Controversy may be too strong of a word for what I’m about to tell you – I think I may have been the only member of the public to take note, but it’s certainly a contrived occurrence, so I’m sticking with it.
Back in 1999-2000 I was knee-deep in the disco/funky house scene. It was all happening in Glasgow then, lots of producers, lots of clubs, lots of shops all full to the brim with cheerful, bouncy house music. Chief among them, in my eyes, was the almost-but-not-quite sub genre of the Bob Marley remix. They were all at it, Phats & Small, Olav Basoski, ATB, MC Lyte… The most famous of which, and probably only one I can reasonably defend, was the original Bob Marley vs. Funkstar De Luxe Sun Is Shining Remix. It was deep, full of flavour, and played everywhere from the radio to the clubs.
The next year Funkstar De Luxe released another one, but it never quite captured the feel of the first.
Anyway, at the height of its success, the Funkstar De Luxe remixes were selling like hotcakes, and were getting a lot of attention from everyone. I was quite friendly with the folks at Edel at the time (the record label that was handling distribution). We exchanged emails and shot the breeze, and I was quite lucky to be given with a box of goodies, all for zilch! But that was back when record labels had physical products.
So by this time I was well invested in this Funkstar De Luxe thing. I was rocking the single daily, talking with Martin Ottesen on MSN… It was a good scene.
One day I’m chillin’ in da crib (sitting in my Mum’s house), listening to internet radio, when what I thought was Bob Marley vs. Funkstar De Luxe comes on. Something immediately sounds wrong. It’s weird, it’s the same track, but it sounds
Empty. I listened closer, everything was there, the long intro, the filtered chord progression, wa-wa guitar. It was a bit like an episode of the Twilight Zone, where some subtle change shift reality into another dimension.
Being the inquisitive man I am (or due to having a great deal of time on my hands because I lacked a job), I decided to delve a little deeper into this. Bear in mind this was long before Shazam could tell you the name of a track within two bars. I stated my hunt to find what this weird track was. Was it an early demo, or a test piece?
After a few weeks of searching I eventually found something called Sun Is Shining (The Island Mix – Extended Version) on SoulSeek. It took me 36 hours to download it completely. That’s 36 hours for 9 minutes of 128kbps MP3, but I digress. After, what now seems like an unreasonable amount of time, I had the file and it was indeed what I had heard that day. The dead drums, out of key vocal were all present.
I emailed my friends a Edel to see just what the heck was going on with this “Island Mix” stuff. Was it something I’d been sleeping on? I got a very interesting reply.
As it turns out, the people at Edel were not responsible for this record at all. In fact, they were none too pleased about it’s existence at all – they were now in a legal fight with Tuff Gong records over it.
What happened was the Marley family had seen the huge success of the Funkstar De Luxe remix and had issued their own version of it. Problem was, it was the musical equivalent of plagiarism.
Same idea, same execution, different motivation. After a few talks, everything was settled out of court, with Edel distributing their version in Europe and grudgingly, allowing Tuff Gong the American market.
As a consequence of this the Funkstar De Luxe vs. Bob Marley album (which I waited two years for) never really came to fruition, with the Marley family again deciding to do their own venture. I did later manage to source a version of this, I’ll write about it one day. Actually, maybe someone at Edel sent me it… I’m a little foggy there.
It was a weird state of affairs, I’ve never heard of anything like this happen before or since. It really is a bit of an oddity. I’ve included two snippets of each mix, just so you can compare them yourselves.
I find it really interesting to hear the difference a bit of soul makes. Neither of them are exactly works of art, but I think you can instantly hear what one was rushed out just for monetary gains, and what was a work of passion and pleasure.
Bob Marley vs. Funkstar De Luxe – Sun Is Shining (Rainbow Mix) [snippet]
Bob Marley – Sun Is Shining (The Island Mix – Extended Version) [snippet]
This was quite self-indulgent.