Roots of the remixing of sounds
Since the beginnings of
recorded sound in the late 19th century, technology has enabled people to rearrange the normal listening experience. With the advent of easily editable magnetic tape in the 1940s and 1950s and the subsequent development of
multitrack recording, such alterations became more common. In those decades the experimental genre of
musique concrète used tape manipulation to create sound compositions. Less artistically lofty edits produced medleys or
novelty recordings of various types.
Modern remixing had its roots in the dance hall culture of late-1960s/early-1970s
Jamaica. The fluid evolution of music that encompassed
dub was embraced by local music mixers who deconstructed and rebuilt
tracks to suit the tastes of their audience. Producers and engineers like Ruddy Redwood,
King Tubby and
Lee "Scratch" Perry popularized stripped-down
instrumental mixes (which they called "versions") of reggae tunes. At first they simply dropped the vocal
tracks, but soon more sophisticated effects were created, dropping separate instrumental tracks in and out of the mix, isolating and repeating
hooks, and adding various effects like echo,
delay. The German
Neu! also used other effects on side two of their album
Neu! 2 by manipulating their previously released single
Super/Neuschnee multiple ways, utilizing playback at different turntable speeds or mangling by using of a cassette recorder.
From the mid-1970s, DJs in early discothèques were performing similar tricks with
disco songs (using loops and
tape edits) to get dancers on the floor and keep them there. One noteworthy figure was
Tom Moulton who invented the dance remix as we now know it. Though not a DJ (a popular misconception), Moulton had begun his career by making a homemade mix tape for a Fire Island dance club in the late 1960s. His tapes eventually became popular and he came to the attention of the music industry in New York City. At first Moulton was simply called upon to improve the aesthetics of dance-oriented recordings before release ("I didn't do the remix, I did the mix"—Tom Moulton). Eventually, he moved from being a "fix it" man on pop records to specializing in remixes for the dance floor. Along the way, he invented the
breakdown section and the
12-inch single vinyl format.
Walter Gibbons provided the dance version of the first commercial 12-inch single ("
Ten Percent", by
Double Exposure). Contrary to popular belief, Gibbons did not mix the record. In fact his version was a
re-edit of the original mix. Moulton, Gibbons and their contemporaries (
Tee Scott, and later
Larry Levan and
Shep Pettibone) at
Salsoul Records proved to be the most influential group of remixers for the
disco era. The Salsoul catalog is seen (especially in the UK and Europe) as being the "canon" for the disco mixer's art form. Pettibone is among a very small number of remixers whose work successfully transitioned from the disco to the House era. (He is certainly the most high-profile remixer to do so.) His contemporaries included
Arthur Baker and
Contemporaneously to disco in the mid-1970s, the dub and disco
remix cultures met through Jamaican immigrants to
the Bronx, energizing both and helping to create
hip-hop music. Key figures included
DJ Kool Herc and
Grandmaster Flash. Cutting (alternating between duplicate copies of the same record) and
scratching (manually moving the vinyl record beneath the turntable needle) became part of the culture, creating what
Slate magazine called "real-time, live-action collage." One of the first mainstream successes of this style of remix was the 1983 track
Herbie Hancock, as remixed by
Grand Mixer D.ST.
Malcolm McLaren and the creative team behind
ZTT Records would feature the "cut up" style of hip hop on such records as "