1994 – A Great Year for Dance Music


Whilst sitting reading the latest music news in Garnish HQ, it became more and more apparent what a special year 1994 was for British dance music. With so many clubs, labels and promotions celebrating 20 years in the game during 2014, it’s pretty obvious that something special was stirring in the waters two decades ago.

Mr Garnish and myself were just a couple of bright-eyed teenaged house and garage DJs in London during those heady days of 1994, yet 20 years on we can still see that certain musical seeds were sown that are still getting bigger and stronger today.

Last week we were congratulating the Manchester clubbing institution ‘Sankeys’ on their 20th birthday, then it became apparent that a number of other awesome brands were also celebrating their first appearance in 1994. ’Bugged Out’ put on their first party two decades ago and continues to be going as strong as ever in 2014.

Check out the awesome 22-minute documentary below if you don’t know much about these cutting edge promoters. When Daft Punk rings YOU to play, it’s safe to say that their parties are still some of the craziest and most underground around.

Also blowing out 20 candles on their birthday cake in 2014 is the seminal dance music record label ’20/20 Vision’. The Leeds based company was originally conceived at the legendary ‘Back to Basics’ after parties back in the early 90s and have now released 250 tracks in the last 20 years from the likes of Ivan Smagghe, Maya Jane Coles, Huxley and Paul Woolford.

Speaking about the early days, label boss Ralph Lawson, said –

2020Vision started in a farmhouse in the Rhubarb Triangle in Rothwell, just outside Leeds. The studio became known as Farmhouse Studios where myself, Carl Finlow and Huggy get to work. The 2020Vision name comes from a remix session we did where a long live dub mix ended up being exactly 20 minutes 20 seconds long. The track was too long to use and never came out, but Huggy shouted ‘No way! 2020Vision, man!’ and the name stuck!’

It wasn’t just underground sounds that caused a stir 20 years ago. 1994 was also the year that dance music started to dominate commercially, with the likes of CeCe Penniston, Eric Morillo’s Reel 2 Real and C&C Music Factory storming up the UK charts. Things really peaked in 1994 when D:Ream and Toni Di Bart both went to number one with ‘Things Can Only Get Better’ and ‘The Real Thing’ respectively. In particular, Toni Di Bart’s cross over track was something special as the original release was on ‘Cleveland City’, one of the UK’s most respected dance labels in the early 90s. The swirling chords and kick arse break beat was a huge underground hit that made the long haired, tartan trousered hordes at the Ministy of Sound and Miss Moneypenny’s break into the ‘running man’ almost instantly!

The D:Ream track may now unfortunately be remembered as the soundtrack to New Labour and Tony Blair, but to those of us who were out and about in our Nick Coleman and Destroy clothing at the time it will always have slightly different connotations.

So where did this hugely powerful creative surge come from in 1994 that is still standing the test of time today? I imagine a lot of clubbers and DJs were on the crest of a wave where anything seemed possible during those early, heady days. As David Brent said though ‘A good idea is a good idea, forever.’ and who are we to argue when such seminal brands are still enjoying the spotlight two decades later.

Will today’s labels and promoters still be going in 20 years? I guess only time will tell, but we wish them all the luck in the world. The dance music scene is very different today to how it was in 1994. For a start, nobody’s wearing a puffy shirt and leather trousers. Thank God!

*Disclaimer. Neither the author nor Dave Garnish has ever worn leather trousers. Plastic maybe!