Pete Tong got the power says the jingle, but its
no joke. If you had to name the most powerful individual in the
UK dance music scene, then Pete Tong would be top of the list. More
than any other, Petes weekly Essential Selection show on Radio
1 is THE show for breaking new dance records. His production company
is now involved in every single dance music show on the station.
As A&R director at Ffrr he has has been reponsible for many
of the biggest dance records of the thirteen-odd years. To Pete
Tong, DJing at the countrys most prestigious clubs is little
more than a sideline.
Born in Dartford, Kent, Pete Tong developed a taste for soul and
jazz-funk from an early age. At the age of fifteen he landed his
first DJing job at a wedding. He soon began to display signs of
his business sense by promoting bands in the local town hall and
became integrated into the so-called Kent Soul Mafia, playing all
over the county. On leaving school, he set himself up as a fully-fledged
mobile DJ for hire with a Transit van and a sound system.
In 1979 Pete began to contribute to Blues & Soul magazine,
becoming features editor within a year. He also began to make his
first forays into radio, appearing on BBC Radio Medway and Radio
London before Peter Powell brought him in to present a weekly 15-minute
magazine-style slot on his Radio 1 show.
In 1983, Pete was brought in at the inception of London Records
as A&R manager where he looked after pop acts like Bananarama.
His radio career continued and he got his own soul show on Kents
Radio Invicta station in 1984, which lasted for three years. Dave
Pearce then hired him to present a specialist show on Radio Londons
Nite FM alternative service, but the station folded soon after and
Pete, like Dave, moved to Capital Radio to present a weekly show.
In 1988, with acid house and dance music culture exploding around
him, Pete set up a new dance subsidiary for London Records named
FFRR (Full Frequency Range Recordings). His first release was the
Chicago house classic, Baby Wants To Ride by Jamie Principle and
FFRR would go on to release many of the most influential house records
of the day, such as Lil Louis French Kiss, JM Silks
Music Is The Key, Frankie Knuckles Tears, Sterling Voids
Its Alright and Joe Smooths Promised Land as well as
signing hip-hop acts like SaltnPepa and Simon Harris.
Petes been at FFRR ever since and has overseen the signing
of such influential and successful acts as Orbital, Brand New Heavies,
Degrees Of Motion and Goldie to name but a few. Yet hes always
kept a foot in the pop world; it was he who A&Red Shakespeare
Sisters number one smash, Stay, and he was involved with signing
All Saints to London.
In 1991, Pete moved from Capital to Radio 1 to take over the Friday
night dance show from Jeff Young. Hes presented the Essential
Selection ever since and has seen it become the most influential
dance music show on the airwaves. A single play on the Essential
Selection can boost a records sales by thousands and a plug
for a club night can bring hundreds of extra punters through the
door. The show has been dominated by various strains of house since
its inception, but always features other styles of dance too, as
its Tongs stated aim to walk the fine line between the
mainstream and the underground.
When then Radio 1 controller Matthew Bannister resolved to bring
the station up to date in the mid-nineties, he approached Pete Tong
for help. Petes knowledge of the dance scene steered Bannister
towards signing up the likes of Tim Westwood, Danny Rampling and
Judge Jules, and nowadays Petes production company is responsible
for the stations entire specialist dance music output. The
hugely successful Essential Selection compilation albums on London,
which now run to several releases a year, all sell hundreds of thousands
Pete Tongs TV career began when he fronted Clublife 98, a
documentary based around the Muzik magazine awards broadcast by
the BBC and he was in-house DJ on Ian Wrights TV chat show.
Hes turned down offers to present Radio 1s Breakfast
and Top 40 shows as well as Top Of The Pops, but plans are afoot
for more TV work all the same. Hes even flirted with film,
as musical director of Human Traffic and The Beach.
Despite his success and probably because of it - Petes
drawn his fair share of criticism over the years. His radio show
has regularly been denounced as too commercial and Pete himself
has been attacked for allegedly playing too many of his own releases.
Moreover, his production companys stranglehold on Radio 1s
dance music programming has caused disquiet in some sections of
the dance music scene. For his part, Pete simply shrugs off the