Fifty years from now, when archeologists are tracing ancient folklore to uncover this thing called House Music, they’ll come across one song, one track that stands alone among all of the early Chicago classics. “The House Music Anthem” wasn’t the first, but its DNA is in just about every dance music song that came after. (Sometimes literally: the Anthem is probably the most sampled House record of all time.)
From the opening keys, the sing-a-long chorus and that simple pulse of a bass line, every element, everything you love about House Music is there. Even today, it’s astonishing how “modern” the original recording sounds.
Marshall Jefferson came up with the idea for “The House Music Anthem” while “working the graveyard shift at the Chicago Post Office (12am-8:30am) on a letter sorting machine”. It went on to sell more than a million copies. But it wasn’t released on his label, and his partners Thomas Carr, Rudy Forbes and Curtis McClain were never properly credited.
The story of how the track that added “move your body” to the language of music was stolen from its creators has been well documented in the past, but we’re here with some good news. With the rights restored, Open House Recordings (founded by Marshall, David Dee and Chauncey Alexander) has released “The House Music Anthem” in two stunning remix packs featuring Frankie Knuckles and Eric Kupper, Todd Terry, Terry Hunter and a group of younger producers, with a third in promo release now.
With these historical releases in the bag and Marshall gigging more in Chicago than he has since the good ol’ days (including an appearance at Urban’s House at Betty’s Blue Star tonight, February 24, 2011), we had a short chat about the remix packs out now, how they got here and what’s coming next.
You’ve talked and written about the legal shenanigans involving Trax Records and The House Music Anthem in the past – you wrote two years ago that “I have been fighting to get the rights back for ‘Move Your Body’ for 20+ years.” Was there finally a legal conclusion to what’s to me symbolic of the original era of Chicago House?
Concluded, done, dusted, ready to rock.
Can you tell me about the guys that were on the original recording – Curtis McClain, Rudy Forbes and Thomas Carr? I think because of those shenanigans, there’s a lot of mystery behind who they are.
They were my co-workers at the Post Office and my friends. Curtis was the lead vocalist and I’m finishing his album now. “Move Your Body” is the first single.
Rudy played the keyboard solo and all three along with myself sang background vocals.
Let’s go to the current releases on Open House. For “The Remake” – was this a 100% new master? Did you use analog equipment to try to capture that original flavor? Who were the folks involved?
Yep, it’s 100% new recording. To recreate the piano solo, I got Jerry King and I did about three days of playing and editing to get it note-for-note the same as the original. Curtis McClain re-sang the lead and me, Curt, and Thomas Carr did the backgrounds again. We couldn’t find Rudy.
You split up the remixes into two volumes – first with “the legends of House” and secondly with some youngbloods. Did any of the “legends” remixes surprise you in terms of their sound?
All the remixes were spectacular and didn’t surprise me a bit, because they’re the best of the best.
I’m sure just about every producer on the planet would like a chance to have your blessing on his remix of “The House Music Anthem”. How did you select the producers/remixes that appear on Part II?
I put some names in a hat and took them out. Cratebug was top of the list because he’s my business partner’s favorite, so he got a pass. Maurice Joshua also had carte blanche.
On a different track, you’ve been playing more in Chicago lately. What are your thoughts on the state of the local scene from your view as a DJ, as a producer and a fan of this music?
I played Cratebug’s birthday party and that was it. But I plan on playing a lot of gigs in Chicago – I realized nobody knows me in my home city because I’ve been playing so much abroad.
Does the second remix package close the books on The House Music Anthem for now? (and if so, what are you working on next?)
There are going to be a two more remix packages. The fourth is going to be a DVD that will include all the previous three plus two music videos and a documentary. So stay tuned!