Lamont Dozier – Going Back to My Roots (Warner Brothers)
Eastbound Expressway – Cloudburst (Contempo)
Dennis Coffey – Wings Of Fire (Atlantic Lp)
Lenny Williams – Choosing You (Abc Lp)
Olympic Runners Featuring George Chandler – Keep It Up (RCA)
Dynamic Superiors – Nowhere To Run (Motown)
Trammps – I Feel Like I’ve Been Livin’ (On The Dark Side Of The Moon) (Atlantic)
La Belle Epoque – Black Is Black (Harvest)
Donna Summer – Theme From The Deep (Casablanca)
Jean Michelle Jarre – Oxygene Part IV (Polydor)
Hamilton Bohannon Bohannon – Disco Symphony (Mercury*)
James Brown – Give Me Some Skin (Polydor*)
Ohio Players – O.H.I.O (Mercury)
New York Port Authority – I Don’t Want To Work Today (Invictus*)
Fred Wesley & The Horny Horns – Up For The Down Stroke (Atlantic*)
Al Green – Love And Happiness (Hi*)
Billy Paul – Your Song (Philadelphia International)
Donna Summer – I Remember Yesterday (GTO LP)
Donna Summer – Love’s Unkind (GTO LP)
* denotes import
Other tracks considered – Avalanche – Feel Like Being Funky (Boblo*) / Average White Band & Ben E King – A Star In The Ghetto (Atlantic) / Carrie Lucas – I Gotta Keep Dancing (Soul Train) / Celi Bee & The Buzzy Bunch – One Love (TK) / David Ruffin – You’re My Peace Of Mind (Motown) / George Benson – Gonna Love You More (Warner Brothers) / Gladys Knight & The Pips – Home Is Where The Heart Is (Pye) / Kitty & The Haywoods – Love Shock (Mercury*) / Ritchie Family – Quiet Village (Polydor) / Smokey Robinson – Big Time Theme (Motown LP*) / Swamp Dogg – My Heart Just Can’t Stop Dancing (Privalege*)
Lamont Dozier had made his name in a big way, alongside brothers, Brian and Edward Holland, as one third of the legendary Holland-Dozier-Holland songwriting / production team who had scored hit after hit for Motown during the ’60s, including some of the decades most memorable singles by artists like The Supremes (whose ‘Where Did Our Love Go’ in 1964 was the first of 5 consecutive US number 1s in collaboration with the trio), The Four Tops, Marvin Gaye and Martha & The Vandellas, to name but a few. However, following a dispute with Motown head, Berry Gordy, they left the company and set up their own labels, Invictus and Hot Wax, continuing their run of hits with tracks like Chairman Of The Board’s ‘Give Me Just A Little More Time’ and ‘Band Of Gold’ by Freda Payne.
Dozier also released records between 1963-73 with Brian Holland, recording as Holland-Dozier (firstly with Motown, later Invictus) – the best-known from a UK perspective being ‘Why Can’t We Be Lovers’, which reached number 29 on the chart in 1972 and was also a hit in his homeland. Prior to this he’d recorded as a solo artist (as both Lamont Dozier and Lamont Anthony) and also as a member of The Romeos and The Voice Masters. In 1973 Dozier decided to re-launch his solo career signing with ABC, for whom he recorded tracks like ‘Tryin’ To Hold On To My Woman’ and the anti-Nixon critique, ‘Fish Ain’t Bitin”. However, his final ABC album ‘Prophecy’, was shelved at the last minute and only one copy remains (bought by the famed Northern Soul DJ, Richard Searling, for £3000 in 1990). He moved to Warner Brothers, releasing a trio of albums during the latter half of the ’70s.
His second Warner’s album, ‘Peddlin’ Music On The Side’, included ‘Going Back To My Roots’, inspired by Alex Haley’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel ‘Roots – The Saga Of An American Family’, first published in 1976, which, the following year, would be adapted for TV, becoming a groundbreaking mini-series. ‘Roots’ was a history of Haley’s family, dating back to Africa and the capture of his ancestor, Kunta Kinte, by slave traders in Gambia. ‘Roots’ was a phenomenal success, becoming one of the most viewed programmes in US history. It was also perfectly attuned to the times, with black Americans, having come through the trials and tribulations of the civil rights era, feeling a greater sense of connectedness to their African heritage. ‘Going Back To My Roots’ would pick up DJ plays on both sides of the Atlantic, the full length version (coming in at just under 10 minutes) was perfectly suited to the 12″ format, and the record would become a firm favourite on the black scene in the UK, whilst reaching number 35 on the US Disco chart. In 1980, a cover version by Richie Havens would go massive on the Jazz-Funk scene here (although it’s often mistakenly described as a Balearic ‘discovery’ from the end of the decade).
