Trammps – Disco Inferno (Atlantic)
Heatwave – Too Hot To Handle (GTO)
Marvin Gaye – Got To Give It Up (Motown)
Kool & The Gang – Super Band (Contempo)
Crown Heights Affair – Dancin’ (Contempo)
Aquarian Dream – Phoenix (Buddah)
Sergio Mendes & The New Brasil ’77 – The Real Thing (Elektra)
Van Mccoy – The Shuffle (H&L)
Joe Tex – Ain’t Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman) (Epic)
Heatwave – Slip Your Disc To This (GTO)
KC & The Sunshine Band – I’m Your Boogie Man (TK)
Billy Paul – Let ‘Em In (Philadelphia International)
Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson – A Real Mother For Ya (DJM)
George Benson – Nature Boy (Warner Brothers)
Teddy Pendergrass – The Whole Town’s Laughing At Me (Philadelphia International)
Other Tracks Considered – Brainstorm – Wake Up And Be Somebody (RCA) / Brick – Music Matic (Bang) / Eddie Holman – This Could Be A Night To Remember (Salsoul) / Loleatta Holloway – Dreamin’ (Salsoul) / OC Smith – Together (Caribou) / Timmy Thomas – The Magician (TK) / Wild Cherry – I Feel Sanctified (Epic)
We open up with ‘Disco Inferno’, one of the defining singles of the Disco era from one of the genres greatest exponents, The Trammps. From the moment Earl Young’s cymbal crash dramatically announced its arrival you knew you were in for a ride, as the tracks relentless groove took the dancefloor by the scruff of the neck. The 3rd US Disco number 1 by the band, ‘Disco Inferno’ (listed alongside ‘Starvin” and ‘Body Contact Contract’), followed ‘That’s Where The Happy People Go’ and ‘Disco Party’ (never a UK favourite) to the summit. It would reach number 16 on the British chart, giving the band their biggest single here since ‘Hold Back The Night’ went top 10 in 1975. However, for many people it’s a track that will always be associated with an event that post-dated this – the phenomenal success of the Disco blockbuster, ‘Saturday Night Fever’, later in the year, with ‘Disco Inferno’ one of the key inclusions on the films soundtrack, which would go on to spawn one of the biggest selling albums of all-time. Returning to the UK top 50 (number 47) in June ’78 as a consequence of the films success, this would surprisingly be The Trammps final hit (although a re-issue of ‘Hold Back The Night’ made it to number 30 in the early 90’s).
Having made a major breakthrough with ‘Boogie Nights’, Heatwave scored again with the title track from their debut album, ‘Too Hot To Handle’, although this time they had to be satisfied with the more conservative chart peak of number 15 (still a place higher than ‘Disco Inferno’). Included as part of a double-a side package was a new track, ‘Slip Your Disc To This’ (featured later in the programme), which also gained favour in the clubs. Remarkably, ‘Slip Your Disc to This’ was only ever issued on the 7″ (there was no 12″), and it didn’t appear on their follow-up LP, 1978’s ‘Central Heating’, either, nor on any subsequent ‘best of’ compilations – very much a lost track.
The great Marvin Gaye’s ode to Disco was his last Motown classic. The exquisitely funky ‘Got To Give It Up’ casts Gaye in the role of a former wallflower who embraces the newly found freedom of the dancefloor. It would take him back to the top of the US chart (his 3rd number 1 single, the others being ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’ in 1969 and 1973’s ‘Let’s Get It On’), as we’ll as the Disco chart. In the UK it reached number 7, but would be Gaye’s final UK hit for Motown (not including the Berry Gordy tribute, ‘Pops We Love You’ in 1979, a minor British hit, which he recorded with fellow titans of the label, Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson and Stevie Wonder). It goes without saying that Marvin Gaye’s impact on popular music was immense, especially his seminal album. ‘What’s Going On’, which was released in 1971 and generally takes turns with The Beatles and their mighty ‘Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band’, when it comes to topping the critics all-time greatest album listings. Sadly, Gaye’s career, as well as his personal life, would go into decline after this, although he’d rally in 1982 with the release of a final mega hit, ‘Sexual Healing’, this time for Columbia. But this ‘renaissance’ would only prove to be a prelude to his untimely death in 1984, when his father shot him the day before his 45th birthday.
