A few months ago Paul Paul Raffaele (of Most Excellent Unlimited) got in touch and asked if we could help publicise the relaunch of legendary NYC party “Better Days” which was being organised by the equally legendary DJ / Producer / Remixer, Bruce Forest. We said, “Sure, love to” as we`d already run a “Producer Series” podcast on Bruce and had tried to establish contact with him but failed.
“Better Days 2.0” zoomed up on us and we ran a short interview with Bruce focused on the relaunch, but we also asked Bruce if he could put together a mix of “Better Days” classics. It was his turn to say, “Sure, love to”, as he`s that kind of guy, while he was at pains to point out that a night of classics is not what BD 2.0 is about (the party incidentally was a resounding success with 1200 people through the door and another event now planned to coincide with Gay Pride at the end of June). About 48 hours later he sent over a 183 minute mix with a self-depreciating “I hope this is OK”. I immediately burnt a copy for the car, and as I taxied my kids around I was texting my reactions to Apiento:
“He`s remixed everything live!”
“You`ve heard everything before, but not quite like this!”
“It`s so well sequenced!”
“It just keeps getting better!”
“It might be the best party mix I`ve ever heard!”
I stand by those comments. It`s a damn fine demonstration of what a combination of new technology and over 30 years experience can do.
As if you needed further entertainment, Bruce has also provided an “annotated” track-list.
“A Better Days set…..none of this was planned. I hit “record” and played for three hours. Any flaws are mine alone……”
1. E2E4 / Manuel Gottsching
The Classic ambient track by guitarist Manuel Gottsching that was a staple of clubs in the `80s, and especially used a lot early in the night as it was 31 minutes long. I would put it on, and by the end early arrivals would be already swaying to it. The voice underneath is my wife Mitzi, who, while British, actually sounds nothing at all like any of the voices she did for that bit.
2. Changes / Imagination
The biggest Imagination record, at least at Better Days and Paradise Garage. “Burning Up” and “Just An Illusion” were big tracks, but it was Larry’s mix of “Changes” that just slammed. It has this lazy bassline that just vibrated the whole room, and the track is just……sexy. It also featured drops from high vocal to bassline that were made for clubs with huge bass report, like Better Days.
The next little mashup mix is typical of me fucking with the crowd’s head, which was always my main intention. In order for it to work, you have to use tracks that are instantly identifiable by some feature of the track, the tracks have to be in the same key and the tracks have to be already massive, so the crowd thinks “Oh yeah!! he’s gonna play…ah, shit…Oh wait! Here comes!!…bah. And then …AGGGH! No he didn’t!!!” The vocals and guitars of Sinnamon were always the hook, so start with them, then the obvious horn hits and drums of “Love Thang”, which disappear to be replaced by the VERY identifiable bassline of Change’s “Paradise”, which are in harmonic key with Sinnamon. At this point, the floor has no idea what I’m going to do, but any of the tracks would have gotten a great reaction. I decided on continuing with “Love Thang” about a second before I pulled out Sinnamon. I never plan little things like that, I let them just happen, and never repeat them.
3.Thanks to You/ Sinnamon
Shep’s first really big hit. He tested it at Better Days and we played it off tape, then test pressing for months.
4. Paradise / Change
My favorite Change record that doesn’t feature Luther. And of course, the greatest bassline.
5. Love Thang / First Choice
Tee Scott’s iconic groove track for First Choice. If I had to be nailed down, First Choice was the overall most popular group at BD because of their library of massive hits. Rochelle Fleming performed at BD and she could do no wrong.
6. I Specialize in Love / Sharon Brown
Another Tee Scott track (I’m using the stems for this version) that simply never lost its attraction. The horn hits make for a very identifiable entry over another track, and letting “Love Thang” finish properly. Bruce DJPhilosophy™ – never insult the record you’re mixing out of by just letting it die in the background. Incorporate it into the segue and make it the intro to the next song, not “yeah OK I’m done with that one, now listen to this!”
7. Such a Feeling (pts 3 &4) / Aurra
An epic 14 minute Shep downtempo groove track. I used to play records LONG. I would play “Love is the Message” for a half hour, “Ain’t Nobody” for fifteen minutes, “Love Money” for a half hour. When you do 10 -12 hour nights, really long tracks with effects are a cool thing to do. With today’s short nights, I suspect that’s a thing of the past.
8. Plane Love / Jeffrey Osborne
Larry’s seminal mix of Jeffrey Osborne. A BITCH of a record to work because of the unusual drum pattern and the 4-bar fills. But the children loved it. Something I played that was what I considered a little on the commercial side, but the record simply kicked ass.
