In this chapter I’m going to look into the Euphoria brand itself, from its early beginnings in 1999, and then the later successes, offshoots and eventual takeover by Ministry of Sound back in 2004.
I’m also going to talk about some of the notable DJs featured on the albums, the genres covered and my opinions on the current state of the brand as of May 2009.
Although this chapter is not required reading to enjoy the project as a whole, I feel it will be an interesting topic for the fans, and give those people unfamiliar with the series some background knowledge which will help fill in some gaps when reading some of the other posts across the blog.
The Euphoria brand was created from the mind of Telstar Records boss Eddie Short in the summer of 1998.
In the inlay card for Pure Euphoria Eddie explains a little about the history of series and it’s beginnings, and states that although euphoric house and trance was exploding across the globe in 1998, there were no mix compilations to put on after the night out that came anywhere near to the experience on the dance floor.
After a particularly heavy night out, Eddie returned home with some friends where they all sat listening to Paul Oakenfold’s New York mix on seminal house label Global Underground. Whilst listening to the album Eddie declared “Imagine an album called Euphoria mixed by Paul Oakenfold – you would just have to buy it!”. Everyone immediately agreed and the concept for the albums was born.
Paul was approached by Telstar to mix the album but was “contracted to do a Pete Tong album” according to the sleeve notes in Pure Euphoria although I later read an interview with Eddie in a June 2002 issue of Future Music that states “Paul said he only wanted to use his name on Perfecto Albums” (Perfecto is Paul’s record label) so believe what you will.
Seb Fontaine, a popular BBC Radio 1 DJ at the time was then approached but could not make the deadline so instead Moussa Clarke, head of A&R for successful dance label Multiply Records (also owned by Telstar) was approached to complete the album and he made the deadline, which became the version that was released.
INITIAL CHART SUCCESS
The album was released on 1st February 1999, and made it’s debut at #4 in the UK compilation charts, but it was not until the following week when it climbed 3 places and secured #1. A week later it slipped to number 3 but then the following week it secured the top spot for a second time and then bounced around the top 20 for an impressive 17 weeks.
Here is a scan of the albums first hit at the top spot (if anyone says they don’t shed a tear looking at this chart they are so lying!)
The albums went from strength to strength, and were heavily advertised within the dance press and also had very recognisable television adverts that were inspired by the lens flare opening of the film Alien.
The albums were broken up into a variety of different concept albums, each specialising in a particular genre:
- Main Euphoria albums – these were usually released about twice a year and featured all the latest trance and harder edged house that was popular on the club scene at the time.
- Chillout Euphoria – there was usually one a year which covered a more downtempo and ambient angle of the trance and house scene.
- Ibiza Euphoria – this was usually a once a year release which covered all the big tracks featured in the current years Ibiza season.
- Hard House Euphoria – these were usually once a year and featured all the big tracks from the harder dance floors
- Specialist albums – these albums were released sporadically to fill the gaps between the main albums and the Ibiza albums, and spanned more specialist areas within the concept, such as the progressive house and old skool.
One thing the albums did very well was to bring in specialist DJs to mix certain genres of the albums, allowing the respective DJs to use their knowledge of the scene and the music to compile the tracklistings and help expand the concept of the Euphoria theme.
- Moussa Clarke mixed the first and fourth album in the series but never returned, allowing himself to leave on a high as both his mixes were astonishing.
- Matt Darey, an extremely popular trance producer at the time mixed a number of the albums, and was noted for being more of a producer than a DJ, allowing him to put sets together in an entirely different way on a computer rather than mixing live, something that the albums supported by displaying “digitally mixed by” on the front cover. The topic of digitally mixing albums is a topic I’m going to talk about later in the blog too.
- Red Jerry, the label boss of successful house and trance label Hooj Choons mixed the second main album in the series along with two of the more downtempo releases.
- John ‘OO’ Fleming mixed (and still mixes) the more targeted deeper genres such as progressive and psy trance, and became very popular with the fans due to his passion and knowledge of his particular scene.
- Ferry Corsten was by far the highest profile DJ to mix one of the albums with his Infinite Euphoria release in 2004.
- Lisa Lashes & The Tidy Boys were heavily involved in the harder edged albums, and to date the harder edged albums are still very popular.
