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Feb 10

STEVE “SILK” HURLEY – “Jack Your Body”

FT + Popular111 comments • 5,396 views

#583, 24th January 1987, video

Future shock? If you’d been told before the fact that a Chicago house record was going to hit number one in the UK, you might well have put your money on the showy, song-driven side of house providing it. A record like Marshall Jefferson’s “Move Your Body (The House Music Anthem)”, maybe, with a big vocal hook to grab on to. But no: Steve “Silk” Hurley throws us in at the tracky deep end: repetition, repetition, repetition, the sweeping hiss of the hi-hat, the crack of the snare, that flexing and bucking keyboard line, and from out of the mix those snarls, cries and commands – “Jackitupoutthere!”

More than anything, early house music makes me think of darkness. Not in the sense of negativity or of terror and malice deep within the human heart – though it could provide those when needed – but the darkness of the club, where flickering patterns of light briefly let the bodies around you shine red or blue before they vanish back into the murk. It’s that darkness which seems to fill the space in “Jack Your Body”, emphasising the pure physicality of this dance. The word “jack” – mechanical, sudden, carrying the idea of uplift, a wave of energy passing through you – does an awful lot of work in an apparently meaningless record. This isn’t one of my very favourite Chicago house tracks – I tend to like the music with a little more incident – but there’s a heat and purity to it which is still tremendously exciting and shows how glorious it must have sounded in clubs.

It’s tempting to see “Jack Your Body” as the wavefront of a revolution, but as several people have pointed out you can’t quite draw a straight line between this early Chicago sound and the dance music explosion to come. Obviously house was big – to get to #1 even at this point you still had to shift a good few singles – but other club music styles had been big before. To me at the time – by now at boarding school and applying myself to learning the ways of classic rock, so about as poorly placed to comprehend house music as you could possibly be! – this didn’t register as minimal un-music: I thought it was basically along the lines of hits like Harold Faltermeyer’s “Axel F”, only a bit less colourful. So a little bit of the excitement I feel listening to it is the false anticipation of hindsight: “Jack Your Body” sounds more important because I know what’s coming after. Early house was vital raw material for ‘dance culture’ and its reshaping of British pop, but it wasn’t a revolutionary force by itself. Which, of course, doesn’t stop “Jack Your Body” from being an enduringly fine record.

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Comments

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  1. 101
    LondonLee on 16 Feb 2010 #

    When I first heard Jungle I thought it was being played at the wrong speed.

  2. 102
    Steve Mannion on 16 Feb 2010 #

    When I played the first 12″ singles I bought I thought they were being played at the wrong speed. And indeed they were.

  3. 103
    abaffledrepublic on 20 Feb 2010 #

    A bit late to this one, I knew it would generate plenty of comment.

    This is the first time I’ve seen this sleeve. My 12″ has orange instead of pink and ‘Jack Attack’ in the bottom right corner. It also has a sticker which informs me that it was named Import of the Year 86 at the Record Mirror Hammy awards. So there.

    According to Pete Tong, who licensed this and many other house tracks, the video footage was used because of the difficulty of finding the Chicago house artists at short notice, and this video was re-edited to promote several subsequent singles by other artists. In this particular case, Hurley refused to promote the release because the track was two years old by the time it reached number one here. I daresay its chart success probably caught the label by surprise as well, and it was they who had to knock a video together in short order. The fact that this music was ‘faceless techno bollocks’ may also have contributed, although that term was several years away from being coined.

    As Tom says, a fuller, more traditionally ‘songful’ house track might have been expected to be the first to go all the way. However, it’s often been the case that the rawer, more obviously machine-driven ‘trackhead’ house/rave/garage records have been the ones that have done the business in the charts. The Trax label was so named because that was what it released, that so few of its records were ‘songs’ in any traditional sense. These tunes have been the ones that really make the dancers cut loose and go crazy on the floor, so it’s understandable that there would be more demand for them, and that this would be reflected in a sales-based chart. At this time, I doubt that house records of any type were getting much airplay or promotion, so any chart successes would have come about almost entirely from dancefloor demand.

    As raw as the tune is, those grunts and synth surges give it a surprisingly sensual edge, but it’s a dark sexuality, not the bedroom seduction of a track like Raze’s Break 4 Love. Perfect for jacking to I guess.

    Despite its status as the first house No1, this never seems to turn up on compilations, either of acid house or Now-type pop compilations. I wonder why this is?

  4. 104
    richard thompson on 26 Feb 2010 #

    Wasn’t this the last time that TOTP had to make up their own video as it was shown in the night club I went to the next night when they had videotaped the show as by the August they didn’t include the MJ number one then as there was no video to go with it as I recall Peter Powell telling us, the show had reached a low point by then which I don’t think it got back to or was I just getting older, only the show used lots of videoclips which weren’t played in full of acts famous for fifteen minutes.

  5. 105
    Stuart P on 26 Feb 2010 #

    Put Your Hands Up For Detroit!

    Way back at the start of this thread someone said they couldn’t see the link between this and disco…

    Well, the bassline is nicked from First Choice’s Let No Man Put Asunder (Probably) the most sampled track ever …

    Bassline is at 3″38 on this version

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yLrCbkpKZ4Q

    Jack Your Body Is still a monster tune and gets em goin’ on the dancefloor to this day –

  6. 106
    AndyPandy on 26 Feb 2010 #

    And give things like Slick’s “Space Bass” and some of Cerrone or Patrick Cowley’s better stuff a bit of tweaking and the dividing line between full on disco from the disco era and early house becomes very blurred and that’s before you add in the missing-link of 3 or 4 years of electro to the equation…

  7. 107
    Chinny Reckon on 26 Dec 2014 #

    @Stuart P-

    Over four years since the last post so you probably won’t read this but just in case- ‘Let no man put asunder’ may be a much sampled record but as far as being the most sampled record ever, it doesn’t even come close. In that respect there are probably only three contenders-

    The Winstons- Amen Brother
    James Brown- Funky Drummer
    Lyn Collins- Think (About it)

    If it were possible to add up all the songs sampling these tracks, my money would be on ‘Amen Brother’.

  8. 108
    Hofmeister Bear on 26 Dec 2014 #

    You’re not far off according to this list …

    http://www.whosampled.com/most-sampled-tracks/1/

    …Regardless, I think Salsoul is a genuine front runner for being the most sampled label ever. Philly International and West End are also contenders.

  9. 109
    Chinny Reckon on 31 Dec 2014 #

    @108

    Yes, I’m a regular on that site at the moment actually, I’d forgotten about ‘Change the beat’. However there are many links not listed, especially for the Amen and Think breaks, so that top 5 is by no means definitive.

  10. 110
    hectorthebat on 24 Jan 2015 #

    Critic watch:

    1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010) 1002
    Michaelangelo Matos (USA) – Top 100 Singles of the 1980s (2001) 101
    Mixmag (UK) – Nominations for the Greatest Dance Track of All Time (2012)
    Hervé Bourhis (France) – Le Petit Livre Rock: The Juke Box Singles 1950-2009
    Face (UK) – Singles of the Year 38

  11. 111
    Ralph on 25 Apr 2015 #

    For your edification, videos of the TOTP chart rundowns when ‘Jack Your Body’ was rising to number one are now on YouTube. No-one seems particularly astonished (it is even used as a bed when the track is at No. 18). Minimal comment is made about ‘jacking’ and Hurley’s absence is explained by having to attend his own wedding/honeymoon. Mike Smith even applauds the ‘natty’ video, although unleashes a vaguely bitchy comment about the ‘anonymous’ Raze peeking in at No. 40!

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