Sterling Void – It’s Alright
‘One of those classics that House music is built upon’ – DJ Spen
‘The track I want played at my funeral’ – Jam City
‘It’s been imprinted on my brain since I was 14’ – Adesse Versions
The statement ‘House music classic’ is surely an overused one, but in the case of Sterling Void’s seminal ‘It’s Alright’, you won’t hear many complaints. Originally released on Chicago’s DJ International, it’s often described as one of the first ever House tracks with a positive message. A true anthem during the UK’s ‘Second Summer of Love’ in 1988, here at Toolroom we’re proud to re-release this majestic track – alongside four special remixes – to celebrate 30 years since music and youth culture changed forever.
Duane Pelt – aka Sterling Void – hails from the South Side of Chicago. Growing up in the neighborhood, he used to DJ at house parties from a young age, quickly gravitating to the city’s nascent House scene and becoming a regular at the likes of the Power Plant and Muzix Box. Eventually, he moved into an apartment with the one and only Marshall Je
“I followed in Marshall’s footsteps,” Duane says. Quickly buying a Roland TR-707 and TR-727 drum machines and an Ensoniq ESQ-1 sampling keyboard, he soon started collaborating with vocalist Paris Brightledge, a newphew of a former bandmate. With a studio session paid from the insurance payout from a motorcycle accident, magic was made between these three. With Jefferson and Sterling on the keys, and Paris’ soaring, beautiful and heartfelt vocals, a classic was created.
‘There’s really nothing that could ever come close to the original version, with its raw piano, bass and drum sounds’ says DJ Spen. ‘The vinyl pressing, which by today’s standards was quite horrible, actually helped create the characteristics of the sound back in the day.’
Released on DJ International – on an admittedly bad vinyl pressing – the track was of course adored in Chicago and beyond. But unbeknown to Sterling, Marshall and the rest of the original House music producers of Chicago, a scene was brewing across the pond that would change youth culture forever.
House music had been slowly building across the UK from around 1986 onwards, with a few select DJs playing out early Chicago tunes in amongst a variety of other genres. Famously though, it was four young friends who went on a holiday to the island of Ibiza, who brought back the determination to replicate what they’d seen on the White Island in UK clubland.
Danny Rampling, Jonny Walker, Nicky Holloway and Paul Oakenfold’s lives changed forever in the summer 1987. They went along to the open-air after-hours club Amnesia, which featured Argentinian resident DJ Alfredo. The way he weaved music together seamlessly, creating a hedonistic and unified mood on the dancefloor, stayed with the four friends, and inspired them to bring back the waves of empathy they felt to 1980s London. Seminal clubs such as Shoom and Future (amongst others) were established, bringing a coherent vision of a House music night to London for the first time. Popularity built from late 1987 though to the summer of 1988 – when all of a sudden, the scene exploded.
‘When Paul Oakenfold opened Spectrum on a Monday night, everyone laughed and thought it would never get off the ground’ said Mark Moore. ‘But the first night 200 people came and had a brilliant time and within weeks there were queues around the block.’ The touchpaper had been lit – later that summer Nicky Holloway was offered the Astoria for his club night ‘The Trip.’ ‘I thought if we could close off the upstairs we could maybe fill the downstairs part of the club, which was 600 people. But on the opening night we had 1,200 people’.
Soon, House music took over the rest of the country, with thousands of young clubbers taking to clubs, warehouses, fields and any spaces they could find to dance all night to this new genre. Undoubtedly Ectsasy played a role – creating a uniquely unified, loved-up mood. There was a new era of openness and acceptance – as if from going from black and white, to bright technicolour.
The lyrics of ‘It’s Alright’ by Sterling Void encapsulated this mood perfectly, and so it’s no surprise the track found its way into the hearts and minds of clubbers at the time. A huge hit, it went on to be covered by the Pet Shop Boys and was one of the first House records to be a crossover hit.
30 YEARS SINCE THE SUMMER OF LOVE
It’s been 30 years since the Summer of Love, and to celebrate this monumental milestone in our scene, we wanted to celebrate with a very special remix package. ‘It’s Alright is one of my all-time House music favourites’ says label boss Mark Knight. ‘I think one thing Toolroom has done well over the years is handle classic remix packages with the respect the originals deserve, and I think we’ve really delivered on this project.’
First up on remix duties is one of house music’s most intriguing artists. ‘The original track has been imprinted on my brain since I was 14’ says the inimitable Adesse Versions. ‘So it was an honour to be asked.’ Putting a twist on the track, while keeping its essence, his remix just says ‘classic house.’ ‘I’ve re-introduced the vocal by contrasting it against completely new music. I also used the 707 drum machine, because it was the iconic drum machine of the late 80s.’
Expect to hear this raw but warm remix all summer long – Adesse Versions has already dropped it in Berghain on a Sunny Sunday afternoon.
‘It’s a song that I never, ever imagined remixing’ says DJ Spen. ‘What made this track even more special was when I asked Will ‘Reelsoul’ Rodriguez to work with me on it and he was even more excited than I was.’
DJ Spen’s soulful, jazzy remix has added another layer of musicality to the sublime original. Not many producers can work a vocal like Spen, and the end result of his remix is glorius.
‘The hard part was making sure that everything was as in key is we could possibly make it – being that the vocal was recorded back in the 80s. So it ended up being a lot of work, but we enjoyed every minute of it.’
AMINE EDGE & DANCE
‘We were honoured to be asked for this project’ says Marseille duo Amine Edge & Dance. ‘Firstly we listened to the vocal, because we really wanted to keep the true, positive and heartfelt meaning of the song. After that, we built the track around that.’
Label boss Mark also was dead-set on doing the track justice. ‘It’s an all-time classic for me, one of those tracks that’s never really left my head’ says Mark. ‘It was an honour just to get the parts to be honest. I wanted to make a different track, but somehow keep the essence of the original. Hopefully I’ve achieved that with this remix.’
For the artwork, we also wanted to do something special. Dave Little designed some of the most iconic artwork of the early UK house music scene, with his designs for club nights Spectrum and Future, and the legendary Boys Own Fanzine, now considered iconic.
‘Acid house and the summer of love changed youth culture forever’ says Dave. ‘The government at the time was quite oppressive – so when this new scene came along, this completely new culture with it’s own fashion and music and drug, it just took over. For this artwork, I wanted to give a nod back to these times, when artwork wasn’t discarded as easily as it is today.’
Seminal clubs such as Shoom and Future (amongst others) were established, bringing a coherent vision of a House music night to London for the first time. Popularity built from late 1987 though to the summer of 1988 – when all of a sudden, the scene exploded.
As Mixmag has recently put it, the summer of love left a legacy. It changed our views on sexuality, race and class. It influenced advertising, film-making and art. It worried governments so much they introduced legislation to control it. And the values of the Summer of Love continue to influence a generation of young clubbers today. There may be a generation’s difference between then and now, but the music and culture lives on.
As Paris Brightledge’s lyrics say – “Generations come and go, but there’s one thing for sure. Music is our life’s foundation.”
Adesse Versions puts it best. ‘It’s still a great message. My life experience is different to that of an 18 year old today, but we can both feel the power of this music in exactly the same way. Good music transcends age, language and culture, it is a unifying timeless force.’