…..Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley was at No.1 on the UK singles chart with ‘Jack Your Body’, the first ‘House’ record to top the UK chart.
Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley only made his 1986 track to amuse his friends – then it burst out of Chicago’s clubs and became a No 1 hit
January 1987’s pop charts began cosily enough. A 1957 rock’n’roll staple was No 1 (Jackie Wilson’s Reet Petite). Elkie Brooks and the Housemartins sat in the top 10. Then, like a future shock, came Jack Your Body: a track built on a scruffy, electronic beat, a squelching, pulsing bassline, and the voice of a man breathing heavily, squealing, and then stuttering its title like a mantra.
Two weeks after entering the charts, it knocked Reet Petite off No 1, then held George Michael and Aretha Franklin’s I Knew You Were Waiting For Me off the top a week later. It did so without being played on Radio 1, and without the artist behind it, Steve “Silk” Hurley, appearing on British TV and radio (when it reached No 1, the only video Top of the Pops could show was one of those compilation clips of old footage of dance crazes, with some half-hearted animations dropped in). Thirty years on, it remains the most mysterious early success for a sound that would overwhelm the UK a year later – house music – and holds within it the tale of an artist who missed his moment as the biggest star in the country, and another about the burgeoning power of the British club scene.
Jack Your Body’s story begins in Chicago in 1983, where an 21-year-old DJ from a middle-class family is moving away from home because his father won’t let him play clubs. “I’d spent my teens making pause-button tape edits of songs in my bedroom, working in a grocery store to buy turntables. My dad couldn’t understand it. He wanted me home by 12 every night, so I was like: ‘See you, Dad!’”
Now 54, Hurley speaks warmly and effusively from the headquarters of his small dance label, S&S, still in Chicago. His early days making music (both in underground clubs, and as part of Hot Mix 5 on influential radio show Saturday Night Live Ain’t No Jive on Chicago station WBMX) involved him sharing a room in a “horrible, really degenerate neighbourhood” with another DJ, Farley Jackmaster Funk, who had a hit with a version of an old Isaac Hayes song, I Can’t Turn Around that Hurley had originally made on his four-track when they lived together. “He used my arrangement, he used my keyboard riffs, and I was really upset at the time,” Hurley says, “but I try not to have regrets”. Love Can’t Turn Around, featuring the vocals of Darryl Pandy, became the first UK house hit, reaching No 10 in August 1986.
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You can buy the original 12″ vinyl of ‘Jack Your Body’ from eil.com here