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Apr 13

BABY D – “Let Me Be Your Fantasy”

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#713, 26th November 1994

baby d After a run of mostly charmless number ones, it’s easy to rate this record: its vigour; its momentum; its status as a memento of good times people were having not as a marker in an album sales plan; its simple reminder that away from the charts the story of rave was still playing joyfully out. “Let Me Be Your Fantasy” was two years old – something people were sniffy about at the time – but history has a habit of squeezing such gaps. It now seems to have the stuff of life about it in a way little else in the 1994 list does.

Baby D were one of several groups on hardcore label Production House, which like many labels conjured new acts as whim and contingency required: its in-house producers would branch off, team up, hook up with vocalists, and lo, a band was born. Floyd Dyce – great name! – the writer and producer for Baby D, has a tremendous resume, with writing credits on close to a hundred tracks, including early-90s wonders like Acen’s “Trip II The Moon” and the House Crew’s “Euphoria (Nino’s Dream)”, songs that bumped around at the lower end of the charts selling a ton in all the wrong shops.

If you know those tracks, you’ll know the broad Production House outlook – uplifting, always ready to drop in a big hook, keeping the rushy spirit of UK house alive. “Let Me Be Your Fantasy” is in the same tradition, but more carefully streamlined and chart-ready. Old it may have been, but it’s also a fantastic bridge between the breakbeat-driven rave hits of 1992 and the hands-in-air, heart-on-sleeve pop house of mid-decade. Its breakbeat undercarriage gives “Let Me Be” a rough, robust chunkiness which plays well off Baby D’s powerful vocals. What she’s singing is the usual mash of ravey trigger phrases – feel the energy, I’ll take you up, fly away – sewn together with enough conviction that it feels like a song not a collage.

Like a lot of dance producers, Dyce seems a restless, tinkering sort, and he’s re-released this track repeatedly since 1994 – when it was already a hydra of versions and mixes. But then he had a strong core to build around. I wish there had been more hardcore and rave songs at number one, but if this record has to stand in for most of its genre it can do the job with pride.

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Comments

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  1. 31
    Billy Hicks on 30 Apr 2013 #

    Ten ten ten TEN for the first time since No Limit. Mr Vain came close with a 9. Mr Blobby (no relation) and Doop charted highly for personal nostalgic memories too. I have no memories of this as a six year old and didn’t hear it until about 2004…but oh boy is this one of the best #1s of the 1990s.

    Punctum’s words at #4 are absolutely spot on – although would you believe the 1994 radio edit cuts out said ‘underground’ break? It survives on the 12″ mix, the music video and even the original 1992 radio edit, but on this release they clearly thought it needed a cutdown to under 4 minutes so a slightly dodgy-sounding edit snips it out. Shame as it’s a breathtaking “Woah what?!” moment just when you think you’ve heard the whole track. Thankfully both versions include the bit just after, the piano chords overlaid onto a genuine rave soundtrack of cheers, horns and whistles.

    I’d always wondered why both this and N-Trance’s ‘Set You Free’, a very similar-sounding uplfting/melancholic rave track which got to #2 early in 1995 (which also happens to be one of my favourite songs of all time) – both years old at this point – suddenly became huge around this time, given that we hadn’t heard the sound in the charts since about late 1992. Will’s post #14 seems to be the likely explanation, I’d add a nostalgia perhaps spurred on by the then-recent Criminal Justice Bill controversy/protests.

    But yes. Ten ten ten. Last week I was dancing to this at an impromptu club night in Bermondsey, and a few days ago I found their album ‘Deliverance’ for a quid in a charity shop. I like their follow-up hits (I Need Your Lovin’ in 1995, So Pure in early ’96) too, but they always seemed a bit lighter, more commercial jungle sound than the hard – and glorious – genuine rave beats heard here.

    Very much an end of an era song. A final goodbye to the early 1990s before we officially enter the synth-heavy Eurodance mid-90s. Did I mention it’s a ten?

  2. 32
    wichita lineman on 30 Apr 2013 #

    “Very much an end of an era song.” It didn’t feel this way to me at all. As Will at #14 says, it may only have been two years since the peak of rave, but it felt like ten.

    By late ’94 the Sunday Social was my reference point for dance music, which meant the Dust/Chemical Brothers own recordings mixed with the Beatles’ Tomorrow Never Knows, and a fair bit of seventies soul (Jeff Perry’s Love Don’t Come No Stronger, Love Unlimited’s Under The Influence Of Love). Oasis were on the rise. B**t P*p hadn’t settled into a pattern. It felt a lot like 1989 in that guitar music and dance music were blending and moving forward; from this scene Black Grape would (re)emerge with Top 10 hits in ’95, and the Charlatans would score their biggest hit (Just When You’re Thinking Things Over) since 1990.

