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100 Greatest Dance Records

100 Greatest Dance Records

Is it possible to truly nail down the 100 greatest dance records? Back in June, the Guardian gave it a go and in our opinion missed much of the point. So we thought we’d throw our hat. We've gone back further, exploring what we believe are the true roots of dance music and we’ve included more from the 1960s and '70s since that was when history was really being made.

Is it definitive? It might not be, but it should at least stoke a few fires and spark a bit of debate. Now over to you.

 
1. Shirley Ellis – The Clapping Song (1965)
Seminal, beat-heavy tune that has had more revivals than Bruce Forsyth. Big at the Roxy!
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2. Frank Wilson – Do I Love You (1965)
The rarest of all northern soul tunes (only two known to exist). Not even the KFC ad could damage its lustre.
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3. Pierre Henry & Michel Colombier – Psyché Rock (1967)
One of those weirdly prescient oddities that has turned up on a variety of scenes over the years from new beat in Belgium to big beat in Britain.
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4. James Brown – Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose (1969)
Well, he just had to be on here. He might not have technically invented The Funk, but he gave it a home and legitimised it. This is the much-sampled classic. LISTEN >

5. Chicago – I’m A Man (1969)
Not the first version, but the one that had most impact in the early days of disco (listen to the lyrics, there’s an obvious reason). Covered many times subsequently. LISTEN >

