Seven Summers

Recently found this piece I did in June 2007 for the now defunct magazine One Week To Live, where I listed a track per year from the summers of ’74 through to ’80. It’d be good to hear your own memories of summers gone by if you’d like to post a comment.

Wishing you fun in the sun in the months to come.

George McCrae: ‘Rock Your Baby’ (RCA Spain) 1974

I was 14 and went on holiday to Majorca with my Mum, to a resort called Cala Millor. I made her swear that she wouldn’t let anyone know how old I really was – I was pretty big for my age and, apart from still having a bit of a baby face, could just about fool people into believing I was 18. My father had died the previous year and, as a result, I had a lot of freedom that I wouldn’t have had if he’d still been alive. I had a pretty cool Mum who let me do my own thing and, when she’d retired to her room, I’d head out to a discotheque at the nearby Hotel Said. The track that evokes the strongest memories of that holiday was George McCrae’s ‘Rock Your Baby’, which would enjoy phenomenal success, going to number 1 in countries all over the world, including the US and the UK. Written by Harry Wayne Casey and Richard Finch of KC & The Sunshine Band, ‘Rock Your Baby’ would be hailed as a seminal Disco record, and was voted song of the year in Rolling Stone magazine. Whilst records like Hues Corporation ‘Rock The Boat’, ‘When Will I See You Again’ by the Three Degrees’, and Johnny Bristol’s ‘Hang On In There Baby’ will be forever associated with my Majorca adventure, ‘Rock Your Baby’ was THE record. I even bought a copy of the 7” whilst I was there, on the Spanish RCA label, which I still have somewhere, complete with a sticker I added, which has ‘Cala Millor 1974’ handwritten across it.

Listen here: http://youtu.be/P08cLiLOmto

Van McCoy & The Soul City Symphony: ‘The Hustle’ (Avco UK) 1975

This brings back memories of New Brighton baths in my Merseyside hometown, once the largest outdoor swimming pool in Europe, where I could be found on most summer days throughout my teens. A US number 1 and Grammy winner, ‘The Hustle’ peaked at number 3 in Britain, but was the key element of the summer soundtrack for ’75. The hustle was a dance craze in the US that never really caught on here. A New York DJ, David Todd, had invited McCoy to his club, the Adam’s Apple, to see the dance, but he never had chance to go and sent one of his friends instead. On his return his friend demonstrated the dance he’d seen and, as a result, ‘The Hustle’ would be quickly knocked together as the final track recorded for McCoy’s album, which was entitled ‘Disco Baby’. Although the majority of people over here never did the hustle, they certainly danced to ‘The Hustle’. Talking about dance, I saw people Northern Soul dancing for the first time when I went to Butlins in Pwellheli with my school friend Derek Kaye, who ran a Mobile Disco, which I made some of my early DJ appearances with. Derek and I camped out in the woods to save money, sneaking in and out through a hole in the fence we’d found. Liverpool never really went for Northern Soul, being more of a Funk-based city during the ’70s, but there were some people from Lancashire who used to get up and do their thing to Northern favourites like Al Wilson’s ‘The Snake’ and ‘Cochise’ by Paul Humphrey, which the Butlins DJ played for them.

Listen here: http://youtu.be/qeUfDTn5huM

Candi Staton: ‘Young Hearts Run Free’ (Warner Brothers UK) 1976

Capturing the spirit of ’76 more than any other track, Candi Staton’s ‘Young Hearts Run Free’ made you feel glad to be alive throughout that long hot glorious summer. Having slowly edged up the chart it eventually reached number 2 as Britain began to experience a heatwave with record temperatures, accompanied by a bizarre explosion in the ladybird population that literally turned entire walls and bushes red and black! My schooldays now behind me, I was now a fully fledged club DJ, having started at the Chelsea Reach in December 1975, whilst I was still 15. I’d added nights at another local nightspot, the Penny Farthing, a couple of months later, and was now out almost every night, either working or socialising. As a consequence, I was falling asleep in class and I totally messed up my exams, coming out of school with next to no academic qualifications. Not that I cared though, I was having a great time deejaying and hardly went into school at all during the last few months anyhow. The title, ‘Young Hearts Run Free’, perfectly captured the way that I felt at the time, as I’m sure it did for many other people of my generation. ’76 was an extra special summer for sure.

