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MTV's Party Zone - Keeping The Vibe Alive

"Life moves pretty fast. You don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it"

A cliched yet classic cool quote from the late great John Hughes's masterpiece "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" really rang true today for me in regard to my MTV years (1988-2000).

MTV was in my thoughts as I'm DJ-ing this weekend at an MTV party with some real 'old skool-ers' sure to be there and this morning I had breakfast with former MTV presenter Steve Blame discussing some film projects so, inevitably we both reminisced and the memories always bring a smile to my face; we both confirmed how crazy those MTV times were in terms of creative freedom.

This was all reinforced again later in the day after some meetings, when I was totally touched & humbled by hooking up with Alex Belfi& Filippo Zuech, 2 long-time Italian fans of my MTV Party Zone/Dance shows. Filippo, now 23 was hooked back in '88 aged 9!) and Alex, more in line with my age (!) got my utmost instant respect with solid geek credentials that included a collection of over 40,000 hours of taped TV!! Alex & Filippo were visting London and had e-mailed to see if I would be willing to hook up for a chat about the 'MTV Party Zone/Dance' years and maybe fill some gaps in their VHS collection of shows!!

Their recollection and intricate knowledge of all those classic club clips got further props. We shared pop-culture passion & remembered those MTV 'golden days' and I kept having to "stop to look and listen around" because Alex & Filippo triggered memories not just from all those music videos, interviews etc, but also from recalling how working at MTV was back in the day; the process of putting together shows - the playlist meetings that often featured friendly fights with bosses over what I wanted to programme in my shows, scouring through & sourcing fresh videos, frantically getting them 'carted' on 'Beta', raw show-features like 'Flyer Of The Week' (!), early days of scribbling my running orders on scraps of paper and handing them to Rosemary Stock who was the cool MTV mum back then plus all those mad letters from fans in war-torn countries being bombed who seemed to be more concerned about getting their 'Party Zone' request played then what potential dangers engulfed their environment!

Again, being reminded of all that freedom & creativity I had producing those shows to an audience of 60 million+ households made me pause for the cause!! The irony nowadays is that with so much choice (Facebook, YouTube, Video Games, Spotify etc.), the 'soul' of sharing all this cool new stuff via a major media outlet like MTV has somewhat evaporated into a kind of 'very limited automatic playlist mode'; a topic that I'll happily & enthusiastically debate at length!

---------- Original message ----------
From: Filippo Zuech
Date: 25 September 2009 17:37
Subject: back home
To: James Hyman

Hi James!

So here I am again, we just got back home.
First and foremost, thank you once again for those 2 quality hours we spent together yesterday! We REALLY appreciated that. We're looking forward to seeing you again, hopefully pretty soon, and possibly making a tour of the MTV building!!!

I just read your latest post, cooool stuff man! I'm glad that Alex and I managed to trigger all those beautiful memories of yours. It felt so weird for us to "finally" meet the great guy who shaped our taste in music - and not only... It's incredible how like-minded we are. If you still worked at MTV, I'm sure you'd be the best boss anyone could wish for - and the channel(s) would be much better, of course.

Actually, I think there was a typo or something in your post: being born in late 1985, I turned 9 in late 1994 (not 1988). Anyway, weird as it sounds, I discovered the Party Zone even earlier. I definitely remember watching it in 1992 - a.k.a. the year I turned 7 - and loving stuff like Shut Up And Dance's "Derek Went Mad", hehe!

Please find attached the second picture we took yesterday. I've resized it because it was huge. I'm glad you came up with the idea of taking a second pic, as the first one turned out to be too dark, grainy and slightly out of focus (what a combo!).

Let's keep in touch and thanks for being such a living legend! ;-)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Alex
Date: 26 September 2009 16:26
Subject: hi!
To: James Hyman
Cc: Filippo

Hi James!

Here's Alex. Thanks a lot for the wonderful post on your blog about our London meet. It has been such a great thing.
It's so nice to have someone to talk to about Acen, Stakker Humanoid and our passion for music and videos.
And your "Super-Hearing" CD is absolutely great, some bits are genial, and some combinations are just funny and original!
So now I can even dance to R.E.M.! :-) And there's also a great 80s selection too! I loved Yazoo mixed with LaRoux.:-)

I found the e-mail I sent you in January, probably you never received it. It was about Party Zone on MTV European and the week they played two of your megamixes.

