The 12” record has been at the heart of dance music culture since the 1970s, with the birth of the extended, dancefloor-friendly remix, but it was in the 1980s that it reached truly iconic status here in Britain – when New Order’s ‘Blue Monday, packaged in a sleeve so expensive to make that the record label actually lost money on each record sold, became the fastest-selling 12” of all time. Suddenly not just the music and the vessel carrying it took a hold of the public’s imagination.
Then came rave fever. The Second Summer of Love was soundtracked by myriad import 12”s sourced from Chicago, New York and beyond, and a bewildering number of homegrown white labels showcasing tracks by Britain’s newly energised and inspired music-making youth. Not only did vinyl look and sound great, it also lent itself perfectly to mixing, meaning DJs could beat-match different tracks and play music without pause or interruption, creating sinuous sonic journeys that sent entire dancefloors, warehouses and fields into rapture.
Since then the 12” has defined, documented and accelerated generation after generation of innovative UK dance music – hardcore, jungle, grime, garage, you name it. The 12” isn’t just the chosen medium of dance music, it practically is dance music.
This Thursday, Red Bull Music Academy takes over The Scala in Kings Cross for one-off special, 12×12. A celebration of the power of the 12” record, and its role at the beating heart of club culture in London and beyond, 12×12’s concept is simple: 12 seminal anthems, performed by the 12 heavyweight musicians who made them, for 12 minutes each.
12×12 will be a performance of a generation, with each producer given 12 minutes to present their genre-defining tune in a unique and electrifying way. At the end of their set, each producer will hand over the controls by highlighting their personal connection to the following performer: bigging up the influence that artist has had on their own musical journey. Each set will be accompanied by a full graphic working by Hexstatic, providing a kaleidoscopic history lesson: personal anecdotes, original flyer artwork and relevant contemporary footage contextualise club culture across eras and genres.
The line-up is fittingly spectacular: New Order, Joy Division and Hacienda co-founder Peter Hook, electro don Arthur Baker, Human League and Heaven 17 synth-pop scientist Martyn Ware, acid guru A Guy Called Gerald drum ‘n bass speaker-quakers Shy FX, Roni Size and MC Skibadee, rave rabble-rousers Shades of Rhythm, house heroes Robert Owens and X-Press 2, garage innovator MJ Cole, Soul II Soul’s Jazzie B, and the reliably genre-hopping Zinc & Dynamite MC. All these guys are icons and the number of 12” anthems they’ve created between them is astonishing. What will he hear them play at 12×12? ‘Voodoo Ray’? ‘Sincere’? ‘Temptation’? ‘Brown Paper Bag’? ‘138 Trek?’ ‘Lazy’? ‘Blue Monday’? The mind boggles.
It almost goes without saying that this is one night all self-respecting music-lovers need to attend; the kind of unique generation and genre-hopping event that Red Bull Music Academy is proud to bring to LDN town, and an unbeatable way to experience the richness and variety of British dance music history, not to mention the enduring power of the pizza-shaped black stuff. If you need more convincing – and let’s face it, you really shouldn’t – proceeds from ticket sales go to the none-more-worthy War Child charity. All this, and it’s for a good cause? Come on, let’s be having you.
More information and tickets here.