The new Kool & The Gang single in this country, released on the Contempo label, saw ‘Open Sesame’ issued back-to-back with ‘Super Band’. ‘Open Sesame’, which begins the October ’76 Time Capsule, was already a club favourite and, although not as memorable, ‘Super Band’ was nevertheless another welcome track by the master funksters.
Another Contempo release this month, also licensed via De-Lite, was ‘Dancin” by Brooklyn’s Crown Heights Affair. Sounding like the mutant child of Isaac Hayes’ ‘Theme From Shaft’ and their own ‘Dreaming A Dream’, ‘Dancin” was a potent combination, resulting in a serious club tune, although it never quite caught on with the mainstream crowd (they’d have to wait until the following year, and the more commercially accessible ‘Galaxy Of Love’, to make their chart breakthrough).
Aquarian Dream (not to be confused with the contemporary dance act) were an 8 piece band originally instigated as an offshoot project by Philadelphia drummer, Norman Connors. ‘Phoenix’ and another track from their debut album, ‘East 6th Street’ would find favour with the Jazz-Funk audience, which would become a force during the coming years. They’d later move from Buddah to Elektra, releasing their best-known single, ‘You’re A Star’, which would be a massive tune on the Jazz-Funk scene and a minor UK hit in 1979. One of Aquarian Dream’s members, the singer, Sylvia Striplin (who joined at the time the band signed to Elektra), would later hook-up with Roy Ayers, recording tracks like ‘You Can’t Turn Me Away’ and ‘Give Me Your Love’ for his Uno Melodic label in the early 80’s.
Brazilian pianist, Sergio Mendes, had been recording since the early 60’s, and was most noted for his platinum album ‘Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66’, released on Herb Alpert’s label A&M in, you guessed, 1966. He’d amass a run of 10 US hit singles of varying degrees of success, before the end of the 60’s, the biggest being his interpretations of Bacharach & David’s ‘The Look Of Love’ and Lennon & McCartney’s ‘Fool On The Hill’, which reached numbers 4 and 6 respectively in 1968. Although the hits dried up, he carried on recording albums into the 70’s and beyond, changing to Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’77 in 1971. By 1977 he’d amended this to ‘Sergio Mendes & The New Brasil ’77’ for his latest album, from which ‘The Real Thing’, penned by Stevie Wonder, would be issued as a single. Like all his previous releases, ‘The Real Thing’ would fail to make any impression on the UK chart – it wouldn’t be until 1983 that Mendes finally broke his duck, when ‘Never Gonna Let You Go’ went to number 45. In 2006, he collaborated with contemporary artists including Black Eyed Peas, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, John Legend, Q-Tip and Justin Timberlake, as well as his old friend, Stevie Wonder, on his ‘Timeless’ album.
‘The Shuffle’ would be the 4th and final UK hit for Van McCoy, and his second biggest single here, behind ‘The Hustle’, peaking at number 4.
Reaching number 2 with his only British hit, ‘Ain’t Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman)’, veteran R&B artist, Joe Tex, had unleashed one of the era’s biggest novelty dance tracks. Tex (from Baytown, Texas) had been recording since the mid-50’s, although his first big break came as a songwriter, when James Brown had a hit in 1962 with one of his compositions, ‘Baby You’re Right’. He finally secured top 5 status for himself via 1965’s ‘Hold On To What You’ve Got’ and, with hindsight, his style of speaking over music has been cited as prototype rap. He converted to the Muslim faith, changing his name to Yusuf Hazziez, and toured as a spiritual lecturer, but he continued to record as Joe Tex. For many Americans, as well as black music fans in this country, he’s best remembered for 1972’s ‘I Gotcha’, which just missed the top spot on the US chart. ‘I Gotcha’ was revived to great effect in the 1992 cult-classic Quentin Tarrantino movie, ‘Reservoir Dogs’, as one of the tracks played by DJ K-Billy (Steven Wright) on ‘the station where the 70’s survived’. This was 10 years on from Joe Tex’s death, in 1982, following a heart attack (aged 49).
