Warehouse Club Chicago Top 100 (1993)
A DJ Mag article from 1993 includes and extensive playlist from the legendary Warehouse club in Chicago. The playlist has been reconstructed on Spotify for your listening pleasure.
Phil Cheeseman's history of house feature in the April '93 issue of DJ Mag may leave a lot to be desired. It's focus is a bit off, with certain individuals having been consigned to the bargain bin of history. You could certainly be forgiven for not knowing Jomanda and their fractional contribution to Felix's Don't You Want Me. But for the most part does a significantly more thorough job than any comparable magazines from the same period. The Face, i-D, NME and Melody Maker all offered occasional tantalising references to house's history, but this might be the first time any kind of chronology is suggested.
Perhaps the most interesting about the article isn't even the descriptions or chronology. It's the playlists. The piece focuses on 1985 onwards, yet it includes two best of playlists from The Warehouse and the Paradise Garage, respective homes of the two most important DJs in the creation of house Frankie Knuckles and Larry Levan. Given that both clubs were more or less over by 1985, and certainly long spent forces at the time of the article it seems odd that these are the clubs that get playlisted. Why not something more contemporary? Or at the very least something that played house music, as opposed to the proto-disco/post-disco stuff that comprised a lot of the soundtracks to these clubs? Well that's mainly because it would seem even in 1993 Phil Cheeseman was fully aware of what was happening and what had happened. This stuff is house. It's its backbone, its life force, its very essence. This stuff is where house directly evolved from. And it was directed at the same people by the same DJs.
The oft-repeated line about house music being called such is that it was records played at The Warehouse, and that contracted into simply "house". Whether that's true or not will forever remain a mystery. But given that The Warehouse was the original proto-house club there's nothing on this list that even comes close to early house music. Many elements of house (the disco backline and the introduction of synthesized elements) are there and are simply waiting for 1995 before they bloom.
Looking at this list in comparison with what the most important Warehouse DJ, Frankie Knuckles, played in the following years (Gridface have compiled a great list of his 80s sets you can listen to) it's easier to see the connections and the resonances between what Knuckles played at The Warehouse and what became the sound of house. In the 80s Knuckles stacks tracks like Jimmy Bo Horne's Spank (1978) sat next to Fingers Inc's It's Over (1986) i.e. the height of big room disco and the established, albeit early, sounds of darker house music.
Frankie Knuckles not only helped created the genre and the scene, but also still provides clues as to the development of the genre's musicological features and make up. I constantly feel like I'm playing catch up with him, finding random breadcrumbs he left scattered behind him. It's both sad and frustrating that both Knuckles and Levan (and Francis Grasso if we're being honest) aren't around to speak to. They'd have the closest thing to answers that I could expect from this project. Instead, I think I'm forever cursed to catch glimpses of what they were doing in little corners of the music, and somehow try to reconstruct a meaningful impression of the history.