You can’t imagine how pleasant this is for us to get back to you while being given back the possibility to add further life to this space after such a period of unvoluntary silence. Once again, thanks to those who shown us signs of commitment either while sendin’ us messages and material or simply coming to those pages. As for what to appear on your screens this week, a tribute to legendary disco/funk artists/producers Nile Rodgers & Bernard Edwards better known as Chic, our regular Politics Of Dancing series dedicated to the many times spoken thema about unity as opposed to self destruction. Also on display for our French speaking readers will be the third and last part of our zoom on the said electronic scene and its understanding on a local point of view. Meanwhile our Issue # 109 under the Back 2 Da Roots banner focusses on the contribution of the Europeans (or the Euro Americans) on the disco/dance scene with a whole bunch of must haves. Take a walk on the white side !
BACK 2 DA ROOTS (DISCO, FUNK, SOUL & OTHER ILLICIT GROOVES)
Although black rhythms being at the epicenter of dance music, the first music which has ever been made for the clubs is the work of white people. Being the subject of the celebration of its 30th B-day last Saturday nite on French TV channel TF1, but also judging by its continuous sales on specialised second hand record shops and websites, we thought it could be helpful for some of you to have complementary explanations with a display of some of its best moments to date. Dis groove is white… Say yeah !
Although being considered as a format on its own, disco has no doubt found its incredible strength to date while mixing its numerous influences, from electro kraut stuff to soul, funk and even classic (remember the Philadelphia Sound), not to mention pop and rock. The most obvious exemples being provided by the Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, INXS or Queen (remember ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ with its bassline quite reminiscent of Chic’s ’Good Times’). But also Malcolm McLaren or Murray Head and the list goes on with a special mention to Hall & Oates with their evergreen ‘I Can’t Go For That’ on RCA. Two people who are considered as the one who gave birth to the so called blue eyed soul with peeps such as Robert Palmer, Paul Young, Boz Scaggs and Steely Dan to name but a few.
Things happen to be quite surprising at some times such as the presence of The Hollies on those pages, as those peeps undoubtly made their name first while doin’ covers of 60’s songs fuelled with R&B/rock & roll influences. And I gotta honestly admit that although knowing them for the classic ‘He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother’ which remains as one of their biggest hits on the downtempo field, I didn’t give a big attention to their 1977 released ‘Draggin’ My Heels’ single until it’s inclusion on the Louie Vega’s Choice compilation for UK label Azuli 2 years ago. And what a classy tune which, despite turning in its 30’s, sounds as fresh as ever, combining a poppy vocal interpretation over a calypso influenced beat tinged with a drop of Cuban sounding keys (Columbia). Don’t ever know what these boys at Sony are waitin’ to rerelease such gems, with the addiction of the much sought after ‘Street’ Player’ by Chicago that Kenny Dope sampled on his memorable Bucketheadz project and, to a lesser extend, the explosive ‘Dis Go Dis Way’ by Mother’s Finest amongst tons of goodies that they have in their catalogue!!! Not so well known although as efficient are Desmond Child & Rouge with ‘Our Love Is Insane’ tinged with a heavy rock guitar solo on Capitol.
I couldn’t tell you exactly when I first heard of Rare Earth but I remember that it was at some local cinema probably at the end of the sixties during what what known at the time as the interval (sorry : the intermission for our US readers!) and what a shock I felt while listening to their infamous ‘Get Ready’ which remained on the charts almost three years. Critics would often describe them as the first ever white band signed on Motown which is wrong according to the latest themselves who prefer being said as the one and only successful white band to be signed on Motown. Another thing to be added on the Guinness Book of Records being the length of this song which happened to be their debut single in 1968. 21 minutes ! including the longest drum solo of all time.
Keepin’on with the records (those of the Guinness Book) is NJ born Mark Radice, a true prodigee on his own who would get his first record deal with RCA in 1964 at the tender age of… 7! Son of recording engineer Gene Radice, his contributions as writer, bass player or keyboardist are countless including people such as BT Express, The Winners, Frankie Valli and the late Phyllis Hyman amongst many others. He remains best remembered for the funky killer ‘If You Can’t Beat’Em, Join’Em’ produced by Randy Muller of Brass Contruction in 1976, taken from the Ain’t Nothing But A Party album on United Artists.