In 1981 WEA in the UK actually pressed up a limited DJ only 12″, featuring both the Richie Havens and Lamont Dozier recordings – both being acknowledged as Jazz-Funk classics. However, it’s Odyssey’s version, from 1981, that gave the track the most mainstream exposure, reaching number 4 on the UK chart. In 1989 Italy’s FPI Project would score big on the growing Rave scene with their interpretation of the track, ‘Rich In Paradise’, and, following the addition of Sharon Dee Clarke’s vocal, it was issued in the UK under the original title, making it to number 9 on the chart.
Produced by British DJ Ian Levine with collaborator Paul David Wilson (the tracks writer), ‘Cloudburst’ was the first Eastbound Expressway single and the only one released on Contempo. The follow-up, ‘Never Let Go’ would find favour in the US clubs, but not in the UK. Levine was still releasing tracks a decade later under this project name, reaching number 19 on the US Disco chart in 1987 with ‘Knock Me Senseless’.
Detroit’s Dennis Coffey is a seminal guitarist – the man who introduced the wah-wah sound to Motown, via Norman Whitfield’s groundbreaking ‘psychedelic Soul’ productions for The Temptations during the late ’60s / early ’70s. As a member of the Funk Brothers, the unsung heroes of the Motown sound, Coffey had worked on numerous sessions for the company and is said to have contributed to over 100 gold and platinum selling albums in his illustrious career. In 1971 he recorded the million selling Funk instrumental, ‘Scorpio’, for Sussex Records, under the name Dennis Coffey & The Detroit Guitar Band – the break in the track now regarded as a Hip Hop landmark. ‘Scorpio’ was produced by Mike Theodore, also from Detroit and Coffey’s friend since the early ’60s. The partnership would also make their mark during the Disco era, via their association with Westbound Records, starting off with the huge club hit ‘Devil’s Gun’ by CJ & Co. This was followed by Coffey’s second solo album for the label, ‘Back Home’, which featured further club favourites, ‘Wings Of Fire’ and ‘Free Spirit’, both of which were listed when reaching number 11 on the US Disco chart. ‘Wings Of Fire’ would become a Jazz-Funk favourite, but received little support outside of the specialist scene in the UK.
Lenny Williams was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, but grew up in Oakland, California. He signed to the fledgling Fantasy Records in 1968, releasing 2 singles, “Lisa’s Gone” and “Feelin’ Blue”, written by John Fogerty from lablemates, Creedence Clearwater Revival. He’d release a further single on Atlantic, but in 1972 he joined Tower Of Power, recording three albums as the bands lead vocalist during their most successful period, before leaving in 1974 to re-launch his solo career. Albums for Warner Brothers and Motown would follow, but it was 1977’s ‘Choosing You’ LP for ABC, which saw him make a major breakthrough. The title track was the choice cut, gaining strong DJ support, although the awkwardly named ‘Shoo Doo Fu Fu Ooh’ would eventually provide him with his only UK Top 40 single. These 2 tracks were listed together on the US Disco chart, peaking at number 10.
The Olympic Runners were a well respected early Brit Funk band (made up of UK and US personnel) who’d started out recording in 1974. Consisting of George Chandler (vocals), Joe Jammer (guitar), Pete Wingfield (keyboards), DeLisle Harper (bass) and Glen LeFleur (drums), the band struggled to make any real impact until the Disco flavoured single, ‘Keep It Up’ was released in 1977 (although Wingfield had scored an unlikely one-off solo hit with ‘Eighteen With A Bullet’, reaching number 7 in ’75). Despite ‘Keep It Up’ finding favour in the clubs, both here and in the States (where it reached number 27 on the Disco chart), it failed to crossover commercially, and it wouldn’t be until 1978’s ‘Whatever It Takes’ that they finally made it into the lower regions of the chart. They’d later enjoy a run of 3 top 40 singles between 78/79 – ‘Get It While You Can’, ‘Sir Dancealot’ and ‘The Bitch’.
