Tony Spin takes us on a personal journey, a turning point deep in Manchester’s hip hop history.
This article has been updated for July 2021.
Remembering Paul Mulhearn, 30 years on…
Back in 1986 teenagers and young adults from the North West of England would tune-in to Stu Allan’s Souled Out show on Piccadilly Radio / Key 103, which ran regular competitions for up and coming DJs and mixers to send in their mixes for airplay.
In the autumn of 1986 Stu announced on his show he wanted the listeners to create a Best of 1986 mix. Since the early 1980s, Piccadilly Radio always had an end of year ‘best of’ mix. The likes of the mixgods Greg Wilson and Chad Jackson would spend weeks creating the perfect mix and listeners would be ready to press the record button on the ghetto-blaster. A full year of the best tracks in one show, fantastic stuff!
No turntables, no samplers, just a bog standard home hi-fi unit twin tape deck connected to a ghetto blaster to record the master mix.
On Sunday December 21st 1986 Stu announced the winner. A guy called Paul Mulhearn from Rainford in St Helen’s.
It was a proper megamix with 100 tracks including samples. Stu explained this was a pause button mix. No turntables, no samplers, just a standard home hi-fi unit twin tape deck connected to a ghetto blaster to record the master mix.
Paul had made the perfect mix, timing, flow, with the most basic equipment you could use. It was simply outstanding! Stu’s tone expressed his excitement and amazement; he had just played such an incredible mix.
Paul made the mixes in his bedroom when he was only 17. He used his Dad’s Amstrad SM104 Vertical record player with a double tape deck connected into a Black TOSHIBA RT-90S boombox. Totally self taught!
Paul was born in Liverpool in August 1969 and went to West Park High School in St Helens.
At the age of 15, he started to get into music. He used to travel from Rainford to Manchester’s Spin Inn Records, to buy records. He also had tape recordings of his favourite shows, Souled Out with Stu Allan, Piccadilly Radio. Paul favourite bands were Mantronix, RUN DMC and also Depeche Mode.
The response to the airing of Paul’s mix on was huge in the North West of England, to such a scale Radio stations in Merseyside and newspapers contacted Paul – he even started to receive fan mail!
Here’s a clipping from The Ormskirk Advertiser – February 1987:
A few weeks later Stu played a short mix by Paul which was a kind of jingle mix for the Souled Out show.
Again, perfectly produced, mixed and demonstrated Paul had started to branch out showing he was capable of creating tracks and sampling, using the same hi-fi equipment.
Sadly, Paul passed away in October 1987 aged only 18.
Statements from the music industry
I used to think I was good on the pause button but this was ridiculously good!
CJ Mackintosh – M/A/R/R/S
I have always been credited with being someone who pushed barriers forward in recording music but was not aware of Paul until recently. To see what this young guy was doing with just cassette decks is bordering on genius. It’s such a shame that he’s not around especially with today’s technology, as I think he would have taken things to a different level. R.I.P Paul
Incredible! I used to think that I was a master of the pause tape, but I am wowed by the ingenuity and creativity behind this mix! And the realization of what he did with such limitations, I can only imagine what he could have become with access to the technology that was available then, and what was to come afterward. He could have been a wizard with a splice block, tape and a razor blade, but can you imagine him in the digital realm? Gone way too soon! Rest In Peace.
Cozmo D Newcleus
Coming Straight From The Lyrical King From The Boogie Down Bronx! I must Take Time To Acknowledge Paul Mulhearn Who At The Tender Age Of 17 Created One Of The Best Mixes using some of the explosive songs Found On My Lyrical King LP! Paul Developed A Unique Talent Of Using The Pause Button! Much Respect Due!!!! –
T LA Rock
The skills of creating mixes by pause button editing on cassette decks was a skill that gave many of us our creative start into music production, editing and DJing. Paul learned these skills and took them to the next level. An incredible amount of forward planning, preparation and timing were required, and a judicious selection of tunes. He would have become an amazing producer if he would have carried on developing his skills. His 86 mix is simply a thing of genius. A true talent. Amazingly he lived in my locality, only a few minutes up the road, yet, unfortunately, I never met him.
Amazing! Never thought I’d hear this again either! Incredible! Just think what he could’ve come up with today’s technology! – People still talk and ask me about this mix! His name hasn’t been forgotten either. Made a big impact on ‘Souled Out & Bus Diss!’ in such a short time. For those that don’t know, because he couldn’t afford turntables, he did this mix entirely on 2 cassette decks and the ‘sampling’ effect was done using the pause button of one of those decks. I had a couple of phone conversations all those years ago with Paul – I just wanted to let him know how brilliant his mixes were and that the reaction from the listeners was phenomenal. He was quietly spoken and clearly quite pleased but a bit embarrassed and shocked about it too and overwhelmed that I was loving what he’d spent hours creating. He said “Thank you, Stu – I’ll get some more mixes to you soon”. Sadly, we heard no more. I’m still saddened by what happened. His memory will truly live on. R.I.P.
