Note: This feature was first published by Mixmag in 2019.
What criteria does a track need to meet to be considered a rave anthem? Perhaps it's the tune's historical significance in regards to the scene's development or the number of records it sold.
But in reality, the diverse and far-reaching geography of clubland has evolved in such a way over the past 30 odd years that it's somewhat futile order to give the accolade to just a handful of tracks.
Rave anthems are intimate and subjective, varying in size, sound and popularity. It's safe to say that hundreds are produced, reinterpreted, lost and rediscovered with each passing year.
For us, we look at a rave anthem as being the kind of tune that is met with a blatant and recognized roar when it hits the floor. The type of song that makes you shoot up from your disco sit and run full speed into the crowd. It's a track that turns revelers into a linked unit of hedonistic behavior and drives the memories you bring home with you that night.
While a colossal share of the world's most recognized rave anthems from the '90s come from Europe, we decided to narrow our search and concentrate on those that were born and bred in the USA. From NYC's Twisted America Records to LA's City Of Angels imprint, Chicago's Relief Records, Detroit's Transmat and Philadelphia's Ovum Recordings, from sea to shining sea... there are plenty of bangers in the running.
We asked '90s ravers from San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York to tell us their favorite underground anthems. With over 400 tracks submitted, these are the 20 that Mixmag connected with the most.
Check out our choices below.
JOEY BELTRAM 'ENERGY FLASH' (1990)
Joey Beltram's 'Energy Flash' is a brooding and rebellious anthem that altered the face of dance music forever. It's aggressive nature and dark minimalism redefined what house could be, bringing about a heavier "techno" style with a sound that had not been fully been realized yet. Originally released on R&S, it was later licensed for a subsequent release through Derrick May's Detroit label, Transmat.
MOBY 'GO' (1990)
First released in 1990 as the b-side to Moby's debut single 'Mobility' in 1990 on Instinct Records, this is the track that first put the electronic music powerhouse on the map. 'Go' samples both '80s rock Tones on Tali's song of the same name, as well as soul singer Jocelyn Brown's r'n'b Hit Factory single from 1985, 'Love's Gonna Get You'. To this day, the track remains a somber dancefloor staple.
MISSION CONTROL OUTTA LIMITS (SHELTER MIX) (1992)
Deep and murky to its core, Mission Control's 'Outta Limits', released on Atlantic Records, is as timeless as deep house tracks come. The distinguished tune features the sampled voice of Timothy Leary over a throbbing and druggy manner that was lightyears ahead of its time.
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CAJMERE 'PERCOLATOR' (1992)
Released on his Chicago imprint Cajual Records, the imprint that eventually gave birth to Circuit Records and Relief Records, Cajmere (aka Green Velvet) released the globally renowned 'Percolator' in 1992. It's a track that has been reimagined by countless artists, including: Major Lazer, Eats Everything, Gant Man, Claude VonStroke and Derrick Carter (the list goes on).
UNDERGROUND RESISTANCE (JEFF MILLS) 'THE SEAWOLF' (1992)
Released via Underground Resistance's now defunct World Power Alliance label in 1992, 'The Seawolf' is a trailblazing Detroit techno slammer produced by Jeff Mills that was named after the German u-boats which preyed on allied merchant ships during World War II. The track's frantic sonar-infused sound shows us the dawning of an aggressive techno style that would soon engulf the collective's industrious and mechanical city.
LATOUR 'BLUE' (1992)
Perhaps best known from its role in the bathroom club scene in the movie Basic Instinct, 'Blue' by Chicago artist William LaTour is a track that played a pivotal role in bringing dance-pop and new wave elements into early house sounds. It was a track that was rinsed in underground raves all over the country and opened up new avenues for all kinds of dance music.
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HARDRIVE 'DEEP INSIDE' (1993)
'Deep Inside' is a perfect house tune that has solidified itself as a timeless clubland anthem through and through. Pure and true to its core, Louie Vega’s track ‘Deep Inside’ (produced under his Hardrive moniker) reminds us that deep down inside, all we ever really need... is love.
THE BUCKETHEADS 'THE BOMB! (THESE SOUNDS FALL INTO MY MIND)' (1994)
The Bucketheads is a disco-sampling solo project from NYC dance music legend Kenny "Dope" Gonzalez who is also revered for his work as one half of Masters At Work alongside Louie Vega. Sampling the band Chicago's 1979 track 'Street Player', Kenny Dope created a slick piece of house that forces hands in the air everywhere.
Fun fact: The famous line "These sounds fall into my mind" actually reads "Street sounds swirling through my mind".
ELECTROLINERS 'LOOSE CABOOSE' (1995)
This heavy concoction of breakbeat and acid thought up by DJ Dan and Jim Hopkins (aka Electroliners) was one of the biggest tunes in the LA scene back in 1995. The track samples the late actor Gene Wilder in his iconic roll as Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Yum!
