Crucial Electro.

In 1984 an album mixed by Herbie Laidley was a  huge prelude to superstar DJ’s mixing tunes years later and getting arguably too much credit.

I was shopping in Discovery Records in Leamington Spa. Armed with a crisp £10 note in my front pocket I spent about two hours going through all of the records on the racks.

It was a great feeling to have enough money on you to buy almost any record in the store. This feeling will be lost on the Internet Generation – but trust me it was an awesome buzz of a feeling.

After I’d been browsing for about an hour a staff member put on Crucial Electro and turned the volume dial – UP. A full 10 – 17 years later occasional customers with taste would ask me when I myself worked in a record shop for 7 years “can you get hold of the Electro Albums?”

That says it all really. The albums were groundbreaking . Never before had I heard an album mixed, the tracks flowing effortlessly into the next tune. The content of the Electro series was plucked from obscurity and given new lease of popularity with the Electro stamp.

5 tracks into my first listen of Crucial Electro in Leamington Spa all them years ago I already knew where half of my ten pound note was going.

The Smurf  by Tyrone Brunson launches Crucial Electro. Sharp futuristic slabs of clean sound. Furious scratching. Modern Funk bass. After four minutes it bleeds seamlessly into Light Years Away by Warp 9. Another bang up to date sound (in ’84). Rapping in the style of Grandmaster Flash it sounds like confident new music from another dimension.

Another four minutes on and Nunk again by Warp 9 phases in. Clean Electro breaks with near robotic real instruments. This was so fresh in ’84 that it’s hard to get across here properly (on this blog).

Hip Hop Be Bop (Don’t Stop) by Man Parrish is a stone cold classic Electro tune.  The track had already caused a mini sensation at school for those who’d managed to get over Adam & the Ants (not a dig). Waves of solid Electro perfection that were so good you learned to body pop and picked up a “GhettoBlaster” as soon as possible. Already knowing this track did not detract from its impact on Crucial Electro. Following tracks you’d never actually heard before-  it comes in at the perfect time to help the album make total goosebump sense.

Rockit by Herbie Hancock swiftly follows. Another track you’d probably heard before. It serves to close Side 1 with familiarity but much added excitement. Not as good as the Man Parrish track – it still is one of the early 80’s most influential and important records. It just belonged on Crucial Electro – and does in no way disappoint.

Electric Kingdom by Twilight 22 manages to have a futuristic feel yet a primitive vibe too. Mystic almost – it has an egyptian mood somehow. A bold rap lays over the latter part of the tune proving rap can be essential without being obnoxious. It sounds like computer music and synths have truly awoken and kicks off Side 2 with moody glee.

Clear by Cybotron keeps the futuristic vibe pulsing. A lighter sound than the preceding track it still sounds urgent and like a true rise of man and machine in art harmony.

Al-Naayfiysh (The Soul) by Hashim then truly rocks the whole thing. “It’s time”. More speaking shattering bass. It’s practically dark rock Electro. Again, it’s difficult to do it true justice with the written word, so let me sum it up with four words – a total fuckin’ classic.

The Return Of Captain Rock by Captain Rock adds more early 80’s solid rapping to the Electro mix. By now the whole album just feels like a futuristic jam of a party and we just want in.

Wild Style by Time Zone closes Crucial Electro perfectly. Screams of vocals quelled by a radio voice over style rap to what would be the best radio station we’d ever (never) heard. It builds and gets more frantic offering increasingly more captivating lyrical flows.

Of all the Electro albums Crucial Electro stands out to me as it’s the first one I heard. I do really like Electro 4 and most of the early albums are essential listening. A series through deletion and by exposing some legendary underground music became near folklore. Their importance on DJ’s mixing Dance Nation 7 or whatever cannot be overstated enough, although poor old Herbie Laidley (Herbie who? – shame on you) will never get the credit he deserved…


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