DJ Stu Allan – Souled Out / Bus Diss Key 103 / Piccadilly Radio
Have really enjoyed this mix! And I’d love to offer these words -“I was talking to Laurent Garnier – probably the most inventive and influential of all DJs in France in the last thirty years. He said that great DJs are less about their ego than their contribution to collective history. I like that phrase “collective history”. The pioneers are those who contribute most. People who blaze a trail for others that follow. Listening to Paul’s stuff from 1986, the talent shines through and the unique technical brilliance. Truly a pioneer who enriched that great collective history.
Dave Haslam Haçienda
Big Ups & R.I.P to Paul Mulhearn! He had a great ear & passion for Hip Hop & it is evident in the vibe created on his pause button mixes.. Truly an incredible talent!
Mix Master ICE – UTFO
Wow Hold up, I just heard that mix. It’s a hard mix to do with vinyl but pause tape mixing! Forget about it. This is incredible. Paul had a special talent to be mixing like this back then. Technology was nowhere close to what we have today. Wow is all I can say. Man it’s an honour for one of our fallen heroes!
DJ Cash Money
Paul Mulhearn was definitely a shining star, his pause bottom mix tape lives today 30 years later, we all are still fascinated by his artistic delivery and formula, unfortunately he took his life prematurely, who knows what he would have been today, may he Rest In Peace.
DJ Sammy B – Jungle Brothers
Paul Mulhearn’s pause button mix is phenomenal. I couldn’t even believe this was done using the pause button technique. I started out making pause button tapes back in the early 80’s. The original Public Enemy #1 demo was done using the pause button technique. This in my opinion is the epitome of the art form and it is just a shame that he is no longer around.
DJ Johnny Juice
I never knew about Paul at the time, having left Manchester a few years before his mixes were broadcast. Listening to them now you can’t but be impressed by his ingenuity, and wonder what he might have done with less basic equipment at his disposal. That he did this bouncing between a twin cassette and a ghetto blaster is what I’d call a prime example of mother of necessity – finding a means not only to bring out your creativity despite your technical limitations, but using these very limitations, as in this case, to your artistic advantage.
DJ Greg Wilson
Classic mix. Not hear this for years! Paul Mulhearn was a massive influence on my own early pause tapes. The young Paul Mulhearn’s pause button mixes were aired on Stu Allan’s ‘Souled Out’ show on Manchester’s Piccadilly 261. He was one of many teenagers who spent countless hours at home, inspired by the early ’80’s cut up culture, and especially by fast edit specialists such as the Latin Rascals. What set Paul apart though was the sheer quality and intensity of his mixes. A far cry from the slick, polished tape edits of the time, his rough, lively mixes really capture the spirit of the mid ‘80s, and were notable for the fact that he did it all on three cassette decks! At a time when a teenager could only dream of owning Technics turntables, hearing something like this was a big inspiration to myself & many other DJs.
Paul Mulhearn’s pause tape mix is something really quite special; sitting in front of the radio/cassette player, with your finger on the pause button is something most people from my generation did on a regular basis. BUT this wondrous mix by Paul is on a completely different dimensional plane. The skill and beat matching is mind blowing, considering the level of technology (or lack of it) that he has used to create this mini masterpiece. It jars my mind thinking just how far he could have taken it, if given more time. A giant of a talent and a mix I heard played in many gaffs and cars back in the day. I take of my cap to you Paul.
Kermit Leveridge – Black Grape / Ruthless Rap Assassins
Back in the day it took more skills and timing to make a mix as we didn’t have the tools we do today. I come from that Era in the 80’s and Paul Mulhearn was most definitely in a different league as you go to this “button” mix paused with tape decks is simply amazing. Dedication and passion for his mixing art. Today we honour his legacy and I am glad to say I been around to witness the true skills not even with 2 turntables but with a tape deck. R.I.P Paul Mulhearn and may you rock in heaven.
Just listened again and it’s still amazes me. All beat mixed perfectly and imaginatively beyond belief. How good would he have become with today’s technology. Every time I listen it still blows my mind. Total respect. A master of his art R.I.P.
Waxmaster WBLS Radio Manchester
Thanks for everyone who helped complete the track list and sharing your memories. Special thanks to Mark Mulhearn and Elizabeth Russ, Ormskirk Library.
GOD BLESS Paul, your mixes will live on forever – Mr Spin.
Below is the track listing compiled with help from many friends on Facebook.
