A Brief History Of Southside Chicago’s Underground Movement

Jamie 3:26‘s musical journey has been shaped by the sound and culture of his home of Chicago; an ethos that continues to permeate everything he puts his hands to.

Growing up in Beverly on the South Side of the city, he found himself immersed in the underground scene, listening to the pioneers before him and honing his own craft at basement house parties, in turn leading him to his residencies at The Basement and The Note. During that formative time in South Side Chicago’s underground, sounds like Italo, soul, disco, rock, punk and new wave all came under the umbrella of underground and house, before electronic music was categorised by its geographical origin.

Jamie continued that appreciation of his roots on his latest release for BBE Music, a seven-track edit compilation that traces a moment of time for the city’s underground scene. A Taste of Chicago unveils that hidden movement that Jamie 3:26 was part of and marks out some of the personal edits he played during his notable residencies.

In the same vein, he takes us through some of the jams that soundtracked the dance floor during that period…

Where does your love for Southside Chicago’s underground movement stem from?

I came up in this culture and live it everyday. My love for it came naturally, starting with the fascination of the DJ and their effect on the crowd and party. They were in charge of the mood and vibe and in control. Growing up there were so many parallels between the Chicago house movement and history and Hip Hop culture. They both started in the streets with street DJs and were true underground culture first and foremost.

They also had parallels regarding what encompasses the make up of the scenes. A style of dress, a way of talking, dance, even the discovery of unknown breaks and beats and the digging culture. Keeping elusive jams exclusive by blacking out labels and not sharing certain tracks. We also used various records from our parent’s collections and so forth.

Every neighborhood and side of town had their own DJs and certain sounds and styles that were different. The common denominator was EVERYONE mimicked and was influenced from the radio shows, but then added their own flavor to that recipe. I would find all kinds of college, low powered stations that just played mixes. Even if it meant that I had to move the radio around to get a clear signal or go over to my grandparents house on the east side of town to record off the radio.

What marks out a record from the Southside Chicago underground movement, compared to the rest of the genre?

There’s no simple way to put it, because what made up the genre house and underground jams were a gumbo of different sounds from various genres. All that had a different meaning and influence locally. What we consider house, deep house and underground in Chicago, crosses genres including: soul, disco, rock, punk, new wave and Italo. Italo and B side disco for sure, but we just called it all house and this is before the electronic aspect of locally done tracks. So to an outsider, what they may consider as even electro, it falls under house to us here in Chicago.

Anything that was progressive, another term the Midwest used, was basically fresh, cutting edge music, mainly imports. We may play it pitched up, or slowed down – it really was a regional thing. Some cuts that may have even been played at regular speed and frowned upon being played differently, was embraced in a totally different way in the Midwest and most def Chicago.

What record from the Southside Chicago underground movement has left the biggest impression on you as a DJ, and why?

This is another one that’s very hard to pinpoint or just name one jam, because there’s so many elements to this and how it shaped me. The Midwest was one place in the country where a lot of punk, rock and alternative music was embraced by the black youth, especially in the 80s. Rock Lobster is a very influential tune that was major here in Chicago, especially with the punk out scene, which is two steps before the house culture evolved into what it became.

There was the GQ disco scene, then punk out, then preppie, then house/progressive, deep house/underground. That’s the true Chicago evolution of this culture and scene. If I had to use one song that crossed lines, that would be Martin Circus – Disco Circus.

It’s a tune that stayed in rotation in the evolution and had a huge impact on me, from just being a kid sneaking in neighborhood house parties to me first getting into learning DJ tricks. Doubles of the record was necessary, to cut, trick, phase and loop breaks.
Additional tracks!

Liaisons Dangereuses – ‘Los Niños del Parque’

This one here from the band Liaisons Dangereuses dropped in 81 and is a foundational cut. Was played on every scene and the album was so progressive and ahead of it’s time. We played many cuts off of the album in Chicago. It was huge in Chicago and Detroit and a very important piece of the puzzle. First heard it rocked hard at a neighborhood house party and it’s in slang Spanish and many folks would make up words or singing word for word in the foreign language. Just a dark and sleazy tune and its most def house and underground.

Trilogy – ‘Not Love’

This jam here was an import and while others may call it Italo, to us in Chicago, we called most Italo tunes imports. Didn’t even really use the term Italo. This is another one that started off on the punk out scene, then crossed over another generation to the preppie scene. This one was often tricked out and also both the instrumental and vocal versions were cut up, so when I did eventually get the record, I couldn’t understand why it didn’t sound the same, like I heard in mixes. Once I peeped out cats hot mixing and cutting it up later, then I caught on. Imports also weren’t cheap, so if you had doubles of import jams, you had loot lol! Those drums would play and folks knew what was up, then that synth bass line, and the guitar… It would be on baby!!!! ON.

Melodious Myles and Bo – ‘Odyssey Love’

This jam here was made by a brother I went to high school with, Vic Houston. This jam tore our school dances up. He even had a write up in the school paper about his release. This one falls under what we call Deep House and you can hear the Heard influence on this jam. I can even recall it being used in a radio bumper on the college radio station WKKC. This is classic Chicago underground deep house.

Lil Louis – ‘How I Feel’

I could write a book on how much Lil Louis had an impact on me as a head and as a DJ. He’s one of the Gods in this thang and one of the pioneers and architects of house and underground culture in Chicago. The DJ who took branding to another level and also the first DJ/promoter. His parties were elite and had the best crowd, dancers, sound and all around experience. You had to go to his parties to hear his sound and tracks. That’s what also made him a beast because if you were a serious disco and track head, you went to his Diamond Corp Parties. This track is his first release and while many went after the A side, ‘Music Takes You Away’, the B side was the deep one. The hypnotic groove paired with his classic 808 programming and snares… can’t beat it. It’s one of my all time favs by him. This track still drives me mad to this day.

Peven Everett – ‘Can’t Believe I Loved Her’

Chicago’s own Peven Everett. This cat has pushed a new Chicago sound for quite some time and still is rocking it out today hard. This one just really hit me the first time I heard it during WMC in Miami, but many were playing the other side. I heard this mix and man did it hit me very differently. Ran out and bought it. It became a staple at The Basement during my sets. Just deep and our version of deep house and plain ol’ good music.

Grab your copy of A Taste Of Chicago from BBE.

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