6. Little Sister – You’re The One (1970)
Sly’s li’l sis getting in on the act with this genre-crossing classic.
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7. BT Express – Do It Till You’re Satisfied (1974)
The first tune to get serious club play off the back of the remix (by Tom Moulton) alone.
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8. The Contours – Just A Little Misunderstanding (1966)
A big record at clubs like the Twisted Wheel originally, it entered the UK charts as a revival record in January 1970 after getting spins at the Torch, signalling the arrival of northern soul as a commercial force.
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9. Barrabas – Wild Safari (1972)
Discovered on a jaunt to Amsterdam by David Mancuso, this Spanish rock record typified those early, wildly eclectic disco years. Off the back of plays at the Loft became a big record in New York and nabbed them a deal with Atlantic in the US.
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10. Manu Dibango – Soul Makossa (1972)
The first record to cross over into the Billboard Hot 100 purely off the back of club play. Much imitated and covered over the years.
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11. Love Unlimited Orchestra – Love’s Theme (1973)
The first record to be propelled into the higher echelons of the charts on club play (it eventually reached number one).
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12. Eddie Kendricks – Girl, You Need A Change Of Mind (1973)
With its whooping strings, druggy backing vocals and churchy breakdown, this is arguably the first disco record and the template that many followed.
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13. The Carstairs – It Really Hurts Me Girl (1973)
The arrival of the Carstairs heralded a new era in northern soul as they began to reject revived records in favour of new releases. Also possibly the greatest soul record of all time.
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14. Gloria Gaynor – Never Can Say Goodbye (1975)
Remixed into the charts by Tom Moulton, this Jackson 5 cover marked the era in which the divas ruled.
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15. Lonnie Liston Smith – Expansions (1975)
If there is one record that sums up the early years in British clubbing, it’s this. Never anywhere near as big in the US, this has been a staple on club floors here from Crackers onwards.
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16. Double Exposure – Ten Percent (1976)
Walter Gibbons’ remix (or re-edit, as it actually is) was the first commercially released 12-inch single.
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17. The Bee-Gees – You Should Be Dancing (1976)
The opening salvo in the re-emergence of the Bee Gees and, more importantly, Saturday Night Fever’s arrival.
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18. MFSB – Love Is The Message (1977)
If there’s one song that sums of the halcyon period of the New York disco era, it’s this, particularly in its remixed Tom Moulton version.
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19. Donna Summer – I Feel Love (1977)
Summer’s proto-house classic was the first – and most important – of the new wave of Euro-disco records flooding in from Germany, Italy and various points on the mainland.
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20. Freddie Perren – Two Pigs & A Hog (1978)
Disco as drums. There are a few of these records that appeared on countless bootlegs and acetates that were hugely important for pointing towards a new direction in dance music (see also ‘Erucu’ by Jermaine Jackson). One of the tunes Walter Gibbons used two copies to cut up live.
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21. Sylvester – You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)
The pulsating, unrelenting sound of disco that became known as Hi-NRG was born in the discos of San Francisco and hot-housed by Patrick Cowley, a former lightman at one of them.
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22. Kraftwerk – The Robots (1978)
Massive dancefloor tune from Kraftwerk that crossed over everywhere it mattered and was crucial in the development of electro.
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23. Kikrokos – Jungle DJ (Ron Hardy Edit) (1978)
Edit culture was already well in place during the dying days of disco and this is a great example of a mediocre record being transformed into something entirely new.
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24. Chuck Brown & The Soul Searchers – Bustin’ Loose (1978)
A continuation of the funk traditions started by the New Orleans pioneers and James Brown. They called it go go. We went went.
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25. Soft Cell – Memorabilia (1981)
Even now, it sounds like a house record in all but name. The remixed version that appeared on Non Stop Ecstatic Dancing is the first E record!
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26. The Clash – Magnificent Dance (1981)
The leader of the post-punk crossover records. Larry Levan once described this as his favourite record.
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27. A Number Of Names – Sharevari (1981)
The name of the song came from one of the influential Detroit parties that pre-figured the techno explosion. Techno as upwardly mobile clothes-horse.
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28. Visage – Frequency 7 (1981)
Massive record in Chicago. Massive record in Italy (played at the wrong speed). Listening to it now, it could have been made anytime between 1981 and 1999.
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29. Liaisons Dangereuses – Los Niños Del Parque (1981)
