Monday, January 7, 2013

Paul Oakenfold - The Authorised Biography (Richard Norris) Bantam Press

I'd like to think that I'm a fairly easy person to buy Christmas presents for - and this arrived this year courtesy of my girlfriends sister. (She'd had some guidance from my girlfriend apparently, whom I discussed it with some months ago).

Until the rise of Skrillex, Oakenfold would probably qualify as the the most divisive figure in dance music.

(That statement's not even true. Skrillex isn't divisive. Absolutely everyone over the age of 21 thinks he's dreadful).

Oakenfold really wrote the book (no pun intended) on the global superstar touring DJ; starting out in the early 80's as an A&R man for Champion Records (with one of the most famous mullets in showbiz) through the birth of hip-hop, bringing Ballearic back from Ibiza (with Danny Rampling & Nicky Holloway), then later remixer the stars.

Not least, U2, whose 'Even Better Than The Real Thing', Oakenfold remixed to great effect, gaining a higher chart placing with the remix than the original single release. (A feat repeated by other artists/remixers since but absolutely unheard of in 1991). This led U2 further down the dance path, with 'Lemon' and later 'Discotheque'.
(Indeed it's very unlikely that U2 would later have later commissioned enough remixes of 'Discotheque' to fill an entire 3 x 12" set with no less than four remixes by David Morales and Satoshi Tomiie, with further outings from David Holmes, Howie B and Oakenfold's regular collaborator, Steve Osbourne, without the chart success that Oakenfold brought).

As well as working with superstars, Oakenfold later achieved superstar status himself, touring with U2, breaking his Perfecto label in new markets (including being one of the first Western DJ's to play in China), then taking on an acclaimed residency at Liverpool's Cream, through the rise and fall of the superclub era.

Whilst his Cream residency attracted many followers, it attracted infamy from some quarters, with Oakenfold's (now industry standard) contractual stipulations (including design/lighting/technical and rider demands) becoming the stuff of legend.

I've wanted to read this for a while and was interested to learn that the author (Richard Norris) is the one and same as the gentleman formerly known as The Grid. (Or at least 50% of it).

I've never been much of an Oakenfold fan per-se but even before reading this could see the huge steps that he took to bring the dance scene to a wider global audience.

On a personal note, it was also great to read the stories of how Oakenfold and his regular studio collaborator Steve Osbourne put together two of the best and arguably most important, zeitgeist defining remixes of all time; Happy Mondays' 'W.F.L' and (my personal favourite), 'Hallelujah'.

Reading the book has jointly caused me to seek out his well regarded BBC Radio One Essential Mix: Goa Set from 1994 (which is a lot more listenable than you'd assume) and then later the same afternoon dust-off a load of old Dragonfly and Bedrock 12"s for a mix.

(Which turned out to be a lot more fun than I expected. There'll be a dark progressive mix by yours truly coming my Soundcloud soon).

The book also contains a CD of original material, one track of which is worryingly called, 'Save The Last Trance For Me'.

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