By the time that house music began to make its way out of Chicago and filter into the dance scenes of other major cities like New York and London, there were already several names that were associated with what would come to be known as classic house music. To be sure, Frankie Knuckles, the DJ and producer who was most directly responsible for creating the house genre had more than a few titles under his belt. However, there are some other artists whose names are inextricably linked with the commercial growth of house. Let’s take a look at some of the classic house tracks that helped define a generation of club goers.
1. Frankie Knuckles – The Whistle Song. Released in 1991, and helping to lead the surge of house music that was knocking on the door of mainstream chart success, this flute-based track was mellow, had a deep groove and was eminently danceable. All of the ingredients that would come to define house in the 90’s were there – the bass line, the simple drum beat – providing the foundation for hundreds of house tracks to follow.
2. Mr. Fingers – Washing Machine. In 1986, Washing Machine was a revolutionary track that was one of the first to explore the possibilities of the ‘acid’ baseline, a twisting sound that would worm its way into the brains of partiers. The rhythm track was based off of an 808 drum machine, providing the groundwork for a lot of the experimental acid house that would become more prominent as time went on.
3. M/A/R/R/S – Pump Up The Volume. A list of classic house music wouldn’t be complete without this entry from the production team of A R Kane and Colourbox. ‘Pump Up The Volume’ is most notable for its heavy use of sampling, and it was a pioneer in this respect. Cut onto vinyl in 1987, the track crossed over onto the mainstream charts and became one of the most recognizable classic house music tunes. It was also the only release from this one-off collaboration.
4. Technotronic – Pump Up The Jam. Completely unrelated to its namesake above, ‘Pump Up The Jam’ smashed through barriers in 1989 to become a huge pop hit. Combining a searing vocal with hard-hitting synth lines and an unbeatable bass track, Technotronic scored a number two spot on British charts and a Platinum record for the accompanying album in the United States. This was a huge accomplishment for house music and helped to legitimize the genre heading into the 1990’s.
5. Madonna – Vogue. Ever the chameleon, pop star Madonna hitched her wagon to the rising house star and secured an enormous hit that further mainstreamed dance music. The song contained many of the drum and rhythm elements found in early classic house music, but it combined them with a more pop-oriented song structure and a dynamic, changing vocal. Interestingly, ‘Vogue’ was a soundtrack release meant to accompany the film ‘Dick Tracy’ in 1990.
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