Stevenage (Hertfordshire) gets a pretty bad rep, and to be honest, some of it is deserved.
It was the first of a series of 28 new towns to be built across post-war Britain, as such parts of it are pretty drab to look at to say the least. It also harbours an unusually high amount of teenage mothers, and probably more bookies and Cash Converters-style establishments per square mile than anywhere in the world.
But the place really isn’t as bad as people say it is. For starters it’s always kept me in employ, and got me on the property market. The town also builds a quarter of all the satellites orbiting the Earth, has a quite a pleasant old town section, and plenty of green areas.
But in my mind, Stevenage’s biggest gift to the world is Moving Shadow.
Moving Shadow was founded by Rob Playford in the neighbouring village of Watton-at-Stone (where I’m from!) back in 1990 after reading a book on how to launch a record label.
As Shadow grew in popularity it became obvious it could be no longer run out of a bedroom in Rob’s mum’s house in the village, so Rob soon upped sticks five miles down the road and moved to Stevenage.
As well as acting as a warehouse for vinyl stock, the house also home to the first Moving Shadow studio. Rob might not have had many solo writing credits to his name, but during their golden years of 93/94, he was involved in a lot of the early releases, often working as engineer.
The house gave birth to many huge Moving Shadow tracks of the era. Producers such as Foul Play, DJ Trax, Omni Trio, 2 Bad Mice (Si acting as label A&R), Hyper On Experience, all passed through to either sign with Rob, or to produce (or reproduce) their tunes on Rob’s equipment.
It was even the birthplace of what is surely the undisputed defining moment in drum and bass; Timeless. Goldie and Rob had many studio sessions in Stevenage, pushing their setup to the limit to produce the 21 minute long epic.
Rob reminisces on this during an old interview with Sound On Sound magazine…
“I was living in Stevenage at the time and would give Goldie a ride back to London when we’d finished; we just kept rewinding the string section on the trip back, it was so gorgeous.
“Eventually, we ended up with an instrumental version of the song, which to my mind was finished. With that version, we could just get from Stevenage to Goldie’s house in the time the track took to finish. That was the goal; to get Goldie home without any rewinding!
Stevenage didn’t just play an important part in the history of Moving Shadow. A few other nuggets…
Long running station Impact FM was based in Stevenage – Specialising in hardcore, jungle and drum & bass (and later Garage, naturally)
The Sunset Over Stevenage
The whole town of Stevenage is kind of on a giant slope. Around spring time especially, on higher ground you’ll see a dramatic sunset over the town. For a few moments, it actually looks quite beautiful, and you momentarily forget its many faults.
I suspect this is what prompted Deep Blue to write this underrated little number on the b-side of the 2 Bad mice remix of Helicopter.
Its a progressive sounding track, like a lot of Deep Blue’s work at the time, with familiar sounding percussion, deep bass and trademark strings. Remember it next time you curse Stevenage as you speed past it on the A1.