HOUSE STROKES FOR DIFFERENT FOLKS:
NORMAN COOK 

On a hot Summer’s day as lockdown eased, Stuart Patterson and Dave Jarvis of Faith grabbed their buckets, spades and budgie smugglers and headed to the seaside. After fish & chips on Brighton Beach, they popped around Norman Cook’s (or Fatboy Slim to his legions of fans) house for a cup of tea and got talking about some of the most pivotal records in his life/career.

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Taken from Faith Summer '21 issue

1. Osmonds - Crazy Horses (1972)

When I was 9 years old I saw the Osmonds on TV and it had a very profound effect on me. Donny Osmond had a piano with light bulbs on that lit up when he played it, a synth ribbon controller that went ‘weeeeeeeow!’ when he stroked it and his name in studs on the back of his leather jacket. I thought ‘this is the kind of job I wanna do when I grow up’ and from that moment on I was obsessed with pop music and the collecting, creating and playing of it. Music had always been a big thing in our family but 9 year old me was already convinced that it should be my career.

2. The Damned - New Rose (1976)

In 1977 my brother came home with the first album by the Damned and said ‘have you heard of punk rock?’ He played this to me and by the time side one side ended I had already bought the LP off him and was totally sold on punk rock. It’s hard to explain sometimes just how exciting this scene was to a 14 year old me. The DIY attitude, sense of rebellion, independent labels and fashion and a sense of community outside the mainstream I think has only been matched since by the acid house scene in the late 80’s. Everyone was in a band whether they could play or not…. Or writing a fanzine, or making their own clothes or starting their own club night and punk rock for once gave me a sense of both belonging and at the same time total freedom

3.  10CC - I'm Not in Love  (1975)

This was the first time I understood the concept of record production because that record is genius, it’s not a conventional pop record - the first time I listened to it I thought how do you make that keyboard sound and those vocals. Someone said ‘that’s a Fender Rhodes through a chorus peddle’, that’s the first time I started taking records apart, sounds made by studio trickery. I read a thing about how many times they bounced down their vocals to make that wall of ‘aahs’. This was the first time I understood a record was produced and a band didn’t just go into the studio and play it, which came full circle as I ended up working in the studio in Stockport where they’d made it.  Also it’s a very emotive record as I was around 14 and you’d go to a party and it was always one of those slow records at the end of the night and you’d launch yourself across the room in the hope of getting a slow dance. When that record was on you were either on cloud nine with your tongue down a girl’s throat or sitting on your own with the hump.

 

4. Donna Summer - I Feel Love (1977) / Our Love (1979)

When it came out in 77 I was a punk and there was the whole disco sucks movement. But I had this guilty pleasure and it just did something to me, thinking this must be want what being on drugs sounds like. I probably tried to drop it into my new wave DJ sets without much success. When I moved down to Brighton and went to the club Sherry’s, there was the Patrick Cowley remix in ‘81, the 15 min dubbed out extravaganza, still to this day brings goosebumps, basically it’s acid house twenty years before, four on the floor kick drum with a dubby twisting bass line. Not a turning point but a record I really loved and that begat getting into side four of ‘Bad Girls’ her next album, which was a pretty straight up disco and ballads album. Side four was all electronic from which I’d pick ‘Our Love’ which is really minimal, it’s almost like techno but with a really sweet soul song but they kept spinning delays off the kickdrum and New Order have said that’s where they got Blue Monday off.  That was when I started listening to production and by now I’ve got a drum machine and my next door neighbour is lending me his synth so I’ve got a little portable studio and I did a cover of ‘Our Love’ which I hope I still haven’t got on a cassette because it’s probably not very good. 

