I Wrote That – Theme from S’Express

Photo credit: Vincent Sannier

Photo credit: Vincent Sannier

Mark Moore and S’Express went to number one with their debut single Theme From S’Express back in 1988. Twenty-five years later, Mark recalls how the enduring song helped bring dance music into the mainstream.

Back in the late eighties I was a London DJ playing at places like Philip Salon’s Mudd Club and the Pyramid night at Heaven. It was a mixed crowd. Straight people would go to these places because they could dress up and wouldn’t get any hassle. The scene spilled out of post-punk and the new romantics and I was playing an eclectic mix of records. Detroit techno and Chicago house mixed with new wave electronic stuff like Yellow, Soft Cell and New Order. People like myself, Danny Rampling, Paul Oakenfold, Mike Pickering and Graeme Park were all playing as part of this bubbling underground, especially at the Shoom club.

At the same time I started working for Rhythm King Records. I’d advise them on whether to put a record out and helped them have hits with Taffy’s I Love My Radio and tunes from Baby Ford, Renegade Soundwave, Beatmasters and the Cookie Crew. In return I asked Rhythm King if they could put me in a studio as I had ideas for a record. Back then you needed to be in a studio to make a record. You couldn’t do it on a laptop.

They hooked me up with Pascal Gabriel to help me in the studio. I’d got all these ideas I had for samples on a cassette tape and gave it to Rhythm King. They didn’t really understand it.

I told Pascal my ideas and we got to work on a mixture of samples and melodies we made up ourselves. These ideas became Theme from S’Express. I’d always wanted to make music but I’d never seen myself as a musician. I was sucked in through DJing and hip-hop and became fascinated by sampling – taking snippets of existing records to make a backing track then layering music over the top of it. I had that hip-hop ethos and influence but thought I could reinterpret it with a twist and use disco records rather than the funk records used by hip-hop artists. The idea of taking a slice of music and looping it and being a musical pirate was really appealing, especially to my sense of non-musicianship.

Cover _S'Express_I wrote thatTheme from S’Express was made from a number of samples. The main one which loops over and over is Rose Royce’s Is It Love You’re After. It was a disco 12-inch which I loved and always played in clubs. We looped the beginning over and over and I made up the bassline myself. I always joke with Pascal about who made up the bassline but I always tell him, ‘It was me dammit!’

The single was released in March 1988, just as this underground scene was on the brink of going overground. Many people say that Theme from S’Express helped kick start it and put the scene on the map. We had the acid house explosion and the ‘Second Summer of Love’ pretty much as our song got to number one. But it was more of a zeitgeist thing than any good planning on our part.

I didn’t think anyone else would get it and it would just be a record I’d play in the clubs when DJing. Before that most people hated house music. The vast majority of people weren’t clued up about it. But at the same time, there was Tim Simenon working as Bomb the Bass and his record Beat Dis had done really well and got to number two. We were good friends, both DJed in the same clubs and pretty much grew up together as teenagers. Because of his success, some people tipped my record to be the next hit on Rhythm King. It was very odd, that sort of expectancy from people.

As a result, the label asked me to make it sound a bit less crazy. They thought it sounded too crazy for Radio 1 so we were asked to do a seven-inch edit and make it sound nicer. They insisted on it. So Pascal and I went to the studio and purposefully did the worst seven-inch mix you could ever hope to hear. We took it in to the label but they admitted defeat and said: ‘You guys win’. The record went to number one. I’m so glad I stuck to my guns.

Theme from S’Express

Written by: Mark Moore, Pascal Gabriel and Miles Gregory

UK publishers: Kobalt, Warner/Chappell, Sony/ATV

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