Every raver will have at least one of these lines imprinted forever on their clubbing consciousness. Spoken word vocals have been a defining element of dance music tracks since the genre’s beginnings, the repetitive 4/4 in place of strophic verse/chorus provides the perfect backdrop for a monologue, with descriptive, storytelling and humorous commentary one of the best ways to personalise and give character to an electronic track. The most iconic dance music spoken word vocals are almost always amusingly self aware, and focused inwardly on clubbing culture itself. Dance music has been playfully describing itself over a beat since the jack that house built in 1987. Here are some of the best…
Rhythm Controll ‘My House’
Released in 1987, this was the first use of Chuck Roberts’ ‘My House’ a cappella, the speech soon mixed into a re-release of Mr Fingers’ ‘Can You Feel It’ then recycled countless times over the next three decades to become the most iconic spoken vocal in house music, ever. The vocal represents the founding tenets of club culture - ultimate inclusivity centred around the irresistible urge to dance - and is as close to a manifesto as the movement will ever get.
“In the beginning there was Jack … and Jack had a groove.”
“You may be black, you may be white, you may be Jew or Gentile.
It don’t make a difference in our house. And this is fresh!”
Green Velvet ‘La La Land’
Deep in his most eccentric and wild party phase, Velvet produced this awesomely self aware ode to Sunday morning ecstasy sessions which is still trotted out to whoops and cheers in techno and house sets the world over. It became a right of passage to ‘learn your lines’ word-perfect to the hilarious monologue, introduced by a jocosely stomping bass line which is as playfully delivered as the lyrics themselves. Essentially, this is everything we love about after parties, expressed in song.
“Something 'bout those little pills, unreal, the thrills, they yield, until they kill a million braincells.”
"Ohhhh, what have I done? What happened to the mornin'?
I past the time away high today!"
Douglas Greed ‘When A Man Sings On A Track’
Apart from being the nastiest bass line this side of the moon, German producer Douglas Greed’s ‘When A Man Sings On A Track’ is also the most fantastic take down of the modern techno chinstroker of all time. It says everything we’ve ever wanted to to the guy in every club who “knows so much about music he’s forgotten how to feel the music” and does it with cheeky, well-written one-liners.
“There you are - looking at me with that patronising smile of yours. First row but no dancing. The man who came to stand.”
“I am musically flipping you off right now - just in case you didn’t recognise, my friend.”
Marshall Jefferson ‘Mushrooms’
Another classic from the early Chicago House troop, ‘Mushrooms’ recounts a psychedelic trip with honest and descriptive detail. With the slow deep house beat and conversational tale, it feels like you’re locked in conversation with Jefferson in a corner of an after party and he’s telling the defining stories of his life while you wait for dawn.
“I said ‘it doesn't taste like much’, she said ‘wait a minute’
So I waited a minute - I waited a few minutes
And the next thing I know, I was walking on clouds.”
“It was the most beautiful experience of my life. And I never saw that girl again.
And I never took a mushroom again.”
Oliver $ ‘Doin’ Ya Thang'
‘Doin’ Ya Thang' samples Moodymann on the mic live at Cutloose 2nd Birthday party - and it’s Moody in fine, fine form. He’s just rambling, essentially, to the crowd before him, but manages to make it one of the coolest spontaneously soliloquies to be recorded in the booth. His casual conversation coupled with constant cheers of the crowd transport you to the party instantly. Warning - contains DGAF levels of cussing.
“Nah I ain’t gonna play no more of my shit, I heard that shit a million times. I tell you what - fuck that. I want somebody to give me CD or a vinyl or some talent from right here. Fuck the rest of the world, fuck those motherfuckers. I need something from right here. Oh you got a cassette? Daym, no I ain’t got no cassette.”
The Orb ‘Little Fluffy Clouds’
A classic of the early ‘90s UK rave scene, ‘Little Fluffy Clouds’ doesn’t actually describe a drug induced experience but, like so many dance music vocals, was usually interpreted in this context. The soft, child-like female voice murmurs nostalgic descriptions of a colourful sky above an acidy synth line, the imperfections of the slightly hesitant speech adding to the feeling of disorientation and transcendence.
“And when it would rain it would all turn, it, they were beautiful
The most beautiful skies as a matter of fact”
“The sunsets were purple and red and yellow and on fire
And the clouds would catch the colours everywhere
That's neat, 'cause I used to look at them all the time when I was little.”
Underworld ‘Born Slippy’
Technically lyrics as opposed to simply spoken word, ‘Born Slippy’ makes the cut because its spoken style, instantly accessible and abrasively English vocal line became at once an ironic commentary on and the defining sound of a nation - and paved the way for similar spoken word/rap hybrids like the seminal act, The Streets. ‘Born Slippy’ is essentially someone a bit pissed making their way home, exploring those beautiful and ugly snapshots of English life simply, but vividly.
“Drive boy dog boy. Dirty numb angel boy"
“Shouting lager lager lager lager
Shouting lager lager lager lager
Shouting lager lager lager lager”
Late Night Tuff Guy ‘I Get Deeper’
This classic track still has pride of place on any house and techno floor worth its salt. Australia’s Late Night Tuff Guy sampled a Roland Clark vocal line, shoved a deep, strutting bass line underneath and provided an anthem for all the true fans that stick around past peak time for the dance floor golden hours.
“The deeper I go, the more knowledge I know.”
“I get deep I get deep I get deep when the rhythm flows through my blood like alcohol and I get drunk and I’m fallin' all over the place. But I catch myself, right on time, right on line with the beat. And it’s so sweet.”