Peter Brown – Do You Wanna Get Funky With Me (TK)
Slave – Slide (Cotillion)
Commodores – Brick House (Motown*)
Brothers Johnson – Right On Time (A&M)
Philadelphia International All-Stars – Let’s Clean Up The Ghetto (Philadelphia International)
Lady Love – Wrap Your Arms Around Me (Chimneyville*)
Morning Noon & Night – Bite Your Granny (Roadshow*)
Bruce Johnston – Pipeline (CBS)
Teddy Pendergrass – I Don’t Love You Anymore (Philadelphia International)
N.C.C.U – Bull City Party (United Artists)
Space – Magic Fly (Pye)
21st Creation – Tailgate (Motown)
Isley Brothers – Livin’ In The Life (T-Neck*)
Ju-Par Universal Orchestra – Funky Music (Ju-Par*)
Memphis Horns – Get Up And Dance (Rca)
Deniece Williams – That’s What Friends Are For (Cbs)
Commodores – Zoom (Motown)
Floaters – Float On (Abc)
* denotes import
Other tracks considered – Biddu Orchestra – Soul Coaxing (Epic) / Claudja Barry – Why Must A Girl Like Me (Mercury) / Grace Jones – I Need A Man (Polydor) / Isley Brothers – Voyage To Atlantis / Jacksons – Dreamer (Epic) / Johnny Taylor – Your Love Is Rated X (Cbs) / Lou Rawls – Some Folks Never Learn (Philadelphia International) / Lovers – Discomania (Epic) / Smokey Robinson – Vitamin U (Motown) / Natalie Cole – Party Lights (Capitol) / The Dells – Our Love (Mercury) / Van Mccoy – Spanish Boogie (H&L)
Following the success of T-Connection’s ‘Do What You Wanna Do’, TK weighed in with another massive track, this time a more downtempo groove, Peter Brown’s debut release, ‘Do You Wanna Get Funky With Me?’. The single would reach number 6 on the Billboard Disco chart, whilst going top 20 pop, becoming, in the process, the first US 12″ to sell a million copies! In the UK it would just miss the top 40, peaking at number 43. Multi-instrumentalist, Brown, born in Blue Island, Illinois, would study painting, sculpting and film and art history at the School For Art Institute Of Chicago before moving to Miami, where he’d signed a recording contract with the TK subsidiary label, Drive, having been championed by producer, Cory Wade. The b-side of ‘Do You Wanna Get Funky With Me?’, ‘Burning Love Breakdown’, would also go on to gain legendary status at the hugely influential New York club, the Paradise Garage.
Whilst Slave’s single, ‘You And Me’ continued to receive club support, the more Funk based DJ’s bought a copy of their album for the killer cut, ‘Slide’. Slave would fail to show on both the UK chart and the US Disco chart until 1980’s ‘Just A Touch Of Love’.
‘Brick House’ by the Commodores was a must have import 7″ for a number of months. Despite becoming their most enduring dancefloor track, it only reached number 34 on the US Disco list (which was one place lower than ‘Fancy Dancer’). In the UK it would quickly became one of the biggest club tracks around, although Motown didn’t finally release it until October, when it was issued back-to-back with the 1976 US hit, ‘Sweet Love’ (clearly in the hope of capitalizing on the success of the band’s hugely popular single, ‘Easy’, via another ballad). However, the single would only make it to number 32. Given the status of ‘Brick House’ in the clubs, it should have gained a much higher chart position, but it never received the necessary radio support to be anything other than a moderate hit.
‘Right On Time’, the title track from the second LP by the Brothers Johnson, was the DJ’s choice from the album. It would eventually be issued as a single a few months later, but failed to chart.
The Philadelphia International All-Stars were, as the name suggests, a collective of some of the labels best-known artists (Lou Rawls / Billy Paul / Teddy Pendergrass / The O’Jays / Archie Bell / Dee Dee Sharp Gamble), who’d come together to highlight the social problems existing at the time in black inner-city areas (especially in New York, which was experiencing major difficulties – the city facing the serious prospect of bankruptcy). Proceeds from sales of the track, and a subsequent album, were committed to a 5 year charity project, set up to help improve conditions. ‘Let’s Clean Up The Ghetto’ reached number 34 on the UK chart and number 26 on the US Disco chart.
