Guest Selector: DJ Paulette

Paulette’s ‘then, now and in future’ chart ahead of her DJ set at Manchester Pride 2017

Feature by Paulette Constable | 10 Aug 2017

This is a tour of my record collection and some of the random-access memories associated therein. It’s a disco, jazz, funk, hip-hop, soul, house and techno thing that illustrates the sounds and styles that have influenced me as I grew up, bought records, went to clubs and festivals, DJ'd, worked and toured the world…

Spoiler alert – I like songs, singing, divas, dancing and show-stopping vocals, so if you don’t like throwing shapes, lip-synching or killing it on the rare groove karaoke then you’d best jog on now. This chart reflects how I feel this week – next week I will pick something totally different. Dip in, dig deep and dance hard – you have been warned.

Diana Ross – Remember Me
[Motown, 1970]
I have loved Diana Ross and Ashford and Simpson since I was a little girl – Diana was my first black female role model/icon/sex symbol, while Ashford and Simpson were the sexiest, most talented black writing and singing duo that regularly made it on to Top of the Pops. I get infinite pleasure playing this show-stopping song out on great sound systems. The combination of the talents of the three is simply magical; the lyrics pack a punch that hits the solar plexus every time and Diana’s voice has a deceptive fragility, a soaring strength and a big-time sensuality that makes me fall more in love with every passing year and with each fresh listen. The lyrics in Remember Me are positive through the pain. (I want this played at my funeral.)

Donna Giles – And I'm Telling You I’m Not Going (Stonebridge Poppers Full Delight Mix)
[Ore Music, 1994]
Cast your mind back to 1994 – I had been promoted from being the hostess/resident in the Gay Traitor/Pussy Parlour room at the monthly Flesh party at The Haçienda to hostess of the second room in Tom Bloxham’s new ‘Home’ venture, which was in the basement of Ducie House. While the build was completed, I had taken three months off DJing and clubbing to revise and complete my finals at Manchester Metropolitan University.

The opening night was fun but my first full working night back was a huge celebration. My twin, my boyfriend, my friends and I got duly hammered before 8pm, like you do. We arrived at the club and raved in the car park until it opened at 9.30pm. Like you do. By the time I played this – my then favourite track – to a packed and raving room, it all came on top. I was having momentary lapses of vision and hearing and felt the faders were moving on their own. I went to straighten up but found myself enjoying the party more from the cubicle. I had to go early, leaving my twin to clear the room playing Dawn Penn’s No No No over and over again on one deck. I wasn’t fired and the rest is history. Happy memories.

Sylvester – Over and Over
[Fantasy, 1977]
Sylvester, The Queen of Disco, is another of my favourite divas – I miss his voice and energy so much. Sylvester was one of my reference points for being confident in one’s sexuality, cross-dressing, transgender and gay activism and was also one of my earliest memories of losing people/artists to the new killer disease that was then being advertised in the media and on TV – AIDS.

Over and Over is another Ashford and Simpson-penned song with the lightning bolt lyrics: ‘You can’t be nobody’s lover, till you’re somebody’s friend’. This song took on a whole new meaning for me at the Ovum party at the Winter Music Conference in 1998. I was dancing hard with Alex and David (friends from San Diego), locked in the sweaty second room in front of Dimitri from Paris who played this as his final tune. We held hands and cried hugging each other.

Golden Flamingo Orchestra ft Margo Williams –‎ The Guardian Angel Is Watching Over Us
[Golden Flamingo Records, 1979]
Don’t be fooled by the lazy, stripped down funk groove of this track – it is dancefloor catnip. Patrick Adams and Peter Brown’s disco and soul/R'n'B production credentials are pretty special whilst the track is a love letter to the Guardian Angels – the sentinels over the New York subway unarmed crime-prevention controllers. It’s a quirky, catchy record that hits the spot every time.

Sounds of Blackness – The Pressure (Pt. 1) (Frankie Knuckles Classic Mix)
[Perspective Records, 1991]
I have seen the Sounds of Blackness live many times, most notably in the mid 90s at the Southport Weekender and the Royal Albert Hall where they gave an impeccable, spiritual performance that touched me so deeply it reduced me to tears. Fast forward to 2016 and I’m in my 90s gospel house obsession, ringing in the new year to the sounds of Frankie Knuckles’ sublime remix of The Pressure. Since I played it at the Vogue As You Are New Year’s party at Manchester’s Refuge it seems to be following me on my rave travels, as I’ve heard Kerri Chandler, François K, Derrick Carter and a few other DJs besides play it.

It’s one of those records that catches the socio-political zeitgeist, and technically and creatively it’s one of Frankie Knuckles’ shining remix moments (Hercules & Love Affair’s Blind is another – see below), braving clearing the dancefloor with the beat-free, heart-string thrumming, a cappella intro. Getting tantric with the build-up, holding off on dropping the beat until the anticipation almost gets the better of your crowd’s impatience and then dropping a bassline that bounces it with a sense of positivity matched only by the glory and good of Annette Nesby and the Sounds of Blackness’ soaring vocals, is perfection from start to finish.

The Pharcyde – Passin' Me By
[Delicious Vinyl, 1993]
Now there are some who think that Jazzy Jeff and Fresh Prince have the corner on summertime jams but no, The Pharcyde take the prize for me. This screams summertime with its bleepy Quincy Jones sampled keys and an atmosphere reminiscent of foaming fire hydrants, first love and that sweet sticky touch of sun cream. It drops like a dirty funk anvil on your greedy ears.