    Love Spreads didn’t connect with any of this. It sounded lumpy and depressing.

    Let Me Be Your Fantasy on the other hand – though no one I knew rated it, or even mentioned it – had the same spirit of renewal as the Sunday Social. I’d imagine the clubs that were playing LMBYF in ’94 were also reconnecting with what they had loved about rave, and the sense of joy that had been lost, which would also explain the euphoric Set You Free’s no.2 revival at the start of ’95.

    I’d compare the DJ’s who created fresh interest in LMBYF to the Merseybeat groups who were covering three or four year old Chuck Berry/Little Richard songs in 1962, which must have seemed like ancient history by then. Maybe LMBYF is an equivalent to Twist And Shout, harking back to the recent past but ushering in a new golden era.

    “The usual mash of ravey trigger phrases” for me are just classic pop lyrics, perfectly placed and as totally effective as the chorus to Reach Out I’ll Be There, which also has lyrics that may look like no more than trigger phrases when they’re written down.

    I hear LMBYF as a love song about music, a song about how music can take you to the highest high, and – miraculously – it actually does just that! Melancholic, dreamlike, life-affirming, it’s a beautiful record. I honestly can’t find any fault with it.

  3. 33
    Tom on 30 Apr 2013 #

    “I hear LMBYF as a love song about music, a song about how music can take you to the highest high” – this applies to an awful lot of rave songs I think! With music/drugs inextricably entwined.

    My phrasing – “usual mash” – was WAY too dismissive, because the key part was “trigger phrases” – something I love about rave and dance music in general, its non-representational lyrics, the way the words are like direct commands to the listener’s OS (physical, chemical, spiritual, whatever)

  4. 34
    Tom on 30 Apr 2013 #

    I like “Set Me Free” more though, oddly because it’s so effortful – this great willed struggle to bring the good times back (like the breakdown of “One More Time”), whereas LMBYF floats back into them.

  5. 35
    James BC on 30 Apr 2013 #

    Interesting #18’s mention of menace in dance music. You wouldn’t think people would want to feel menaced while they dance, but boy is it effective.

    It just occurred to me that if the three emotions of rave are euphoria, melancholy and menace, it’s menace that’s the innovation. There are tons of examples of earlier dance music, disco for example, that have the first two in varying proportions, but menace seems to have been exclusively a rock thing until rave came along.

    Or do people have examples of menacing dance songs from earlier eras?

  6. 36
    Izzy on 30 Apr 2013 #

    Straight 10 from me, one of the best records ever imo. Not a great deal to say about it though – it’s gorgeous and I love it is really all. I dont know what to say to anyone having difficulty getting it. Just listen, I suppose – the joy, the melancholy, the resolution, they’re all plain on the face of it and there to be loved.

    I’d forgotten it was this that kept Love Spreads (which I also love, only a bit less) off the top. That explains why I wasn’t annoyed at having lost (as I saw it) the best chance we’d ever get of one of our bands making no.1. Instead it was just like: fair play, you can’t argue with that.

  7. 37
    Tom on 30 Apr 2013 #

    #35 it’s a house and before thst electro thing isn’t it – stuff filtering in during the 80s from hip-hop on the one hand, post-Bowie Europop on the other. “Planet Rock”, “Al-Naafiysh” – there’s a tension there if not the outright DARKNESS of hardcore. But by the time you get to acid house and tracks like “Where’s Your Child?” it’s a definite strain, and with hardcore it really fully blooms.

  8. 38
    Steve Mannion on 30 Apr 2013 #

    I liked ‘Love Spreads’ but ‘Begging You’ was a bit more contemporary-sounding thanks to the Chemical Brothers influence and fits well with their stuff at the time like ‘My Mercury Mouth’.

    LMBYF’s success felt ‘too late’ at the time and it took me quite a while to like ‘Set You Free’ due to it’s johnny-come-lately trying-too-hard approach. ‘Inner City Life’ (plus Nookie’s dreamy Corona-sampling ‘Only You’) appeared at around the same time and for me did make this stuff sound older than it was and harder to be excited about.