Paul Mulhearn – The Best of 1986 Mix
Indeep – Last night a DJ saved my life
Herbie hancock – Rockitt
Fab 5 Freddy Sample
1. Ice T – Dog In The wax
2. Mixmaster Gee – The Manipulator
3. Schoolly D – Gangster Boogie
4. M.C. Dollar Bill – Lifestyles Of The Fresh And Fly
5. Run Dmc – Is It Live
6. Ice T – You Don’t Quit
7. Run DMC – Hit It Run
8. Word Of Mouth – Coast To Coast DJ Cheese
9. The Junkyard Band – The Word
10. The Kartoon Krew – Batman
11. The B Boys – Girls (Part 2)
12. Salt & Pepa – I’ll Take your Man
13. Mantronix – Needle To The Groove
14. Mantronix – Hardcore Hip Hop
15. UTFO – Split Personality (Remix)
16. M.C. Chill – The Prophecy Part 1
17. Beastie Boys – Hold It Now, Hit It
18. Easy Mike Feat MC Sure Shot – The State We’re In – It’s Too Political (intro)
19. Easy Mike Feat MC Sure Shot – The State We’re In – It’s Too Political
20. Fat Boys – Breakdown
21. Steady B – Bring The Beat Back
22. Real Roxanne & Howie Tee – Bang Zoom
23. Biz Markie – Make The Music With Your Mouth, Biz
24. High Power – OK I’m Loosin’ Up
25. Lovebug Starski – Saturday Night (House Rocker)
26. World Class Wreckin’ Cru – B.S
27. Tears For Fears – Shout (Remix)
28. Eze T – Kicking Butts
29. Tricky Tee – Leave It To The Drums
30. The Freshmen – Who Me
31. Cherrelle with Alexander O’Neal – Saturday love (Extended Version)
32. Boogie Boys – ColorBlind World
33. SkiBone – Take it to the Top
34. The Two – The Real Grandmaster
35. Mantronix – Ladies
36. Stetsasonic – Just Say Stet
37. Whistle – Just Buggin
38. Melba Moore – It’s Been So Long
39. Loose Ends – Nights Of Pleasure
40. Klark Kent – Gettin Busy
41. Eric B & Rakim – Eric B. is President
42. Latin Rascals – Bach to the future
43. Ultimate III – Ultimate III
44. T LA Rock – Bass Machine
45. Mantronix & T La Rock – Breakin Bells
46. Fat Boys – Sex Machine
47. Pretty Ricky & Boo-Ski – It’s Mine
48. Mtume – Juicy Fruit
49. The Masterdon Committee – Get Off My Tip!
50. 12 41 – Success Is The Word
51. Loose Ends – Slow Down
52. Grandmaster Flash – Style Peter Gunn theme
53. Mtume – Breathless
54. Rap-O-Matic Ltd – Lies, Lies
55. Troublefunk – Still Smokin
56. Steady B – Cheatin Girl
57. Marley Marl – The Man Marley Marl
58. Timex Social Club – Rumours
59. Aleem – Confusion
60. Disco Four – Stomp,Stomp,Clap
61. Mantronix – Bassline
62. Alfronso – Time Bomb
63. Seville Ft Jazzy J – Envious
64. Run Dmc – Peter Piper
65. TACKHEAD – Is There A Way Out (King of the Beat)
66. Cutmaster DC – Brooklyns In The House
67. Choice MC – Brooklyn Style
68. Nu Shooz / Spyder D – I Cant Wait
69. Dr Jeckyl & Mr Hyde – Transformation
70. One Way – Don’t Think About It
71. Lovebug Starski – Saturday Night (UK Fresh live intro) Eight Wonder
72. Awesome Foursome – Monster Beat
73. Mac Attack – The Art Of Drums
74. Mac Attack – The Art Of Drums D C Street Rap
75. Hardrock Soul Movement – The Beat Is Mine
76. Sir Mix A Lot – Square Dance Rap
77. Vicious Rumor Club – Rumors Rap
78. Bobby Jimmy And The Critters – Bag Bobby Jimmy Jam
79. D.S.M – Destiny
80. Afrika Bambatta – Bambatta Theme
81. BB&Q Band – Dreamer
82. Nocera – Summertime Summertime
83. Masquerade – Solution to the problem
84. Abdul Tariq – Education
85. M.C. Chill – Open Your Eyes
86. Aleem Ft Leroy Burgess – Love’s On Fire
87. Mel n kim – Showing Out
88. Raze – Jack The Groove
89. Farley Jackmaster Funk – Love Can’t Turn Around
90. Byron Davis – My Hands Are Quicker Than The Eye
91. Cameo – Word Up
92. Run DMC – You Be Illin’
93. Egyptian Lover – The Lover
94. Pleasure Boys – Remix
95. World Class Wreckin’ Cru – He’s Bionic
96. Worse ‘Em – Triple M Bass