Stevie Wonder – Do I Do
[Motown, 1982]
I could have created a complete Stevie Wonder chart to be honest – it hurt just having to choose one. This is as close to an end-to-end joyfest as you could wish for, written, produced, played and sung by the genius dude in the wrap-arounds and afro. An original version that is ten and a half minutes long? Check. Signature harmonica break? Check. Dizzy Gillespie on horns? Check. Stevie Wonder rapping? Check!

It’s the ultimate feel-good track that builds like a utopian dream and just keeps on going. Dancers feet were made for (and many babies have been made to) this track. All together now… ‘My heart has been waiting / My soul anticipating your love, your love, your love love love love love’. Magical.

The Black Madonna – He is the Voice I Hear
[We Still Believe, 2016]
I fell in love with this track as soon as I opened the promo; I've reviewed it, reposted it, banged on about it ever since. I don’t intend stopping either. Starting with the risk-taking beatless, dramatic intro reminiscent of Frankie Knuckles, Leon Ware, Patrick Adams, Patrick Cowley, Norman Connors, Salsoul, Vince Montana, Kraftwerk, Underground Resistance, Jaguar, Hi-Tek Jazz, Kevin Saunderson, Larry Heard and Patrice Rushen – all these influences and inflections come to bear and yet the only thing it doesn’t have is lyrics.

Still, the loudest voice you hear is the production savvy of The Black Madonna – tech house and disco’s new reigning Queen. From Smart Bar in Chicago to Berlin and Barcelona, to XOYO in London and Hî in Ibiza – 2017 is the year of The Black Madonna and that is a wonderful thing.

Robert Palmer – Every Kinda People (Joey Negro Multicultural Multitrack Mix)
[Z Records, 2016]
There isn’t anything that the don, Dave Lee (aka Joey Negro), can’t do or recreate or make infinitely better with the original master of a track and a lock-in in his fabulous Z Records studio. This time he transforms Robert Palmer’s slightly cheesy 80s paean to peace and love into an achingly beautiful string-laden, low-slung boogie affair that might as well throw talcum powder around for the dancers like you’re at a funky Holi party.

The bassline slithers like a snake in an oil field while the strings lift all arms skywards and in praise. You can tell that music is a passion and a vocation for Joey Negro – he always breathes new life into music.

Cloud One – Atmosphere Strut
[P&P Records, 1976]
Patrick Adams and Peter Brown's squidgy synths, shimmering vibes and shuffle-step boogie beats create the now landmark psychedelic space disco workout. Add a little corner conversation, some sweet, stacked harmonies and glacial glockenspiel hits and you can float around in its solar system and enjoy the view from up there.

Change – Angel in My Pocket
[Warner Bros. Records, 1980]
There are songs to laugh and songs to cry to but this song gives you the kick in the pants you need when you're shaking your head and saying “not this time mofo.” Not one second of feeling sorry for yourself is allowed when you're lip-synching to this empowering break-up song. Change's music was so tight that it's hard to believe that it was a studio-based outfit with a revolving roster of writers, producers, singers and musicians created in Bologna and New York.

The singers included the newcomer Luther Vandross, Jocelyn Brown and Deborah Cooper. Driven by a bold, blistering bassline, trickle-down and uplifting string orchestration and etched by the diamond-tipped vocals of Jocelyn Shaw aka Jocelyn Brown, this builds like a shopping mall and sounds as fresh today as it did in 1980 when it was first released.

Daft Punk – Da Funk
[Soma, 1995]
It was going to be Around the World with the Busby Berkeley-esque dance routine but this is MY JAM, made even more special due to Spike Jonze’s award-winning dog video. Da Funk’s distorted wah-wah guitars, thudding, thumping beat and hypnotic synth loop create an ear, and brainworm par excellence. It’s a funky, sleazy, electronic club heater taken from Daft Punk’s Homework album, which I think is one of the best dance music albums ever made (OK, one of the best ever made by two white French guys). Taking in influences from rap and rock to techno and disco, the masked duo created a multi-hit time capsule that still sounds salad-crisp today.

Hercules and Love Affair – Blind (Frankie Knuckles Remix)
[DFA, 2008]
I defy anyone not to love this record and remix. This was somewhat of a comeback remix for Frankie Knuckles and a game changer for Hercules and Love Affair. The bassline is full fat funk, the spacious synth pads warmed it like gentle sunshine, the pianos drenched it in romance and then the killer trumpet hook propelled everyone to the dancefloor indiscriminately. Anthony Hegarty’s voice is sublime here and the whole package is a timeless, priceless singalong and that’s a rare thing indeed.

The Chi-Lites – My First Mistake
[Mercury, 1977]
From the first soulful chords and heartbroken lyrics to The Chi-Lites’ lush harmonies and opulent string arrangement, this is a joy to play. With a drum-fill it picks up the pace, stops being all about the boogie and becomes all about the hustle. It drives dancers crazy. I like playing the full version at the end of a set for the pure drama and cheekiness of it. If I never fall in love again, I want to make sure that I make that mistake whilst dancing to the fabulous string loops that roll and tumble over you, over and over again. Years after its original release, David Morales had a hit with Needin’ U which sampled the song to stunning effect. Wow. Just wow.

DJ Paulette plays the Gaydio Dance Arena at Manchester Pride, 25-28 Aug

Read our interview with DJ Paulette from the Jul-Aug issue of The Skinny North