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In Praise of: Mary Annn Hobbs

December 6, 2012

Earlier this week it was announced that Mary Ann Hobbs would be returning to the BBC’s airwaves, hosting 6Music’s weekend breakfast show from January the 5th. While the 7-10am slot seems oddly early given her previous slots, she’s one of my broadcasting heroes; so I thought I’d take the opportunity to toast her career.

For me, she’ll always be synonymous with the show she started on the 17th of February 1997; The Breezeblock. For almost a decade it jumped around Radio 1’s weeknight schedule, evolving into a repository for the best mixes from the most interesting electronic artists during a fine period in dance music history. In September 2006 the powers that be changed the name to the Experimental Show, and her penchant for breaking new talent had gotten a bit grime and dub-step heavy for my liking, but by then her legendary status was already well established.

Four year’s later she finally left Radio 1, returning to her first station XFM and continuing her musical crusade, winning Best Specialist Show at the Sony and Arqiva Awards 2012. “For me, Music Is Life. I’m so excited to join a family with such depth and diversity of knowledge, pure passion and ingenuity. I look forward so much to the new challenge of creating a beautiful Weekend Breakfast Show which embodies the whole spirit of 6 Music, and allows me to explore some fascinating new radio terrain,” she stated on Monday.

Last time I saw her DJ. Photo credit www.azizaazul.com

Last time I saw her DJ. Photo credit http://www.azizaazul.com

A former journalist with the NME and a fine DJ in her own right, she’s pretty hot and has a voice as smooth as husky northern honey; what more could you want?

I thought I’d celebrate her radio reign the only way I know how, with a list. So here’s my favourite Breezeblock mixes from down the years, in roughly ascending order and with streams or download links where available:

Deadly Avenger – 3/6/02

As with most Breezeblock sets, this mix was timed to coincide with a record release, in this case Damon Baxter’s production pinnacle Deep Red. Predictably enough then, it draws heavily from that album, but like some of the other mixes below, that’s no bad thing. One of the finest half hours of music you’re likely to hear.

Felix Da Housecat – 25/6/01

While he hasn’t really done anything of note in quite a while, in 2001 Felix had just released his landmark album Kittenz and Thee Glitz, spearheading the electro-clash revolution with tracks like Silver Screen (Shower Scene) and The Rush. This mix feature both, as well as pretty much all the other essential tunes of the time.

The Beastie Boys – 11/11/97

One of several times the Beasties appeared on the show, this is probably the best, mixing the finest hip hop from Biz Markee, KRS-One, Tribe Called Quest and the Jungle Brothers with the last gasps of Brit pop a la Blur and Noel Gallagher.

Junior Cartier & Jacques Lu Cont – 15/5/00

Two of the finest house DJs of the era combine to create one of the best party mixes you’re ever likely to hear. Zipping between the timeless – Blue Monday, Psycho Killer, Debaser – and the turn of the century’s biggest tunes – Sandwiches, Dooms Night, Jacques Your Body – it’s a lovely little nostalgia trip.

The Chemical Brothers – 6/9/99

Not so much a mix as an education, as Tom+Ed take Hobbs through the records that influenced their early work. A really nice bit of radio, the duo chat away about the formation of the Brothers and what led them to producing the dance music they do.

FC Kahuna – 3/12/01

Between this and their Essential Mix of around the same time, FC Kahuna laid out a blueprint for where house music would go in the next few years, eschewing the plodding prog of the day for an exciting electro-tinged vision that still sounds fresh over a decade later.

Fatboy Slim – 20/08/01

Much like the next mix, this is a great example of funky house in its pure, naive form, before the band wagon was jumped. Before everything exploded with the Big Beach gigs and Cook’s career started to plateau, it’s a joy to hear the man at the peak of his dance floor destroying powers.

Freddy Fresh in Glasgow – 6/2/99

Back when big beat was still a thing and mash-ups meant something completely different, the likes of Freddy Fresh were mixing hip hop, funk, house and breaks with delirious abandon. This bouncy, boisterous set is probably the most fun you can fit into 30 minutes.

Freddy Fresh – Radio 1, Breezblock DJ set by Kozjegyzo on Mixcloud

Radiohead – 11/12/00

This show saw Kid A era Radiohead make a ‘sonic representation of their influences’, according to Hobbs’ intro. Basically Thom Yorke and Johnny Greenwood showing the length and breadth of their good taste.

Dan the Automator – 31/1/00
I can’t seem to find any evidence for this one online, but it’s definitely up there with the greats. Much like the Avalanche’s Breezebock session, it’s basically a glorified album mix, but what an album (the Automator-produced So How’s Your Girl? by Handsome Boy Modeling School) and what a mix; splicing the LP’s brilliant tracks with plenty of fine old school hip hop.
RJD2 – 8/6/04
Another mix to accompany another fantastic album, this time RJD2’s Since We Last Spoke. Ramble John Krohn spices a hearty broth of his own productions with tasty bits of Massive Attack, Wagon Christ, Soulwax and Jethro Tull. A sweet, soulful journey.

Laurent Garnier – 30/10/00

One of the most weird and wonderful selections of music I’ve ever heard. Everyone’s favourite Frenchman takes you on a journey through the more obscure recesses of his record collection. Worth a listen just for the yellow room bit alone.

Laurent Garnier – Breezeblock, 2005 by Oldschool on Mixcloud

Liam Howlett – 10/12/98

A mix so brilliant that it went on to be released in its own right. This represents the original version of the now seminal Prodigy Dirthchamber Sessions, only with all the samples and songs he couldn’t clear on the official mix.

The Avalanches – 11/9/00

Until they finally follow it up, Since I Left You remains The Avalanches’ magnum opus, and this mix acted as a prelude to the album itself. Pre-dating 2ManyDJs eclecticism by a good few years, this is a blissfully entertaining romp through their own sample-heavy songs and a variety of otherwise incongruous classics.

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