A brief history of an electronic music institution, and a nod to the archetypal archiver.
A whole series of superlatives were unleashed in the Dummy office this week when Das Boy’s unrivalled Soundcloud archive of BBC Radio 1 Essential Mixes was uncovered.
Reaching back all the way to 30th October, 1993, this 909-strong (and counting) encyclopedia of modern electronic music history is a rich goldmine of seminal moments, bridging the gaps between genres with simple and effective impartiality. The show has hit a number of impressive milestones during its lifetime. In April 2010, Belgian duo Aeroplane became the 500th artist, DJ or group to roll out an Essential Mix selection. It was the first British radio show to broadcast a live show from Ibiza and online listening figures only are rumoured to top 50,000 listens per week.
The concept of The Essential Mix was dreamt up by Eddie Gordon who produced the show alongside its host, Pete Tong, from the very beginning in ’93. Markedly different from the multi-cassette, mixtape boxsets of the same era – usually recorded straight from the system of a massive rave – it heralded an opportunity for DJs to work a more discerning audience, while simultaneously showing off their music knowledge and bigging-up their own productions.
The listing and archiving of music is widely synonymous with obsessive, usually male, fans who are often unfairly portrayed as sweaty, chain-smoking, antisocial hermit types. But it’s rare that critics take the time to acknowledge the time, energy and pure passion it takes to develop the archives and playlists we take for granted. Sadly (for some), the days of waiting up until 2am to push record on your cassette recorder, then hoping you’ll wake 45 minutes later to turn the tape over and repeat, are long gone. Instead, there are generous and long-suffering saviours out there like Das Boy, who do the job for us – and do it much more effectively.
10 notable Essential Mixes
Paul Oakenfold | December 1994 | Oakenfold’s set was voted the greatest ever Essential Mix, by listeners, in 2000.
David Holmes | June 1997 | Received high praise for it’s genre-diversity, helping establish the show as a launchpad for DJs looking to flex their musical muscles.
Ashley Beedle | May 1998 | Despite his house roots, Beedle rolled out a 2-hour reggae extravaganza, attacking a genre he wasn’t widely associated with.
Carl Cox | December 1999 | Cox bagged arguably the most desirable Essential Mix slot of all time, and saw in the turn of the Millenium.
MJ Cole | June 2000 | The epitome of a genre-specific Essential Mix. Right at the peak of the UK Garage movement, Cole’s mix was a perfect scene showcase.
Plastician, Digital Mystikz and Rolldeep | February 2006 | Proof, if any was necessary, that the Essential Mix has long been at the forefront of new musical innovation.
Flying Lotus | November 2008 | An important step towards FlyLo’s emergence as a global force to be reckoned with. Won the Essential Mix of the year award in 2008.
DJ Mehdi and Busy P | November 2009 | In remembrance of French DJ and Producer, Mehdi, who died in tragic circumstances in September 2011.
Four Tet | January 2010 | Yet another seminal moment, marking out another on the long list of UK super-producers to be handed a coveted Essential Mix session.
Aeroplane | April 2010 | Celebrated as the 500th artist, DJ, or group to record an essential Mix were Belgian outfit, Aeroplane.