DEF II: a teatime programming strand on BBC2, which aired at 6pm on Mondays and Wednesdays from 9 May 1988 to 23 May 1994. Its primary function was to serve the teenage market. Janet Street-Porter was head of production and followed on from her influential youth TV show Network 7 which had been broadcast on Channel 4. Many of the presenters and staff on DEF II started their careers on Network 7 and had followed Street-Porter when she was “poached” by the Birmingham Broadcasting Corporation. It had an ident featuring a barcode which differed from the usual idents used on BBC2. Programmes shown as part of DEF II included both original content, such as Reportage, as well as those from other sources, some of them American imports. These included:
DEF II: EXTRA!
The Big Trip (1994–1996)
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
The Invaders (Continued on BBC2 until the late 1990s)
The Real McCoy
The Ren and Stimpy Show
Rough Guides To The World
Standing Room Only
“I think it’s time to make the floor burn.”
Dance Energy – a series dedicated to dance, rap, and hip hop – made its debut in the DEF II Monday evening slot. Host was the energetic Normski (a JSP favourite) and the show quickly established itself as a worthy alternative to Top Of The Pops. The heavily-sampled theme tune was co-written by Dave Dorrell who went on to co-present the similar BPM. The formula for the first series was simple: artists and dancers on the studio floor. Making appearances were The Rebel MC, The Ragga Twins, Naughty By Nature and PM Dawn. There were also recorded clips like Jonathan King’s Entertainment USA which covered the far, far away US rap scene. One of my favourite sections was the Style Police: Normski ripping the piss out of people’s fashions in some shopping centre or other. Hilarious.
Inevitably there was a tie-in album. Dance Energy is described as containing “Massive Dance Hits” while the lucky acts to be get namechecked on the front cover are Snap, Massive Attack, 808 State, Caron Wheeler, Monie Love, Ashley & Jackson, A Man Called Adam, Soul II Soul “& Loads More!” It’s another in a long line of crammed vinyl LPs with the first record running for 67 minutes. Although plenty hipsters (then and now) will undoubtedly disagree, thank God for CDs. After the “strictly exclusive” Theme Two Burn Intro, we start with Xpansions stunning take on Lonnie Liston Smith’s Elevation before the righteous Everybody courtesy of the Criminal Element Orchestra. The latter was the first import track to find itself on Capital Radio’s A-List. Adamksi’s mega Killer is followed by the innovative Lisa Loud remix of Bass-O-Matic’s Fascinating Rhythm. Working beats.
CD1 continues to pump the quality. The Euro dance fever of The Cult Of Snap is followed by a superb hip hop stretch that takes in the cream of the new talent. There’s local boys Marco and Femi AKA The Young Disciples and their laidback Get Yourself Together. Also flying the flag are the rap collective Sindecut on the killer bassline of Tell Me Why. Mica Paris gets a dig out from Rakim on the soulful Contribution while Monie Love’s It’s A Shame thrives in this company. The big boss groove: Ashley & Jackson’s #89 chart-buster Solid Gold; a kind of upmarket Loadsamoney that benefited from a subsequent acid jazz remix. After the D.A.I.S.Y. age sound of Wash Your Face In My Sink (Young Disciples), along come Definition Of Sound and their debut 45 Now Is Tomorrow. Go stateside for the last three: LL Cool J’s explosive Mama Said Knock You Out, Kid Frost’s slammin’ hispanic groove La Raza (including haunting sax) and Gang Starr’s philosophical Jazz Thing.
The second disc starts with a heavily concentrated blast of UK soul. First is the rare US import remix of Soul II Soul’s People, a new decade indeed. Now available for the first time in the UK. Next are Innocence and the big funk sound of Let’s Push Hit while Caron Wheeler flies solo on Livin’ In The Light. Mid-80s stars Loose Ends shine on the solemn Don’t Be A Fool while After 7 drop a potent R&B jam Can’t Stop. Ditto for En Vogue’s Hold On. One of the finest tunes of the era was The Masterplan, a funk groove of extreme excellence performed by Diana Brown and Barrie K Sharpe (one time rare groove DJ from the 1970s). “This is our ascension day” – time for one of the greatest ever Balearic tunes, A Man Called Adam’s timeless and ultra uplifting Barefoot In The Head. Every time I play it, I go back to those days. Beaches, long walks, burning the decks of every Ibiza DJ.
“I put a seashell to my ear and it all comes back; the yellow sun . . .the Mediterranean blue, the sky, the children running on the beach that day, the kildear birds marching in formation down to the sea, and back – when my memory wanders, as it does when bad things happen, I put a seashell to my ear and it all comes back; that day . . .you.”
Damage on the dancefloor: time for a couple of indie dance anthems – The Shamen’s hypnotic Make It Mine followed by the radical fusion of funky bass and reggae in the form of I’m Free. And straight out of Bristol, it’s a crew calling themselves Massive Attack with the phenomenal beat building soundscape of Daydreaming. They’re also responsible for remixing the next tune, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s devotional Mustt Mustt in Duckpond Dub form. Bleep in Bradford! Unique 3’s haunted sparse acid Rhythm Takes Control. In the same vein and general area (Leeds), Nightmares On Wax’s masterful Aftermath, “masters of electronic African style percussion” Originally a US import, now placed on the flip of Olympic, is 808 State’s frantic Cubik. And to wind everything down, the gorgeous ‘n’ drifting Floatation by The Grid with vocals by Sacha Souter. Pure hypnotism at its hottest. If you’re looking to capture the sounds of the new decade, then get this. Quality endures.
A Man Called Adam – Barefoot In The Head
Massive Attack – Daydreaming
Diana Brown & Barrie K Sharpe – The Masterplan
The Grid – Floatation
Lest we forget
Sindecut – Tell Me Why
A pre-fame Geri Halliwell was a dancer on “Dance Energy” – I remember her saying so in her (first) autobiography and seeing a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it clip on one of those “Before They Were Famous” type shows!
Nice info Alex – I must look for that clip. I still have a few recorded on VHS.
A real good mix of sounds that I was listening to on the radio (mostly Jeff Young obvs) and, when I went to University for the last 3 months of 1990, in the clubs. And on Dance Energy itself of course!
Favourites – the brilliant but Top 40 evading debuts by Massive Attack, Definition Of Sound & The Grid plus one I didn’t really know at the time but love now: A Man Called Adam.
Useless fact: Ashley & Jackson were both teachers at a school that one of my Uni friends went to.
It’s a very solid compilation. Takes me back to college and the racks of KG Discs. I like the Ashley & Jackson tune.
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