As a record digger and DJ, I’m often deconstructing what makes a hit. Whether it’s needle-dropping in a record shop’s listening booth or pulling stacks for the club, I’m perpetually sorting out rare and hit-worthy songs that will prevent me from relying on the actual hits to keep the dance floor alive. Every selector is different in this way. This is just how I am. I’d rather not tap into the Billboard song book if I don’t have to.
That said, when I do play the hits, there are only so many I’m apt to play. “I Can’t Wait” by Nu Shooz is one. The track made the band’s career and this was no accident. The Portland, Oregon, group was wowing listeners for nearly seven years before the single’s release and continues to do so thirty-six years since their first rehearsal. Nu Shooz’ catalog of under-played “hits” is impressive, with myriad aesthetic choices made and styles represented—from blue-eyed soul arrangements to new-wave rocker steez, balearic house, G-funk, and more. The fifty-minute mix below is a listening guide to my story for Wax Poetics Issue 62, an alternate history of the band’s output, as well as an homage to the offbeat gems that remain hits in my book.
1. “Someone Is Calling” [Unreleased] 1983
2. “Don’t Turn Back” B-side to “I Can’t Wait” 7-inch (Poolside Records) 1985
3. “Minor Yours” Can’t Turn It Off (Nebula Circle Records) 1982
4. “Caught in the Wheels” Can’t Turn It Off (Nebula Circle) 1982
5. “Free to Be” Can’t Turn It Off (Nebula Circle) 1982
6. “Make Your Mind Up” B-side to “Goin’ Too Far” 7-inch (Poolside) 1985
7. “I Can’t Wait (Original Extended Mix)” Pride of Portland compilation LP (Z100 Radio) 1985
8. “Should I Say Yes? (Mantronik Bassapella Remix)” 12-inch (Atlantic Records) 1988
9. “Time Will Tell (Frankie Knuckles Late Night Club Remix)” 12-inch (Atlantic) 1992
10. “Don’t Let Me Be the One” Poolside (Atlantic) 1986
11. “The Truth (ft. Maceo Parker)” B-side to “Are Your Looking For Somebody Nu” 12-inch (Atlantic) 1988
12. “Anytime (Instrumental) (Bobby D Edit)” [Unreleased] 2015
13. “Stop Pretending” Kung Pao Kitchen [self-released] 1991/2012