On Friday, 4th January 2019, BBC Radio 1 broadcast the year's first Essential Mix. The station's flagship weekly dance mix, headed up by Pete Tong, celebrated 25 years on the air in 2018 and has seen submissions from a comprehensive 'who's who' of dance music throughout the years. Friday was the turn of our very own Simon Dunmore, invited to deliver an extra special 'Influences Essential Mix' to celebrate Defected's 20 years. The mix he came up with documents the foundations of his musical taste - not charting Defected's releases, but going back to where it all began for him as a music lover.
"This is my musical DNA. My journey. The artists, DJ’s, producers, labels and scenes that inspired me since my youth, that compelled me to DJ, to promote events, to work in the music industry and eventually start my own label. A selection that will go some way in giving you an insight into the music I love and that continues to influence everything we aspire to achieve at Defected Records, as we celebrate 20 years in the house!" Simon Dunmore
Here you can read a track-by-track breakdown of the 2hr mix with notes from Simon himself. From rare groove, soul, R&B, to disco and early house, the evolution of dance music is chronicled, and illustrated here in his own words.
We've also put every single one of Simon's Essential Mix selections into a playlist, so you can listen to each in full while you get yourself a musical education, courtesy of Mr Dunmore.
01. Fred Wesley & The J.B.’s – Blow Your Head [People Records] x Blaze - My Beat (Feat. Palmer Brown) (Acapella) [Slip ’n’ Slide] A huge nod to the rare groove scene, to James Brown and his collaborators, Fred Wesley, Bobby Byrd, Lyn Collins, Marva Whitney & The J.B.s. And a nod to Norman Jay & Jay Strongman. Rare Groove inspired the London scene several generations after these records were first released. The Funky Drummer sound was the basis of early Hip Hop and this cut was sampled by Public Enemy and a great way to intro the mix. 02. Esther Williams – Last Night Changed It All (I Really Had A Ball) [Friends & Co.] Another rare groove with a much-sampled drum break. A track I vividly remember hearing Gilles Peterson & Chris Bangs playing on repeat. Gilles and Chris Bangs made a massive impression on me in the mid 80’s. An amazing feel-good funk work out. 03. Coke Escovedo - I Wouldn’t Change A Thing [Expansion Records]
04. Thelma Houston – Saturday Night, Sunday Morning [Motown] I could have picked any of a hundred records to represent Motown in the mix, but this record was an anthem on the London soul scene in the early 80’s.
05. Bobby Womack – Tell Me Why [Beverly Glen Music] With the grittiest, gutsiest growl, Womack was a soul singer supreme. I have shed more than a few tears to Womack’s releases. I first heard Bob Jones play another Womack release 'How Could You Break My Heart' on Solar Radio (a London pirate station) and this record was responsible for getting me seriously into collecting real soul! 06. Sinnamon – Thanks To You [Becket Records]
07. Salsoul Orchestra – Seconds [Salsoul Records] Salsoul was New York-based but this was the next phase of my much loved Philly sound, primarily because the Salsoul Orchestra were actually Philadelphia International Record’s MFSB reborn, featuring Loleatta Holloway on vocals. It was written by Sam Dees, who has a cult following on the soul scene and an act I actually booked to perform at Dingwalls in Camden. Produced by Patrick Adams and mixed by Shep Pettibone. Really, it’s an amalgamation of some of the greatest people associated with disco and soul music period. One of my all-time favourite records. 08. Universal Robot Band – Barely Breaking Even [Moonglow] A boogie anthem written by Leroy Burgess and produced by John Morales. This is a track that I totally associate with Garage City and Paul ‘Trouble’ Anderson, so it is dedicated to Trouble and his contribution to the London Dance Scene. 09. Glen Adams Affair – Just A Groove [Sam Records]
10. Chantal Curtis – Get Another Love [Key Records]
11. Love Symphony Orchestra - Let Me Be Your Fantasy [Miracle Records]
12. Linda Clifford – Shoot Your Best Shot [RSO records]
13. The Strikers – Body Music (Vocal) [Prelude Records] Mixed by Francoise Kevorkian and the iconic Larry Levan, and released on the mighty Prelude Records out of New York in 1981. A Paradise Garage Anthem. Prelude re-invented disco in the underground clubs of New York after its much documented backlash in 1979.
