Happy birthday to Tim Simenon

TwitterIn the absence of any relevant singles released on June 21st during the 1980s, today If You Were There says ‘happy birthday’ to Tim Simenon, who is 48 today.

Simenon was the frontman of Bomb The Bass, who shot to sudden fame in 1988. Until that year – when club culture in the UK crossed over to the mainstream – club DJs were sometimes known for the names, but rarely their faces. Simenon appeared on the cover of various music periodicals, from the pop end of the market in Smash Hits to the like of NME, which wasn’t previously known for its support of club culture: as he was a DJ primarily and a recording artist secondarily (photo sessions often depicted Simenon standing behind his record decks), this would usually have excluded him from the cover of NME which favoured bands, often those signed to independent labels. He was a new type of pop star, the “superstar DJ”, the like of which originated in the 1980s and thrived in the following decade.

It was all in the timing. Bomb The Bass’s debut single Beat Dis was issued as a 12” single on 18 January 1988 and borrowed from a huge range of cultural influences, contemporary and classic. The track made heavy use of sampling (taking an extract from an existing recording, musical or otherwise, and adding this ‘sample’ to a new track), with sound clips from songs and films from the early seventies right up until the date of recording (the autumn of 1987) featuring; there are allegedly some 72 samples included on the track. Sampling had been around for a while as a technique but it was at this point that it really took off. (In February, when the 7” version of Beat Dis was released, Boy George was reviewing the singles for Smash Hits. The Bomb The Bass single wasn’t mentioned, but George made Age Of Chance’s Take It his ‘Single of the Fortnight’, saying “I like the sampling on this record too because – after all – sampling is the future of popular music.” For the next several years, his prediction was proved right.)

Acid1It wasn’t just the sound of Bomb The Bass that was the height of fashion. The imagery used on Beat Dis’s sleeve tied the group to the house music scene, with a font in a graffiti-style script. (‘Bombing’ was a street term for applying graffiti in public spaces; Simenon suggested he was doing an equivalent type of ‘bombing’ to the bass on record decks.) It also featured a smiley, in this case, with a streak of blood across one eye, reminiscent of an image from the Acid2graphic novel Watchmen which had been published as a partwork to much acclaim from 1986 to 1987, another very trendy cultural reference. It was this emblem that associated Bomb The Bass with the subgenre of acid house, which seemed to receive more press attention that any other musical genre in 1988.

The smiley appeared on clothing and merchandise linked to acid house events throughout the last two years of the 80s. The use of (usually psychedelic) drugs at acid house nights, ecstasy especially, became a hot topic for the tabloid press in the UK. Outraged headlines for articles detailing the excesses of revellers at all-night acid house parties led to police raids at clubs and private addresses; ‘rave’ culture developed as the parties moved outdoors to festivals. The hedonistic drug-fuelled atmosphere of such events were so closely associated with the musical genre that the impression began to develop that one wouldn’t exist without the other, and the press coverage became increasingly negative and sensationalist. The music’s inclusion in mainstream media subsequently went into decline in the UK.

Bomb The Bass has survived though, and although chart appearances since the 80s have been rare, Simenon is still active and releasing new material.

NEW SINGLES on sale from Jun. 21
No release scheduled for this date.

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