The mainstream press are a weird lot when it comes to dance music. They’d have you believe that Beyoncé Knowles saved house music from an impending death last year – all by sticking a Korg M1 organ patch on an average sounding record. They seem blissfully unaware that house music and its many derivatives have been around since the 1980s.
And not only do they not know anything about the genre, but they don’t care to find out. But this is nothing new – the so-called Belleville Three fairytale only became the legend it did because no one bothered to actually check the story. Had they done so, the likes of Juan Atkins and Derrick May would have had some explaining to do.
That said, there is one thing that both dance music and the mainstream press understand very well – and that’s the fact that nostalgia sells. Tapping into some fanciful idea that things were better in the past – for example, the bizarre notion that you could leave your door open ignores the fact there was nothing worth stealing anyway.
It’s with this in mind that Britain’s Guardian newspaper decided to publish an article on a quiet Thursday afternoon to bring in some clicks – a piece listing no less than twenty moments from Detroit techno’s long history. There were unsurprising entries in there, such as “The Bells” by Jeff Mills, a K-Hand release from 1995, and a few mentions of the underrated Underground Resistance.
Things get a little odd, however, once we get to number two in the chart. It’s a little ditty called “Strings Of Life”, by someone using the alias Rhythim Is Rhythim. Weirdly, the piece fails to credit who created it – and mentions some downright odd facts alongside it…
The eagle-eyed amongst you will no doubt know that we’re talking about Derrick May – the 60-year-old occasional DJ out of Detroit. Curiously, his name is not actually mentioned once here – or anywhere in the article. The article also spouts some nonsense about sampling the Detroit Symphony Orchestra – when in truth, the song is heavily based on a sample of an instrumental piece composed by Michael James.
Things get even more surreal when you discover the number one spot is occupied by Inner City – whose records, let’s face it, have more in common with house than techno. No doubt that statement will have some of our Detroit readers in a stir – but how has this article been received within the city’s techno community?
Over the weekend, we reached out to a few of our regular Detroit sources – and as usual, they had plenty to say. One told us that Juan Atkins “just went very quiet” when asked about it, saying “I suspect he was secretly really p***ed off about it. He really does believe his own hype.”.
Whilst another was more philosophical about matters, telling us “These countdowns and lists are just one person’s opinion. It’s just unfortunate that the ones who know the least seem most able to get viewed by the most.”.
No word yet on what Derrick May thinks of the article’s failure to name him even once…