9. Tina Cherry (dub) / Giorgio
Hah, my Tina. This is the B-Side dub, which was essentially a David Cole tour de force. We did the A-Side which was an insanely complex 72-channel production that had almost none of the sprig. Then I put together a very plain House bed for David to jam over. He had two sets of keyboards: one set up with all vocal samples for him to play, and a Korg M1 that he was changing patches on constantly. The solos on the B-Side were all done in one take, on three or four tracks, and I later did mutes to bounce from one to another. I still love this record because it was with David and because we had SO much fun making it. The children heard the track all during the time we were making it and it was massive at BD.
10. When I Think of You / Janet Jackson
Deep Dish’s dub mix of Janet. The original was a top ten all time hit at BD, but for months we actually had to play it off the album, since A&M didn’t put out a decent 12”. No, Deep Dish’s mix doest’t sound much like the original, but because it is obviously Janet, it becomes a different, cool take on a very familiar track.
11. Don’t Make Me Wait / Peech Boys
Those handclaps. I used to drop them in all the time, just like on this set. Larry’s first big production, and I was lucky enough to get it early. This track owned NYC clubs during the summer of 1981, off tape, and 1982.
12. Who Is He And What is He To You / Creative Source
Classic 70s soul. This is the type of music you would only hear in a deep underground club back in the 80s.
13. The Ghetto / Donny Hathaway
I don’t even try to mix records like this and Creative Source. It never sounds good, and there’s nothing wrong with fading one and starting another when a mix would sound like a mess.
14. The Jungle / Jungle Wonz
Then again, sometimes the past has a strong musical connection to more modern music, and when that happens, it can be really neat. This is early Trax Records Chicago House…a mainstay of any Better Days night after 1983. We started playing House very early, when the only Chicago house was off tape and acetates. I don’t think I played a Chicago House record off actual vinyl till 1984.
15. Seven Ways / Hercules
Any track remotely sexual was huge and this was the biggest. Because it was mostly bassline and male vocal it sounded particularly dark, and the children just went nuts to this…even if I just played a few bars.
16. Love Can’t Turn Around by Farley
I love Darryl Pandy (RIP) like cooked food but it was the instrumental of this that absolutely killed. Peak House, and maybe the best example of early House.
17. Salsa Rhapsody / Modern Romance
The B-Side of Modern Romance’s “Can You Move” that went totally dub. Huge in underground clubs with a bassline for the ages.
18. Set Fire To Me / Willie Colon
I saw a lot of performances in my day, at concert venues, stadiums and clubs, but the best I ever saw was Willie Colon at the Paradise Garage with a 20 piece percussion section. Playing to support this Yvonne Turner-mixed masterpiece. It was the greatest two hours of live music I’ve ever heard. And, Yvonne’s genius interpretation of Willie’s track made this a club standard.
19. Problemes D’Amour / Alexander Robotnik
Originally a huge import. The unsung hero of this track is Francois Kevorkian. He did a set of remixes, which Warner Brothers had me edit, but people have the impression it was my mix as well. I just did edits and a little EQ, but this is a classic FK jam.
20. No Way Back / Adonis
The ultimate House bed. It’s basically a loop. We used it for everything from David Cole playing live to Loleatta’s stage patter.
21. Stage Patter Recorded at Better Days / Loleatta Holloway
Loleatta did a show at BD in like 1985. The music was good, but the stage patter was AMAZING. So I edited out the music and used the patter over many different records. Classic shit. Junior Vasquez got a copy of Loleatta and made a great record with it, but until then, the only place you’d hear it was at Better Days.
22. The Love I Lost / Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes
Serious Philly Disco. Better Days peak music. The next three songs are designed to exhaust the dancers, then I give them a short intro break, and kill them again for 16 minutes. Listen.
23. Free Man / South Shore Commission
First some stems (horns, vibes and guitars) over Harold Melvin, then into Francois K’s amazing edit of “Free Man”. Kind of a neat mashup.
24. Law and Order / Love Committee
Walter Gibbons version, my favorite!!
25. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough / Inner Life
A Garage / Better Days classic. This is widely regarded as one of Larry’s biggest mixes. But in reality it was mixed by John Morales, not Larry, who was kind enough to give me this 17 minute epic.
26. Can’t Shake Your Love / Syreeta
More Motown / Philly Disco. Absolutely a huge record. This is an unreleased version.
27. I Was Born This Way (Better Days Mix) / Carl Bean
Better Days nation`s anthem. I was lucky enough to get hold of the multitrack to this classic, and Shep and I did this mix in one night, then brought it to Better Days to “test” it. Almost blew the roof off. We never changed that first mix, which became the “Better Days Mix.”