Did you know Imagination made a dub album? I didn’t until I found this. I can quite happily listen to a reggae dub album without having heard the original versions, though it does sometimes concern me that I’m not really appreciating the engineer’s art because I don’t know the original song. In pop terms, it would be like listening to The Human League’s “Love & Dancing” remix album without having ever heard “Dare”, which would be an insane thing to do, surely?
Yeah, I was always a huge fan of Love and Dancing (I put the Hard Times remix on my Fake It Til You Make It: 80s Dance Music In Dub mix that I did a few years back), much more so than Dare. I was always a version man!
But the Imagination dub record – which was before Love and Dancing – was a very big record for me, first time round. Back then everyone in Essex were big imagination fans (though admittedly few were also Cabaret Voltaire fans). But Night Dubbing, which I had on a shonky little tape, was something else and confused most people, though for me it was a direct link between this and the Scientist stuff I was beginning to access at that time. We used to pass round the box at lunch times at school, reading the tracks and marvelling at the idea that they could be so drastically remodelled. I remember when the trendies were going mad over the Peech Boys’ Don’t Make Me Wait a few years later and I kept on thinking “Have you actually heard Imagination?” Of course the big debate at the time was “Are they gay?” It was obvious that Leee John was but the hard man soul boys couldn’t leave it alone. The NF types were a different matter. I really liked the way that it was obviously derived from gay dance music while avoiding hi-nrg cliche, and the way that it looped around (without actually confronting) the heteronormativity of reggae. It made perfect sense in the context of electro and (just) pre-AIDS dance music. I don’t think it’s wrong to think of this record as a mountain rather than a mole hill – it was an explicit link in the chain of UK derivations of black American dance music that led onto the rave scene, in Essex at least, and the sheer intoxicating drugginess of Night Dubbing created the right climate. Dub is black psychedelia after all and this fits right in with Hendrix, though it was never quite extreme enough; too much reverb’ed piano, not enough low end or noise. Then again it was a HUGE fuck record for a couple of years. A bit of a landmark for me, this one, though not as much as African Dub Chapter 3 or 2×45.