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Proto house music 1982 - 1984

Parent categories: proto- - house music

Related: list of proto-house classics from the Paradise Garage - house 1.0 - Italo disco - hi-NRG

"Before house music, a lot of the DJs on Chicago radio were playing a lot of Italian imports because I think the Italians were the only ones that continued with the disco when it all died out everywhere else. --Juan Atkins

Discography: Greg Wilson presents: Classic Electro (1994) - Brian Chin presents: Perfect Beats (1998)

Record labels: DJ International - Emergency records - Jump Street records - EasyStreet - Movin records - Quark records - Sleeping Bag records - Trax


Proto-house is house music avant la lettre, before the term house music was coined. A somewhat simplified definition of house music is "Philly disco + Japanese music machines = house music." [Mar 2006]

Descendant of disco


Like it or not, house was first and foremost a direct descendant of disco. Disco had already been going for ten years when the first electronic drum tracks began to appear out of Chicago, and in that time it had already suffered the slings and arrows of merciless commercial exploitation, dilution and racial and sexual prejudice which culminated in the 'disco sucks' campaign. In one bizarrely extreme incident, people attending a baseball game in Chicago's Komishi Park were invited to bring all their unwanted disco records and after the game they were tossed onto a massive bonfire. Disco eventually collapsed under a heaving weight of crass disco versions of pop records and an ever-increasing volume of records that were simply no good. But the underground scene had already stepped off and was beginning to develop a new style that was deeper, rawer and more designed to make people dance. Disco had already produced the first records to be aimed specifically at DJs with extended 12" versions that included long percussion breaks for mixing purposes and the early eighties proved a vital turning point. Sinnamon's 'Thanks To You', D-Train's 'You're The One For Me' and The Peech Boys' 'Don't Make Me Wait', a record that's been continually sampled over the last decade, took things in a different direction with their sparse, synthesized sounds that introduced dub effects and drop-outs that had never been heard before.

But it wasn't just American music laying the groundwork for house. European music, spanning English electronic pop like Depeche Mode and Soft Cell and the earlier, more disco based sounds of Giorgio Moroder, Klein & MBO and a thousand Italian productions were immensely popular in urban areas like New York and Chicago. One of the reasons for their popularity was two clubs that had simultaneously broken the barriers of race and sexual preference, two clubs that were to pass on into dance music legend - Chicago's Warehouse and New York's Paradise Garage. Up until then, and after, the norm was for black, hispanic, white, straight and gay to segregate themselves, but with the Warehouse, opened in 1977 and presided over by Frankie Knuckles and the Garage where Larry Levan spun, the emphasis was on the music. (Ironically, Levan was first choice for the Warehouse, but he didn't want to leave New York). And the music was as varied as the clienteles - r'n'b based Black dance music and disco peppered with things as diverse as The Clash's 'Magnificent Seven'. For most people, these were the places that acted as breeding grounds for the music that eventually came to be known after the clubs - house and garage.

Right from the start there was a difference in approach between New York and Chicago. "All of the records coming out of New York had been either mid or down tempo, and the kids in Chicago wouldn't do that all night long, they needed more energy" commented Frankie Knuckles after his move to Chicago. The Windy City was seduced to a far greater extent by the European sound and when the records started to come, it showed. Whereas garage in New York evolved more smoothly from First Choice and the labels Salsoul, West End and Prelude, there was no such evolution in Chicago. Opinions still differ as to what the first house record was, but it was certainly made by Jessie Saunders and it was on the Mitchball label - probably Z Factor's 'Fantasy', but there was also another Z Factor tune which went by the name of 'I Like To Do It In Fast Cars'. 'Fantasy' sounds extremely dated now but ten years ago it was like a sound from another planet, with echoes of Kraftwerk's heavily synthesized string sounds, a Eurobeat bassline and a simple, insistent drum machine pattern. Suffice to say, the record remained obscure outside the close-knit urban Chicago scene.

Dub Thing in Disco

"Thanks to You" and "Don't Make Me Wait " came out and started the whole dub thing in disco. [Steven Harvey in an interview with Shep Pettibone] [Next >>]

Proto House Labels

Sleeping Bag records, Jump Street records, Supertronics records, EasyStreet, Quark records, 1982, 1983, 1984, Arthur Baker, Emergency records

Before Frankie Knuckles moved to Chicago where he opened the Warehouse, before Trax records was founded, there had already been some New York labels and tracks that we might call proto house.

electronica and electro You are now at the proto house page and the 'next' button will take you to the House 1.0 page [Next >>]

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