Listen here: http://youtu.be/SBcJR3jJ_zo

The Emotions: ‘The Best Of My Love’ (Columbia US) 1977

This will always remind me of Terry Lennaine, the DJ who did the weekly Monday night Soul show on BBC Radio Merseyside, which was absolutely essential listening back then. I became friendly with Terry around this time and would frequently accompany him on drives to Manchester, where he’d buy records from the North’s top import specialists, Spin Inn. I picked up a US 7” of ‘Best Of My Love’ on one of these trips, and apart from Terry and the legendary Liverpool DJ, Les Spaine, from The Timepiece, I would have been one of the first DJs in the region to have a copy. Despite only being available on import until September, when it was finally released here (having topped the US chart), it would be one of the biggest tracks of the summer, right up there with the seminal Donna Summer single, ‘I Feel Love’, in terms of dancefloor popularity. It was so big that even the most mainstream of DJs, who’d never previously bought an import in their life, would have to somehow get hold of a copy, having been constantly badgered to play it (it would climb to number 4 on the chart after it was finally issued here). Having left the Penny Farthing I was now at the Golden Guinea, the club where I’d really make my mark locally, whilst continuing my nights at the Chelsea Reach.

Listen here: https://youtu.be/JFC6IDh00gI

Rick James: ‘You And I’ (Motown US)

Having received an import 12”  from Motown’s club promotion department, ahead of its UK release, this would become my biggest tune at the Golden Guinea during the summer of ’77, despite only reaching number 46 on the chart. Described at the time as Punk Funk, ‘You And I’ would be the breakthrough release for the, then, new artist, Rick James. By this point the Guinea had gained a reputation for being one of the best clubs on Merseyside for Funk, Soul and Disco, whilst my status as an up-and-coming DJ was now firmly established. Since early ’77 I’d received pretty much all the UK dance releases on promo from the British record companies, who would often send me import copies as well, further enhancing my reputation as a black music specialist. I had a core group of people who came to the club early to listen to all the new stuff I’d received / bought, and they would influence the other dancers, helping me bring a more upfront edge to my nights, which other local DJs couldn’t get away with. It was a joy to work at the Golden Guinea, but, despite this, I felt a need to move on to the next challenge. I was very ambitious and not content to be a big fish in such a small pond. I’d become aware of international agencies that hired DJs on monthly contacts for clubs throughout Europe and, in some cases, the world – so, after the summer, I headed out to Denmark (Frederikshavn) and then Norway (Skien). I hadn’t bargained on being so homesick though, being only 18 I wasn’t quite ready for this change of direction, so I returned home and was welcomed back to my beloved Guinea with open arms, much to the annoyance of the DJ who’d taken my place. I stayed there until the summer of 1980, when I’d give the international option another try, this time leaving the Guinea for good.

Listen here: http://youtu.be/dWZkxYamLUs

Chic: ‘Good Times’ (Atlantic US)

Not only a massive record on a mainstream level, reaching number 1 in the States and number 5 here, this was also a track that, unbeknown to us at the time, had gained anthemic status with a new breed of DJs in New York’s Bronx, who were doing weird and wonderful things with records that UK DJ’s couldn’t have imagined at the time. Over here the majority of DJs still regarded the microphone as absolutely essential to their work and, although mixing had been something most DJs had given a go, hardly anyone believed this to be more than a passing fad. With most UK clubs having very basic sound equipment, we never had the tools at our disposal to do what the New York guys were doing and, besides, we prided ourselves on our own tradition of deejaying, which we had no intention of giving up at the time – mixing being regarded as no more than a supplement at best. It’d take a few more years before mixing, and its mutant offspring, scratching and cutting, would begin to make a real impact over here, but Hip Hop (although we didn’t refer to it by this name until much later) would first make its presence felt via a record by NYC’s Sugarhill Gang that took rap music into the UK chart the following December, having become a huge favourite on import, not least because the words were spoken over the top of the ‘Good Times’ groove, allowing DJs to switch seamlessly from the Chic original to this new rap version, which was very much regarded as a novelty by most people. If you’d have told anyone then that Rap music would go on to become the most dominant style of music of the late 20th Century they’d have laughed in your face!

