I really don’t like all these convenience product edits of rare or popular Disco and Synthpop material. With a bit of experience and practice you can learn the skills necessary to handle the original irregularities of drummers or sloppy rhythm programming, and maintain the already well executed aspects of the original arrangement over the DJ service straightness of most edits. I like people who deconstruct the source material and turn it into something else, even if it is only a respectful variation. I just do not see much merit in keeping the original and just streamlining it for better mixing. I am perfectly aware that this criticism may seem pointless, as most of today’s club setups for mixing are designed to have the choice what to play next as the only task left for the DJ, if at all. I have Zager and Evans’ In The Year 2525 in my head, predicting “some machine is doing that for you”.
When DJs began to make their own edits of tracks they liked to play in the late 70s, better mixing purposes admittedly played a role. But mostly the editing process was determined by personal preferences concerning the arrangement of a track, not determined by the aim to reduce every track to the same groove and functionality, regardless of arrangement. So they took out tape and scissors, and made intros end up in a kick drum in time, extended or cut breaks and other parts, dropped instruments or vocals they did not like, and often improved the source with individual versions and interpretations.
Many daring edits of that era were officially released, but the most radical approaches were to be found in the catalogues of the remix services. Disconet led the way in 1977, and soon all over the US and Europe DJs and producers were splicing reel-to-reels to let a certain track shine in the best possible way, and the remix services like hot Tracks, Razormaid, Ultimix, Art Of Mix, C.S., Landspeed and countless others gathered the results and distributed them back to the clubs. The records compiling the edits often contained original tracks and medleys as well, and tracks were segued to make the work for the DJ easier, who often played for hours on end in those days, several nights a week. The selection of the tracks per release was often frustrating. With a few sublime reworks there were also tracks included that were well cheesy to begin with, and did not get better after being worked on. Eurodance cheese, weird rock songs trying to cross over to the dance market, and lots of one hit wonders, with questionable hits. There was no other reason for the tracklisting than songs being pushed regardless of quality, and of course the individual taste of the editor at work. The edits also varied in quality, a lot were even rather crude, or as forgettable as the original material. But there were also a lot of edits that reconstructed what they were given to work with to a whole new level. Take Razormaid’s edit of the Pet Shop Boys’ West End Girls for example. The intro is easier to mix in their version, but were the official Shep Pettibone remix arguably sacrifices the song’s special appeal for dancefloor credentials, Razormaid manage to keep the tension by rearranging the elements and still achieve a track that works a treat in a club context.