KC & The Sunshine Band returned to the top of the US chart with their new single, ‘I’m Your Boogie Man’, although the track surprisingly failed to reach the UK top 40, stalling at number 41. The third hit from their ‘Part 3’ album, following ‘(Shake Shake Shake) Shake Your Booty’ and ‘Keep It Comin’ Love’, and the first issued in the UK on the TK label (TK releases previously issued here on Jayboy). More recently, as many will no doubt have noted, ‘I’m Your Boogie Man’ provided the sample source for my underground dance groove, ‘I Was A Teenage DJ Pt 1’.
‘Let ‘Em In’ started life as a track written by Paul McCartney, but intended for his old Beatles colleague, Ringo Starr. However, McCartney decided to record it himself, and it was released by his band Wings in August 1976, reaching number 2 in the UK. The original version celebrates friends and family, with Macca listing ‘Sister Suzie, Brother John (Lennon), Martin Luther (King), Phil & Don (Everly Brothers), Brother Michael (McCartney / McGear), Uncle Ernie & Auntie Gin (relatives). Martin Luther King’s inclusion obviously inspired Billy Paul to amend the lyrics, giving the track a new lease of life as an anthem for equality, which even includes sections of speeches by King and Malcolm X, something I don’t think had been previously done in this type of context. Paul’s version took the track back into the UK chart, where it became his most successful single since ‘Me And Mrs Jones’, peaking at number 26.
Having enjoyed a top 40 hit in 1976 with ‘I Need It’, Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson almost repeated the trick, just falling short with the downright funky ‘A Real Mother For Ya’, which reached number 44.
Having first made the UK top 30 as George ‘Bad’ Benson, with 1975’s ‘Supership’, Benson (no longer ‘Bad’) was back with a cover of a haunting song that had been written in 1947 by composer Eden Ahbez, in tribute to his friend Robert ‘Gypsy Boots’ Bootzin. San Francisco born Bootzin, the son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, whose philosophy of clean living, exercise and healthy eating laid the foundation in America for the forthcoming interest in ‘alternative’ lifestyles, such as the practice of yoga and the growing of organic food, would open one of the world first Health Shops, and is credited as being the inventor of the fruit drink concoction he named a ‘smoothie’. In 1948, Nat King Cole’s wonderful recording of ‘Nature Boy’ topped the US chart, and the song would subsequently be acknowledged as a standard, with versions by Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald & Joe Pass, Marvin Gaye (on his Nat King Cole tribute album), James Brown, Sarah Vaughan, John Coltrane and Miles Davis, to name but a few. Bobby Darin’s version would finally take it into the UK charts, in 1961, reaching number 24, a position 2 places higher than Benson’s peak (26). However, it was the Brit Funk band, Central Line, who’d achieve the highest UK chart placing when their dance version found its way to number 21 in 1983. The song was revived for the Baz Luhrmann movie, ‘Moulin Rouge’ in 2001 – David Bowie singing it at the films opening, setting the tone of the story, before reprising it at the end, this time accompanied by Massive Attack.
Finally it’s the first UK single by former Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes frontman, Teddy Pendergrass, ‘The Whole Town’s Laughing At Me’, another track that would peak at number 44. Pendergrass never achieved the level of success here that he did in the States, where he became the first Afro-American to record 5 platinum selling albums in a row. None of his solo singles made the British top 40, although a greatest hits album, ‘Satisfaction Guaranteed – The Very Best Of Teddy Pendergrass’, which included some Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes favourites, reached number 26 in 2004.
Records from April 1977.
Revisited April 2007.