Our Brighton Beach House playlist tunes into the city’s musical blueprint
Get to the core of the UK seaside destination’s underground sound with one of its most iconic names, Damian Harris (aka Midfield General)
Sunday 29 May 2022 By Anastasiia Fedorova
There is a special link between music and cities, where communities forge a signature sound. Some of these histories are globally renowned – like the origins of Chicago house – but others are best appreciated through an insider perspective from the scene’s originators. Brighton, a cultural hub located in East Sussex on the south coast of England, is celebrated for its nightlife and queer scene. But no one knows its impact on underground music like Damian Harris (aka Midfield General), the founder of Skint Records.
Harris founded Skint Records in Brighton in 1995, its first release being ‘Santa Cruz’ by Norman Cook – better known as Fatboy Slim. Skint went on to become one of the most influential dance labels of the 1990 to 2000s, with releases from a broad spectrum of leftfield club music from The Lo Fidelity Allstars, Bentley Rhythm Ace, Dave Clarke, X-Press 2, Alter Ego, Goose, Alloy Mental, Freq Nasty, Super_Collider, Tiga, and International Pony. Through his later collaborations with Linda Lewis, Elvis Costello, Justice and Soulwax, Harris certainly aided to the international recognition of Brighton’s underground scene.
An avid music collector, researcher and creator, Harris compiled an exclusive playlist to mark the opening of Brighton Beach House – and commemorate the city’s unique musical blueprint. Here, he opens up about his own personal history with the coastal resort.
What sets Brighton apart from other UK cities?
‘Brighton is very much a sum of its parts – its geography, history, architecture and culture have all contributed to create a unique modern city. It was originally marketed as a place of restorative powers and healing waters to weary Londoners. Then the Prince Regent built the Pavilion – a pleasure palace by the sea – and the reputation for hedonism took root.
‘As cheap flights to Spain sounded the death knell for British seaside resorts in the 1970s and 1980s, rent became cheap and a new generation of artists, hippies, activists and students made it home. Throw in mods and rockers, hen weekends and the first Green Party MP and you get an idea of why Brighton was always going to be different…’
What can visitors (unfamiliar with the city) expect from it?
‘A walk from the marina to Hove Lagoon will give you a good summation of the Brighton experience. Tranquil vistas, naked people, beach volleyball, chips, chaos and carnage – and then the serenity of Hove.’
As someone who lives and works in Brighton, we asked you to create a playlist that best represents the city. Could you talk through some of the tracks that you selected?
‘Trying to distil the essence of Brighton into a playlist is tricky – its musical heritage is very broad and everyone has their own experience, but I’ve had a go.
‘The criteria for inclusion is loose, occasionally tenuous and certainly not open to heavy scrutiny… but they mean something to me and my time living by the sea. Think Fatboy Slim’s “Santa Cruz” meets “State Of Independence” by Donna Summer with a bit of All Saints’ “Pure Shores” thrown into the mix.
‘“Waterloo” by Abba also made the cut. In 1974, they won the Eurovision Song Contest at The Dome in Brighton. We are still very proud of this.
‘The following topics will go some way to explaining the rest…
Hedonistic anthems: just some big club records that I’ve had many a moment to over the years. See The Nightwriters “Let The Music (Use You)” and Round One’s “I’m Your Brother”.
Hi-NRG: Brighton has a large, proud and thriving gay community. It was slightly before my time here, but I’m reliably informed that before Rare Groove and Acid House, Hi-NRG was big in the clubs here. (Company B “Fascinated” and Divine “Native Love” (Step by Step)).
Indie kids: it might appear that Brighton is all tops off, whistles and pumpin’ house music, but no… we also have indie kids living here. Clubs such as Sunshine Playroom and Mad For It catered with tracks like Fujiya & Miyagi “Ankle Injuries” and “Chicken” by The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster.
End of nighters: before the licensing laws were relaxed, Brighton clubs had to shut at 2am. This meant the last record of the night was a big deal; something to send everyone off to the beach and afterparties smiling. These are some of my favourites: Jocelyn Brown “Somebody Else’s Guy”, Captain Sensible’s “Glad It’s All Over” – Captain Sensible is also a Brighton resident.
Jazzy: when I was a student, a huge event in the social calendar was the Brighton Jazz Bop. Held two or three times a year at the Top Rank Suite, it featured the finest in soul, funk and acid jazz. These two seemed to be always playing…. Not that I’m complaining: James Taylor “Theme from Starsky & Hutch” and Terry Callier “You Goin’ Miss Your Candyman”.
Inspired by Skint: Skint’s success inspired a lot of other independent Brighton labels. Not in some sort of Messianic way – more in a “well, if that lazy f**ker can start a label, then so can we’ kinda way – which is nice. Shout outs to Alice Russell’s “Hurry On Now” and Bonobo’s “Terrapin”.
Beach party: in 2002, 250,000 people came down to Brighton Beach for a free party. It was nuts… although the town did smell of wee for a week after. These were the first and last records to be played there: Midfield General feat Linda Lewis “Reach Out” and All Saints’ “Pure Shores”.
Tenuous, but we’re claiming them: a sprinkling of artists who, while not originally from the city, have at some time lived here, including Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds (“Release The Bats”) and Pink Floyd (“Comfortably Numb”).
Unfortunately, Adele didn’t stay long enough to make the cut.’
To listen to the playlist, click here.