As you probably know MTV stopped broadcasting those great megamixes around 2003-4. By the way, MTV European is the name of MTV Europe since 2002. With the progressive regionalization of the main channel, MTV European is now only officially available in a bunch of countries, that is the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Albania, Malta, Luxembourg and Iceland. This will change by the end of November with the launch of MTV Czech&Slovak.
I managed to get access to MTV European, because it is english-speaking, although they don't talk too much, and it still has a (tiny) bit of the old feeling, and also because generally I want, and need, to get access to as many channels as possible, not just to watch them, but also, and especially, to analyze them and record material.

Anyway, after our beloved Simone left PZ, the show has never been the same again, and not simply because of her presence, but also because of the quality of the music played, and I'm not talking about MTV UK, which was still very good, I'm talking about MTV Europe, Italy, Germany, etc. Since Simone was not there anymore they started splitting PZ into separate PZs for those local channels. Still, a lot better than today, but everything started going downhill.
The show became impersonal, videos were repeated too many times, week after week, everything was less exciting, and mainly because MTV started a different playout, and shows were different on each regional channel, which was a very annoying thing to me, although being lucky to be able to watch all of them.
The only exception in that annoying situation were your wonderful megamixes Vol.1 to Vol.47 (parts 1 & 2), which were still played on all MTV channels.

Two megamixes were surprisingly played on Party Zone on MTV European on the 10th of January 2009:
Here's the full playlist:

Party Zone, MTV European - 10/01/2009

FISH GO DEEP - The Cure And The Cause
PUSSY 2000 - It's Gonna Be Alright
MOBY - Disco Lies (Freemasons remix)
TIMO MAAS - Der Schieber
JAMIROQUAI - Don't Give Hate A Chance
FRANKIE VALLI & THE FOUR SEASONS - Beggin' (Pilooski re-edit)
BLACK GHOSTS - Anyway You Choose To Give It
CREAM vs. THE HOXSTONS - Sunshine At Your Love
CAFE GROOVE - Why You Wanna Do Me Wrong
C&C MUSIC FACTORY - Things That Make You Go Hmmm
LIFELIKE - Discopolis
DHT - Listen To Your Heart
THE PARTY ZONE MASSIVE - Megamix '99 Volume 29 (part 1)
LADY GAGA - Just Dance
TIESTO - Just Be
THE PARTY ZONE MASSIVE - Megamix '99 Volume 30 (part 2)
VIVA CITY vs. DON DIABLO - Audio Endlessly
SAFRI DUO - Sweet Freedom

Too bad it was just for one week, although some cheesy dancey pop videos are there anyway.

I attach some screenshots of titled videos, and here's a special section for this on my website:
Also attached is one screenshot taken from the megamix played on the PZ in January 2009.

Thanks very much for everything!

Alex Belfi

P.S.: maybe not of interest, but just to let you know where we are located:

1MTV Euro-January 10 00 00 40-01142721F-001.jpg

2MTV Euro - November 16 02 59 45-00314404F-001.jpg

3VH1 Euro - May 12 03 59 01-01022004F-001.jpg

4VH1 Euro - September24035931-01131410F.jpg
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Filippo Zuech
Date: 28 September 2009 17:01
Subject: our old memories
To: James Hyman

Hi James!

I hope you had a great time DJing at the MTV party + meeting some of your old colleagues the other night. Alex and I wish we had been there too! ;-)

I've also checked out your CD and it's way cool man, great job! It's not like I had any doubts about it anyway. I especially like the Art Of Noise vs. Kanye mashup!!!

Last Thursday you mentioned playing "Beat Poem" by Craig Davies on COZ back in the mid '90s, so I thought I'd send you the 2 playlists from 1995 where that video is included:

MTV Europe's CHILL OUT ZONE - March 4th 1995
CRAIG DAVIES - "Beat Poem" - (Like Narcissus)
PRAXIS - "Animal Behaviour" - (Transmutation)
BIOSPHERE - "The Shield" - (Patashnik)
PRIMAL SCREAM - "Higher Than The Sun" - (Screamadelica)
TRICKY - "Overcome" - (Maxinquaye)
FUTURE SOUND OF LONDON - "Cascade" - (Lifeforms)
A GUY CALLED GERALD - "Voodoo Ray" - (Hot Lemonade)
MASSIVE ATTACK & NICOLETTE - "Sly" - (Protection)
BUCKSHOT LEFONQUE - "Breakfast At Denny's" - (Buckshot Lefonque)
GRANT LEE BUFFALO - "Fuzzy" - (Fuzzy)
WIR - "So And Slow It Grows" - (The First Letter)
THE RESIDENTS - "This Is A Man's World" - (Our Tired, Our Poor, Our Huddled Masses)
SHUT UP AND DANCE - "Derek Went Mad" - (Dance Before The Police Come!)
SWEET EXORCIST - "Testone" - (Testone EP)
LFO VS. F.U.S.E. - "Loop" - (Richie Hawtin & John Acquaviva "Enter: Digital Reality!" X-Mix)
JON HASSELL - "Voice Print" - (City: Works Of Fiction)