SARAH MCLACHLAN 'POSSESSION' (RABBIT IN THE MOON REMIX) (1995)
On the cover of this 1995 remix 12" of Sarah McLachlan's 'Possession' by the diverse Tampa-based electronic outfit Rabbit in the Moon, the group used a quote from Mixmag Update which reads "Truly inspired... will still sound great in 10 years time."
23 years later... we still feel the same.
JOSH WINK 'HIGHER STATE OF CONSCIOUSNESS' (TWEEKIN ACID FUNK) (1995)
Man oh man did this tune cause a ruckus. Released on NYC label Strictly Rhythm in 1995 and recorded at his Ovum Sound Studios in Philadelphia, Josh Wink's hard house meets acidbreaks belter 'Higher State of Consciousness' came into the scene as an extraterrestrial invader and nearly blew the heads off of everyone. The track is commended for taking on some seriously uncharted frequency limits and was a record that everybody wanted to get their hands on.
Find out how Wink made the track by going here.
WINX 'DON'T LAUGH' (1995)
Some might scoff at posting two tracks by the same artist in a row, but as one user put it on Discogs, "1995 was the year you couldn't get away from Josh Wink." We have no issue with it.
Released under Josh Wink's Winx moniker, this unsettling underground staple is a track that has seared itself into the brains of numerous '90s ravers (for better or for worse). It may not be your preferred tune while coming up on an acid trip, but none the less, it's a intensely minimal and well paced burn that builds from the bassline up with a sinister perfection.
GREEN VELVET 'FLASH' (1995)
Released on his Relief Records imprint in 1995, the sheer influence of Green Velvet's 'Flash' can be best understood by looking at the immense number of underground icons who have remixed the song. These artists include DJ Sneak, Boo Williams, Paul Johnson, Eats Everything, Latmun, The Advent and more. There is no understating how essential this song was to the midwest rave scene in the mid-90s and it solidified the green haired maestro's place as a dance music kingpin.
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DJ ICEY 'LOW DOWN GOOD GIRL' (1996)
Released on his Orlando, Florida-based imprint Zone Records, DJ Icey's prolific breakbeat sound came into its own with his 12" 'Low Down Good Girl / All Beautiful'. He is credited with single handedly creating and maintaining Florida breaks culture with his funky and naturally creative synthesis and drum patterns. Must give props where props are due. DJ Icey is the don.
FUNKY GREEN DOGS 'FIRED UP' (MURK'S ORIGINAL GROOVE) (1996)
Released on Twisted America Records in 1996, the US house duo Murk join with vocalist Tamara Wallace as Funky Green Dog for 'Fired Up' - an early tribal house tune that's catchy, uplifting and the right choice for leading you into a long night.
THE CRYSTAL METHOD BUSY CHILD (1997)
In the late '90s, while the UK was enjoying the genius of acts such as The Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim and The Prodigy, the US was beginning to throw its full weight behind the rave pioneers that are The Crystal Method. Released in 1997, the Las Vegas duo's single 'Get Busy Child' on the west coast imprint City of Angles solidified their signature breakbeat style with memorable vocal samples from DJ Pierre’s 'Summertime (Is Get Busy Time)' and Eric B. & Rakim’s 'Know the Ledge'. The track even found its way into films such as Gone in Sixty Seconds, Daria and the soundtrack for the 1998 edition of the EA Sports game 'FIFA 98: Road To World Cup'.
DANNY TENAGLIA 'MUSIC IS THE ANSWER (DANCIN' AND PRANCIN')' (1998)
Released on Twisted America Records in 1998, New York City house hero Danny Tenaglia does us the favor of reminding us what we all should already know:
Music is the answer
To your problems
Keep on movin'
Then you can solve them
DAVID MORALES 'NEEDIN YOU' (1998)
David Morales' infectious 'Needin You' was released on NYC imprint Definity Records back in 1998, but Morales actually originally made the tune a few years earlier as a DJ tool. Due to the great reactions he was getting from the crowd, he decided to make it into a full fledged track that stormed the beaches of Ibiza and beyond that year.
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THE SYSTEM 'YOU'RE IN MY SYSTEM' (ATMOSPHERIC VOCAL) (1998)
'You're In My System' from The System (aka Jerome Sydenham and Kerri Chandler) was released in 1998 via the New York-based imprint, Ibadan Records. With its sultry male vocals, pristine beats and deep arrangement, it's far and away the most sought after record on the label's catalog. After putting out the original and his spiffy 'Atmosphere Dub' of the track, Kerri Chandler rode this conquering deep house classic all the way to the realms of dance music stardom.
THE AZTEC MYSTIC (AKA DJ ROLANDO) 'JAGUAR' (1999)
Released on Detroit's Underground Resistance in 1999, 'Jaguar' off the debut 12" from The Aztec Mystic, better known today as DJ Rolando, is hypnotic to its core. After it was released, it spread like wildfire all over the world. It's one of those rare tracks that feels like it can play for an eternity without anyone batting an eyelash.
Cameron is Mixmag's Jr. Editor. Follow him on Twitter