  9. 39
    thefatgit on 30 Apr 2013 #

    #35 Not so much a dance movement, but a progenitor of one: Throbbing Gristle helped inform Front 242, Front Line Assembly and Nitzer Ebb to fashion the groundwork for IDM which puts more emphasis on menace and melancholy rather than joy. And Depeche Mode definitely helped to commercialise the sound post-Vince Clarke, which in turn, along with Gary Numan helps Trent Reznor fashion IDM-friendly rock with NIN (Pretty Hate Machine), later drawing in elements of D&B and Hardcore (Perfect Drug). I think the menace aspect has to a greater or lesser extent, been bubbling under all the time. Even the KLF’s original “What Time Is Love” is underpinned by that menacing groove. And I haven’t even mentioned Cabaret Voltaire or Kraftwerk! Or Colin Faver spinning most of this stuff(mainly from Germany & Belgium) on KISS FM in the early 90’s!

  10. 40

    Could also winkle Suicide into that progenitor list, I think.

  11. 41
    thefatgit on 30 Apr 2013 #

    Yes, where’s Jon Savage when you need ‘im?

  12. 42
    Steve Mannion on 30 Apr 2013 #

    I’m sure the Radiophonic Workshop would say there was always a dance element to their music. #diggerdydum

  13. 43

    I think there’s two elements to crossflow input here:

    1. “electronics” as symbol-vector of otherworldly or intoxicated unease within music — which goes back to the theremin in film soundtracks in the 40s, and emerges in youthful consciousness via Dr Who and all manner of other stuff. As synthesisers, rhythm machines, samplers and digital tech generally integrated with themselves in industry practice — round their effectiveness for producing club music tracks quickly and cheaply — the natural tendency of musicians to play around with that they had would have thrown up all kinds of effects redolent of this earlier matter, whether it was at first intended or not. (Plus the integration also pulled in as co-explorers the DIY “post”punk electronics pioneers, such as the Cabs, who’d been bricolaging unease since the mid-70s.)

    and of course
    2. DRUGS: music that represents a shared experience (such as for example the paranoid comedown) will be vividly appreciated. Euphoria and dysphoria are intimately linked, and naturally a music field that makes a lot of one will be shadowed by the other.

  14. 44

    also there’s a very deep and ancient tradition of wild folk dances as devil-fuelled and scary: the tarantella is named for the impulse to dance insanely when bitten by a toxic spider (which supposedly also sweated out the poison)

  15. 45
    James BC on 30 Apr 2013 #

    Thinking about it some more and looking through previous Popular entries, “Atomic” seems to be a disco song that has euphoria, melancholy and menace to it.

    “Let’s Dance” might be another example, only without the euphoria. And Gary Numan’s worth a mention.

    All very interesting though. You could write a book on the power of menace in dance music. “Disco Dysphoria: Menace from Blondie to Breakbeat”.

  16. 46

    And if we take one era-step pre-disco, into the related (dance music) worlds of George Clinton and Mr James Brown, we find a HUGE amount of paranoia, fear, terror and menace.

    (And “dread” is a term that reggae explicitly espoused.)

  17. 47
    fivelongdays on 30 Apr 2013 #

    If we’re talking menace in dance music, the obvious ones for me are…HIGHLY BUNNYABLE.

  18. 48
    swanstep on 30 Apr 2013 #

    Can’t say that I hear much menace in LMBYF (this is in the era of Dr Dre after all!). I’m also surprised to hear Wichita and others salute the lyrics. To my ears they fall over themselves left and right – ‘highest heights’ (blech!), ‘Let’s be as one in soul and mind’ flat out murders itself with the ‘one’ and the ‘and’, the ungainly two syllables in ‘tri-ip to wonderland’, ‘put a smile upon your face’ (blech again!), and so on. In general, lots of the verbal constructions feel cluttered and weak (even the relatively interesting middle 8 lines don’t feel to me as taut or as interesting as they could be). I also don’t like the title line – it feels odd (and verbally cluttered/weak) to ask permission to be a fantasy as opposed to asserting you’ll be one or offering to be one. But maybe the latter is all that’s heard.

  19. 49

    There’s a Mensah remix of this on GetDarker’s This is Dubstep Vol3: which I think makes “exhibits menace” (in a certain context) reasonably canonic :)

  20. 50
    enitharmon on 30 Apr 2013 #

    I had decided not to intervene with things like this because they largely passed me by and were in no way “my” music. Needless to say I have no recollection of it at the time but there were probably reasons, like at the time it was number one I was just starting to deal with the fallout from a stormy three-month relationship that in hindsight would have been best not entered into in the first place and the fallout from which would only culminate rather soapishly some six months later. But I digress (I may elaborate further in later entries but only if I feel like it, otherwise you’ll have to wait for my autobiography). Live music for me meant partaking of one particular end of Bristol’s energetic pub scene and no, not that end of it. A group of us some of whom worked in the Bristol University computer lab gathering to hear Chris Scott’s Blind Lemon Beefcake at the Prom in Gloucester Road and discussed relaying one of these events as the world’s first live internet gig. We were too laid back to do it of course, and others soon afterwards got that glory but there you go – there’s the global context for you.

