Stylistic origins: Electro, Funk, Disco, Synthpop, R&B
Cultural origins: 1980s, New York, Chicago, United Kingdom
Typical instruments: Synthesizer - Drum machine - Sequencer - Keyboard - Sampler
Mainstream popularity: Large, especially late 1980s and early 1990s United Kingdom
Derivative forms: Rave - Nu jazz - Madchester
Chicago years: early 1980s - late 1980s

In 1983 the Music Box club opened in Chicago. Owned by Robert Williams, the driving force was a DJ, Ron Hardy. The chief characteristics of the club's sound were sheer massive volume and an increased pace to the tunes. The pace was apparently the result of Hardy's heroin use. The club also played a wider range of music than just disco. Groups such as Kraftwerk and Blondie were well received, as was a brief flirtation with punk, dances like "Punking-Out" or "Jacking" being very popular.

Two tunes are arguably the first House music, each arriving in early 1983. The tune that was chronologically first was Jamie Principle and Frankie Knuckles' "Your Love", a huge hit in the clubs, but only available on tape copies. The second, "On And On" by Jesse Saunders was later put on vinyl (1985). (Shapiro, 2000). Immediately on the tails of these recordings was Chip E. "Jack Trax" which defined the genre with its complex rhythms, simple bassline, use of sampling technology and minimalist vocals.

By 1985 house music dominated the clubs of Chicago, in part due to the radio play the music received on 102.7 FM WBMX, and their resident DJ Team the HOT MIX 5. Also, the music and movement was aided by the musical electronic revolution - the arrival of newer, cheaper and more compact music sequencers, drum machines (the Roland 909 and 808 and 707, and latin percusion machine the 727) and bass modules (such as the legendary Roland TB-303 in late 1985) gave House music creators even wider possibilities in creating their own sound, indeed the creation of Acid House is directly related to the efforts of DJ Pierre on the new drum machines.

Two record labels dominated the house music scene in Chicago, DJ International Records, owned by Rocky Jones and Trax Records owned by Larry Sherman (Trax self pressed records and the quality was not as good as the Disc Makers pressings of DJ International).

Many of the songs that defined the era came off of those record labels. Steve Hurley's "Music is the Key", Chip E.'s "Like This" and Fingers, Inc. "Mystery of Love" (1985) were amongst some of the defining songs that came off of DJ International. While Trax released "Jack the Bass" & "Funkin With the Drums Again" by Farley Jackmaster Funk in 1985 followed the next year by House Classic "Move your Body" by Marshall Jefferson and "No Way Back" by Adonis.

This was something of a double-edged sword. In its favour Trax was very fast to sign new artists and press their tunes, establishing a large catalogue of House tunes, but the label used recycled vinyl to speed the pressing process resulting in physically poor quality records. Also disappointing was that many artists signed contracts that were rather less favourable towards them than they hoped.

Trax became the dominant House label, releasing many classics including "No Way Back" by Adonis, Larry Heard's "Can You Feel It" and the first so-called House anthem in 1986, "Move Your Body" by Marshall Jefferson. This latter tune gave a massive boost to House music, extending recognition of the genre out of Chicago. Steve 'Silk' Hurley became the first house artist to reach number one in the UK in 1987 with "Jack Your Body". This and other tracks such as "Music is the Key" and "Love Can't Turn Around" helped moved house from its spiritual home to its commercial birthplace - the United Kingdom.


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