Black and white image of UK Garage night, from behind the decks

A Garage Mixtape

Tapes had two sides, both 45 minutes long. You had that long to say what you needed to say and then it was time to move on. We’re bringing that challenge back. 45 minutes to convince someone why they should like a certain band, artist, genre, or era.

‘Re-re-wind, when the crowd say bo selecta’

And so it all began, hearing those words on the radio for the first time. Long before they became bywords for grotesque parody, we shouted them in the school playground even though nobody knew what the hell ‘bo selecta’ meant. Garage wasn’t new in 1999, but this was the first time it had truly crossed over into chart success. This, coupled with the early days of illegal downloading, suddenly made these underground sounds accessible to those of us too young and too far away to have heard them before. This is where my brief obsession with garage began before it was ruined by Oxide & Neutrino’s shitty samples a few short months later. None of that on this tape: 45 (ish) minutes of the best for you. 

187 Lockdown – ‘Gunman’ (3:38)

A far more believable ‘bo selecta’ than the polished Craig David version. This is technically speed garage so will sound a little different from the more familiar two-step that was characteristic of UK Garage. Picked the radio edit to save me some tape space for later.

Sneaker Pimps – ‘Spin Spin Sugar (Armand’s Dark Garage Mix)(9:03)

Again speed garage, but this track (along with Double 99’s ‘RIP Groove’ which I didn’t have the space for here) is another essential precursor. One of the great remixes in that it builds perfectly on the trip-hoppy original to create something entirely new. I realise I could have fit three songs in this same nine minute space, but I love this one too much to leave it out.

Sia – ‘Little Man – Exemen Works’ (5:04)

The first appearance on this tape from Wookie under his Exemen guise. Another classic remix that transforms a good song into a brilliant one. Enjoys the ‘random instrument riff’ garage trademark, in this case dodgy steel pans.

Wookie – ‘What Going On’ (5:06)

Wookie again. This time as Wookie. It was tough to choose from all the great Wookie tunes. I picked this because you’ll be able to sing along even if you’ve never heard it. Play it and find out why. Still annoyed that bizarrely this is missing from the vinyl version of the album though.

Roy Davis Junior ft. Peven Everett – ‘Gabriel (Live Garage Mix)(7:24)

Another long’un. Told you I needed the space. I don’t remember hearing this at the time but apparently it was massive in clubs and stuff. What do I know, I was 11 when it came out. Another early track that sounds pretty different and hopefully one that can convince anyone put off garage by more recent chart horrors.

MJ Cole – ‘Sincere’ (3:58)

MJ Cole had to make an appearance on this mixtape but again I was torn over which song to pick. In the end it’s ‘Sincere’ which makes it over the more famous ‘Crazy Love’. At the chilled end of the garage spectrum.

DJ Luck & MC Neat – ‘A Little Bit of Luck’ (5:50)

First appearance from an MC in this list. Does anyone know what he was on about? Whatever it was, MCing in this style was a key part of what made garage into UK Garage. That vocal style with its roots in reggae would later combine with hip-hop influences to create grime, the biggest original genre to come out of this country possibly ever.

Body Groove – ‘Architechs’ (5:15)

Right. The history lesson is over so let’s finish with something towards the trashier end of UKG and have some fun. The video couldn’t look more turn of the millennium – it has a Nokia 5110 in it.

So there we have it. Hopefully I’ve convinced you there is more to this genre than the Casualty theme tune and So Solid Crew’s basic maths. Two multiplied by ten, plus one. James done.

Words by James Spearing

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