Oct 10

BLACK BOX – “Ride On Time”

Popular88 comments • 8,356 views

#633, 9th September 1989

The controversy around “Ride On Time” now feels like a mixture of typical sharp practise and unusual naivety. Details are murky, but it seems production team Black Box had obtained sample clearance for Loleatta Holloway’s “Love Sensation” from her record label, but they hadn’t asked her about it, they hadn’t credited writer Dan Hartman, and they certainly had no compunction about hiring a model to lip-synch Holloway’s lines.

It’s this deception that became the focus for the trouble. It’s also what dates it to this late-80s frontier moment – when the potential of sampling to make a) terrific pop records and b) lots of money very fast was obvious, but ethics and practises around who gets credited for what hadn’t quite settled down. What rankled wasn’t just Holloway getting ripped off but the sense that Black Box were overclaiming their part in it: nowadays she’d get a “featuring” and Hartman’s writing credit would be in place from the off.

But here’s where the naivety comes in. What’s remarkable now isn’t that original work went uncredited – the ghosts of Robert Johnson, and many others, would have been nodding in recognition – but that Black Box got away with it for a good few weeks before the story broke. If you play “Love Sensation” after “Ride On Time” the sampling is beyond obvious, but back then mainstream listeners (and radio DJs, programmers, etc.) simply didn’t do that kind of thing. Of course any disco DJs would have recognised the lifts at once, and so would their audience, but the public were quite happy to accept that “Katrin” was belting out these (really obviously edited) vocal lines.

None of this mattered much even then – there was no Milli Vanilli style backlash, and Black Box records kept on selling. But the deception underlines the oddness of “Ride On Time”. This is a record which takes almost all its vocals, and its piano line, from an older song. But what Black Box do with them is to chop and shuffle them into a dance track with aspirations to being a completely new song. Even now this is unusual: mostly producers will take a line or two, and centre the new track on them, making the recognition part of the point. “Ride On Time” – from the phonetic title onwards – isn’t doing this: it’s almost at pains to disguise its origins.

Creatively, this is exactly the right move: it means “Ride On Time” is its own record, even when you know “Love Sensation” well (and like it better). The two songs have completely different virtues: on the original Holloway is exploring and expressing a feeling, trying to capture a lover’s qualities. On the Black Box track she’s less a voice than a force, a pure slug of diva power there purely to make the song rush harder. “Ride On Time” is a series of peaks, with the union of “Right on time!” and the piano riff the highest and most thrilling.

Anyway, Holloway isn’t doing all the work. The trappings of Italo house – light, sequenced keyboard lines, bouncy bass, endless hi-hat all working in unison to give that gorgeous piano its lift – seemed to be on a hundred hits that summer, and the vocal hooks made this the biggest. But listening to it now it’s the piano which draws me back in each time – to the point where I almost want Loleatta to get out of the way.



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  1. 61
    wichita lineman on 6 Oct 2010 #

    I love Welcome, though. And I’d forgotten La Passionara! I really regret flogging all my 12s from this period.

    Maybe there will be an Italian House revival now the nu-Balearic thing seems to be on its way out (has anyone heard the Aeroplane album? I’ve only heard bad, coffee table things). Maybe there will be an Italian House Christmas record this year: Bin Crosby; Slad; Wizzar. Maybe.

  2. 62
    Tom on 6 Oct 2010 #

    #55 was that the MVE price sticker or an ‘official’ one? We were never above a little editorialising to shift stock. ISTR the description on a bronze phallus created by Psychic TV getting more florid as the price dropped from the initial three grand.

  3. 63
    Dominic on 6 Oct 2010 #

    Now that they’ve been mentioned, and it springs to my mind, one of the two semi-Balearic-ish singles that the Blow Monkeys made with Sylvia Tella round about this time, “Slaves No More”, was really excellent, combining elements of almost-gospel and deep hosue; the other one, “Choice?” wasn’t bad, either, but maybe a bit too jerky and overemphasising the slightly clever-clever-sticking-it-to-Thatch lyrics.

  4. 64
    MikeMCSG on 6 Oct 2010 #

    #49/50 I think there’s a decent song underneath all the bombast in “Sowing” but it does go on a bit. It’s much better than the album it came from which has never had an entire run-through on my turntable since the day I bought it.

  5. 65
    wichita lineman on 6 Oct 2010 #

    Sowing has a minor place in my heart for its prominent bassoon, a very Oliver Postgate sound.