    It was only six months later, as part of that soapish culmination in fact, that somebody took me in hand and introduced me to the local delights of K-Passa and Massive Attack. Chalk and cheese of course, and the raw cajun fiddle’n’squeezebox rocking of the former was much more to my taste, but the nearest thing in my music collection to the matter in hand is Blue Lines, not something I choose to listen to all that often. It’s better than Baby D anyway (IMHO), but they all sound much of a muchness to my ear.

    Which brings me up short, because I’m reminded that at some time in the early 1960s when my popular tastes were forming, somebody who I’m pretty sure was Alma Cogan (qv) refused to give a verdict on Juke Box Jury because she thought everything sounded the same anyway. There was predictable outrage, but I now see she had a point. Those who inhabited the club scene in 1994 (my then 14-year-old daughter wasn’t one and neither were any of her friends) will no doubt hear this and be reminded of great spaced-out all-night events on cavernous, packed and sweaty dancefloors; at least that’s how I imagine them when I wake in the night sweating with terror at the thought, it seems like my idea of purgatory and anyway I was turned 40 by this time and running out of steam for all-nighters. Certainly the music is intimately tied to the event and doesn’t really work in isolation. It’s about as affective as music gets.

    I never went to UFO in the 60s either but it’s closer to my era and my mindset, so I can recognise LMBYF as kin to the early Soft Machine/Pink Floyd/Incredible String Band and just as carefully tuned to the psychoactive confection of the day. It’s just that the denizens of UFO would have been mortified by the idea of the music they danced to featuring in any kind of chart, let alone topping it.

  21. 51
    punctum on 30 Apr 2013 #

    Wonder how they would have felt about The Division Bell topping the album chart in 1994?

  22. 52
    Cumbrian on 30 Apr 2013 #

    The Division Bell got to #1? I try not to spoil TPL for myself and avoid looking ahead, so this came as a surprise to me. I’d have thought that 1994/5/6 would have been one long procession of one week wonder Britpop acts, interspersed with Simply Red. Obviously, as with much else, I know not very much about this particular subject.

  23. 53
    punctum on 30 Apr 2013 #

    Reading Rosie’s post got me thinking about the album, and its relation to the rest of what was going on in its year. Given that I’m probably about 19 years away from writing about it, it’s hopefully not too much of a spoiler.

  24. 54
    enitharmon on 30 Apr 2013 #

    I think they’d have thought that Floyd had gone to hell in a handcart years previously. See also the last Popular entry of the 1970s.

  25. 55
    Cumbrian on 30 Apr 2013 #

    #53: Truth be told, I’ll probably forget this fact sometime in the not too distant future and will be surprised all over again when you get there.

  26. 56
    thefatgit on 30 Apr 2013 #

    Something else that was emerging around this time, which highlighted the joy/menace tension quite effectively was Hardbag, a subgenre which didn’t last long but helped to popularise what was going on at Trade @Turnmills and gave Tony De Vit his first club hit. We also have Felix (aka Rollo) to thank for it happening at all with “Don’t You Want Me” back in 1992.

  27. 57
    Brendan F on 30 Apr 2013 #

    … and speaking of Rollo, those doomy chords in the intro to ‘Insomnia’ which culminates with the euphoric riff after the rap (presumably the dance world has a different term for it which I’m not au fait with)

  28. 58
    Mark G on 30 Apr 2013 #

    #51-55 or thereabouts: Yeah, I remember seeing that album chart and going “Really?”, in the same way I did when David Gilmour’s “On an Island” did. But then again, I do tend to work with a higher percentage than most people that would have bought both…

  29. 59
    glue_factory on 1 May 2013 #

    …speaking of Trade (re:56) Turnmills was where the Heavenly Social would eventually end up, several years after Wichita had been dancing at the Albany (re:32). It was always a rather odd experience staggering out of the Social at 3:30am, at the end of your evening, to see a fresh-faced queue of clubbers waiting to go into Trade, at the beginning of theirs.

  30. 60
    flahr on 1 May 2013 #

    Re #48 I also don’t like the title line – it feels odd (and verbally cluttered/weak) to ask permission to be a fantasy as opposed to asserting you’ll be one or offering to be one. But maybe the latter is all that’s heard.

    As I’ve mentioned I don’t actually like the song, but the title is great! I think your problem with it is that you view it as a request when I don’t think it is – it’s an imperative, the “let me” is functioning as “surrender yourself, relax, let me do all the work”. I think it’s a very opulent title and one that fits the wash and wave and submerging euphoric helplessness that rave is (I think) going for.

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