Listen here: https://youtu.be/8g6bUe5MDRo

George Duke: ‘Brazilian Love Affair’ (Epic US)

You don’t get much more summer than this! ‘Brazilian Love Affair’ is a classic sun-drenched groove that never fails to lift my spirits. Only recently, Luke Unabomber played it whilst we were appearing together at the Electric Chair event, which closed the wonderful Garden Party Festival weekend in Croatia, where I found myself joyfully singing every word! Back to 1978 – I’d left the Golden Guinea by this point and had returned to Europe, working in Denmark for a month at a club in Vordingborg, called Prinsen, before heading to Germany, where I spent 2 moths at Club Eastside in Mülheim an der Ruhr, near the city of Essen. This significance of this excursion is explained elsewhere, but suffice to say that it served as inspiration for what came later. Whilst in Mülheim I received the news that I’d landed my dream job, at the state-of-the-art Wigan Pier (not to be confused with Wigan’s Casino, the famous Northern Soul venue), one of the first New York style discotheques in the UK, with truly amazing sound and lighting, which no other club could match at the time (except the new nightspot that had just been opened by the same company – Legend in Manchester). Everything was about to change for me, Legend and Wigan Pier being the venues I’ll forever be linked with (along with The Hacienda, which simply wasn’t in the same league back then). I was embarking on a new era, having now upped sticks and moved out of my hometown. Exciting times awaited, but that formative period, from 1979 over in Majorca, when I went into a club for the first time, through to 1980, when I took over at Wigan Pier, will eternally be remembered with the special affection of younger days, via their association with a specific place in time, be it the Chelsea Reach, the Penny Farthing or the Golden Guinea, not to mention all the other clubs I worked in along the way, both here and overseas. It’s always difficult to pick a small number tracks out of so many that have touched my life, but these 7 certainly capture the essence of those summers and, as such, will always remain precious to me.

Listen here: http://youtu.be/TK5Bhb6KGq8

Greg Wilson – July 2007

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16 Responses to Seven Summers

  1. Dancing James July 14, 2011 at 3:52 pm #

    Tunes that make me think of summer

    Isaac Hayes version of Walk on By. It just reminds me of a party when I was 19 years old, all I wanted to hear was Detroit techno yet this came on and I was frozen to the spot.

    Carl Craigs mix of Incognito – Out of the Storm, a perfect summer slo mo stomper, what it lacks in tempo it makes up for with intensity.

    One of my near perfect festival moments was Ashley Beedle playing 4hero’s mix of Black Gold of the Sun followed by UR Hi Tech Jazz as the sun set.

    These are things that immediately come to mind as personal summer classics. Things that just evoke summer moments in the same way the smell of a grill could spark up nostalgia (another one of those summer adolescent guilty pleasures).

  2. MadameFLY July 14, 2011 at 4:50 pm #

    I had something all picked out to mention, then I saw Good Times by Chic already in the list … oh yeah! In fact that was played occasionally at our local roller rink in suburban Maryland in the late 70s, but a group of us also bought street skates, and would take a boom box to the tennis courts of our local parks system for some midnight skating. I found it much more natural to skate to disco, unlike the rock they mostly played at the rink, so I supplied the music for these outings and Good Times was one of the killer cuts. I still have those tapes — great memories!

  3. gina July 14, 2011 at 5:03 pm #

    Strongest summer song emotively for me is ELO’s Don’t Bring Me Down and Last Train to London from (I think summer of 79 or 80). I was 11! The coolest boy (in my mind) at school gave our coach driver his ELO tape to play all the way from Rethymno port in Crete to Knossos on our school trip. We were chanting it loudly as the coach swayed recklessly round steep blind bends peppered with little white shrines. In retrospect, Don’t Bring Me Down may have been more of prayer than we realised at the time!

    But a close second must be the summer before, aged 10, being taken to watch Midnight Express by my grandfather in an open air cinema in Rafina, a sea side town near Athens: The Chase, Giorgio Moroder. It made a big impact as I think it was an 18 cert.!

  4. greg wilson July 14, 2011 at 5:09 pm #

    Hi MadameFLY – ‘Good Times’, of course, contains the lines ‘Clams on the half shell and roller skates, roller skates…’

    Thought you might be interested in this – it’s from an interview I did with Danny Krivit, who was DJ at NYC’s most famous roller rink, The Roxy, back in the day – this refers to the slightly shuffled clap / snare on the 2nd and 4th beats (as opposed to a steady 4 on the floor beat) that I was told was best suited for skaters, who pushed off on alternate legs to that rhythm – Danny told me:

    “There were certain things about certain genres of music, at the time, that were almost made ideally for skating. What would happen is that a record might be right in that tempo, like 110 or 120bpm, but if it wasn’t the right kind of groove, then it didn’t lend itself to roller skating. Basically, the tempo could go up very fast as long as it adhered to that type of rhythm. The ideal things at the time for roller skating was that whole trend of music that was kind of around the Solar sound (Shalamar, The Whispers, Dynasty etc).

