Six of the records that shaped dance music, 1977-1989

A friend came to stay the other week who I’ve known for twenty years. As is the case, we spent a fair amount of time discussing music. He’s been more of a dance fan than ‘indie’ over the last decade, though those two genres are not mutually exclusive. he’s been excavating the old dance stuff, and with my love of music from 1977-1982, it’s clear that this era stamped its’ mark on dance just as much as indie.

Having picked up an Arthur Russell compilation (on whom more to come!), I thought I would post three dance classics:

First up a classic. I wrote about Chic’s Good Times back in March, so here it is again.

Chic -‘Good Times.’ mp3

I mentioned Arthur Russell earlier; I will do a No Wave post one of these days…

James Chance -‘Contort Yourself.’ mp3

This record featured an American vocalist, but it’s a very European-sounding record.

Donna Summer -‘I Feel Love (12″ version).’ mp3

These guys came out of the same Bristol scene that spawned Massive Attack, Nellee Hooper, and Tricky, amongst many others.

Pigbag -‘Papa’s Got A Brand New Pigbag.’ mp3

And the first sample strewn record to top the charts in the UK:

M/A/R/R/S -‘Pump Up The Volume.’ mp3

Of course, by the end of the eighties, it wasn’t just New York and Chicago doing house, but Italy was doing ‘Italia House.’ And this was probably its’ best known hit:

Black Box -‘Ride On Time.’ mp3

Of course, there are many more out there…watch this space…

1976…and all that

Hello folks,

am currently on holiday with Mrs. 17 Seconds in Cornwall and two of our friends, while 17 Seconds Towers is looked after by our two cats and a legendary scots bassist. Therefore posts may not be as regular as they have been over the last wee while, but keep checking up.

The other day I was notified by the Fades in Slowly blogspot that they are doing a feature on 1976 and the tracks that could have made the Festive Fifty for that year. The significance being that a) that year as an all-time Festive Fifty, b) the following year was just John Peel’s favourite tracks, and it was only c) 1982 where the votes were just the publics, based on that year.

I’m still trying to work out which three tracks to vote for. I was only born in mid-November of that year, and am coming ot the conclusion that whilst it was the year punk broke in the UK, that there was good non-punk music released that year. This list gives an idea. After all, it was the year of Dylan’s Desire LP, which may well be my favourite Dylan album (yes, even above Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde on Blonde and Blood On The Tracks) and Bowie’s Station To Station, as the man moved to Berlin, listened to Kraftwerk who were about to invent the eighties a few years before they happened, and prepared for being involved in no less than four key LPs of 1977. Bob Marley continued his rise as Roxy went on hiatus. In Ireland and the UK, Thin Lizzy hit the big time. Disco and Punk were not being mixed in at this point, but they were happening and it’s probably quite accurate that this was the year was the quiet before the storm. I may only have been there for the last six weeks of it, but galvanised by punk, this was the year that The Clash, U2, The Cure, and Siouxsie and the Banshees played their first gigs, and my world is still reverberating from that and the aftershock that followed over the next thirty years. Of course, Madonna was still in high school, as presumably were The Slits, and MTV and Hip-Hop were some years off.

Here’s five tracks from that year…

David Bowie -Station To Station

Donna Summer – Love To Love You Baby

The Damned -New Rose

The Sex Pistols – Anarchy In The UK

Thin Lizzy -The Boys Are Back In Town

Ten for a summer’s day

Hallelujah. It’s a summer’s day, it’s nice and warm and i’m not back in the classroom for several weeks. Yeees!

So, why not a playlist for a summer’s day? An eclectic mix of indie, dance, jazz and whatever takes my fancy.

