Tracks Frankie Knuckles Built House With
In the early '80s -- the years leading up to house music being awarded an actual name -- Frankie Knuckles spent his turntable tenures at the Chicago nightclubs the Warehouse and Power Plant establishing the style's aesthetic. And as several obituaries since his death at 59 on March 31 have suggested, the perimeters of his sound ran from deep, gospel-rooted '70s disco to left-field, post-punked or synth-popped deadpan New Wave oddities out of New York and Continental Europe, from Latin-tinged cheese to leatherman sleaze to skeletal Eurodisco. His selections generally took end runs around disco's big crossover hits, opting instead for more obscure 12-inches and deep cuts, often on smaller labels like Salsoul, West End and Ze -- or even demos by local Prince mimic Jamie Principle, which initially only existed on DJ acetates or reel-to-reel.
So to one extreme you had the soul ecstasy of First Choice, Sharon Redd, Teddy Pendergrass, D Train, Sylvester, mid-'70s Jackson Five; at the other goalpost, weird birds like Telex, Yello, E.S.G, Alexander Robotnick, Arthur Russell, NYC Peech Boys. Minor league Middle Atlantic funk tracks from Fat Larry's Band, Instant Funk and Positive Force rubbed shoulders with back-room kink from the Skatt Bros., Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Patrick Adams' Phreek. But Knuckles figured out, or created, links between all this music, eventually letting its DNA crossbreed when Chicago house artists started putting out their own records in the mid-'80s. This playlist -- pieced together by referencing old Knuckles set lists compiled at gridface.com, and supplemented by two Tracks That Built The House discs on the decades-out-of-print 1988 German import 12-LP vinyl box set History of the House Sound of Chicago -- is a crash course through the genre's source material. Feel free to jack your body however you see fit.