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The New Elizabethans: Goldie

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Pete Tong Pete Tong 15:16, Thursday, 23 August 2012

Editor's note: Nominations for The New Elizabethans were sent in by Radio 4 listeners and then a panel of experts decided on the final list.  Radio 4 broadcast profiles of the New Elizabethans daily (Mon-Fri) at 12.45pm. Here, Pete Tong gives a personal view of the contribution he believes Goldie has made to the UK Urban music scene. PMcD.




Goldie's inclusion as a New Elizabethan seems to have ruffled more feathers than any other nominee, but to me it seems the vast majority of the outraged either don't know who he is or incorrectly assume he's a part time actor and reality TV participant. If that was all he was, I'd be waving the flag in protest alongside you. Those of us more familiar with his contribution to British urban music are not surprised to see him included, and are pleased that the wider world has acknowledged that the UK's musical heritage didn't end with punk rock.

The UK's two biggest music and youth culture stories since punk have been dance culture and the evolution of British urban music. In many ways their stories are intertwined. But perhaps Goldie's nomination needs more context for those who are less familiar with how far the UK urban scene has come. In 1976 we would have been talking about the UK's black music scene, in 2012 it's urban because it captures all the sub-genres; from R&B to Hip-hop, Drum & Bass, UK Garage, Dubstep and Bassline; music for any creed, gender, ethnic background or religion.

UK Urban music had its heroes and success stories in the seventies and eighties. The Real Thing, Hot Chocolate, Loose Ends, Central Line, Hi Tension, Light of the World, Incognito, Junior Giscombe, Soul II Soul and Lynx are just a few. But you won't often hear many of the major artists or DJ's on BBC1Xtra today quoting them as inspirations or major influences.

The name that comes up time and time again with the current generation is Goldie.

Graffiti artist Goldie came to London in the early nineties and saw Grooverider play as the drum and bass sound was emerging from the ashes of the rave scene. What he saw, and more importantly, heard, inspired him to create his own music. Initially, his only ambition was to make a record that could feature on Grooverider's decks, but he soon made an impact.

In 1995, Goldie's debut album, TIMELESS, was released on my FFRR label. It was an album of ridiculous and unrestricted ambition. All rules and conventions of music making and what had come before were thrown out of the window. This was new music created from a blank canvas.

Compared to the tools available to the bedroom based artist/producer today, it was made with limited resources. Almost twenty years later it still sounds like it comes from another planet and another time.

The sound defines the term 'urban' and the title track is sixty minutes long. These days the record is looked upon as a modern classic, but the irony is that, at the time, it wasn't a commercial success and didn't even get nominated for the Mercury Prize. A year on, as if to prove Golide's influence on British music, Roni Size won the prize with his Drum & Bass album New Forms.

If you need further proof of Goldie's impact, consider this: In 2012 Tinie Tempah and Taio Cruz played the Olympic closing ceremony. Radio 1's playlist is dominated by the sound of UK urban music in all its forms.

New artists like Skrillex sound very fresh but go and have a listen to Timeless or Goldie's second album Saturn's Return and join the dots. If the now-hugely-popular Chase & Status released his Inner City Life today, it would be a massive hit. Goldie laid a huge foundation stone in this story and that is why he most certainly is a New Elizabethan.


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