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Rant Of The Day THIS RANT 17/06/96

Rant Of The Day is where I get to mouth off about whatever I feel like for however long I like. Theoretically, I'll update my whinge/opinion piece every weekday; in practice, maybe not so often.

The great 12" dilemma

The 12" single and the art of the remix: it's a bit of a worry, frankly. Having originally emerged in discos where the only incentive for making a record longer was to get your boogie thing that little bit closer to the floor, the 12" remix has gone through quite a few changes in the course of its career.

When I first began buying 12" singles as an eager young purchaser some time in the early 80s, you knew what you were in for. The 12" (or extended) version would be essentially the same song as the 7" version, with maybe a few different drumbeats and a couple of extra instrumental breaks. A common practice was to play the instrumental verse and chorus through and then pick up from the beginning of the song. Sometimes you got a bonus track you couldn't get elsewhere.

I wouldn't deny that there was sometimes a slight lack of originality involved, but at least (a) you knew that a song you liked and knew from the standard single version wasn't going to be totally massacred and (b) you didn't have to buy ten different versions of one song if you were into a particular artist (leaving Frankie Goes To Hollywood aside for a moment).

Sometimes, if you were really unlucky, you got exactly the same tracks as you did on the 7" (Wham's 'Wake Me Up Before You Go Go' is a case in point). But even that dubious (from a fan's point of view) approach is an improvement on what appear to be the modern approaches to remixes.

The first is the 'dance' version of a track. Making a 'dance' version essentially appears to involve removing all traces of the original melody and replacing it with a thunka-thunka-thunka kind of rhythm (adding the words 'ah yeah' was popular at one point too). Sometimes this is done with the original artist vocal intact; if they have too much cash or dignity to succumb to this, an anonymous wailer will be imported to sing the words (Sarah Washington, you know who you are). It's hard to know which is worse: a massacred classic or a mediocre copy.

The word 'dance' has even become a kind of pointless synonym for 'cover'. I'm sure that numerous inner-city nightclub types would sooner die than see a 'cover' band, but give them a 'dance' version and suddenly everything's OK. Thunka-thunka boom-boom. Let's face it, you can hardly recognise the original track half the time anyway.

Before I go completely fuddy-duddy here, I acknowledge that sometimes a sympathetic and appealing dance version is possible (and Petula Clark could even potentially be involved). But every one part of originality is being diluted with ten parts straight copy. Thunka-thunka boom-boom. We did not need a dance version of 'Zombie'. We did not need a dance version of 'The Look Of Love'. We did not need a return trip to 'Theme From S-Express'. We did not need a dance version of 'I Know Him So Well'. And saints preserve us, we did not need a dance version of 'Wuthering Heights'. You wanna be creative, go and write a new track.

The second approach involves applying the first approach over and over to creating multiple pointless remix versions of a single track. I understand that there are seven different extant mixes of Duran Duran's 'White Lines'. The aforementioned dance version of 'I Know Him So Well' comes in four mildly different packages, including the creatively-named 'He's A Slut Mix'. Former Eastender Michele Gayle's debut single 'Looking Up' has six different versions. One, the 'West End Dub', essentially consists of the phrase 'positive' repeated in a drum loop for nine minutes. If I want that kind of effect, I'll go back to using a record player.

This is a pathetic method of garnering additional sales. Acts I'm obsessed with I do tend to track the remixes down for, so the record companies are getting what they want: more units shifted. But you could chop off one of my hands and I'd still be able to count the number of times where I thought the 'Wild & Funky Rhythm Thing Mix' beat the original. It's about as stimulating as a photocopier.

Let me conclude with another example of how it can all go wrong: Kim Wilde (pictured here on the cover of her 1984 album Teases And Dares). The classic single off that album, 'Rage To Love', had a very acceptable 12" version; extending the song and adding a little something new but not detracting from what had been originally been created.

More recently, Kim had the misfortune of having a more 'modern' remix done of her best-known hit, 'Kids In America'. Calling it hideous would be generous. They're both featured on the Australia-only CD The Remix Collection; check and compare the two sometime. I know which one I'd rather have, and if I can't have you, I don't want nobody, baby.


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