In 1965, the Martha & The Vandellas original of ‘Nowhere To Run’ went top 10 in the US. It would also make three appearances on the UK chart (number 26 in ’65, number 42 in ’69, and, almost 2 decades later, number 52 in 1988). The Dynamic Superiors version of this Motown classic (the band were also signed to Motown) was aimed at the ever-growing Disco audience and made its way up to number 26 on the US Disco chart. Having formed in Washigton DC, back in the ’60s, it had been a long road for the Dynamic Superiors and, despite recording 4 albums during the ’70s, things wouldn’t really take off for them. Much of their publicity centred around the fact that their lead singer, Tony Washington (who’d changed the spelling to Toni) was openly gay – this was at a time when the closet door was firmly shut in a general sense with regards to black musicians. ‘Nowhere To Run’ would be included on the recent ‘Motown Disco’ retrospective compiled by the Six Million Steps crew.
Following the top 20 success of their previous single, ‘Disco Inferno’, ‘I Feel Like I’ve Been Livin’ (On The Dark Side Of The Moon)’ pretty much sank without a trace following its UK release. Having made little impression with US DJs, the UK record company saw it as a track that would appeal more to Northern Soul type sensibilities, given its uptempo groove, but support was purely specialist and sales few and far between.
La Belle Epoque (French for ‘the Beautiful era’ – relating to the period from 1890 to the outbreak of the first world war in 1914) were a female trio from Paris who scored a massive hit with their Disco cover of the equally huge 1966 Los Bravos single, ‘Black Is Black’ (both reached number 2 on the UK chart). Listed as Belle Epoque (without the La) on the US Disco chart, they took ‘Black Is Black’, along with the title track to their album ‘Miss Broadway’, to number 21 on the US Disco chart. Despite continued success in Europe, La Belle Epoque remained a one hit wonder from a UK perspective.
The new single from Donna Summer was ‘Down Deep Inside (Theme From ‘The Deep’)’ – ‘The Deep’ being a new movie based on the best-selling novel by ‘Jaws’ author Peter Benchley. Rather than her normal production team of Moroder and Bellotte, the track was produced, arranged and conducted by the English film score composer John Barry. It went to number 5 on the UK chart, where it was issued on Casablanca, as opposed to the label her records were normally released on, which was GTO. In the US the track was pressed on a special one-sided 12″ with ‘I Feel Love’, which peaked at number 3 on the Disco chart. Why 2 tracks were pressed on one side of vinyl, with nothing at all on the other, is unclear. The US release was also listed as ‘Theme From The Deep (Down, Deep Inside)’.
‘Oxygene Pt IV’ by French synthesizer player Jean Michelle Jarre is one of the best-known pieces of electronic music ever made. Taken from his first multi-million selling album, ‘Oxygene’, the single went all the way to number 4 in the UK (the album just missing the top spot). Jarre, who’d been releasing records since 1969, would become an international star following ‘Oxygene’. He’d later take his spectacular concerts around the world, combining music and lighting on a grand scale – concerts in Paris in 1979, Houston in 1986, Paris again in 1990 and Moscow in 1997 would enter the Guinness Book Of Records as performances to the largest amount of people (a million, over 1.5 million, 2.5 million and 3.5 million respectively). He was also the first Western Pop artist granted permission to stage concerts in China (1981). Amongst his prolific output down the years was a unique album in 1983 called ‘Musique pour Supermarche’ (Music for Supermarkets), which had a print run of one single copy. The album was made expressly to voice Jarre’s distaste and disregard for the music business. After destroying the master, he allowed Radio Luxembourg to broadcast the album just once, before auctioning it, raising £10,000 for French artists. On December 31st 1999 though into January 1st 2000, Jarre staged another spectacular, against the backdrop of the Egyptian pyramids at Giza.
