Disco Express

ORS-Moon-BootsDisco gets a bad rap, partly because the genre was hijacked by the major labels and partly because white rockers, threatened by a movement associated with black/gay people, not to mention women, launched the ‘disco sucks’ campaign that climaxed with a ritual burning of disco records in Chicago (ironically the place where house music, disco’s revenge, would be born soon after). Disco’s only real crime was that many previously great funk/jazz artists chased the trend with dire results (The Original Disco Man, for example).

Tim Lawrence has written a good account of the birth of disco in New York in Love Saves The Day, and there’s a great compilation from the time that showcases the extended Tom Moulton mixes that characterized it early on. If disco’s defining social feature was its inclusiveness, its defining musical feature became the 4-to-the-floor kick drum, which contrasted with the banging snare of up-tempo soul and funk’s emphasis on the first beat – ‘the one’. The labels Scepter/Wand and Philadelphia International are perhaps most closely associated with the early disco sound. Salsoul, Prelude, T.K., West End, and a host of smaller labels followed, and of course there was plenty on the majors.

I don’t remember the first disco record I heard (it was probably Love To Love You Baby on 8-track in my Dad’s car). The first I remember taping off the radio was Can You Feel The Force, which a decade later’d be the soundtrack to booty calls down the A4 with Kliger. I only really started buying disco a few years later though, when I met Paul. While my ‘old records’ were all ’69-’73, his were mainly ’76-’81, in other words disco. Disco got a lot of love in Pantonville, and we’d occasionally trek down to Bristol to see Paul DJ at a night called Erotic City. Most memorable was the Sex Odyssey party conceived by TK Pussy though. With floor-to-ceiling tin foil in one room and black bin liners covering the walls of the other, the grand floor of our house was re-imagined as a dancefloor, and transvestite Coco ruled that dance floor (at least until Bennett spanked her). Meanwhile, sporting space suit, jetpack and silver face paint, I was the one who had to talk to the cops when they showed up to close us down – they’d been earlier apparently, and Max, masquerading as me, had sent them packing with the words “see you in court!”.

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The mixes below capture the sound of those times for me: mainly disco, some boogie (just more expensive disco?), a bit of jazz-funk (disco with more horns and less strings?) and hi-energy (just more electronic disco?) thrown in. The first one begins with a birthday gift from local boy Love Lee. Next the Rhythm Makers reinvent themselves as a disco band and revamp Soul On Your Side for the disco era. A few Players Association 12″s follow, interspersed with proto-house and some Patrick Adams productions. Fans of S-Express will recognize the Rose Royce track, and after the French craziness of Voyage, the late funk/jazz drummer Idris Muhammad does disco. The mix ends with the B-side to Harry Thumann’s monstrous Underwater.

  1. Are You Ready (Instrumental) – Brooklyn Express
  2. Disco Nights – G.Q.
  3. Ride The Groove – Players Association
  4. You Should Have Known Better (Instrumental) – Skratch
  5. Body Shake – T. C. Curtis
  6. Keep In Touch (Body To Body) – The Shades Of Love
  7. Turn The Music Up – Players Association
  8. Is It Love You’re After – Rose Royce
  9. Kechak Fantasy – Voyage
  10. Could Heaven Ever Be Like This – Idris Muhammad
  11. We Got The Groove – Players Association
  12. Weekend – Phreek
  13. American Express – Harry Thumann

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IMG_1051Next is one I’ve posted before. It starts with funky disco reminiscent of Tubular Bells. Then there’s the Alan Hawkshaw favorite that East London’s first real DJ, Froggy, used as his theme, and an Oliver Cheatham track sadly most know only from a Lynx advert. High on Your Love I first heard on tape in a car outside Max Rees’s Hot Numbers (we played it to him so he could tell us what it was) while Jingo got play everywhere, including the Jazz Rooms. Hamilton Bohannon, who hip hop heads mainly know for Save Their Souls, contributes the first of his three versions of Let’s Start The Dance, and the mix ends with Idjut Boys favorite Suzy Q and the B-side to Rock The Casbah.

  1. Foxy – Crown Heights Affair
  2. Here Comes That Sound – Love-Deluxe
  3. Get Down Saturday Night – Oliver Cheatham
  4. Livin’ It Up, Friday Night – Bell and James
  5. High On Your Love – Debbie Jacobs
  6. Beat the Street – Sharon Redd
  7. Jingo – Candido
  8. Moonboots – ORS
  9. Let’s Start The Dance – Hamilton Bohannon
  10. Body Music – The Strikers
  11. Ooh I Love It (Love Break) – Salsoul Orchestra
  12. Get On Up (remix) – Suzy Q
  13. Mustapha Dance – The Clash

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tumblr_ljcp1nfF2c1qgak4lThe last mix is the oldest. It starts with the 12″ extended version of Kool & The Gang’s last great record, which has a great percussion loop that mixes well with Francine McGee’s classic rare groove. Neither of course compare to the fabulous percussion of Do What You Wanna do, which likewise blends into Do You Wanna Funk, a hi-energy record that made everyone want to party like Eddie Murphy in Trading Places and was one we played over and over on Kamalcolm’s beat box, summer of ’87. Gotta Find A Disco is one McDisco turned me onto, harder stuff that sounds like Gary Bartz on speed at times. Carrie Lucas and Six Million Steps were other Pantonville favorites, the latter commemorating a charity run in 1978 along the length of the east coast. Later there’s Too Hot For Love, which comes in at a whopping 15 mins with separate phases of ‘foreplay’, ‘excitement’, ‘climax’, and ‘resolution’… The mix ends with an earlier version of the Suzi Q track and a different (better) take on Weekend.

  1. Open Sesame (Extended Version) – Kool & The Gang
  2. Delirium – Francine McGee
  3. Six Million Steps – Rahni Harris
  4. Smile – Skylite
  5. Do You Wanna Funk – Sylvester with Patrick Cowley
  6. Do What You Wanna Do – T-Connection
  7. Dance With You – Carrie Lucas
  8. Gotta Find A Disco – Love Exchange
  9. Hold Your Horses – First Choice
  10. Too Hot For Love – THP Orchestra
  11. At Midnight – T-Connection
  12. Get On Up – Suzi Q
  13. Try It Out – Gino Soccio
  14. Weekend (M&M Mix) – Class Action

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~ by ricardosevere on 05/09/2015.

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