  6. 66
    glue_factory on 6 Oct 2010 #

    Re:62 – it was the MVE price sticker. There must have been a Balearic-fanboy at that branch as a few of the records in that section had fairly florid descriptions.

    Was the Psychic TV knob the one upstairs in Notting Hill Gate? That was always a bit of a conversation piece amongst my friend and I whenever we went up there.

  7. 67
    Steve Mannion on 6 Oct 2010 #

    #63 “overemphasising the slightly clever-clever-sticking-it-to-Thatch lyrics”

    clearly why the good Dr Robert was put on this planet! I quite liked ‘Choice’ but ‘Wait’ with Kym Mazelle was better innit.

  8. 68
    thefatgit on 6 Oct 2010 #

    I tend to rate this higher than “Permp orp the Jiimm” also. Like many at the time. For me, “Ride On Time” is all about how those euphoric moments from Loleatta’s source vocal are stitched together to keep the track fresh and urgent.

    Technotronic play with that “Move Your Body” lift and build the song around it, laying over the almost comical rap jomping and stumping all over the bass heavy rhythm, makes the whole thing clumsily contrived. However, these are baby steps for Northern European dance, while Italo feeds on a well established back catalogue. How the UK accepts and affects these developments will come to define dance music for the next decade.

  9. 69
    punctum on 6 Oct 2010 #

    “Sowing The Seeds Of Love” pros: forms basis of “Midnight In A Perfect World” by DJ Shadow. Cons: wait until TPL gets to its parent album, but they are multiple.

  10. 70
    Tom on 6 Oct 2010 #

    #66 it was yes! I didn’t work there (I was in the Book And Comic Exchange) but I had a look in on a regular basis to see how the magickal cock was getting on.

  11. 71
    MikeMCSG on 6 Oct 2010 #

    # 69 CCA ( http://www.clarkechroniclersalbums.blogspot.com) will get there before you but it sounds like we’ll be singing from the same sheet.

  12. 72
    vinylscot on 6 Oct 2010 #

    I’m glad to see a few people who just didn’t get this. Count me among them – it wasn’t meant for me anyway, but I found it intensely annoying, and the fact that it has never really gone away is a source of some irritation to me.

    (Not just being a BOF – quite a few of the other tracks pitched here did tickle my fancy – certainly the two Silver Bullet tracks were excellent)

  13. 73
    Matt DC on 6 Oct 2010 #

    I loved this at the time, real “what the hell is this?” moment for my young self, and it feels like an absolute belter. A 9 for me, at least.

  14. 74
    Rory on 6 Oct 2010 #

    This was an obvious landmark at the time, and points towards music I later came to love (like the Utah Saints), but I never owned it and still don’t feel the urge to today, which limits it to a 7 for me. The fuss about the sampling passed me by, thankfully.

    Number 2 in Australia, for one week out of 27 in the charts. Number 2 in NZ, too.

  15. 75
    Sarah D on 9 Oct 2010 #

    Massive ten from me. Because the last time I heard this – in a taxi coming home from a gig last year – it was definitely the most exciting sound in the world.

  16. 76
    Passionara on 22 Feb 2011 #

    La Passionara (Tapas Rappers Mix)

  17. 77
    wichita lineman on 22 Mar 2011 #

    Sad to report Loleatta Holloway has died of heart failure age 64. I wonder exactly how many uncredited hits she had? This, Marky Mark’s Good Vibrations… the 49’ers’ Touch Me?

  18. 78
    lex on 23 Mar 2011 #

    I had no idea of the story behind this song until I read this interview with Loleatta Holloway yesterday – http://www.djhistory.com/interviews/loleatta-holloway – had no idea how much it affected her, and tbh it leaves a really sour taste in the mouth w/r/t “Ride On Time” that will probably stick with me. What cunts Black Box were.

    Does it annoy you that your voice still gets sampled today or do you feel proud?

    You know, at one time, with the Black Box situation, I thought I was gonna lose my mind. Seriously. I almost had a nervous breakdown. I couldn’t talk about it without cryin’. I’d spent so long tryin’ to be an entertainer and then here’s this big record in London of all places, one of the biggest records, and I’m not even getting’ a credit for it? It was like, ‘How dare they?’ Someone’s just taken something from you, right in front of your face… For years it destroyed me, it made me a person I don’t like and I’m not a bad person. But in life you get what you got comin’. You know the other day Marky Mark was on the Tv talkin’ about that record and he never even mentioned my name. I’m so used to people like this that it doesn’t even phase me anymore. I remember a time that would’ve hurt me. I’ve come a long way!

    You can watch stuff like that without throwing the TV out the window!