    ‘Good Times’ (Chic) was just the biggest thing, then you had Vaughan Mason (‘Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll’), you had ‘Rappers Delight’ (Sugarhill Gang), you had 6 other records (in a similar style).

    A good example of a fast record was ‘Super Freak’ (Rick James), where basically you’re not listening to the single drum, you’re listening to the snap. You also had a lot of records that were really ideal, but didn’t do the snap every time around – they skipped one. So it would be dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-snap. Those were like made to order.”

  5. Nige July 14, 2011 at 5:59 pm #

    My earliest Summer song memory is The Three Degrees ‘When Will I See You Again’. My family had been on holiday with another family and my first childhood crush was on their daughter – Fiona – who was the same age as me. I heard this song everywhere during the holiday and, despite only being 11 or 12, the words & sentiment resonated with me. To this day I still get goosebumps when I hear it. “…when will we share precious moments…”

  6. MadameFLY July 15, 2011 at 12:03 am #

    G, you are so right: that whole “roller skates, roller skates” thing played right into our scheme …

    Big thx for passing along the D Krivit comments: it’s great to feel justified, if somewhat after the fact … even beyond the roller rink, that musical preference was viewed w/ some suspicion: our little indie label Adelphi Records was a blues/folk/jazz affair and my interest in disco was not looked upon with favor (my practical point was that those production values were going to cause the other genres to have to step up their game accordingly, but the fact remained that I’d grown up in D.C. – Chocolate City – and really just liked hearing the music of my younger years brought up to date via disco…) I think of that 2 / 4 thing as backbeat and it informs my preference for today’s brokenbeat / downtempo stuff …

    To the other commenters — apologies for a bit of a thread hijack here … to get back on topic, after that Chic item, the next most summery music for me is reggae. DC had a pretty active rasta component from about the mid 70s, including the Dr. Dread show throughout the early 80s, and once I’d heard the Wailers’ Catch a Fire, I was locked in. Living where the winters were cold and the cold persisted into May, reggae delivered the promise of warmth and freedom throughout the year … then summer finally came, and we could move the party outside.

    And of course, Mungo Jerry’s “In the Summertime” is a tune that will never completely get out of my head…. No question, it makes me think of summer, how could it not?

  7. Kelvin July 15, 2011 at 7:35 am #

    I would love to be able to give a really cool obscure track form the 70’s, but alas i was only born in the 70’s.

    Over the years i have grown to love all music from every era and the love just keeps on growing with people like Greg feeding me new stuff all the time.

    In 1989 i was in my teens and there was one song that just seemed to make the summer that much better. I was experiencing new things all the time and even to this day the hairs on my neck stand up and i get a wave joy everytime i hear this track.

    The track……. Pacific by 808 state.

    People talk about the 60’s and 70’s for being the best era’s for music and for great music to listen to they are. But for me being born in the 70’s, the late 80’s early 90’s were like the summer of love to me and all my friends. This track was the opening credits to that era for me and will always bring a smile.

    You can never get tired of hearing this track on a summers day.

    Keep up the good work Greg.

    P.S. Great set in the WOW tent at Glastonbury

  8. greg wilson July 15, 2011 at 8:58 am #

    Hi Kelvin – only just uploaded this yesterday over at my SoundCloud page:


  9. gina July 15, 2011 at 11:25 am #

    @Kelvin above: summer tunes from the late 80s also feature,as they were my clubbing era, and i agree with 808 state, but personally the tune that i can still remember twinned with summer abandon is up, up and away by the beloved.love this thread…

  10. Phil Wardle July 16, 2011 at 7:33 am #

    Some good tracks already listed here but the one that did it for me was “Here Comes the Night” by The Beach Boys. It came out in 1979 and was a bit of a hit. I remember having a 12″ version that seemed to go on for ever….usually just enough time to blow-dry my hair into it’s 1979 bouffant and pull on my ‘copping off kecks’. AAAhhh….happy memories. I’ve never been able to get hold of a digital copy of the 12″ version sadly, although the original vinyl is still lurking in my loft as I simply can’t get rid of all of my old vinyl.

