If you’re a British pop junkie who came of age in the ’80s, you’re doubtlessly familiar with three names: Mike Stock, Matt Aitken and Pete Waterman. The trio of producers hit it big with Hi-NRG pop, all clean beats and shimmering synths, from Bananarama’s “Venus” to Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.” All told, the trio racked up over 100 Top 40 hits in their native country – an impressive number in any year.
But one lesser-known name is arguably just as essential to the team and their famed PWL Studios: Phil Harding. A mixing engineer who’d worked with everyone from The Clash to Matt Bianco by 1984, the importance of Harding’s engineering skills was obvious from his work on the first major SAW hit, Dead or Alive’s “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record).”
Harding, who’d later work with Depeche Mode, Erasure and the Pet Shop Boys, wrote his own account of his work in the record industry, PWL – From the Factory Floor, in 2009, releasing it in a limited run through Cherry Red’s book arm. Now, as a greatly expanded edition of that book arrives in U.K. shops, Cherry Pop has produced a double-disc set of some of Harding’s rarest mixes for U.K. acts and legacy groups.
There’s no shortage of hits on Phil Harding Club Mixes of the ’80s, including remixes of “You Spin Me Round,” ABC’s “When Smokey Sings” and cuts by Five Star, Holly Johnson and Godley & Creme. But the nectar for collectors is multitudinous: four unreleased tracks and mixes by Rick Astley, including an unused 12″ mix of “Never Gonna Give You Up,” are included. Jimmy Ruffin, elder brother of Temptations member David and solo artist in his own right (“What Becomes of the Brokenhearted”), has two latter-day tracks on here, only one of which has ever been released, and never on CD until this set.
Most humorously for Motown fans is the inclusion of three of Harding’s then-contemporary remixes of classic Motown singles, including The Four Tops’ “Reach Out I’ll Be There” and The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back.” (While the breakbeat-heavy mixes can’t hold much of a candle to the originals, their quirky charm and collectibility doubtlessly appeal themselves to someone out there!)
The set and the expanded book (both of which can be ordered together through Cherry Pop) are out Monday, November 14 in U.K. shops. Hit the jump for a full track breakdown!
Various Artists, Phil Harding Club Mixes of the ’80s (Cherry Pop CRPOPD100, 2011)
- I Want You Back ’88 (12″ Remix) – Michael Jackson with The Jackson 5 (Motown 12″ A-side ZT 41914, 1988)
- I’m Not Scared (10″ Remix) – Eighth Wonder (CBS 10″ A-side SCARE Y1, 1988) **
- When Smokey Sings (The Miami Mix) – ABC (Mercury 12″ A-side 888 604-1, 1987)
- Love Hangover (PWL ’88 Remix) – Diana Ross (Motown 12″ A-side ZT 42348, 1988)
- She Wants to Dance with Me (Original Extended R’n’B Version) – Rick Astley *
- Reach Out I’ll Be There ’88 (12″ Remix) – The Four Tops (Motown 12″ A-side ZT 41944, 1988) **
- Americanos (PWL Extended Version) – Holly Johnson (UNI Records 12″ B-side 8013 (U.S.), 1989)
- Snack Attack (Extended Remix) – Godley & Creme (Polydor 12″ A-side POSPX 875, 1987) **
- Easy Just to Say (I Love You) (Extended Club Mix) Jimmy Ruffin (Polydor 12″ A-side POSPX 869, 1987) **
- Until You Come Back to Me (Phil Harding 12″ Remix) – Basia (Epic 12″ B-side 656378 6 (France), 1990)
- Til the Day That I Die – Rick Astley *
- You Spin Me Round (Like a Record) (Murder Mix) – Dead or Alive (Epic 12″ A-side TX 4861, 1984)
- I Want to Be Your Property (DEF B4 Dishonour Mix) – Blue Mercedes (MCA 12″ A-side BONAX 1, 1987) **
- Heartache (Dot & Daisy’s Club Remix) – Pepsi & Shirlie (Polydor 12″ A-side POSPA 837, 1987)
- Instinctual (Jack Leee Freak Mix) – Imagination (RCA 12″ A-side PT 41698-R, 1987) **
- Digging Your Scene (Remix) – Blow Monkeys (RCA 10″ A-side MONK Y1, 1987) **
- Stay with Me Tonight – Rick Astley *
- Beat Your Body (Manhattan Mix) – Fe Fi Fo Fum (Blue Dot 12″ A-side 12 HOLE 4, 1990) **
- Oxygen (Extended Dance Version) – The Blue August Project (Blue August 12″ A-side 12 JUN 4, 1987)
- Body Shopping (New Vogue Version) – Sinitta *
- I Need More (Extended Dance Version) – XS-5 (VCN Records 12″ A-side 12 VCN 5, 1988)
- The Upstroke (12″) – Agents Aren’t Aeroplanes (Proto Records 12″ A-side AGENT 1, 1984) **
- Truly Yours – Jimmy Ruffin *
- Rain or Shine (Remix) – Five Star (RCA/Tent 12″ A-side PT 40902, 1986)
- Never Gonna Give You Up (Phil Harding 12″ Mix) – Rick Astley *
* indicates previously unreleased track. ** indicates track previously unreleased on CD. All catalogue numbers are U.K.-based except where noted.