Originally recorded by KC & The Sunshine Band for their 1976 album, ‘Part 3’, ‘Wrap Your Arms Around Me’ had never really got a look in, given the trio of dancefloor hits included on the album (‘I’m Your Boogie Man’, ‘Keep It Comin’ Love’ and ‘(Shake Shake Shake) Shake Your Booty’ – it appeared alongside ‘I’m Your Boogie Man’ as the singles b-side). Issued via Malaco’s Chimneyville label, Lady Love’s cover of ‘Wrap Your Arms Around Me’, became a cult-classic on Merseyside without ever, to the best of my knowledge, taking off anywhere else. It was never issued in England and quickly faded into obscurity Stateside. There’s absolutely no background information online about Lady Love, so I’m presuming that this was their only release. It’s local popularity was, once again, instigated by Terry Lennaine and Les Spaine, with a whole host of DJ’s, including myself, quickly following their lead and investing in a copy of the import 12″.
Detroit’s Morning Noon and Night were another band with a hot import out at the time (this time a 7″), on the United Artists Roadshow label. With its memorable title, ‘Bite Your Granny’, this would climb to number 32 on the US Disco chart, whilst also making a mark in the clubs over here. Despite the relative success of the single and their self-titled debut album, the 6-piece band would disappear from the scene no sooner had they arrived. The band where produced by Michael Stokes, who also worked with artists including Creative Source, Keith Barrow and Shirley Caesar during the 70’s.
Born in Peoria, Illinois, Bruce Johnston, moved to Los Angeles as a child. Having studied classical piano, he became a musician, backing a number of well-known artists in the late 50’s, including Ritchie Valens, the Everly Brothers and Eddie Cochran. His first recording success was when he arranged and played on ‘Teen Beat’, a hit on both sides of the Atlantic in 1959 for Sandy Nelson. He began his career as a record producer working for Del-Fi Records, before going on to release a series of Surf singles in the early 60’s and, along with friend and collaborator, Terry Melcher (who went on to work with The Byrds and Paul Revere & The Raiders), worked as a staff producer for Columbia Records. He become a touring member of the Beach Boys in 1965, as the bands’ main creative force, Brian Wilson, had decided he could no longer balance life on the road with his songwriting obligations (Wilson’s original replacement was Glen Campbell, who toured with the Beach Boys for a couple of months before embarking on his own career path). Johnston continues to be a member of the Beach Boys and was the composer of several of their songs including 1971’s ‘Disney Girls (1959)’. However, his most successful composition (a homage to Brian Wilson) was a track made popular by the MOR singer, Barry Manilow, called ‘I Write The Songs’ – a US number 1, which won it’s writer a Grammy for Song Of The Year following its release in 1975. Johnston’s surprise 1977 single, ‘Pipeline’, was something of a Disco cash-in, but regarded at the time as a pretty good one, reaching number 17 on the US Disco chart and number 33 in the UK. ‘Pipeline’, a track from back in the Surf era, had originally been a hit for The Chantays (top 5 US, top 20 UK).
Teddy Pendergrass followed his ballad, ‘The Whole Town’s Laughing At Me’ with a more lively offering, ‘I Don’t Love You Anymore’. Listed alongside ‘You Can’t Hide From Yourself’ and ‘The More I See, The More I Get’, on the US Disco chart, with a peak position of number 7.
A group of musicians attending North Carolina Central College, N.C.C.U (New Central Connection Unlimited) were the brainchild of Gene Strassler, the chairman of the Music Department at the college. Formed in 1976, the band signed to United Artists and their only album, ‘Super Trick’, produced by Donald Byrd, was released in 1977. The LP included ‘Bull City Party’, which was issued as a single in the UK following club support on import by some of the specialist DJ’s here.
Formed in 1977 by Didier Marouani, Space (not to be confused with the British band of the 90’s) were an electronic French trio (also Roland Romaneli and Jannick Top) who recorded what was, in Europe, soon dubbed Space Disco (in its original incarnation), a sub-genre that would have a big influence throughout the continent during the coming years. With the film ‘Star Wars’, released in the US the previous May, breaking box office records, there was a growing fascination with all things cosmic and Space’s arrival with ‘Magic Fly’ (originally recorded in 1976 as a demo for a TV show about astrology) proved timely, with the record going all the way to number 2 in the UK and becoming a big club favourite. Due to his existing solo recording deal, Marouani chose the pseudonym Ecama for his songwriting credit on ‘Magic Fly’, and the record would go on to top the chart in numerous countries. However, in the US the big version in the clubs was by Kebekelektrik (a name purported to come from Quebec Electric) on TK. This was French Canadian Gino Soccio’s project at the time (Kebekelekrtik would also go on to score big with ‘War Dance’). Marouani was none too pleased that Kebekelektik’s version had beaten his original to the punch Stateside, taking it into the US Disco top 10, whilst the Space version failed to show at all (although ‘Carry On, Turn Me On’ and ‘Tango In Space’, tracks from the debut album, also called ‘Magic Fly’, would attain a top 5 placing).