14. Fun Boy Three – Faith Hope & Charity [Cooltempo] x Ralphi Rosario & Linda Clifford - Wanna Give It Up (Acapella) [Afterhours] FB3 were born out of the 2 Tone act The Specials. Released on Cooltempo, which was part of Chrysalis and where I got my first proper job in the music industry, managing club promotions. This mix is by Danny D, a huge inspiration in my formative years and who was an influential producer in the early dance / house scene.
15. Jungle Brothers – What “U” Waitin’ “4”? (Jungle Fever Mix) [Warners Bros. Records] A sublime marriage of disco and hip-hop, mixed by C.J. Mackintosh. C.J. was the man! His remixes were legendary through the late 80’s and 90’s. At the time I produced several remixes, but every time I heard a C.J. Mackintosh mix (or MaW, Morales, Sanchez) I knew what I was doing was never going to get close to being good enough, so he / they actually made me give up remixing and focus on the promotion and A&R side, which I am probably better at, so I think he / they did me a huge favour.
16. Teddy Pendergrass – You Can’t Hide From Yourself (Dimitri From Paris Super Disco Blend) [Philadelphia International Records] Again, a coming together of many things that have influenced my life. Teddy Pendergrass, an amazing vocalist and the former lead for Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes, released on Philadelphia International Records, possibly my favourite record label, and then remixed with absolute TLC by Dimitri From Paris. The original was sampled by DJ Sneak for You Can’t Hide From Your Bud on the Classic Music Company... a sister label of Defected Records.
17. Claudja Barry – Sweet Dynamite [Salsoul Records]
18. Sinnamon – I Need You Now [Jive] Produced by Daryl Payne who is an unsung hero from the Paradise Garage era. The vocals come coutesy of Bernard Fowler (aka The Peech Boys). A Larry Levan and Paradise Garage Anthem. The acapella that was used extensively when house music exploded around 1988 to 1999, and is still used now.
19. Swing 52 – Color Of My Skin (Feat. Arnold Jarvis) (Swing Remix) [Cutting Records] Produced by Benji Candelario on New York’s seminal house / freestyle label Cutting Records, featuring Arnold Jarvis on vocals. This record was a message about racism and prejudice in the early 90’s, amazing lyrics, amazing vocal and a record that still gets an amazing reception when you play it today.
20. Groove Committee – I Want You To Know (Victor Simonelli Nu Groove Mix) [Nu Groove Records] Released on Nu Groove Records, another pioneering New York house label. Produced by Victor Simonelli, who has made records that have frequented my record box for 25 years plus. Victor and Nu Groove need greater recognition for their contribution to house music.
21. Sound Design – Bounce To The Beat (Tee’s Freeze Mix) [Freeze Records] In the beginning there was Todd, and Todd had a groove. Todd’s sampled with pride and his beats rocked dance floors world wide. Todd is one of the few DJs you can see play for 3-4 hours and could literally play his own records and you couldn’t pull him up for being indulgent because they’re all anthems.
x Michael Watford - Michael’s Prayer (Acapella) [EastWest Records America] I vividly remember how I came across Roger Sanchez. He was doing a guest mix on Kiss FM and he was playing record after record that I didn’t know... all bullets. I mean, I was in the scene, I was working at a record label, I was DJing, I was buying records every weekend, and he was just playing record after record that I had no idea what they were. The next day, his manager, Marts Andrups phoned me asking for a meeting so of course I said yes. An incredible DJ. Twenty-five years later, he is someone I count as a friend.
22. Lil Louis & The World – I Called U (The Conversation) [Epic] Lil Louis led the way in the late 80’s with two incredible albums, From The Mind Of Lil Louis and Journey With The Lonely. If you were around in 1988-89, you can probably remember when you first heard ‘French Kiss’, it just tore dancefloors apart. Lil Louis went on to make some of the best produced House music of all time. The Conversation, is a personal favourite but I equally could have chosen Club Lonely, Black Out, New Dance Beat.