 

5. The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel  (1981)

I saw Grandmaster flash supporting the Clash and was instantly fascinated by how he manipulated records. This tune was the first cut up record and is probably the most influential in my whole life. The idea of chopping records up, scratching, mixing and using the breaks of records turned me on so much and does to this very day. I spent hours searching for every breakbeat, vocal snippet and tune he used, saved up for my first set of decks spent weeks learning to scratch and mix. I was definitely the first B -boy in Reigate. I still think this is the ultimate party cut up tune. For the record I can still mime and air scratch every single cut on this track…

 

6. Afrika Bambaataa and The Soulsonic Force - Planet Rock  (1982)

In 1982 I moved to Brighton and started going to clubs every night of the week. I was suddenly hearing all these underground funk and electronic tunes that you’d never get on the radio. I was like a kid in a sweet shop devouring Gil Scott Heron, James Brown,  Bobby Orlando productions, Kraftwerk and the most striking, ground-breaking tune of them all was ‘Planet Rock’. It was our anthem… like a space ship had landed on my head that caused me to lose control of my hips. You had to have two copies so you could rework it and cut it up. This one tune begat electro as the next development of our music

7.  Banbarra - Shack Up (1975)    

I knew this tune for A Certain Ratio’s version of it but one day I accidently found the original in a junk shop. The thing that struck me most was the break in the middle of it. It was such a divine explosion of pure funk and excitement that you just waited the whole of the tune for it to happen and then it was over too quickly! Luckily I found a second copy and learnt how to extend the break to satisfy my breakbeat lust. After this random find I became an avid collector of drum breaks (which would serve me well later in my career when they invented samplers!) I was (and kinda still am) a geek/train spotter level collector of drum breaks (you should see my old notebooks…). If you play me this record now I’ll still be waiting for that whistle that introduces the break.

8. Kid N Play - Do This My Way (1988)

This was the first time we’d got the multi track when doing a remix. It was a real, ah that’s how you do it moment. It was Herbie Lovebug who had produced it and just listening to the way he’d arranged it, like doubling up the breakbeat with a kick and another sub kick on the off, adding a tambourine loop that had the scratches on the record, that give it extra grit. I learnt such much off that multitrack and that really set me on the way of remixing and using breaks to make drum tracks and using little snatches of samples and how to mix down, this really launched my remix career.

 

9. Robert Owens - I'll Be Your Friend (1991)

When house was emerging I was with The Housemartins and living up in Hull where there was no club culture at all, plus touring all the time, so I missed out on the early bits of house and the tunes I did hear I thought umm these are a bit too fast for me. So when I moved back to Brighton when The Housemartins split all my mates were going ‘ACIEED’ and i’m like I don’t want any part of this but then someone gave me a pill and I thought oh this is alright. Then some mates said ‘there’s this Boy’s Own weekender, you won’t like the music but we can do loads of pills’, so I did and about an hour into it I just had this revelation, I’m really getting into the togetherness, really feeling it and just as everything was coming together the records just going ‘I’ll be your, I’ll be your, I’ll be your and I’m like I’ll be your what? and I’m looking round the room and everyone is ‘I’ll be your’ and it’s just going on longer and longer and then it goes ‘I’ll be your friend’, I almost came in my pants, it really was a ‘ping’ moment and from then on I got house. About fifteen years later I was telling that story to Darren Emerson and he was ‘yeah that was me DJing’ and I asked him did the ‘I’ll be your’ go on for six or seven minutes? ‘Yeah I had two copies’. That was my conversion to house, I had to devour everything, find all the bits I’d missed.

 

10. Underworld - Rez (1993)

It was a record that just blew my mind, I was driving and I had to pull over. Just absolutely fascinated with how strange and different a record it was. It didn’t follow any of the rules of what pop music should be and it just messed with your head. It was the culmination of what me listening to Donna Summer and thinking this must be what being on drugs sounds like, I’d now heard this record, I’d been on drugs and this is a record that being on drugs sounds like! After hearing that I realised I didn’t want to be in Freak Power anymore. It wasn’t that I then wanted to make heavily electronic acid house records, it was just one of those records I can’t think to emanate something as beautiful and bizarre as that.  I love house records but I’m not sure if I’m that good at making them.  I prefer to enjoy them. If I love a record that’s within the genre that I’m doing it’s like why fuck why didn’t I think of that and how did they do that, rather than just sit listening to it with that innocent pleasure.

And that record of Norman’s that we wore out...

A lesser known Norman production, first heard being dropped by Tenaglia at Boy’s Own in ’96 a bonafide Soulsonic classic (and early Faith favourite) his four track sample heavy ‘Cheeky Boy’ EP that borrowed from plenty including Talking Heads, Miami Sound Machine, The Jacksons and War.