Born in Newnan, Georgia, Hamilton Bohannon was a drummer who had, at one time, played in the same band as Jimi Hendrix. This was before he worked for Stevie Wonder in the mid-’60s, having moved to Detroit in 1965. He’d later work for Motown, having been given the position of bandleader, responsible for live arrangements for all Motown’s top acts. When Motown relocated to Los Angeles, Bohannon stayed in Detroit, assembling his own band and, in 1972, he signed to Dakar/Brunswick, releasing his debut album, ‘Stop And Go’ the following year. In 1975, Hamilton Bohannon had made a big impact in the clubs, resulting in a quartet of UK top 50 hits – ‘South African Man’ (number 22), ‘Disco Stomp’ (number 6), ‘Foot Stompin’ Music’ (number 23) and ‘Happy Feeling’ (number 49). ‘Bohannon Disco Symphony’ was his latest US single, which I picked up and played on import, but it was the flip side, ‘Andrea’ that caught on with DJs Stateside, reaching number 19 on the US Disco chart. Unfortunately ‘Andrea’ has to be filed under ‘one that got away’ from my personal perspective, otherwise it would certainly have also have been worthy of inclusion here. Although ‘Disco Stomp’ would remain his biggest UK hit, his 1978 single, ‘Let’s Start The Dance’ and the 1981 update ‘Let’s Start II Dance Again’ are what most people remember him for nowadays (there was also a third version, ‘Let’s Start The Dance III’ in 1983, mixed by Francois Kevorkian). Not surprisingly, given his distinctive groove, Bohannon has been widely sampled.
Having experienced something of a renaissance with his previous singles, ‘Get Up Offa That Thing’ and ‘Bodyheat’, James Brown, the Minister of New New Super Heavy Funk (to give him one of his titles), would struggle during the coming years, having to wait until 1981 before returning to the UK chart. His latest US single, ‘Give Me Some Skin’ wouldn’t be released here.
The Ohio Players were another big name in Funk whose star would soon be on the wane. ‘O.H.I.O’ would prove to something of a swansong for them, although their music returned to specialist dancefloors 2 years on, via the more Disco flavoured, ‘Everybody Up’. Hot on the heels of ‘I Got It’ was a new US single from New York Port Authority called ‘I Don’t Want To Work Today’. This would be taken from their one and only album, ‘Three Thousand Miles From Home’.
From Mobile, Alabama, Fred Wesley was a pivotal member of James Brown’s band between 1968-1970, and then again from 1971-1975, before going on to work with the P Funk dynasty of Parliament / Funkadelic. Wesley’s trombone has been a feature of some classic Funk recordings, and throughout his James Brown period he struck up a potent combination with legendary saxophonist Maceo Parker. Whilst a part of the P Funk family he released 2 albums as Fred Wesley & The Horny Horns, ‘A Blow For Me, A Toot For You’ in 1977, including his cover of the Parliament track featured here, ‘Up For The Down Stroke’ (not released in the UK) and 1979’s ‘Say Blow By Blow Backwards’. Following his P Funk affiliation he switched the emphasis from Funk to Jazz, at first joining the Count Basie Orchestra, and later recording his own material. In the ’90s Wesley toured with his colleagues from the James Brown band, Alfred ‘Pee Wee’ Ellis and Maceo Parker, as the JB Horns. With the departure of Ellis the band became The Maceo Parker Band. In 2002 Wesley published his autobiography, ‘Hit Me, Fred – Recollections Of A Sideman’. Amongst his other projects, he currently serves as an adjunct professor in the Jazz Studies department of the School of Music at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Born Albert Greene in Forrest City, Arkansas, Al Green began performing in the ’50s, aged just 9, as part of a vocal quartet called the Greene Brothers. In high school he’d form a group called Al Greene & The Creations, before later finding success, in 1967, as Al Greene & The Soul Mates, having a top 5 R&B hit with ‘Back Up Train’, released by Hot Line Music (a company owned by 2 of the Creations). Subsequent singles failed to do as well and, in 1969, he hooked-up with Willie Mitchell at Hi Records, where he’d achieve Soul superstardom. With Mitchell arranging and producing, Green (having dropped the e from the end of his surname) would return to the chart with his cover of the Temptations’ classic ‘I Can’t Get Next To You’ in 1970, before having a series of major hit singles between 1971-1975, with tracks like ‘Tired Of Being Alone’, ‘I’m Still In Love with You’, ‘Look What You Done For Me’, ‘You Ought To Be With Me’, Sha-La-La (Make Me Happy)’ and, of course, his US number 1, ‘Let’s Stay Together’. He also recorded 6 consecutive number 1 US R&B albums during these years. However, despite continued R&B success, his record sales dropped after 1975. The previous year his girlfriend, Mary Woodson, had thrown a pot of sticky boiling grit on him as he prepared to shower (causing third degree burns to his back, stomach and arm), before she committed suicide – this had happened because he’d told her he didn’t want to get married.
