I was sat in my pokey little room in Eddington Tower at the University of Essex in Colchester in the autumn of 1995 when a guy from my economics course turned up out of the blue. I rarely had visitors but Michael wasn’t really popping over to hang out – he’d missed a couple of econometrics classes and hadn’t been able to understand the homework we’d been set. He knew I was the kind of dull student who always stayed on top of his homework, so he knew that if he wanted to catch up via the dubious act of copying someone else’s work, I was a pretty safe bet.
As well as sharing a degree subject or two, the other thing that Michael and I agreed on was dance music. I’d fallen head over heels into dance music properly in 1994 and since then it had become what I’d listen to whenever I got a chance. That and punk, which I’d gotten into after recognising the similarities to techno. On Michael’s visit I was just putting on a new 12” I’d picked up from Colchester’s Time Records earlier that week – ‘Da Funk’ by Daft Punk. I must have heard about that in a music magazine, as the campus radio station was only into playing indie, and the only dance music I listened to on national radio was the guest mixes that Pete Tong used to curate on Saturday nights. Back then I heeded the words written by journalists and would seek out records based on their recommendation. Something about the write-up of ‘Da Funk’ appealed to my sensibilities, especially in Muzik, and I probably ordered it in especially from Time when it was released.
Anyway, Michael was absolutely floored when the main hook of ‘Da Funk’ casually wandered into view. We listened to it maybe three or four times before switching to the B-side, the crazy squeal of ‘Rollin’ & Scratchin’’, which Michael thought was flat-out incredible. As well as weed (not my thing), Michael always had lots of cash on him thanks to his rich parents, and I recall he tried to buy the 12” from me on the spot. I refused, but let him copy my homework instead.
By the time Daft Punk issued their own Homework in 1997, my snobbish aesthetic meant that I’d turned my back on them upon Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo signing to a major label and dumping Slam’s Soma imprint. This meant I overlooked just how great that record was at first, but slowly caught up and became every bit as much of a fan as, it seemed, everyone else was among the dance music community.
It seems scarcely possible that Homework can be 20 years old, but it is. I had the opportunity to celebrate the anniversary of this seminal record by writing a lengthy piece for Clash, during which time I was transported back to my humble student hovel to recall vividly how jaw-droppingly brilliant Daft Punk were back in the day. That was half a lifetime ago for me, but my memories of that time are as clear as if they happened yesterday. And that sense of freshness, that newness, is what characterises most of Homework – aside from some flimsy house cuts that feel a bit basic now, most of this record sounds as innovative and uniquely placed as it did back then, something that few period dance music albums from the same period can boast.
Nowadays my daughters dance to ‘Da Funk’ on the Wii, I help them with their homework, I sold my ‘Da Funk’ 12″ for considerably more than Michael offered me, at Electronic Sound I write for the very guys whose words I thirsted over when they wrote for Muzik, and I feel desperately old and nostalgic most days.
Eddington Tower, University of Essex (right)
My piece for Clash
can be found here
(c) 2017 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence for Clash