I Didn’t Mean to Turn You Inside Out
ithin the world of techno and dance, producers are the guests for a remix; but in the rap and soul mileu, it's the guest singers or rappers who get the credit, especially in this era, when a remix simply means a new verse laid on top of the same backing beat. Star producers, though, get to remix and version their own tracks ad infinitum, something at which Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis excel. Whether it's flipping the track into a different style, meddling with the original production to achieve a new effect, or even taking an instrumental version on an outerspace excursion, the Flyte Tyme boys have often defined the state of the art.
An exhaustive overview of every Jam and Lewis remix or dub-plate would be beyond both my abilities and the scope of our article, so I have instead focused on a tidy handful that I can claim real intimacy with, and which serve as strong examples of the various ways in which Jam and Lewis have reworked their own productions to outstanding effect.
Cherelle - "I Didn't Mean to Turn You On (Instrumental)"
Amongst my favorite instrumental versions, period (and I collect and compile dubs of dance tracks with the same fevered joy that hardcore punkers collate rare 45's), is this undeniable masterpiece—the Jam and Lewis instrumental version on the flip of Cherelle's big hit. To call it a radical reworking of the (already heavily-altered) vocal version is to do it little justice—like referring to "Maggot Brain" as a moody solo. The squelchy FX-dripping guitar (or is it a synth lead?) appearing briefly in the original assumes center stage here, coupled with even more of the hyperspeed drum rolls that pepper the A-side. It's a spastic workout that bounces like elastic and expands like smoke for six minutes of unadulterated, sweaty joy. If you ever wondered what would happen if someone did a New Jack Swing version of a Jimi Hendrix song, this would be the place to find out.
Captain Rapp - "Bad Times (I Can't Stand It) (Part 2)"
Existing at that delicious juncture between hip-hop, R&B, disco, and house, the mostly instrumental "Part 2" of the evergreen Captain Rapp 12" is a micro-managed triumph of precision edits, open pockets of ultra-clean groove, and warm washes of synthesizer and female voice. Radically different from the sound and color saturation of "I Didn't Mean to Turn You On," it's pliable and smooth, sliding in next to contemporaneous dance tracks from a multitude of genres with effortless ease. Losing the dated rap(p) of the main version doesn't hurt, either—especially since it leaves you with nothing but Kimberly Ball's great vocal and Jam and Lewis toying with some timeless drum sounds and synth pads. Considered both a classic 80's hip-hop break and an early house standard, this is the kind of thing crate-diggers like me live for—a groove that ages well rather than simply sounding aged.
George Michael - "Monkey (Extended Version)"
The retarded older brother of the "Nasty (Cool Summer Mix)" discussed below, this is Jam and Lewis pulling out all the stops in the same rugged way, but this time tied to a beat as propulsive and in-your-face as the best of their work for Alexander O'Neal or Janet—pop and funk melting together like a candy bar at 95 degrees. The chewy result is hard to tear into but deliciously sticky. Always a song I've nourished a secret affection for ("Do you love the monkey or do you love me"? Come on!), this is a remix so ridiculously larger-than-life (especially when they cut in George Michael's directions to the engineer) that it moves straight from stupid to sublime.
Janet Jackson - Control: The Remixes
[A&M UK, 12"]
Remix collections of a single artist are usually a dodgy proposition, and those restricted to just one album even sketchier. This import-only release from '87 is a notable exception—especially the superior LP version released in the UK. Trimming the fat on the key album tracks (although a so-so remix of "Let's While Awhile" ends things a bit sourly) this is a joint that hits like the first Pet Shop Boys remix set and Madonna's unstoppable You Can Dance. Everything you could want from housey reworks of R&B tracks, the remixes of "Control," "When I Think of You," and "What Have You Done for Me Lately" are pared-down bootyshakers of minimal perfection. The "Nasty (Cool Summer Mix)," on the other hand, is a mind-blowing matter—a whole new song at a whole new tempo—stripping the beat down to a bass-and-snare whiplash loop and then running with it, taking in everything from somebody scratching a James Brown yelp to snippets from "What Have You Done for Me Lately" to tinkling piano to a trumpet provided by Herb Alpert. It epitomizes for me a genre-defining characteristic of great House music: staying completely on the One and then adding alternating layers of effects, bells and whistles. Like the great jazz-infused sides of the 90's that it prefigures, it serves as a bridge between the very beginning of dance music to its future.