The Belgian group with a French name and Spanish song title. Their quasi-industrial tune caused huge ripples wherever it landed: Belgium, Chicago, Detroit, New York, London.
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30. Afrika Bambaataa & Soul Sonic Force – Planet Rock
It was the genius of Arthur Baker that recognised what was happening in the parks of the Bronx and converted it into this earth-shattering record that combined the Teutonic funk of Kraftwerk with some New York guile. Electro was born.
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31. Peech Boys – Don’t Make Me Wait (1982)
The first of the great post-disco tunes, with live strings replaced by computers. The era of man-machine funk had arrived.
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32. Electra – Feels Good (1982)
Pretty much the template for much of early Chicago house. Note the bassline, as later used on ‘Your Love’.
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33. Klein & MBO – Dirty Talk (1982)
Highly influential record, both here on the electrofunk scene (it was one of the inspirations for ‘Blue Monday’) and in Chicago, where it provided a useful compass for future manoeuvres.
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34. New Order – Blue Monday (1983)
Speaking of which…. The finest of the indie-dance crossovers of the era and the most successful (though we’d take the palaver over it being the biggest selling 12-inch of all time with a pinch of salt).
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35. Cybotron – Clear (1983)
Juan Atkins and Rik Davis’ statement of intent and a huge early electro record. Detroit was saying goodbye to Berry Gordy.
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36. Art Of Noise – Moments In Love (1984)
OK, so technically you can’t dance to it, but it was huge in Ibiza in the days before the Brits embarked on their search and destroy mission of the island. And it was produced by Trevor Horn. Another reason, as if it were needed.
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37. Manuel Gottsching – E2E4 (1984)
Again, not really a dance record per se, but people did dance to it, and it was played everywhere, influenced so many people (check out the times it’s been sampled).
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38. Jesse Saunders – On & On (1984)
The first house record? Maybe. Certainly a record so accessible and simple that it inspired many others in Chicago to have a go.
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39. Model 500 – No UFOs (1985)
Techno’s arrival and a step-change for Atkins, whose influence on Detroit is immeasurable.
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40. Penguin Café Orchestra – Music For A Found Harmonium (1985)
How could a song that sounds like a rest home full of wheezing asthmatics be in this chart? Big in Ibiza and, again, unlikely as it seems, the first tune the now legendary ‘big box, little box’ acid house dancing was first performed to.
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41. Dinosaur L – Go Bang (1986)
Disco not disco, indeed. Hard to say which category or where this belongs, other than it probably belongs nowhere, yet everywhere simultaneously.
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42. Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley – Jack Your Body (1986)
The first house hit. Number one in the UK. House is here. Duck for cover.
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43. A Split Second – Flesh (at 33 not 45) (1986)
Industrial record as proto-new beat template. It was by no means the first record ever to be played at the wrong speed, but it was the most important, because it heralded a new era of Euro-centric productions.
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44. Jamie Principle – Your Love (1986)
Who did it, Frankie or Jamie? Who cares. It was one of the first big records and, of course, later provided the soundbed for Candi Staton and an endless amounts of daft rave-waving.
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45. Mr Fingers – Can You Feel It? (1986)
The beauty of house in one evocatively great record. The birth of deep house.
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46. Blaze – Watcha Gonna Do (1986)
A new direction for the east coast? Not really, but certainly the start of the New Jersey sound that was so influential in early ’90s house music.
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47. Rhythim Is Rhythim – Strings Of Life (1987)
Tricky this: ‘Nude Photo’ or ‘Strings Of Life’? ‘Strings…’ gets our vote for its influence on the rave circuit in the UK, where it was played almost as a revival song in 1989. And no bassline?!
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48. Nitzer Ebb – Join In The Chant (1987)
Unlikely in so many ways. Huge in Ibiza, despite the obvious industrial/EBM attack of the vocal and production. A fave of the Detroit crew as well. And that bassline’s been purloined on a few occasions, too (latterly on Mish Mash’s ‘Speechless’).
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49. Phuture – Acid Tracks (1987)
Few records have been so confrontational and different. Not only the birth of acid but the birth of a new attitude.
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50. M/A/R/R/S – Pump Up The Volume (1987)
Generally speaking, Britain had been shit at making dance records, but a new era was upon us led by this house-not-house record that was huge in 1986.
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51. Fleetwood Mac – Big Love (Arthur Baker mix) (1987)
The birth of modern remix culture in some ways. Also the template for a thousand dodgy (and occasionally great) Italo-house tunes.