- Jay Burnett, former Def Jam producer mixed a number of the more specialist albums such as the Deeper Shades of Euphoria and the later house and classic albums. Jay was also the last DJ to mix the series before it transferred to Ministry Of Sound in 2004.
- Dave Pearce & Judge Jules from UK Radio One mixed a number of albums, including some of the Ibiza and classic albums.
NOTABLE PROMOTIONS & TIE-INS
As well as having a number of different DJs brought in to mix the albums, the series also proactively ran competitions and promotions to coincide with sponsorships or record label tie-ins.
- The second Ibiza Euphoria in 2000 was released in association with Xtravaganza records, a successful british dance label noted for its heavyweight signings of Chicane & Agnelli & Nelson (the latter mixing the album alongside label boss Alex Gold)
- DJs Dave Pearce and Judge Jules released their respective albums with association of their BBC Radio One shows, and Dave Pearce also ran competitions to win tickets for the live gigs on his show and also within the albums.
- Solar Stone’s Chilled Out Euphoria in 2002 was noted for having Faithless track ‘Code’ created specifically for the album, and to this day is still the only album other than the Faithless album Outrospective to contain the track.
- 2001 saw the brand run a competition alongside male deodorant company lynx, in which listeners had the chance to send in their demos of tracks and the winner would get an inclusion on White Label Euphoria in early 2002 and LYNX released a limited edition version of their spray to help promote the competition.
Here is a picture of the promotion, and before you say it, I’m fully aware of how sad I am for keeping that deodorant bottle for the best part of 7 years (the smell in the cap surprisingly still takes me back!)
As touched upon in earlier chapters, the brand ran (and I believe still do occasionally) a series of live shows and tours under the Euphoria banner which began around 2000. The gigs were designed to allow clubbers to experience the music live that they heard on the albums, and were also a way of promoting the albums and road testing tracks for inclusion on future releases. It was a great way for the fans to actively get involved in the production of the albums, and as I mentioned previously I attended quite a number of these gig in the past, getting posters from some of the gigs and thanks to Adam White, managing to get John ’00’ Fleming to sign a White Label Euphoria 2 poster during one of his sets at Heaven in London.
The brand also ran a residency with Dave Pearce in Ibiza at Eden, spots at Heaven, SE1, Ministry of Sound and Turnmills in London, plus various other clubs and venues across the UK.
TRANSFERENCE TO MINISTRY OF SOUND
After Telstar Records folded in April 2004 (some blame Victoria Beckham, some blame music piracy and everyone blames the Cheeky Girls) the Euphoria series was bought out by hugely successful clubbing imprint Ministry of Sound.
Ministry wasted no time in getting the brand back on its feet, releasing the exceptional Infinite Euphoria from trance heavyweight Ferry Corsten, and the fans breathed a sign of relief. The relief became short lived however, as a backlash began to grow within the fanbase, as each new release for the series seemed to further dilute the output of the compilations.
Countless Classic and Very Best of releases saturated the market with the Euphoria name slapped on the cover and the fans began to get tired of hearing the same old tracks repackaged and played in a different order, and many abandoned the series completely (myself included).
The harder dance scene flourished within the change of ownership though, with the Frantic and Extreme variations proving some of the most popular releases to date, not to mention managing to get hardcore into the UK compilations chart in 2006 with Hardcore Euphoria which debuted at #9.
It has not all been doom and gloom under the Ministry tag though, John ‘oo’ Fleming and Jay Burnett still produce excellent mixes for the series, and despite the backlash the Euphoria franchise still has and will continue to have a dedicated set of fans.
CLOSING THOUGHTS ON THE SERIES
My personal thoughts on the takeover is that on paper everything looked pretty promising, Ministry of Sound have a solid reputation in the compilations market, and even have the rights to the Global Underground and Hed Kandi franchises not to mention have a history of quality trance releases on their label, so there is really no excuse in why the series cannot become what it once was.
I believe that the series should go back to its roots and have 2 of the main releases a year containing all the current commercial and underground hits, with an annual ‘Ibiza’ release containing all the white isle and summer anthems of the current year. The harder and concept albums should be released in between these 3 backbone releases as I think that the fans need some kind of stability like in the earlier years, rather than having to wade through countless repackaged classic albums, although I’m well aware that the classic albums are a way of bringing in new fans.