Donna Summer – Love To Love You Baby (GTO)
David Ruffin – Walk Away From Love (Tamla Motown)
James Brown – Hot (I Need To Be Loved Loved Loved Loved) (Polydor)
Donald Byrd – Change (Makes You Want To Hustle) (Bluenote)
Fatback Band – (Are You Ready) Do The Bus Stop (Polydor)
Faith Hope & Charity – Just One Look (RCA)
Jimmy Bo Horne – Gimme Some (RCA)
The Brothers – Are You Ready For This (RCA)
Osibisa – Sunshine Day (Bronze)
The Miracles – Love Machine (Tamla Motown)
War – Low Rider (Island)
Paul Davidson – Midnight Rider (Tropical)
Barry White – Let The Music Play (20th Century)
Earth Wind & Fire – Shining Star (CBS)
Yvonne Fair – It Should’ve Been Me (Tamla Motown)
Other tracks considered: Dooley Silverspoon – Let Me Be The Number One (Seville) / Evelyn Thomas – Weak Spot (20th Century) / Gloria Gaynor – How High The Moon (MGM) / Jimmy Castor Bunch – King Kong (Atlantic) / Millie Jackson – Loving Arms (Polydor) / Peoples Choice – Party Is A Groovy Thing (Philadelphia International) / R&J Stone – We Do It (RCA) / The Trammps – Hooked For Life (Atlantic) / The Tymes – God’s Gonna Punish You (RCA)
The UK release of Donna Summer’s seductive breakthrough single would set the tone for the year ahead. ‘Love To Love You Baby’ was ‘Je t’aime’ for the dancefloor. Produced in Munich, West Germany, by Giorgio Moroder, and Pete Bellotte, it would not only herald the coronation of a new disco queen, but build upon Silver Convention’s 1975 successes, ‘Save Me’ and ‘Fly Robin Fly’, confirming the arrival of a new European Disco sound.
Jan ‘76 was a very good month for Tamla Motown, which issued a trio of tracks that would subsequently grace the UK Top 10, eleven years on from the labels launch – David Ruffin (the ex-lead singer of The Temptations) with ‘Walk Away From Love’, Yvonne Fair’s version of ‘It Should’ve Been Me’, and the biggest selling of the three, The Miracles (post-Smokey Robinson) with ‘Love Machine’. Interestingly, none of these acts would ever issue a more successful single. By the end of the year the classic black Tamla Motown label was no more and, from now on, records would be issued in the UK on Motown (in the US there was never a Tamla Motown label; Tamla and Motown being two separate labels under the Motown umbrella – others included Gordy and Soul).
Funk’s ongoing popularity in the clubs and discotheques was reflected by the Fatback Band’s ‘(Are You Ready) Do The Bus Stop’, which, unusually for a Funk single (Funk rarely receiving any mainstream radio support), went all the way into the UK top 20, as did War’s latin-tinged ‘Low Rider’. This was in contrast to two records that were dancefloor favourites without ever achieving chart status, James Brown’s ‘Hot (I Need To Be Loved Loved Loved Loved)’, which borrowed heavily from David Bowie’s ‘Fame’, a US Number 1 the previous year (co-written by John Lennon) and the live version of Earth Wind & Fire’s ‘Shining Star’ (it wouldn’t be until 1977 that EW&F finally scored their first British hit with ‘Saturday Night’).
Donald Byrd’s ‘Change (Makes You Want To Hustle)’ provided a taste of what lay ahead a few years further down the line, when Jazz-Funk would really come into its own, taking its place at the cutting-edge of the UK dance scene.
With Jamaican (via Paul Davidson) and Afro-Caribbean (via Osibisa) flavours added into the melting pot, Jan ‘76 served up a wide range of black music releases that perfectly illustrates the variety of grooves you could expect to hear in a British discotheque back then.
On a personal level, it was a frustrating start to the year for me. Having secured the Saturday night slot at the Chelsea Reach a month earlier, the venue was closed for a number of weeks, due to flooding (this resulted from high tides on the River Mersey; the Chelsea, due to its positioning on the promenade, being particularly vulnerable to the elements). It was as a consequence of this that my name first appeared in the local newspaper – in an advert about the ‘Grand Reopening’ of the venue. It read ‘Merseyside’s leading team of all-star disc jockeys are waiting to entertain you’, and I was listed alongside the DJ’s from the other nights, Terry Lennaine, Brian Cullen, Mike Rice, ‘Rory’ and Derek Kelsey. Although this fed my youthful ego somewhat, I was also concerned that one of the teachers from my school might see the ad and inform the management of the Chelsea that I was only 15. During these early months, being ‘found out’ was a constant worry for me.
Records from January 1976.
Revisited January 2006.