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ColumnsDecember 8, 2014

Street Week: Music Monday – Shortland Street Theme (Club Mix)

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Aaron Hawkins remembers when acid house came to Ferndale via the Shortland Street Theme Club Mix. //

“This is rock’n’roll Nurse Burton. Not that hippy dippy folk stuff or whatever it is you’re into.”

At the tender age of nine, I had no idea what ‘acid’ was, let alone ‘psychedelia’ or ‘club mixes’. It seems likely Nick Harrison wasn’t much wiser than I, given that whole ‘getting arrested for carrying a tinnie of peppermint tea’ debacle.

Yet here he is, cut up into an acid house frenzy on the Club Mix of the Shortland Street Theme, easily my favourite local music curio of the past 30 years:

Apparently released to mark the anniversary of Ferndale’s birth, the CD single made its way to me in small town Kennington mounted on the cover of the show’s shortlived official magazine. (The only other track is the straight up Tina Cross original, itself reasonably jarring upon reflection, with its latent rave potential and cheesy saxophone / keyboard duels). It was also a promotion for the long forgotten Tip Top Heart ice cream, somehow.

At three minutes and 42 seconds long, ‘Shortland Street Theme – Club Mix’ is incredibly compact by sprawling Club Mix standards, but it makes short work of its genre checklist: Squelchy basslines, midi conga drums, glitchy pop hook vocal, call and response, pan pipes, euphoric sighs, breakbeat drums, wah wah guitar, rinse and repeat. Above and beyond all of this, though, are the classic Ironic Vocal Samples, pitched right at the knowing smiles of ravers the world over. On this, our intrepid and unnamed remixer went in on three themes:

  1. Drug References: “I sure wouldn’t pass up a free ticket to psychedelia!”
  2. Parental Wowserims: “The amplifiers stay off!”
  3. Teen Rebellion: “Sonic assault man, I’m gonna be way out there hitting the airwaves!”

Far broader than its musical achievements, as limited as they may have been, is the Club Mix’s cultural commentary. Some five or so years after acid house turned rock’n’roll on its head in Manchester, and the Creation stable switched from making things that sounded like Psychocandy to things that sounded like Screamadelica, we have the rock / rave collision presented to us in microcosm. Young Nick Harrison’s rocker ambitions filtered through a wide-eyed, baggy-trousered lens.

The existence of this thing has been one of those stories I’ve bored people with for years, without being able to back it up, so discovering its online presence recently has been both relief and revelation. I can’t for the life of me recall it serving any narrative purpose, but when I listen to it I like to imagine it as a surreal Nick Harrison fever dream, a la contemporaries Harold’s Dream and especially Bouncer’s Dream from Neighbours.

There’s still time…

Keep going!