Last week I made a discovery which changed my life.
It was a nine-and-a-half-minute long version of George Michael’s 1996 banger ‘Fastlove’. You remember ‘Fastlove’? Yes, that point in musical history where, with Britpop at full boom, George Michael decided to completely ignore it and release a truly slinky R&B/soul number which announced, with the utmost style, that he would be just as relevant in the ‘90s as he had been in the ‘80s.
The nine-and-half-minute version had been tucked away as the third track on the ‘Fastlove’ CD single but uploaded to YouTube for the world to enjoy and I had never known that it existed before stumbling across it last week, like an unexpected archaeological find.
It was an amazing discovery, with extra vocal lines and sections which hadn’t made it into the single version, and even an end section incorporating George’s 1996 update of the Wham! classic ‘I’m Your Man’. It hadn’t aged a day; in fact it sounded better than most stuff around today. You can read all about that version here.
But listening to that nine-and-a-half-minute long mix had opened up something within me. A nagging realisation.
It was this: nine and a half minutes was just nowhere near long enough.
Hearing the track extended had made me realise that the groove in ‘Fastlove’ is one of the best grooves ever. The more you listen to it, the better it gets. Far from its impact being diluted by being stretched over a longer timescale, it had grown more powerful.
It’s just the perfect beat, the perfect rubbery bassline, which twists, turns and pops so much that it just never gets dull. Plus, of course, George’s effortlessly soulful vocals which just lay luxuriously over the top. No one could ever get bored listening to it.
Eventually it became clear. In order to satiate the longing within myself, I would need to create a far, far longer version of the track. One which would allow the track the space it deserved to breathe.
It probably needed to be about half an hour long.
When you think about it, it’s odd that songs aren’t longer than they are. The average pop song these days is three and a half minutes. Three if you’re going for a radio edit. That’s absolutely nothing.
But we’ll happily watch an hour of engrossing TV. We think nothing of spending a couple of hours on a film. If a song’s clearly brilliant, why wouldn’t you want it to last a good 30 minutes or so? I definitely, definitely wanted ‘Fastlove’ to last 30 minutes, and no one else had done it for me (not even George), so I was going to have to do it myself.
I set to work.
A used CD single of ‘Fastlove’ was ordered from eBay for the princely sum of 49 pence (plus postage and packing) which took an agonising four days to arrive.
I immediately ripped it to my laptop and made the brilliant discovery that the Beats Per Minute (BPM) of the track was not a round number. It was a very precise 114.82bpm. Of course it was. George was never going to be content with the speed of this groove being ‘right’. He would not stop until it was perfect.
I then split the track up and worked out my battle plan. This was not going to be some crude ‘repeat the existing extended version three times’ job. No, this would be done properly, with the love and care it deserved, with the track maintaining a flow throughout the full half hour. Necessarily, there would need to be much repetition, but it had to be done tastefully, to suit the track and to never let it be boring, just more ‘relaxed’.
I also decided at this point that I would omit the ‘I’m Your Man’ section of the extended version – this needed to be pure ‘Fastlove’, completely unadulterated.
To explain the process any further would be to ruin it, but suffice to say, many hours later, the work was complete.
And here it is, my tribute to the absolute genius that was George Michael – I hope you all enjoy listening to it as much as I did making it.