  11. Dave Green July 16, 2011 at 9:20 am #

    Ha, what a great idea ! The first one that springs to mind and that’s cemented in my head forever is the Summer of 1978, the tune, 10cc Dreadlock Holiday. I was only 11 yrs old & as i was a massive fan of the film Convoy and everything CB at the time, my father thought it would be a wonderful idea to send me off on a real Trucking trip with a mad friend he had who did just that for a living. I then spent 10 long hot summer days & nights trucking all over the UK in a massive rig fully tooled up with the CB, big horns, the works ! It was a truly amazing time for a wide eyed little kid and i’m fairly sure Dreadlock Holiday was at the top end of the charts for the whole trip. Also at the same time a mad man had just flown a balloon across the Atlantic ocean for the first time and we watched him flying overhead somewhere in the UK on a steaming hot day. I know the tune was playing then as i can clearly remember me and my dads friend Mike singing it out of the windows to him (even though he could never hear us!) It was one of the greatest things i ever did as a kid as the guy i went with was a wonderful nutter & we got up to all sorts of mischief. A great memory, a really great tune and thanks again Greg for bringing it all back.

  12. HoserPoser July 19, 2011 at 12:01 am #

    Love the George Duke Greg I can relate well! I saw him with Frank Zappa at the University Of British Columbia’s War Memorial Gym somewhere in the 70s ….bit of blur sorry. As expected it was awesome!! Frank was somewhat obscure at the time and was booked at a smaller venue than usual big acts. I saw the Tubes at the same place again late 70s early 80s. “White Punks on Dope” etc. Love the Jazz Fusion and all the great musicians that intermixed during those years. George duke, Billy Cobham, Alphonso Johnson, Leon Chancellor, Stanley Clarke, Chic Corea, Jean Luc Ponty, Wayne Shorter etc etc I could go on forever….and then there was Carlos Santana and Mahavishnu John bringing some great guitar licks to the fusion table as well.

    Zappa tunes always remind me of hanging with my buddies in the summer. “Moving to Montana soon…. gonna be a Dental Floss Tycoon…….yes I am”.



  13. mark July 21, 2011 at 3:01 pm #

    Not cool but true ! Sol holiday in Benidorm with a few mates from school 1984/5 ish?

    Baltimora – Tarzan Boy


    MC Miker G & Dj Sven – The Holiday Rap


    These were the songs that had the girls on the dance floor…..

  14. BrianE July 27, 2011 at 3:14 pm #

    Just a comment on ‘Brazilian Love Affair’ which I bought in Woolworth’s in the bargain bucket section many years ago. It was probably there because it wasn’t exactly mainstream and therefore didn’t sell! That must rate as the best £3 I have ever spent as I listened to that album many times over. I have since bought it on CD but still have the original vinyl. I have since developed a bigger interest in Brazilian music having learned Brazilian percussion from ‘Dudu Tucci’ a Brazilian percussionist:

    As well as the more traditional slow Brazilian tracks which are beautiful there is an element of funk and jazz in the album. I listened to this with Dudu Tucci and others one evening after a long day studying Bralilan Rhythms and was struck by how amazingly ‘tight’ and rhythmically faultless (‘on the nail’) it is, particularly in the faster tracks. This was recorded before the advent of sequencers and digital recording so there is no way that rhythmic imperfections could be fixed during mixdown. The musicianship is awe inspiring and to this day one of all time favourite albums which has grown in meaning as the years have progressed. Great choice of album and from a personal viewpoint would love to hear it as part of ‘Living To Music’. Maybe again it’s not that mainstream album for this series of albums?

  15. Samminx August 23, 2011 at 1:30 pm #

    OOOOh reading this blog I remember going to the Golden Guinea, the Chelsea and the Penny as a youngster. My dad worked in all of those clubs and I used to get dragged down there until i was old enough to go on my own. I must have seen you play so many times…and the Hustle and Chic evoke so many strong memories of those nights. Funny how all these years later I’m still listening to you play great music 🙂

  16. phil hongkins October 12, 2011 at 6:41 pm #

    my choice is nine times the moments , takes me back to the casino/mecca days propa good dancer , n an early taste of the disco era we were heading towards , caused a little bit of a change in dancin styles ha ha , but as usual we all just did it no probs . when i watched SOULBOY , and various vids on youtube it never fails to immpress just how graceful the dance movers were…. i was in the shuffling camp most of the time anyway but some of the faster tunes required a change in style ,, great great days .. KTF

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