Jamie Lidell -‘Another Day.’ mp3

Nina Simone -‘Feeling Good.’ mp3

Sigur Ros – Staralfur.’ mp3

Rockers’ Revenge -‘Walking On Sunshine 12″.’ mp3

Primitives -‘Through The Flowers.’ mp3

Aphex Twin -‘Girl/Boy Song.’ mp3

Donna Summer -‘I feel Love 12″ version.’ mp3

Moloko -‘Sing It Back (Boris musical mix).’ mp3

Chic -‘I Want Your Love 12″ version.’ mp3

The Streets -‘Your Song (Elton John cover).’ mp3

Melys -‘Chinese Whispers.’ mp3

Disco needs you -Chic and Donna Summer

In their 1992 40th birthday issue, NME commented that Chic’s single ‘Good Times’ had an effect on artists as diverse as Public Enemy and Queen. That would have been claim enough for any band, but given just how fantatsic the tracks are, it may also be something of an understatement. The Smiths’ Johnny Marr claimed them as a major influence, and Orange Juice were initially derided for having the cheek to say that they wanted to mix Chic with The Velvet Underground. (Considering how influential Orange juice continue to be today, I think we know who had the last laugh). Formed by guitarist Bernard Edwards and bassist Nile Rodgers in 1976, Chic are arguably just as influential as Kraftwerk on Hip-Hop and Dance culture over the last thirty years.

In terms of Hip-Hop and the Public Enemy influence, the first Hip-Hop track, The Sugarhill Gang’s ‘Rapper’s Delight’ used Good Times as its’ basis (as did Coolio in 1995 on ‘1-2-3-4 (Sumpin’ New)’). Whatever you make of Queen, their biggest selling single worldwide was not ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ but ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ which showed that Chic was a huge influence on bass player John Deacon. As Hip-Hop culture evolved and Grandmaster Flash’s ‘Adventures Of Flash On The Wheels Of Steel’ set the tone for cut and paste hip-hop, ‘Good Times’ featured prominently there too. As did ‘Rapture’ by Blondie, which is as much a tribute to Chic (who would go on to produce Debbie Harry’s solo debut Koo Koo) as the rappers and DJ’s namechecked in the song.

And after the band split in the early eighties, the production skills of Edwards and Rodgers were in demand by many. They had wisely turned down the chance to produce Aretha Franklin’s disco album, but they worked with Diana Ross producing hits like ‘Upside Down’ and ‘I’m Coming Out’, produced David Bowie’s Let’s Dance, Duran Duran’s Notorious and perhaps most famously, Madonna’s Like A Virgin. Even allowing for Madoona’s utter determination to get to the top, it’s quite unlikely that she would have done it without their help.

Of course, Disco came from other areas too. Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’ was produced by Germany’s Giorgio Moroder. Released in 1977, this track can still slay dancefloors today, more than thirty years after its release, and its’ influence can be tracked in many areas. Put it this way, without ‘I Feel Love,’ New Order’s Blue Monday would have sounded hugely different (and might not have got beyond that rough demo sound that you hear in 24 Hour Party People).

Not everyone loved Disco, especially people who were uncomfortable with the blacks and gays associated with the scene. A ‘Disco Demolition Night’ got wildly out of control, and the ‘Disco Sucks’ phrase was common amongst rock fans by the late seventies. Interestingly, about this time in the UK, Wah! Frontman Pete Wylie coined the phrase ‘Rockist’ which sneered at those obssessed with Rock.

Punk and Disco’s relationship was uneasy. Some punks sneered at it, but there were points where it mixed, most famously Blondie’s ‘Heart Of Glass.’ The No-Wavers in New York incorporated it into their sound -for example, James Chance knowing that it would annoy hardcore punk fans. The Dead Kennedy’s Jello Biafra, however, likened Disco to the Cabaret music of Weimar Germany, for its escapism and apathy towards government policy.

But maybe records don’t always need to be overtly political to get their point across. Sometimes actions really do speak louder than words.

Chic -‘Good Times 12″.’ mp3

Chic -‘Le Freak 12″.’ mp3

Chic -‘I Want Your Love 12″.’ mp3

Donna Summer -‘I Feel Love 12″.’ mp3 (Thanks to Davy H at the Ghost Of Electricity)

POSTSCRIPT: In view of what I had written about, I felt it only right to include this track too:

Grandmaster Flash -‘Adventures Of Flash On The Wheels Of Steel.’ mp3

Chic at Wikipedia