23. Mike Dunn presents Tha RC Groove Project – He’s Gonna Make It Alright (Feat. Ron Carroll) (The Full Disco Mix) [Sub-Urban Records] This came out on Sub-Urban, a label owned by Tommy Musto, another pioneer of the scene, and someone whose contribution should be acknowledged. This gospel house anthem from Mike Dunn and Ron Carroll is straight out of Chicago.
24. Robert Owens – I’ll Be Your Friend (Morales Glamour Mix) [Perfecto Recordings] A tough call between choosing 'I’ll Be Your Friend' and ‘Tears’ for a Robert Owens vocal. This mix blew me away the first time I heard it on the Ministry of Sound dancefloor. David Morales is someone who has influenced me massively since the late eighties, all the way through to Glitterbox starting five years ago.
25. Ann Nesby – Can I Get A Witness [AM:PM] When I left Cool Tempo I was offered a position at AM:PM Records running the dance department. We were working with the Sounds of Blackness, and Ann Nesby was the lead singer. Someone in America decided to commission Mousse T. to do a remix. From the first beats you knew this was a future anthem. I had a great relationship with Mousse T. and went on to sign ‘Horny’. He’s still producing records for us now so it’s been a twenty-five year plus relationship.
26. Morel’s Groove – Let’s Groove (Morel’s Full Club Mix) [Strictly Rhythm] x Aaron Carl - My House (The Word) (Acapella) [Wallshaker Music] For every label I’ve ever worked with or set up, Strictly Rhythm has been the template for what I wish to achieve, in terms of its reputation in dance music, reputation with DJs, and reputation for not just having underground records, but being able to have mainstream success at the same time. ‘Let’s Groove’ is an absolute underground anthem and in their heyday Strictly got the balance just right.
27. Juliet Roberts - Free Love (Original Monster Club Mix) [Slam Jam] Produced by Danny D, I signed this record to Cooltempo records. It's everything I love about house, uplifting gospel with a swinging track. Another Garage City anthem, which was a seminal club in London back in the day, and the record really represents great times for me.
28. Norma Jean Bell - I’m The Baddest Bitch (In The Room) [Pandamonium Records] Produced by Moodymann, I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of listening to it. It’s a house record with real soul delivered with ATTITUDE!
29. Donell Rush – Symphony (Symphony In E-Smoove) [ID Records] Again out of Chicago, Donell Rush made records for Trax. This was produced by Steve Silk Hurley and remixed by E Smoove. I have time for everybody associated with this record, they have made records I’ve played, danced to and sung to since I first got into house music.
30. Paperclip People – Throw [Open Records]
31. Mike Dunn presents MD Xpress – God Made Me Phunky [Solo Recordings] Another shout out to Chicago and to Mike Dunn. Mike Dunn narrates over house records in a really cool way. A record that was big on the London Garage scene, a record I have heard on a regular basis on dancefloors over the past 25 years.
32. Young MC – Know How (Vocal) [Delicious Vinyl] A marriage of rare groove and hip hop, this track samples Isaac Hayes "Shaft", has a funky drum and break beat, and Young MC rapping over the top. Classic hip hop.
33. Jamiroquai – Emergency On Planet Earth (London Rican Mix) [Sony Records] Jamiroquai took soul, funk and jazz into the mainstream, a unique artist. I could have picked so many of his tracks, but this is the Masters At Work remix. Kenny and Louis occupy a massive section of my record collection, I’ve worked with them extensively over a 25 year period. I could not complete this Essential Mix without including them.
34. Prince & The New Power Generation – Gett Off (House Style) [Paisley Park] There has been much debate in the office over Prince vs. Jamiroquai, both could sing, both could write, both could dance, but for me Prince just gets the nod. He was more prolific, more diverse, and could play every instrument. For me only James Brown gets close to Prince for being the complete dance act.
Listen a playlist of these records on Spotify below...