21st Creation’s ‘Tailgate’ was the latest Disco release from Motown, via the company’s Gordy label in the States. Co-written, produced and arranged by Mark Davis (it’s lyrics reminiscent of the O’Jays 1972 classic, ‘Backstabbers’), ‘Tailgate’ reached number 32 on the US Disco chart and, in the UK, was one of the Disco tracks that Northern Soul dancers took to as the scene underwent its late 70’s schism. 21st Creation would issue an album, ‘Break Thru’, before completely vanishing off the radar.
The latest US 7″ from the evergreen Isley Brothers was ‘Livin’ In The Life’, which failed to make any showing on either the UK chart of the US Disco chart. The rocky vibe of this track puts me in mind of an artist that would make a big impact in the coming years, Rick James, especially one of his best-remembered tracks, ‘Super Freak’.
Another import 7″ I bought in July ’77 was ‘Funky Music’ by Detroit’s Ju-Par Universal Orchestra’. It was never released in the UK, but picked up plenty of interest from the Funk specialists here. From an equally obscure album called ‘Moves And Grooves’, which, more recently, has been described by diggers website, Dusty Groove, as ‘one of the indie-soul treasures of the 70’s’.
Said to be the most recorded brass section of all-time, Stax legends the Memphis Horns (Wayne Jackson on trumpet and Andrew Love on tenor saxophone, being the 2 constant members) had worked with many of the greatest Soul artists of the 60’s and early 70’s, like Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, Isaac Hayes, Rufus Thomas, Sam & Dave and many many more. Originally making their mark as part of the Mar-Kays, Jackson (the son of a white travelling salesman) and Love (whose father was a black preacher) would record on the majority of Stax releases. From their 1977 album of the same name, ‘Get Up And Dance’, this single for RCA failed to make any real impact outside of the clubs. The Memphis Horns would continue to work with a who’s who of recording artists, including the Doobie Brothers, U2, Rod Stewart, Dr John, James Taylor and Primal Scream, to name but a few.
Deniece Williams was one of the guest vocalists on the aforementioned ‘Get Up And Dance’ album, but it was her solo recordings that were bringing her major acclaim. Following on from the UK number 1, ‘Free’, William’s once again hit the top 10, this time peaking at number 8, with ‘That’s What Friends Are For’.
From their new album, ‘Zoom’, The Commodores enhanced their reputation as one of the favourite ‘slowies’ acts of the time, with the title track becoming an end of night favourite. Would have been a far better choice than the older ‘Sweet Love’ to issue as a double-a side single with ‘Brick House’ in October, but, instead, it wouldn’t be released as a single until 1978, when it appeared back-to-back with ‘Too Hot Ta Trot’, making it to number 38 on the charts.
Finally it’s a record by a true one hit wonder (an artist / group whose only hit single is a number 1), The Floaters, formed by former Detroit Emerald, James Mitchell, who teamed up with his brother, Paul, and 3 others to complete the 5 piece vocal group. Mitchell claims the idea arrived in a dream – the lyrics highlighting each of the group members, who introduced themselves not only by name, but by star sign. The record was a sensation reaching number 2 on the US Pop chart and number 1 on the R&B chart, whilst going all the way to number 1 here in the UK. The group would release a trio of albums during the late 70’s, but never grace the UK singles chart again. However , the runaway success of that one record would keep them in work as a live act throughout the 80’s and 90’s.
In addition to my DJ work, between April and August of 1977 I wrote a regular fortnightly youth column for the local newspaper, the Wallasey News. It was aimed primarily at teenagers, with features on the local music scene, or new trends like skateboarding. In my final year at school, the careers advice officer had asked me what I was going to do when I left and, with deejaying not considered a serious career option, I’d said that I might do some journalism, having always enjoyed writing. I was told that this would never happen unless I went on to further education, which I had no intention of doing, so there was a extra degree of satisfaction when I was asked to write for the Wallasey News, having none of what I was led to believe where the ‘necessary qualifications for such a role’.
It didn’t work out quite the way I’d wanted, with the newspaper often slipping in pieces that I hadn’t written, which didn’t fit in with my vision of what a youth column should be (news of a scout group who’d won some cup or other, or the results of a school swimming gala). It was because of this that I stopped writing for the paper, but it’d been an interesting experience.
18 months later, in February 1979, I’d once again write a regular column for a local newspaper, this time the Wirral Globe, covering the Disco scene within the region. The title, ‘Discomania’, was taken from the track by the Lovers that appears in the ‘other tracks considered’ list above.
Records from July 1977.
Revisited July 2007.