Is this dance music’s most bootlegged classic?

Brought to you by Telstra

Brought to you by Telstra

In honour of Telstra’s ‘2nd Chance Song’ campaign – where they’re breathing new life into an underrated Australian classic – we’re looking at a classic dance hit that’s been reinvented more times than you probably realise.

You probably know the song, especially for its instantly familiar opening cry: “Sometimes I feel like throwing my hands up in the air!” Just reading those words probably made you start humming the tune to yourself. Music writers hammer the word ‘iconic’ but You Got the Love deserves it more than most songs.

The fascinating thing about this tune is how complicated its history is. Quick, can you name who did the original version? If you said Frankie Knuckles you’re off the mark – though there’s little doubt he would have played the original at the Warehouse in 1986. It’s not John Truelove either, though the British producer rode multiple versions of the song to great success in the UK at both ends of the ‘90s.

In fact there are a dizzying number of covers, remixes, bootlegs and offshoots of You Got the Love crisscrossing the last 30 years of music history, in countless styles and formats, from the roots of house to the top of the pop charts. It seems there are as many versions of it as there are of Eleanor Rigby or Summertime. Unravelling these strands is a seemingly endless task, but even an overview gives you a new appreciation of the underground’s influence on the mainstream – and the power of a great tune.

The honest-to-God original version of You Got the Love, by The Source featuring Candi Staton, started out life as a 12” single on Chicago’s short-lived Source records in 1986. (Note: if you search YouTube for ‘you got the love original’, the first several results aren’t the original – but we’ll get to that later.) The song was written and produced by the relatively obscure trio of Anthony B. Stephens, Arnecia Michelle Harris and John Bellamy. The group’s name was ad-hoc, and you have to look carefully on the original record to see their credits. Staton herself is, of course, much better known than her collaborators, with many R&B and gospel hits and a couple of Grammys to her name; she’s still recording and touring at the age of 74.

The original is more like boogie than house, and it’s absolutely ace, though I’m not sure you could have predicted its potential as a future classic more than any other great underground record released in that era. But the real essence of this release, the mix that made it an all-timer, is the ‘House Apella’ version. It’s not really an a cappella; it’s more a raw, stripped-down afterhours mix highlighted by a simple but pulsating 4/4 kick and relentless Latin percussion, all the better to highlight Staton’s electrifying vocal – a recipe for incredible dancefloor energy now as much as it must have been 28 years ago. “Hands up in the air” indeed.

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