52. Thrashing Doves – Jesus On The Payroll (1987)
Massive Alfredo record in Ibiza and one of the tunes that had soulboys deserting City Sounds and Black Market for the bargain bins at Rough Trade.
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53. Reese & Santonio – The Sound (1987)
That bassline! That groove! Rave’s big brother, right here.
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54. A Guy Called Gerald – Voodoo Ray (1988)
1988 is the year we stopped being self-conscious about British dance producers and started making records like this. Amazing.
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55. S-Express – Theme From S-Express (1988)
A mad jumble of samples (some still unidentified!) and a disco circus of joy. Number one with a bullet. Ace.
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56. Soul II Soul – Back To Life (1989)
They put the soul in Soul II Soul. A thumping bass for a loving race.
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57. Blackbox – Ride On Time (1989)
The first crossover record after the birth of Italo-house, with a li’l help from Lady Loleatta, of course.
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58. Lil Louis – French Kiss (1989)
Long before it ever made it to the stores, Louis was blowing people’s minds with this tune. Twenty two years later it can still do the same. Techno, combined with house, and some of Lil Louis’ unparalleled technique make this a total classic.
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59. Shut Up And Dance – 5, 6, 7, 8 (1989)
Breakbeats and house mixed together? That would surely never work would it? And they thought they were making hip hop!
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60. Sueno Latino – Sueno Latino (1989)
‘E2-E4’ again. Sultry Italian music at its best and one that crossed boundaries everywhere.
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61. LFO – LFO (1990)
Not the first of its kind, but the one that hit the hardest. From the frozen wastes of the north, a new type of techno: bleep. Bass how low can you go: ‘LFO’ is how.
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62. Primal Scream – Loaded (1990)
The second wave of indie-dance was led by this Weatherall-led monster.
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63. 4 Hero – Kirk’s Back (1990)
Hardcore’s leaders point the way with some serious darkness.
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64. Joey Beltram – Energy Flash (1990)
One of the seminal techno records and one where noise firmly replaced melody.
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65. Praga Khan – Rave Alarm (1991)
Maurice Engelen’s productions under a variety of names led the takeover of dancefloors in both the gay and straight side of the divide. This was one of the most important.
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66. Massive Attack – Unfinished Sympathy (1991)
Their first album is essentially a bag of jazz-funk samples with singing over the top. But what samples and what singing! One of the defining records of the era.
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67. Lennie De Ice – We Are I.E. (1991)
According to many (including Fabio), the first record to fully point in a new direction with house and breakbeats.
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68. The Prodigy – Charly (1991)
When hardcore popped its head over the parapet and said hello to the charts.
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69. 2 Bad Mice – Bombscare (1992)
The first mature version of the breakbeat aesthetic with skilful repurposing of breakbeats into increasingly ornate patterns, aided by Belgian-style rave figures. Even Sasha played this!
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70. LTJ Bukem – Demon’s Theme (1992)
With its ethereal, almost Manuel Gottsching, keyboard work underneath hammer-hard beats, it pointed towards a new and more interesting future for drum and bass.
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71. SL2 – On A Ragga Tip (1992)
Drum and bass with an added ragga feel? You betcha. British through and through.
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72. Gat Décor – Passion (1992)
The birth of the dreaded prog-house? Maybe. Certainly the chartbuster par excellence of its era.
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73. The Dust Brothers – Song To The Siren (1992)
Proto-whatever. Balearic puppies and later the Chemical Brothers weigh in with this influential cover of the Tim Buckley song.
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74. Innerzone Orchestra – Bug In The Bassbin (1992)
Techno as jazz, innit? Well, maybe. One thing’s for sure it pushed the boundaries in all kinds of ways.
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75. Basic Channel – Phylyps Track (1993)
Basic Channel brought in the influence of dub, drenched their tracks in it, and brought a new sound to techno that broadened its horizons.
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76. Nu Yorican Soul – The Nervous Track (1993)
Alongside Carl Craig, Masters At Work were probably the most innovative act of the ’90s in the house/techno sphere and this is their game-changer, incorporating breakbeats and all kinds of jazz pizzazz.
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77. DJ Shadow – In/Flux (1993)
A ridiculous yet brilliant name thought up by Mixmag: trip hop. Stick loads of samples in the AKAI and see who salutes. The first and best.
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78. DBX – Losing Control (1994)
Dark, minimal and hypnotically threatening, this is techno as torture device.
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79. Goldie – Inner City Life (1994)
The magnum opus of drum and bass or its ‘Stonehenge’ by Spinal Tap? You decide.
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80. Portishead – Numb (1994)
Portishead’s unique take on hip hop brought in the cinema soundtrack, easy listening and sophisticated European pop. Our perception of what was possible was suitably changed.
