Monday, 19 October 2015

Super Stupid Disco

Hello, boppers. Since an FB friend posted this...

...I've been thinking about stupid Disco records from the mid 70s which, in case you didn't know, is roughly when what was mostly a Funk scene turned Disco. I know it's hard to pinpoint and experts may beg to differ. It seems a little absurd that anyone should choose Disco as their area of expertise, but who am I to criticise? Just because I wrote a book about Jazz I'm not getting high and mighty about its superiority over 70s Dance music, especially since it gave me so much pleasure at the time.

My friend suggested 'that records featuring horns and the word discotheque deserve a reappraisal.' Well, everything in this age of easy access gets reappraised, doesn't it? So why not records featuring horns and the word discotheque? It didn't occur to me that he actually thought the Stylistics tune was worthy of reappraisal because it's so lame and he normally exhibits good taste. So I posted, calling it 'wet'. We're still friends. 

As I told him, it's funny but the record's new to me and that's rare when it comes to well-known names of the time. I've possibly erased it from memory, but since I can recall many awful Disco records that can't be true. As an example of inane lyrics on a great dance record (yes, I know there are thousands) I mentioned The Fatback Band. I was thinking of earlier hits but then remembered this, also from 1975... don't need me to point out the difference in quality. Despite is sounding very much like a move to the hit Disco ground for a band that had created some of the meanest Funk rhythms around it really motors; a real dancer's tune right off the bat. 

Thoughts about daft Funk/Disco lyrics and modern super stupid dance tunes lead to the old question of how much difference 'real' playing makes. Now I'm as up for a good programmed beat as anyone but there's no questioning the power a good bass player gave tunes back in the day. Perhaps Mark Ronson's mega-hit, Uptown Funk is proof that even today people still respond to players playing. Although, thinking about it, the success of that record probably has more to do with the fact that most of the younger (post-Prince) generations won't have even heard funk played. Uptown Funk reflects Ronson's age too, of course. Born, coincidentally, in 1975, he's even too young to remember The Gap Band, whose sound he draws on and was pushed into giving credit to when pursued by three member of the band. That in itself as is coup by them. I mean, citing 'inspiration' as if that equals plagiarism? The James Brown estate is owed a hell of a lot of money!

Disco classically softened the edges of Dance music, upped the beat and added strings. A similar thing happened to reggae on those Trojan hits (which I love). It wasn't the end of great Dance records, but the beginning of the end that had to come sometime. Or put another way, simply the passing of an era for some of us. In this musical history game it's impossible to ignore the personal experience which inevitably shapes our views. I cannot help but see the 70s as a 'golden era' of Dance music whilst knowing full well that each succeeding decade gave new generations a sound to rave about in clubs.

OK, I just prefer the old kind of super stupid Funk/Disco to modern Dance 'anthems'...the Jungle Boogie and the Wicky Wacky...the golden age of the bass line, eh, B-Boys? Talking of whom, this Fatback tune is usually cited as the first Rap record, coming as it did a few months before Rapper's Delight...

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