The incident, unsurprisingly, had a major effect on his life and, deeply shaken, he turned to God and religion, becoming, in 1976, an ordained pastor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Memphis. Despite continued R&B releases the once mass audience for his music never returned and Green would eventually concentrate his energies towards pastoring his church and gospel singing. He continues to record and preach today. In 1995 Green was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame and in 2002 he received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (to add to his 9 previous Grammy’s). In 2004 he was named 65th in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 100 Greatest Artists Of All-Time, whilst, the previous year, the magazine ranked his ‘Greatest Hits’ album from 1975 at 52 on their all-time list. The track included here, ‘Love And Happiness’ was included on an updated version of the ‘Greatest Hits’ in 1977, replacing Green’s wonderful version of the Bee Gees song, ‘How Can You Mend A Broken Heart’. ‘Love And Happiness’ originally appeared on his album, ‘I’m Still In Love With You’, in 1972, but wasn’t released as a single until 5 years later.
On the back of Billy Paul’s top 30 success in the UK, covering the Wings track, ‘Let ‘Em In’, another cover was selected for the follow-up, this time Elton John’s ‘Your Song’, which had originally featured on his 1972 album, ‘360 Degrees Of Billy Paul’. It didn’t quite emulate its predecessor, but managed to achieve a 5th UK top 40 for hit Paul, peaking at number 37.
Finally it’s 2 more tracks from Donna Summer, making 3 in all on this months programme. Unlike ‘Down Deep Inside (Theme From The Deep)’, these both featured on her current album ‘I Remember Yesterday’, and would both be subsequently issued as singles. The title track was released in September, only a month on from her previous single, but failed to crack the top 10, stalling at number 14, whilst ‘Love’s Unkind’ would follow in December, going all the way to number 3 on the UK chart. Both came under the blanket ‘all cuts’ listing when the album topped the US Disco chart. The Dr Buzzard’s styled ‘I Remember Yesterday’ and the 60’s flavoured ‘Love’s Unkind’ featured as the LP’s first 2 tracks. I used to play side 1 of the album early in the evening, when people were still coming in, as there weren’t any gaps between the tracks (‘Back In Love Again’ and ‘I Remember Yesterday (Reprise)’ followed), giving me the opportunity to have a chat at the bar for a decent length of time before I kicked off the night, without having to head back to the DJ booth to keep changing the records.
Things were definitely heading in the right direction at the Golden Guinea. I was really beginning to develop things down in the Disco room, introducing an increasing amount of imports into my playlist. This was apparent from the ‘Star Chart’ I was asked to supply for the B.A.D.J.A (British Associated DJ Alliance) newsletter. I chose to submit an Imports top 10 – 1. ‘Best Of My Love’ – Emotions 2. ‘Slide’ – Slave 3. ‘Livin’ In The Life’ – Isley Brothers 4. ‘Disco Lights’ – Dexter Wansel 5. ‘Funky Music’ – Ju Par Universal Orchestra 6. ‘Feel Like Being Funky’ – Avalanche 7. ‘Love Shock’ – Kitty & The Haywoods 8. ‘Get Your Boom Boom (Around The Room)’ – Le Pamplemousse 9. ‘Give Me Some Skin’ – James Brown 10. ‘Bite Your Granny’ – Morning Noon & Night.
The big music news this month was the death of Elvis Presley at his Gracelands home in Memphis on August 16th. To many, Elvis had become a parody of his former self, especially during recent years – now bloated and looking somewhat ridiculous in his trademark jumpsuit, whilst he went through his repertoire on stage in Las Vegas, far removed from his Rock & Roll roots. As John Lennon, a big Elvis fan in his youth, once famously quipped, ‘Elvis died in the army’. His latest single, ‘Way Down’, would take him back to the top of the British chart, posthumously, for the first time since ‘The Wonder Of You’ in 1970 (equalling The Beatles’ record of 17 UK number 1s – although, whilst it took Elvis 20 years to amass this total, The Beatles did it in little over 6). In 2002, ‘A Little Less Conversation’, a dance remix credited to Elvis Vs JXL, gave Presley his 18th number 1, with 2005 re-issues of ‘Jailhouse Rock’, ‘One Night’ / ‘I Got Stung’ and ‘It’s Now Or Never’, bringing the total to 21.
Records from August 1977.
Revisited August 2007.