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81. Global Communications – The Way (1996)
Global Communications rewrote the textbooks for house with this subtly modulating disco-sampled classic. Teased over the full 11 minutes, it’s an unrelenting delight.
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82. Faze Action – In The Trees (1996)
House had always looked to disco for inspiration, but Faze Action’s classic ushered a new era of sample discovery with a song that sounded like a disco symphony itself.
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83. Underworld – Born Slippy (1996)
For a brief period in the 1990s, dance music owned Britain. And this was its leader.
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84. Tori Amos – Professional Widow (Armand’s Star Trunk Funkin’ mix) (1996)
Remixing never got better or cleverer than this. It took the smallest amount of Amos’ vocal for her only number one.
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85. I-F – Space Invaders Are Smoking Grass (1997)
I-F has been an important force for the resurrection of all kinds of stuff; in this instance, electro (a-go-go).
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86. Roy Davis Jr. – Gabrielle (1998)
Although he didn’t know it, Roy Davis Jr’s sublime ‘Gabrielle’ was creating the new blueprint for garage, or garridge, as it would be henceforth known.
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87. Artful Dodger ft. Craig David – Re-Rewind (1999)
The first crossover star of the UK garage scene, Craig David, with a hook-laden classic.
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88. The Aztec Mystic – Jaguar (Knights Of The Jaguar) (1999)
Techno has not necessarily been known for its hooks, or its cross-genre ‘hits’, but when DJ Rolando created this monster track, everyone was playing it.
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89. DJ Zinc – 138 Trek (1999)
DJ Zinc’s knack for prefiguring changes is evident once again in ‘138 Trek’ that suggests a new pass opening up through the Nile in the direction of dubstep.
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90. Aphex Twin – Windowlicker (1999)
Richard D. James is out on his own in so many ways and this was his commercial apex. Glitchy and oddball as it was, it was also hook-laden and set the standard for certain type of music that emerged during the noughties. Ace video by Chris Cunningham, too.
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91. Tiga & Zyntherius – Sunglasses At Night (2001)
It may have been marginal in the great scheme of things, but the shortlived electroclash scene shook things up enough that its effects are still out there today, from LCD Soundsystem to Justice. This tune signalled its arrival.
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92. Seiji Ft. Lyric L – Loose Lips (2002)
Loose limbs, more like! Seiji – and indeed broken beat – never got better than this brilliantly programme gem that crossed all sorts of boundaries.
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93. LCD Soundsystem – Losing My Edge (2002)
When punk met house, ‘Losing My Edge’ was handing out the cocktails. This tune single-handedly revived interest in post-punk music and announced a new wave of American leftfield bands.
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94. Benga & Skream – The Judgement (2003)
There were certainly tunes prior to this waiting for the same bus, this is the mould-breaker, and the one that suggested it wasn’t just a new direction but a new genre, too.
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95. Dizzee Rascal – Fix Up Look Sharp (2003)
Dizzee’s arrival on the scene, alongside Wiley’s Pay As U Go Kartel indicated a fresh approach in UK music that combined much of what was happening in the nascent dubstep sphere with British hip hop. Although ‘Fix Up Look Sharp’ contained the super-obvious break (Billy Squier), it still screamed Hackney rather than Brooklyn.
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96. M.A.N.D.Y. & Booka Shade – Body Language (2005)
It might have ended up in a K-hole somewhere just outside Berlin, but minimal house and techno produced one true hit: ‘Body Language’.
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97. Skream – Midnight Request Line (2005)
If dubstep was a scene in search of an anthem, it found it in 2005 with ‘Midnight Request Line’, which was both hooky and contained all the necessary food groups to assign it the genre. Brilliant.
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98. Lindstrøm – I Feel Space (2005)
Nu-disco has been touted as a genre as far back as the arrival of Faze Action in 1994, but with Lindstrøm assistance it finally moved into the realms of something that was different to house, progressive without being prog (too much).
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99. Benga & Coki – Night (2007)
The most popular dubstep tune of all time? Maybe. Now the template has been made, it’s allowed producers like Benga, Coki and Skream to tear off into the hinterlands searching for hooks.
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100. Major Lazer – Pon De Floor (2009)
Both Dave ‘Switch’ Taylor and Diplo have been randomly ignoring everything that’s come before in favour of having fun and, in this monster groove (lately filched by Beyoncé) they found a home for their skittery ragga attitude.
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Compiled by DJ History. Thanks to Chris 'Rhythm Dr' Long for help and suggestions.

Comments.

Wondering: what became of Lyn Collins' "Think (About It)," which drove a zillion Italian hip-house records? Or The Beatles or Isley Brothers doing "Twist and Shout," the floor-packer at a zillion wedding receptions and teen house parties?
If you fancy getting involved in the debate about this list then head over here

http://www.djhistory.com/forum/100-greatest-dance-tracks#new

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