A friend of mine had me go back on a quest to the 80's the other day. The 1980's that is, with all its artifacts. It made me think of a phenomenon very connected to this era, the 12" "maxi" single. What was that all about? I usually bought them because they sounded better than the normal 7" single, but was I happy with them? You got the hit song all right, but often you got much more than you asked for really. The classic 12" single was in most cases an over-edited version of an already perfect song. The alterations were made only to make it bigger and longer, more suitable for dancing, which basically meant you got a lot more drum machine and random samples of the normal song scattered all over the place. For a long time I was fully convinced that the dance mix was something created by New York disc jockeys at the close of the disco era, around 1980. Naturally I was wrong.
Let me prove my case. Now, let's go further back in time to a more familiar era, closer to the intentions with this blog. Let's see if we can find any special dance mixes. The erliest example I have found dates back to 1914 when the duo Harlan & Collins made the first recording of the classic Feilds/Donovan hit song Aba Daba Honeymoon.
Original 1914 sheet music cover.
At this time there were mainly two consumer formats available on the market. The shellac disc and the cylinder. The normal cylinder had a playing time of just over two minutes, which was a bit short for a song. This limitation was one of the reasons the discs were gaining in popularity over the cylinders as they often contained more music. The last form of cylinders that was developed had however a playing time of up to four minutes and was superior to the disc in sound quality. And for a brief period of time, just before the First World War, the cylinder had its last minutes of fame.
The manufacturers often had to release both a disc and a cylinder version of the same song to reach all consumers. With the extended playing time of the new cylinders the dance mix was born!
Listen to these two fine recordings of the same song with the same artists, probably recorded the same day but in different formats. We start with the normal version from a Victor disc.
The four minute version contains a lot more sound effects, bells and whistles and is of course longer, even though it's played considerably faster. It simply have all the ingredients of an extended dance mix.
It was Debbie Reynolds and Carleton Carpenter who had the biggest success with Aba Daba Honeymoon as it was featured in one of Debbie's first movies Two Weeks With Love in 1950.
For more splendid cylinders and possible dance mixes from the past, please visit The Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project.