I remember a DJ friend of mine once berating The Kelly Twins for playing A Guy Called Gerald’s “Voodoo Ray” at a club night. Apparently it was, “too obvious”. Sean and Dan Kelly got into a heated debate with said DJ, extolling the virtues of this most iconic of British house records.
Of course, “Voodoo Ray” is an obvious record, but that doesn’t stop it being brilliant. Regardless of how many times you hear it, Gerald’s first single will always be capable of sending shivers down the spine. Seriously, it’s that good.
It’s also a hugely important record. I’ve lost count of the number of British DJs and producers who told me how inspirational it was. This isn’t just because it’s a great record –that’s a given – but because it didn’t sound like it was trying to ape acid house or techno records coming out of Chicago and Detroit. To a generation of DJs, and particularly those across the north of England who may have previously encountered Gerald Simpson, it was a record made by, “one of us”. As DJ Parrot once told me, “it was like someone had taken the heartbeat of our scene and pressed it onto plastic.”
Today marks Gerald’s 50th birthday. My Editor at Red Bull Music Academy, Todd Burns, agreed with my suggestion that this would be the ideal excuse to examine the story behind the record, using first hand accounts from those involved – not to mention those who were inspired by it – to explain why it marked a seminal moment in the history of British dance music.
So, should you be interested, you can read the feature – which contains elements of an old DJ History interview with Gerald by the mighty Bill Btrewster, plus interviews with others by yours truly – over at Red Bull Music Academy Daily.
Incidentally, “Voodoo Ray” also played a key role in the development of the “bleep and bass” sound that swept the North of England between 1988 and 191. You’ll have to wait to read more about that, though; the full story is included in Join The Future, my forthcoming book about bleep.