I’m so glad we managed to put it on the compilation.
Nashville Rhythm Section - I Can’t Go For That
Often, I can pinpoint the exact moment I heard a song and this is no exception. It was being played by Nick The Record at the Big Chill many years ago, in Eastnor Castle, near Ledbury. The idea of a country and western version of the Hall & Oates does, admittedly, sound absurd but somehow it seems to work perfectly from the banjo through to the pedal steel. It took me about five years to find a copy of this, but what a tune it is.
Larry Heard - Night Images (Swayzak Mix)
For about six months in 1998, not long after I’d moved back from New York, I worked part-time for Mecca Records, the label then being run by Rene Gelston (of Black Market fame), through Sanctuary Music. There was not much to show for my efforts once I’d left, apart from this remix I commissioned from Swayzak, who created two amazing techno-tinged floor-fillers from this Larry Heard track. Still sounds amazing today.
Clifton King - Family Prayer
One of my fondest memories in dance music is the period from about 1991 until I moved to New York in early 1994. I had specific routines each week, from going to City Sounds on a Friday lunchtime to listen to new imports to doing the rounds in Soho looking for new records and trying on new clothes.
One of the clubs I attended religiously was Paul ‘Trouble’ Anderson’s The Loft in Camden, every Wednesday. It was a big music industry haunt for off-duty DJs, PRs, promoters and associated hangers-on. This song will always remind me of Trouble, because it typified the freewheeling, funky style of his DJ sets.
Aural - Desire (Fabrice Africa Pain)
Although this was originally released in 1991, I pretty much ignored it after its initial release until 1998 when I started rifling through my records one day looking for mixes I might have missed. Which is how I came upon this obscure B-side mix. Based on the rhythm break from Loose Joints, it’s little more than a bassline, kick drum and a rowdy collection of clattering drums. It’s absolutely ace and was a big anthem for me in the early years of Fabric.
Swag - Primitive Urges 4
I couldn’t do a three-CD compilation and not include one of my favourite-ever producers, Swag. Over the years, I’ve played so much of their stuff and this was another record that became big at Fabric when I was playing there regularly. It was released on one of their obscure offshoots, this being a double 10-inch with no track titles. It’s not big or clever, but it kills it late at night.
Mother Tongue - Message Of Love
This is the only record on CD3 that wasn’t bought as a new release. I found this for 50p in Record & Tape Exchange in Notting Hill about 15 years ago. Originally released on Martin Poole’s Furious Fish label in 1989, Message Of Love was produced by Richie Stevens, the son of legendary British jazz drummer John Stevens, and a mean drummer himself. Richie went on to work with Tina Turner, Simply Red and has collaborated extensively with Boy George, playing on and producing his last album.