Kate Simko and Tevo Howard’s Guide To Classic Chicago House
Tevo Howard and I are both from Chicago and met through our love of house music. I found out about Tevo’s music when a friend played his song “Passion Sound” on Beautiful Granville. It blew my mind! While we virtually met through a vinyl record, we’ve now made a full-length album together. Tevo lives in Berlin these days and I’m based in London, but no matter where we call home, we will always be Chicagoans, and the city keeps a piece of our hearts for sure. Here are some of the classic Chicago house productions that have inspired us. Tevo is more old school than me, so my picks don’t date back quite as far. Hope you enjoy the tracks as much as we do!
– Kate Simko
Joe Smooth, “I'll Be There” (DJ International 1988)
Tevo Howard: A classic lovers’ jam during which Chicago couples find moments to embrace. When I would throw this into my sets back in 1989, I played the long version featured here until it was overplayed by the radio stations. Then I switched to the B-side instrumental dub. That version is a lot shorter and to the point: a great two to three-minute teaser in a set back then.
K. Alexi Shelby, "Vertigo" (Transmat 1989)
Kate Simko: It’s pretty incredible that this record was made in 1989! This is timeless Chicago acid. K’Alexi is best known for “Essence of a Dream,” which was produced under the alias Risque III. That track is eerie—almost creepy—with its detuned strings and K’Alexi whisper-ranting in a classic Chicago way. For this selection, I wanted to go for an acid track.
Reality, "Yolanda" (Strictly Rhythm 1993)
Tevo Howard: This was one of those cruising tracks that Chicago heads would often play loudly from low-rider cars with ground effects. Chicagoans closely relate the track to two classic North Side shopping malls: Brickyard Mall and the HIP, which stands for Harlem and Irving Plaza. Both malls had a particular style, and a particular sound of house music was embraced by the neighborhoods they were in. People in Chicago may chuckle at this note, but inside, I loved “Yolanda” too.
Iz & Diz “Down 4 U” (Guidance 1997)
Kate Simko: Diz was my favorite DJ when I first went to raves in my teens, and Guidance was a seminal Chicago label based in the heart of Wicker Park. People were always hanging out at their office or at bars or record shops in the neighborhood. This track reminds me of those Guidance days, and it gets the coldest dance floor moving.
Alisha, “All Night Passion” (Vanguard 1984)
Tevo Howard: Hit jam that gets Chicago to the dance floor on a dime. There’s often a brave Chicagoan who can’t resist approaching the DJ booth just to note this not-forgotten track. Great for that hot and sexy point in the night to get a sweaty crowd to keep it up.
Frankie Knuckles, "Baby Wants To Ride" (Trax 1987)
Kate Simko: We have to include one from the godfather of house music. When Frankie passed away in 2014, it was great to see the city come together and treat house music like the art form that it is. Frankie was a trailblazer who started a whole new genre. He helped pave a road for DJs and dance floors across the globe. This track came out in 1987, when I was just a little girl. It’s a rework of a track by Jamie Principle from 1986. It sounds so ‘80s—you can really hear the influence of Prince! This is a dirty jam, and if you’re looking for a remake, Detroiter Jimmy Edgar’s recent remix is great too.
Exposé, “Point of No Return” (Arista 1985)
Tevo Howard: Monster hit in Chicago, but nowhere in the world embraced it like we did. Often, WBMX’s radio DJs would throw this one in for that Friday night dance party. Some Chicago heads actually waited all week just to listen.
Robert Owens, “I'll Be Your Friend” (RCA 1991)
Tevo Howard: Embraced by NYC, but especially cherished in memories of Tuesday nights at Chitown’s Martini Ranch or Zentra back when those clubs were building their history.