At the end of 1982, when Chicago's legendary Warehouse club closed and re-opened as the Powerplant on another location, Hardy was asked to play at the old club, now renamed "The Music Box". Hardy of course competed with Powerplant dj Frankie Knuckles, and he was very experimental in his playing style. While Frankie Knuckles at the Warehouse and later the Powerplant had a very smooth style of playing, Hardy was very different. He had less regard for sound quality and would play with a manic energy, mixing everything from classic Philadelphia Disco classics, italo disco imports to new wave, mutant disco and rock tracks. Hardy also pitched records up way more than Knuckles.
Techno artist Derrick May remembers hearing Stevie Wonder with the speed at +8. Ron would extend intros and breaks, teasing his dancers for ages and when the vocals finally came the floor would explode. Hardy played a lot of reel-to-reel edits and was always tweaking the soundsystem and playing with the EQ. A Ron Hardy trademark was playing records backwards.
he did this by mounting the turntable headshell upside down to the tone-arm, placing a cylinder on the platter, putting the record on the cylinder and by removing the tone-arme weight, pushing the now upside-down needle into the underside of the record. The platter spun normal, but the record played backwards! The Music Box was also known for its insanely loud sound volume. Ron always opened his set with "Welcome To The Pleasure Dome" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Among the classic disco that was a staple in Chicago clubs at the time, typical tracks one could hear him play were Visage - Frequency 7, Klein & MBO - Dirty Talk, ESG - Moody, Liquid Liquid - Optimo, First Choice - Let No Man Put Asunder, a lot of Philadelphia Classics and even pop hits like Eurythmics - Sweet Dreams en Talk talk - It's My Life. He also played Electronic Body Music acts like Nitzer Ebb.
The main ingredient however were the soulful black disco tracks. Halfway in the 80's, many Chicago dj's and clubgoers started experimenting with creating their own rhythm tracks. Dj's would play these homemade tracks, and (in short) this is how house music was born. Ron Hardy was no exception, often getting the hottest acetates and tapes. A roll-call of major Chicago producers including Marshall Jefferson, Larry Heard, Adonis, Phuture's DJ Pierre and Chip E all debuted their compositions at The Music Box.
When DJ Pierre and his friends Herb and Spanky created a weird squelching rhythm track from a Roland TB 303 bassline machine, they gave this track to Ron Hardy. He played it and the first time the dancers left the floor. He played the track 3 more times that night, and by the fourth time the audience was going crazy. The track was named "Acid Tracks", the band was called Phuture and acid house was born. Lingering problems with heroin addiction forced him to leave the Music Box around 1986 and though he continued to DJ around the area, Hardy wasn't around when Chicago became house music's mecca later in the 80's.
He died in 1991, from a heroin overdose. Lately, there has been a renewed interest in Ron Hardy's legacy as a DJ. In 2004, two bootleg 12" records were released with "Ron's edits" and in 2005, Partehardy Records, run by his nephew Bill released authentic edits not heard in over 20 years. There is also another bootleg series of edits called "Music Box", containing either genuine Ron Hardy re-edits or tibutes by other dj's imitating his editing style. DJ Theo Parrish also made a series of tribute-remixes called "Ugly Edits" some of which bear a striking resemblance to Hardy's re-edits.
These have been bootlegged too. Some of DJ Harvey's Black Cock edits records are tributes to Hardy's edits as well. In recent news, Death Disco Radio has aired Ron Hardy's house/italo mixes in an effort to preserve Ron's memory and musical talent. Read more on Last.fm.
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