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by Linda Ryan

July 22, 2013

The Best Baggy Beats

by Linda Ryan  |  July 22, 2013

"Baggy," that distinctive, shuffling beat -- often accompanied by wah-wah pedal-fueled guitar riffs -- was the foundation for a number of British hits in the late '80s and well into the '90s. At the start, the name baggy referred to the over-zealously flared jeans and oversized T-shirts that the young clubbers in Northern England favored. The style was a nod to the '60s (as were the Byrds-like bowl cuts many sported), reinvented by a new generation heavily into casual football (the soccer kind) wear -- you know, tracksuits. Similarly, the sound was the result of '60s guitar rock influences filtered through dance music.

Baggy's single most distinctive trait is the shuffling, "Funky Drummer"-derived beat, which lent itself to both the rave scene that was blowing up at the Hacienda club in Manchester, England, as well as Britain's emerging indie scene. This was the beat that defined and shaped baggy, and in the end, it was the same beat that (over)killed it. It was a quick flash in the pan as far as music trends go, and it wasn't long before baggy bands chose sides, with some morphing into proper electronic bands (808 State) and others veering to the more commercial pop side (Blur, The Charlatans), spearheading the Britpop movement in the process.

But the bands that add the greatest flavor to this playlist are the bandwagon-jumpers, the one-and-dones who offered up disposable nuggets to be heard, enjoyed and promptly forgotten. The mix is also full of bands that tried the baggy beat on for kicks before moving on to something more mainstream. These bands often topped the charts, giving weight to the notion that the baggy formula was a commercial winner -- at least for a little while.

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