Infinite Running Music: ’90s Repetitive Beats

I’ve just started a playlist on Spotify called Rob Deering’s Infinite Running Music . It is currently, er, finite, but I will be adding tunes until you won’t care. Ad infinitum, if you will; I definitely will.

This week I’ve loaded it up with mainly dance music from the ’90s; for me, the link between the music I loved listening to then, and love running to now, is hilarious. I couldn’t have been less healthy in the mid-’90s, I was putting pretty much everything into my body except fresh fruit and veg, and if I’d run down the road I’d have coughed up a lung, but I was listening to music which, on a good day, can make running at pace feel like strolling on a moving walkway. Of course, there is an obvious, physical link – dancing then, running now – but we never thought of dancing as exercise – and I certainly never asked anyone to sponsor me for doing it for a sustained period of time.

The highlights:


T2 – and the re-released original Trainspotting – are back in cinemas, which is why I began here, with the spectacular, none-more-1996 remix of Underworld’s Born Slippy. I lived in Edinburgh in ’94-’95, but I was out of the UK for the first half of ’96, which led to the lucky experience of discovering this tune – and the film – at about the moment everyone else was sick of all the hype. I could not believe how fantastic it all was. Still can’t. Of course, the iconic running bit in the film is accompanied by Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life, but that’s a genre for another time.


Having said that, there is an even bigger banger on the original Trainspotting soundtrack – a dance tune with a build enormous enough to help you run up a sheer rock face. I was a music snob in ’96 – I liked my dance music unsullied by soulful vocals, and my albums performed by specific bands and artists, never ‘various’. This song and this soundtrack shook me out of that ridiculousness forever.


As I walked up Edinburgh’s Arthur’s Seat to see the sun rise one morning in ’95, the batteries in my Walkman began to run out. Quickly, I pressed stop, saving those heroic double AAs so I could drop Fluke’s song at the crucial moment on the top. It worked, and I danced like a lone loon by the trig point as the city below me went from blue to pink. What a tune; the spacious drop down happens not once but twice. *happy sigh*


Flash forward to the same spot twenty (twenty!) years later; this time I’m running on Arthur’s Seat – which is just fabulous, every city should have a park with a mountain in it – and the rising sun’s been replaced with torrential rain. I catch the eye of the one other person up there – another runner – and the look that passes between us could be translated as ‘I know. Idiots.’ But then, as I crest Salisbury Crags, this crispy classic comes on, and I don’t feel like an idiot at all – more like a god. A very damp, slightly chafed god.

From here, the New Order legacy is all Blue Monday and the Hacienda, but in the ’90s they were so on it, always moving forward and sounding fresh. This tune is actually from ’89, but it sounds like it was recorded this morning.


But we should get back to hard, dancing music. I’ve actually run over hills in the pouring rain in the far North to this tune too, and it was all I could do not to throw my arms out wide and say ‘RAAAAAAARGH!’ But passers-by would not have approved. Taking a simple riff on a Roland bass sequencer, then fiddling with the nob to change the sound was so central to dance music for a moment there; as Fat Boy Slim had it, ‘everybody needs a 303’.


Although I’ve gone with a different Norman Cook song – he’s credited as Scanty Sandwich rather than Fat Boy Slim here – purely because I think people need to be reminded of this one. Although I like running to big, fast beats, I’m really not bothered about matching my heart rate, or my steps, to the BPM. Having said that, Cook’s slow-it-right-down, speed-it-back-up-again trick tests that to the limit; ‘don’t wind it down Norm – trying to run here!’


Talking of tunes people might need reminding of, here’s one which we loved just as much as Josh Wink’s Higher State Of Consciousness at the time. My DJ friend Jon ‘Dapple’ Knight made me a tape which started with the theme from Star Wars before slamming straight into this; it was really hard to observe the speed limit when that tape was on in the car.


I might be making it all sound very niche and subversive, but this was the ’90s, when Radiohead’s prog-rock mini-epic Paranoid Android could enter the charts at number one. And a new Leftfield track – with a grubby, processed bassline that hits you so deep in the gut that it can sometimes have a laxative effect – could be the soundtrack to an advert. Granted, it was a cool advert – ‘tick followed tock followed tick followed tock’, no meerkats – Guinness always used to have great ads.


The Chemical Brothers – like Leftfield – played great live shows and had superb videos; the songs are maybe a bit more dynamic and rock-bandish than some deep dance because of that. They certainly make you feel cool when you listen to them while you’re running – like you’re in a video, and/or are fleeing the scene of a crime. When chances are, if you’re me, you’re actually lost in an industrial estate. The video to Let Forever Be is the most mind-bending, but this tune is one of their very best to run to. ‘Here we go!’


Back in my Edinburgh days I heard this then-contemporary remix in a shop, and sought it out. Great music – it’s that crisply produced, spacey relentlessness that makes you feel like you’re flying – rather than running, or dancing. Nice work, Pet Shop Boys. I just can’t imagine how dated – or not – this might sound to someone hearing it for the first time, I’m too steeped in it, but if that’s you, give it a go and let me know.


I do know that my friends HATED this when it came out at the beginning of the decade, and tried earnestly to convince me of the mistake I’d made. But I loved it, and I still do. I saw Kraftwerk at Brixton Academy – the audience were nearly all men, and there wasn’t much dancing. Different kind of trainspotting altogether. But they were great. And The Robots was played by actual robots. Superb. But robots, like zombies, can’t run. You can, and should, whilst listening to this.


It’s back to Leftfield for my last, best selection from the ’90s dance department of my Infinite Running Music. As far as I know, this wasn’t even a single, just a track on their album Leftism, which just goes to show the quality of music they were creating at the time. I know of no better tune to run to; it’s got pace, length, relentlessness, new things happening all the time; it’s even reminiscent of Philip Glass in places. I know in some sporting contexts listening to music is banned for being performance-enhancing; well, I think this tune can probably knock ten seconds off your mile pace.

Here’s those twelve as a playlist on their own – Best of RDIRM – ’90s Repetitive Beats– let me know what you think.

I’m on Twitter (@DeeringRob) and Facebook.

Happy running and listening.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,