B: Baby Wants to Ride by Frankie Knuckles feat Jamie Principle.
Frankie Knuckles moved to Chicago in 1977, having been reared as a DJ on the New York scene centred around David Mancuso’s Loft parties and Nicky Siano’s Gallery in the mid to late 70s.
He took the helm of the city’s Warehouse club, introducing the mid west to his blend of disco, r&b and European electronic music, and, as popular myth suggests, it was from here that the term ‘House music’ derives from.
After starting to do reel to reel edits in the early eighties, Frankie progressed to using a rhythm maker (a sort of glorified metronome) to add percussion to his DJ sets and finally, in 1984, Frankie Knuckles invested in his first bit of proper production gear, the Roland 909, which he bought off Derrick May, no less. At around the same time a friend of Knuckles’, the DJ Jose Gomez, handed him a few demos of a young songwriter. The songwriter turned out to be Jamie Principle.
Jamie was a god-fearing club kid, weaned on the sounds of both The Warehouse and Gospel. He played the clarinet and had also invested in a synthesizer. One of those early demos Frankie heard was ‘Your Love’, and he was so impressed that he took Jamie into the studio and helped him rework them, as producer. Within those production sessions, they cut a version of Baby Wants to Ride.
Baby Wants to Ride came out on Trax records in 1987 on the flip of Your Love. It’s the moment that everything comes together, and a new form of music arrives – one of the very first, fully realized, properly coherent, quality house tracks.
You can sense the changes in the musical landscape of the three or four years that led up to it’s release: The track’s kick is higher than usual in the mix, the bass line more sparse and repetitive, a more minimal arrangement, stretched out over eight and a half minutes; with extended drum breaks, the synth arp dominant and insistent: house music slowly emerging.
On top of everything, Jamie Principle’s hi camp, bitchy vocal is played against a pitched down version of his own voice in a duet that sounds like Prince on poppers: sex talk cut against religious incantations, politics and, worryingly, children’s songs. The synth chords that occasionally break out are aggressively sexual. When the open hi hats kick in half way through, a bona fide classic is born.
Within the vast and ever expanding Universe of House Music, Baby Wants to Ride is a brightly burning star, complete with it’s own solar system, and still holds more power than most of what has been added to the genre in the twenty five years since it was first released.
Next week: C as in Camembert.
By Joe Evans
Baby Wants to Ride by Frankie Knuckles feat Jamie Principle.