by Alex Cosper
How to Find a Wedding DJ
Electronic Music 1980s
Electronic Music 1990s
Electronic Music 2000s
Throughout the eighties the club DJ's image and status grew in the dance music world. It was a decade in which DJs made cassette mixes of their shows and circulated them among a new breed of fans. The trend even made it to record stores on CDs. Some DJs were elevated to producer status by doing various "remixes" of recordings. It even inspired a new form of music in which records imbedded samples of other records and soundbites as in a radio program. The most famous of these records was certainly "U Can't Touch This" by MC Hammer in 1990, which sampled the bass hook from "Super Freak" by Rick James.
One of the first big dance hits to feature soundbites was "19" by Paul Hardcastle in 1985, but adding samples to recordings had been done as far back as the Beatles and Beach Boys in the mid-sixties. The big hit "Pump Up The Volume" by M/A/R/R/S in 1989 provided a more modern example of electronic sampling. Another hit that year that contained a sample was "I Beg Your Pardon" by Kon Kan. The record incorporated a sample of the 1971 Lynn Anderson country hit "Rose Garden" over the electronic drum track.
Bits and pieces of classic hits began appearing in pop records more frequently, including "Swing The Mood" by Jive Bunny & The Mastermixers in late 1989, which featured samples from popular fifties hits. The sampling craze began to fizzle by the mid-nineties, however, after several producers faced copyright infringement cases for not getting prior permission from the original songwriters and sound recording owners.
As record labels began phasing out the 7" on the commercial level by the end of the eighties, they continued to issue 12" singles as the primary medium for DJs. By this point hit songs had multiple dance mixes that the club DJ could choose from. Playing different mixes than what was on the radio became crucial to the DJ's unique image.
Disc jockeys had been around since the 1920s, with the arrival of public address sound systems using microphones and speakers alongside the development of commercial radio. But it wasn't until the 1970s and 1980s that hit records began to comment on the relevance of the DJ, not counting "Satisfaction" by The Rolling Stones in 1965. "Video Killed the Radio Star" by the Buggles opened the eighties then Re-flex had a hit four years later called "The Politics of Dancing" that said "the politicians are now DJs."
In 1986 Cameo's funk hit "Word Up" commented on the relevance of "sucka DJs." Perhaps they summed it up with the line "you've got to realize / that you're acting like fools." But as the decade progressed the term "DJ" crossed over into successful artist names. Run-DMC had already hit it big and credited DJ Jam Master Jay as one of the musicians. He was the turntablist who did the scratching. Then came Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock and DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince.
The era of soundbites began to get challenged in the early 1990s due to copyright law. Some of the artists who faced challenges in court for using samples of hit recordings (or similar sounds) without permission included Vanilla Ice, Tone Loc and Biz Markie. Court battles generally have favored copyright owners. The steady stream of lawsuits had a chilling effect on the use of samples in recordings.
The Art and History of DJ Mixing
How Early Disco Shaped Dance Music in the 70s
Disco's Influence on Pop Music
Transition to Electronic Dance Culture
Soundbites and Special Mixes
The On-Air Nightclub
The Secret to Beatmixing
Why DJs Still Use Turntables
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