TF Archives

Marshall Jefferson- In The Beginning There Were Pick-Up Joints

Author: Jonty Skrufff
Sunday, November 16, 2003
"Clubs like the Nimbus, Club 69, The Godfather, …, they were pick-up joints. They were nice. The music would be black radio stuff, soul music, not a lot of the disco stuff you hear today on the classic compilations, they'd play stuff like Earth, Wind & Fire, Chic and McFadden & Whitehead. Then at the end of the night you'd get slow records, grinding music and everybody would dance real slow- that's when you'd find your one night stand."

Before he helped invent house music in Chicago in the early 80s, Marshall Jefferson passed his time hanging round discos, chasing girls with more than a few fellow future house Gods.

"I used to hang out with Bam Bam and Byron Stingily and Farley (Jackmaster Funk) and a few of the other house people, but at the time we were just there to pick up girls," Marshall told Jonty Skrufff.

"Farley didn't go to the pick-up clubs that much, Bam Bam once or twice, but I went there a lot," he laughed.

Marshall was reminiscing in a Soho basement bar last week, to promote his brand new CD Marshall Jefferson: Move Your Body- The Evolution of Chicago House (1980-1990), a superb double mix CD comprising definitive house anthems plus underground club tunes of the era. Punctuated with frequent 'Marshall Jefferson - the Godfather of house' shouts, the CD also includes many tracks created by Marshall himself, who left the pick-up joints in the mid 80s, in pursuit of a girl at the Post Office where he then worked.

"There was this girl at work who used to wear crazy clothes and she had orange hair, a black girl, and she had a sensational body," he recalled.

"She kinda liked me a lot and I said to her one day 'where do you go dressed up like that-' and she said 'I go to the Music Box and the Powerplant'. I said 'What are those clubs like and she said 'I don't think you'll like them'. But I said, 'OK just take me there' anyway, she took me there and I was like 'Boom'.

18 years later, he remains one of the world's greatest house stars, a shining example of the true transformative power of music.

Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): Many of the songs on Move Your Body, such as Mr Fingers' Can You Feel It and Joe Smooth's Promised Land have deeply spiritual, moving messages, how much do you still believe in those messages-

Marshall Jefferson: "When I listen to the CD I still get fired up, though I know I'm supposed to be cool about it. I remember those songs when I used to hear them in clubs, though some of them I first heard outside of clubs. I first heard Come Go With Me, for example, I when I used to get stoned at college. I used to get, er.., my mind altered, to some of the others too. You outgrow a lot of the drug stuff, but when you stop doing drugs you still reminisce about that era a lot. They were fun times when you were doing it, but you can't continue doing drugs for too long and remain alive. At least at the pace I was going. Hearing those songs brought back some really great memories for me, of being in one spot and feeling really happy."

Skrufff: There's almost a revolutionary, change-the-world message in some of the songs, were they just drug dreams-

Marshall Jefferson: "I just know that when I was in college I'd hear Come Go With Me and mainly at that time I listened to rock & roll. But my college buddies used to play that song every time I'd go over there to get stoned and I remember that as being one of my favourite songs. It stayed with me all those years and I got really fired up about getting other people to hear it, I always wondered why it wasn't a huge, huge hit."

Skrufff: Your old house-mate Kevin Saunderson chatted to Skrufff recently and told us he'd been a member of a college fraternity organisation when he started DJing, were you in one-

Marshall Jefferson: "I was anti-fraternity. I was too cool for the fraternities, or I thought I was anyway. Every time everybody else zigs, I zag, so I didn't do that kind of thing. Some fraternities appr