    That’s over now!

  19. 79
    swanstep on 23 Mar 2011 #

    @Lex. Thanks for that link. Yikes, it’s a bit miserable isn’t it? Unfortunately, the contracts most performers were on back in the day (perhaps especially women singers and girl groups) were brutal: Holloway probably never saw a dime from Love Sensation sales originally and probably wouldn’t have been owed anything from any sample clearance fees either.

    I guess this period – call it the Black Box/C&C Music factory period – had special layers of ugliness associated with it because there was this active pretense that various skinny model-types had these big voices that were of course Martha Wash in the studio or Holloway sampled (I knew the Martha Wash story at the time but not Holloway’s – :{). It does sound like Holloway was deeply freaked out by not being mentioned/acknowledged even more than by the financial side of things.

  20. 80
    lex on 23 Mar 2011 #

    This is partly why I really like to see the “featuring”s that have proliferated over the past decade or so, both in and out of the charts. It’s become commonplace to credit performers now.

  21. 81
    swanstep on 24 Mar 2011 #

    @80, Lex. Yes, absolutely agree that that’s a great improvement.

  22. 82
    Steve Mannion on 24 Mar 2011 #

    Guest vocalist credits were so common throughout the 90s (from Quartz ft. Dina Carroll to Brother Brown ft. Frank’ee, Twenty4Seven ft. Captain Hollywood to Artful Dodger ft. Craig David) to the extent where I’ve not noticed an increase as such, although these examples are all different in that the vocals aren’t ripped from another very different song.

    Loleatta Holloway was actually credited on Marky Mark’s single at the time, but curiously not on Lenny Fontana & DJ Shorty’s ‘Chocolate Sensation’ from late 99/early 2000 which also sampled the ‘Love Sensation’ acapella extensively. Strange inconsistency.

  23. 83
    Ed on 22 Jan 2012 #

    @54 et al: Newt Gingrich’s DJ has apparently been rocking the crowd with ‘Pump Up The Jam’ at his victory party in South Carolina : bit.ly/xYQuB4

    A spokesman for Mr Gingrich said that if he secured the Republican presidential nomination, he planned to celebrate with a “Back to 89 Rave” featuring a DJ set from Coldcut and a live PA by Inner City.

  24. 84
    Lifes a Riot with Sully vs. Sully on 16 Dec 2012 #

    Iconic, jawdropping, mesmerising.. slightly let down by the whiff of copy and paste. But it deserves a big fat 8 – very evocative of that glorious hot summer, in which the world’s youth danced towards a bright new dawn and stood up to inhumane oppression.

    I would know. I was 4, and a dog pissed on our picnic blanket in Stroud.

  25. 85
    Patrick Mexico on 23 Jun 2013 #

    I was the above poster :D, before I decided I didn’t like Billy Bragg that much, and hot on the heels of Wild at Heart*’s Bobbie Peru, voila! I became Patrick Mexico! (Actually, the name comes from the Births, Marriages and Deaths column in spoof Middle England newspaper the Framley Examiner.)

    As for Ride on Time, agree with most that it is pure pop perfection, an absolute belter, though extenuating circumstances of eighties nouveau-riche cruelty make it get a 9 rather than a 10. Was delighted to hear it in the club on American Psycho but now reading these sad tales it seems to fit Bateman and his contemporaries TOO well..

    * Strangely, never quite got as excited about this as I do with almost everything else by David Lynch. Yes, even Inland Empire. And going to rent Fire Walk With Me, though Twin Peaks without Sherilyn Fenn/Audrey Horne is like Brazil without the Amazon. Amazingly, I’ll discuss her – aesthetically at least – much later on Popular, though she has every right to sue those who took her name in vain!!

  26. 86
    redhairkid on 26 Jan 2014 #

    The reason I awarded this a 1 is because there is no 0 listed. Don’t like this song at all, not my sort of music.

  27. 87
    hectorthebat on 6 Mar 2015 #

    Critic watch:

    1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010) 1002
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Michaelangelo Matos (USA) – Top 100 Singles of the 1980s (2001) 101
    Gary Mulholland (UK) – This Is Uncool: The 500 Best Singles Since Punk Rock (2002)
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)
    Face (UK) – Singles of the Year 12
    New Musical Express (UK) – Singles of the Year 40
    Record Mirror (UK) – Singles of the Year 9

  28. 88
    benson_79 on 29 Oct 2020 #

    This Guardian piece confirms that they weren’t trying to be clever with the title, they just didn’t know what on earth was actually being sung:


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