MTV Europe's CHILL OUT ZONE - June 24th 1995
THE CARDIGANS - "Carnival" - (Life)
SAINT ETIENNE - "Like A Motorway" - (Tiger Bay)
FUTURE SOUND OF LONDON - "Snake Hips Part 1" - (ISDN)
UNDERWORLD - "Rez" - (Rez / Cowgirl EP)
PLASTIKMAN - "Plastique" - (Musik)
ULTRAHIGH - "It's Time" - (The View Of Ultrahigh)
CRAIG DAVIES - "Beat Poem" - (Like Narcissus)
THE ORB - "U.F.Orb" - (U.F.Orb / From The Longform Video "Future Shock")
SALT TANK - "Olympic" - (ST4)
MOBY - "Into The Blue" - (Everything Is Wrong)
ORBITAL - "Belfast / Wasted" - (Wasted - The Best Of Volume Part 1)
SVEN VTH - "An Accident In Paradise" - (Accident In Paradise)
JON HASSELL - "Voice Print" - (City: Works Of Fiction)
ZION TRAIN - "Get Ready" - (Get Ready EP)
BOMB THE BASS - "One To One Religion" - (Clear)
DEAD CAN DANCE - "Yulunga (Spirit Dance)" - (Taken From The Film "Baraka" / Into The Labyrinth)
ATLANTIC OCEAN - "Waterfall" - (Waterfall)
FUTURE SOUND OF LONDON - "Snake Hips Part 2" - (ISDN)

You asked me if I could remember other tracks that were played on the same edition(s) and I answered "Dead Can Dance". Well, I feel safe to say that I'm proud of my memory, haha! As you can see, these playlists include also several other artists/videos that we discussed or simply mentioned, such as A Guy Called Gerald, Sweet Exorcist, Jon Hassell, Salt Tank, FSOL...

Please find attached some more things we mentioned:

- the orange (!) strap on Mike Oldfield's video (yeah, I remembered the color)

- Jon Hassell's strap - though I guess the video edit of the track is not included on "City: Works Of Fiction", as it is an 808 State remix

- 5-HT's strap a.k.a. "the song that probably doesn't exist", released in late 1998 and played only twice on COZ. I guess this is even more rare than Craig Davies. Unfortunately, for some mysterious reason, I've kept only the first 30 seconds of this video on my VHS, so this is all I have. If only I had access to the MTV library...

- the Teletubbies on COZ in late 1997

- Future Groove's "Vortex", the first Romanian video to be played on MTV Europe - both on PZ and COZ - back in November 1998 - awesome d&b stuff

- last but not least: LA Sythesis, the stunning track from 1997 that Alex and I re-discovered almost by chance while watching one of his old tapes a couple of weeks ago - the bassline on this track drives me NUTS.

That's it! I hope I'm not bothering you with this stuff. ;-)
We can't wait to see you again, so that we'll discuss even more great stuff - and you'll tell us more anecdotes from those crazy days!
Bye for now!

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Filippo Zuech
Date: 28 September 2009 23:34
Subject: Re: our old memories
To: James Hyman

Woooaa, that's awesome! Your blog is slowly but surely becoming some kind of "strap museum"!

I forgot to send you the one for "Die Glatze", so here it is,
alongside another ace video by Joe Tabu taken from the same compilation and played on the same week as Klaus Beyer.

I just found the pic you posted on twitter from last Saturday's party. Nice stuff!!!
Talk soon!

Posted on September 25, 2009 at 12:19 AM
R.I.P. Patrick Swazye & Dominic Dunne

R.I.P. Patrick Swayze and belatedly (26 August) to Dominic Dunne (pictured below right), one of the best writers / investigative journalists (I was hooked to his Vanity Fair columns!)


Posted on September 15, 2009 at 08:46 PM

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