Bassheads – Is There Anybody Out There? (Extended)

Bassheads originate from Birkenhead on the Wirral and are named after club night The Bassment which DJ and band member Desa started in 1988.

With the help of bandmate Nick Murphy, Desa used a reel-to-reel tape machine he’d bought (a Revox B77) to blend samples and loops into unique pieces to play at the club.

This was the height of the acid house and rave scene of course, and the genre was developing rapidly.

The underground nature of the scene meant independent and often anonymous acts were releasing white label 12” singles directly into radio and clubs, and new anthems were being born every week.

Bassheads were one such act, and had played out several of their cuts in their own sets before they released ‘Is There Anybody Out There?’ as a 12” white label in 1991.

Their original version sampled Pink Floyd heavily in its intro, and also included uncleared samples by the Osmonds, Talking Heads, Afrika Bambaataa and Ruffneck featuring Cheri Williams.

It’s success on the rave scene quickly spread Bassheads name way beyond Birkenhead, and later in 1991 Deconstruction records signed the track, and a remade version became a top 5 hit in the UK.

The Pink Floyd sample was removed for the commercially released version, and other samples were recreated to reduce the need to obtain full permissions from the rights holders for each.

But the journey of this track is interesting not just because of the need to remake it for commercial release.

It’s also helps to illustrate the natural dynamic of any underground scene that grows sufficiently to cross over into the mainstream.

As the acid house scene grew, Deconstruction Records set themselves up, primarily to distribute and market house anthems.

Thanks to distribution deals with Parlophone and RCA, they were soon able to score top 10 hits not only with Bassheads, but also with K-Klass, Robert Miles, Felix and M-People, amongst others.

Just six years after its formation, the label was bought by BMG, and such was its growth in that period, both in terms of size and reputation, that shortly after the buy-out, the label was able to sign Kylie Minogue.

As for Bassheads, they soon release an album C.O.D.E.S. through Deconstruction and achieved several more top 40 hits in the early 1990s, most notably with ‘Back To The Old School’.

But this was their anthem, and whether in its original white-label version with original samples, or in this slightly more polished commercial release, it’s a track that still regularly rocks dancefloors in the UK and beyond.

On to the record itself then, and the sleeve is in the Deconstruction house style, designed by 3a.

Colours changed from one release to the next but the fonts and layout remained the same, keeping design costs down, and building a strong identity which contributed to the label’s success.

The 12” single contains the “extended” version of ‘Is There Anybody Out There?’ and a version of b-side ‘Non Verbal Communication’ on the reverse.

Given that the extended a-side is virtually the same length and structure as the original white-label, it isn’t actually extended at all, and it would have been more appropriate for this to be called the original version, and the 7” to be called the truncated version, albeit that that would have defied convention.

Either way, this 12” is a superb product of a scene that had an energy and intensity that has rarely been matched since, and which saw many other dance anthems make the journey from the British provinces to a global stage.

Label: Deconstruction
Cat No: 12R 6303
Year: 1991

Depeche Mode – Everything Counts (In Larger Amounts)

Mute Records was formed in the UK in 1978 by the electronic solo artist Daniel Miller, in order to release one of his own singles through the Rough Trade chain of record stores.

The success of his first single, ’T.V.O.D./Warm Leatherette’ (the latter was later covered by both Grace Jones and Chicks on Speed) meant the label continued, and was soon on a mission to build up its roster.

Miller had watched Depeche Mode perform in London in 1980 when he invited them to record a single for his fledgling label. They agreed, releasing ‘Dreaming of Me’ in early 1981, which didn’t make the top 40.

But Daniel and Mute would very quickly help the band establish themselves as a major act.

Within two years ‘New Life’, ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’, ‘See You’, ‘The Meaning of Love’, ‘Leave in Silence’ and ‘Get The Balance Right’ had all made the top 20 in the UK, along with two top 10 albums, ‘Speak & Spell’ and ‘A Broken Flame’.

Despite this prolific spell for both band and label, this release arrived with each experiencing a degree of flux. Depeche Mode keyboard player Vince Clarke had by now left to form Yazoo with Alison Moyet, and the label was rapidly expanding itself in order to be able to continue supporting the band rather than pass duties over to a major label.

Maybe it shouldn’t be too surprising then then that ‘Everything Counts’, the lead single from their forthcoming ‘Construction Time Again’ album, had a markedly different sound to the band’s previous more pure synth-pop singles.

The first notable change was that whilst lead vocalist Dave Gahan sang the verses, songwriter Martin Gore sang the choruses – the first time this clear sharing of vocal duties had occurred.

The track’s subject matter was also new territory for the band, referencing the corporate greed of the era that was also documented in Pet Shop Boys’ ‘Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots Of Money)’ amongst others.

And finally the use of found and industrial sounds moved the band towards a much harder and grittier sound than the precision electronics Vince Clarke had now migrated across to Yazoo.

A degree of risk in the approach then, but apparently well calculated given that ‘Everything Counts’ became the band’s best charting single worldwide, and provided them with a style that translated very well to lucrative stadium and arena environments.

Indeed, ‘Everything Counts’ very quickly became a crowd favourite both as a show opener and closer on different tours, and a live version, complete with crowd singalong, was released to promote the spectacular live album, film, and photography project ‘101’ six years later.

The band would go from strength to strength after this release of course, with a succession of hugely successful albums and more than 20 more top 20 hits in the UK, and around the world.

Even at the time of writing, more than three decades later, Depeche Mode still regularly sell out stadiums around the world.

As for this 12”, it features a tidily mixed extended version on the A-side. The remix brings to the fore some of the subtler elements of the 7″ mix, and separates vocals in a clearer and more polarised fashion across the stereo spectrum.

The reverse also features just one track, an extended version of the 7” B-side ‘Work Hard’.

Like so many extended mixes from this era, the extended version helps the listener unravel the components of the track and understand a little more about the 7″ arrangement and decisions taken within it. The emergence of these mixes in the early 1980s lifted the slightly on the DNA of the shorter single and album versions, which is in part what makes them such rewarding listens.

We benefit here from the absence of the 7” version or other extra tracks, which means the grooves on both sides are spread across the full width of the available vinyl for just a single track, resulting in a loud and high quality listening experience.

This combined with the sparse hand drawn artwork on a textured matt card sleeve leaves us with a release which is arguably as good as any in representing a truly pivotal time for a band and label that would both go on to become institutions of British electronic music in the 80s, 90s and beyond.

Label: Mute Records
Cat No: 12BONG3
Year: 1983