Remembering Frankie Knuckles and the Source ft. Candi Staton classic, You Got The Love

Sometimes I feel it’s stating the obvious that classic songs often come together in a roundabout way, but when the stars align, we should savour the moment. Your Love aka You Got The Love is one of those moments. You have to do more than light the blue touch paper sometimes 

Very few folk can agree on who invented the blues or who was kind enough to uncross their legs and give birth to rock ’n roll, but there is no question that house music originate with Frankie Knuckles. 

As DJ, producer and remixer, Chicago’s Knuckles was in demand and quite at home collaborating with the cream of the music world, from Tribal Gatherings to CD-Rom dance happenings in an underground car park in Romsey*. 

The Godfather of House was, quite literally, fabulous on an international scale, lending his talents to a roll-call of artists as disparate as Chaka Khan, Michael and Janet Jackson, Lulu, Lisa Stansfield and the Pet Shop Boys.

However, there is one incontestable classic that, through a plethora of different edits, revisions and reworks, has taken on a life of its own so much so that few obituaries dared to omit its mention when Frankie succumbed to complications from diabetes in 2014.

Considered one of the very first house tracks, Jamie Principle’s angelic Your Love became a staple of Knuckles’s club sets and an eventual re-release with new production by the decksmaster has become definitive of both artists’ work and house music at large.

Taking into account such collector geek speak as white label, test pressings and promo, such are the myriad pressings and debate over what constitutes an official first full release that no one seems entirely clear when this landmark track actually dates from, least of all me. Like a kite dancing in a hurricane, I’ve seen the savage jaws of 1984, 1986 and 1987 bandied about.

Needless to say, I won’t bore you, or myself, with the circuitous history of the eventual versions, but the most famous version — a mash-up, as we say in the biz — credited to The Source featuring Candi Staton came about by almost complete accident.

A veteran recording artist of some eight — eight! — decades, the gospel turned disco legend’s vocal was apparently recorded a capella for a video documentary about fat people, and whose studio splicing with the Principle single can, it seems, be credited to John Truelove and Eren Abdullah in the late 1980s (although Frankie Knuckles was involved somewhere along the line). 

Needless to say, the Young Hearts Run Free songstress supplies a supreme, inimitable vocal which needs little enhancement to raise it up. But can you imagine a more sympathetic exoskeleton than the minimally plucked “talking” bassline and mechanical, insectoid synth tinkle that frame it?

Has anybody ever heard that now-immortal intro and not air-clicked their finger in time to it? This is such a boldly graphic and sonically desaturated underlay, which adds melodrama and dirty funk to Staton’s reverb-enhanced declaration:

“Sometimes I feel like throwin’ my hands up in the air

I know I can count on you

Sometimes I feel like saying ‘Lord I just don’t care’

But you got the love I need to see me through”

The production knows instinctively when to trigger each new layer (the first finger click just as she starts the second verse with another “Sometimes”), and by verse three, everything’s working together as a team from hi-hat to added keyboard wash cycle; it’s not even a minute in. 

At this point if you don’t yet feel like throwing your hands up in the air, you never will do. It’s certainly one of those tracks that ought to struggle to match its own impeccable intro, but once up and running, there’s always something new, vocally or sonically, to keep you keen: the way Staton sings the word “occasionally”, that insistent synth line two and a half minutes in, the squelching sound, and the drop-out to bass, click and vocal at three minutes. Give thanks. 

You Got The Love was a No. 4 hit in the UK in 1991, and after a further remix by Now Voyager returned in even greater force, peaking at No. 3 in 1997.

Following Knuckles’ death, the ‘original’ Staton-free Your Love re-entered the same chart at number 29, beating its 1989 peak position of number 59.

I’m not a purist about cover versions in the slightest – I’ve enthused about several on the blog already – but this isn’t really one that should be attempted in karaoke. Neither should it be dashed off by some bombastic folksy called Florence either.

Coming on like a suburban Stevie Nicks without an ounce of vitality, Florence Against The Machine’s over-played pasteurisation does absolutely zilch for me, though at a reported net worth of some $28 million (how do they calculate these things, anyway?) and feted around the world, so I doubt the wretched Welch will lose any sleep to discover that I don’t think her voice is up to much. 

However, it already feels liberating to know that, in my seventh year of emancipated from the yoke of publisher impartiality blogdom, I can state for the record that flouncy Flo’s opportunistic 2009 remake – pedantically “corrected” to You’ve Got The Love – is one of my least favourite cover versions ever made.

Though slavishly similar, and clearly desperate for some Madonna-loves-Bowie-style glory by association, Florence’s grating, facile rendition sucks every drop of soul from one of the greatest modern mash-ups of the 20th century, feeding a bourgeois fantasy of ‘folksiness’ before hopping in the Chelsea tractor to pick Tarquin and Tamara up from day school.

It’s like spunk never happened.

Who’s for Sainsbury’s seedless?

Steve Pafford

*New year, new dear: allow Patsy and Eddy to explain

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