Another good exemple of that mixity embodied by those who made their names while giving shape to the Philly Sound is Average White Band. And although having almost 20 albums under their belt, their most memorable cut remains the jazzy’n’ horny fuelled ‘Pick Up The Pieces’ taken from the 1976 released Person To Person LP on Atlantic. An instrumental leading to another, we stay on the same label with the Lipstick OST and its main theme courtesy of a surprising Michel Polnareff from far better known for his numerous contributions on the French songwriting/singing spectrum. And the same comment to apply to Martin Circus equally better known in their native country for their basic jokes than for the notorious ‘Disco Circus’ which remains amongst the best investments to date for the record sellers.
No doubt, if there was a French connection, it would also be in the disco field with people such as producers Henri Belolo and the late Jacques Morali (Village People, Patrick Juvet), but also Jean-Marc Cerrone who would first make his name in America before being accepted in his native country. This drummer had an undeniable sense of the groove and although being the father of many killing grooves, my favourite one is no doubt the somehow Giorgio Moroder influenced ‘Supernature’ fuelled with synths (Cotillion).
I guess the name of Raymond Donnez should not ring a bell to many of you despite some memorable works, should it be for Serge Gainsbourg in 1968 then later on for Françoise Hardy. So maybe would you up to have a more precise idea when being said that this keyboardist and arranger left his midas touch for people such as Santa Esmeralda, Alex C. Costandinos and Cerrone before releasing an album on his own called The Garden Of Love including the unmissable ‘Got To Have Your Loving’ and ‘Standing In The Rain’. His pseudonym then? Don Ray !
Much has been said about the influence of German electronic music in techno and the same oughtta be said as far as disco is concerned, be it Kraftwerk, Supermax and even Van Der Graf Generator to some extend. It’s then kinda hard to say who between Cerrone, Patrick Juvet (with the help of his producers) and Giorgio Moroder invented disco. Maybe both of’em at then end of the day. This said, the latest (although Italian but being based in Munich at the time) was probably the most versatile of them as shown by his productions for Donna Summer and his works for his own and most notoriously the syncopatic vocoderised ‘From Here To Eternity’ meanwhile Belgian threesome Telex would drop the kinda detached ‘Moskow Diskow’ for US label Sire to be completed with the lesser known ‘Tryouts For The Human Race’ (a Giorgio Moroder production) and ‘How Could This Go Wrong’ respectively by Sparks and Exile by the same period.
Impossible to talk about disco without mentioning the contributions of the Tifosi. Should it be Mauro Malavasi productionwise who, alongside the late Jacques Fred Petrus, has provided success to groups such as Change, BB&Q Band, High Fashion and Zinc to name but a few. But also Montreal born artist and producer Gino Soccio who scored hits with ‘Dancer’, ‘Try It Out’ and the boiling ‘It’s Alright’ (my favourite). Not to mention the evergreen Harry Thumann with his one & only shot called ‘Underwater’. Both of’em opening a new path for local talents such as Kano, Touché, Advance, Boeing and the list goes on on what remains reknown as Italo disco. Meanwhile Sweden dropped Abba to the posterity and most notoriously ‘Voulez-vous’ which remains amongst the most sought after tunes on ebay almost 30 years after its release date (Atlantic).
One word lastly about our own François K who’s been continously around since back in those days with his countless contributions as a remixer for labels such as Prelude or Salsoul. A bloody damned good exemple of longevity from a man who’s always remained true to his beliefs. Big ups Sir ! MFSB
BACK 2 DA ROOTS HOT 20 THE HOLLIES
Draggin’ My Heels (Columbia)
MARK RADICE If You Can’t Beat’Em, Hit’Em (UA)
RARE EARTH Get Ready (Motown)
AVERAGE WHITE BAND Pick Up The Pieces (Atlantic)
CHICAGO Street Player (Columbia)
DON RAY Standing In The Rain (Polydor)
GINO SOCCIO It’s Alright (RFC)
HARRY THUMANN Underwater (Baby Records)
MICHEL POLNAREFF Theme from Lipstick (Atlantic)
GIORGIO MORODER From Here To Eternity (Casablanca)
DESMOND CHILD & ROUGE Our Love Is Insane (Capitol)
CERRONE Supernature (Cotillion)
MOTHER’S FINEST Dis Go Dis Way (Columbia)
MARTIN CIRCUS Disco Circus (Prelude)
QUEEN Another One Bites The Dust (EMI)
TELEX Moskow Diskow (Sire)
SPARKS Tryouts For The Human Race (Elektra)
ABBA Voulez-vous (Atlantic)
HALL & OATES I Can’t Go For That (RCA)