Kool & The Gang – Open Sesame (*De-Lite)
Tavares – Don’t Take Away The Music (Capitol)
Originals – Down To Love Town (Motown)
Love Unlimited Orchestra – My Sweet Summer Suite (20th Century)
Parliament – Do That Stuff (*Casablanca)
Peoples Choice – Movin’ In All Directions (Philadelphia International)
Climax Blues Band – Couldn’t Get It Right (Bronze)
Rose Royce – Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is (MCA)
Dr Buzzards Original Savannah Band – I’ll Play The Fool (RCA)
Soulful Dynamics – Jungle People (Epic)
Marlena Shaw – Love Has Gone Away (Bluenote)
Whispers – One For The Money (RCA)
Lou Rawls – From Now On (Philadelphia International)
Diana Ross – One Love In My Lifetime (Motown)
Leo Sayer – You Make Me Feel Like Dancing (Chrysalis)
Junior Murvin – Police And Thieves (Island)
Chicago – If You Leave Me Now (CBS)
* denotes import
Other tracks considered: Billy Ocean Stop Me (GTO) / Brendon Gimme Some (UK) / Faith Hope & Charity You’re My Peace Of Mind (RCA) / Jerry Butler The Devil In Mrs Jones (Tamla Motown) / Three Degrees What I Did For Love (Epic) / War Cisco Kid (Island)
Kool & The Gang were back with a vibrant new US single, ‘Open Sesame’, which I picked up on import. Almost 30 years later I’d re-edit this for my Credit To The Edit compilation. Along with earlier Time Capsule inclusions, ‘A Fifth Of Beethoven’ by Walter Murphy & The Big Apple Band and ‘You Should Be Dancing’ by the Bee Gees, this would complete a trio of 1976 releases that would feature on the soundtrack of the movie ‘Saturday Night Fever’ the following year.
Tavares followed-up ‘Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel’, one of the biggest club tracks of the year, with another out and out winner, ‘Don’t Take Away The Music’, which emulated its predecessor by reaching number 4 on the UK chart.
UK 12” singles were still few and far between and it would still take a number of years before the format really took off (for example, in the first 4 months of 1978 I received 410 records from the various mailing lists I was on, yet only 40 were on 12” – less than 10%). ‘Down To Love Town’ was sent to me as a promo 12” on the Motown label, but wouldn’t be commercially released as either a 12” or on Motown, the 7” appearing on Tamla Motown. Tamla Motown was the greatest British Soul label (I say British because Tamla and Motown were separate in the US – the records issued on these Berry Gordy owned labels, plus others like Gordy, Soul and VIP, appearing in the UK under the famous Tamla Motown banner), but this glorious era was about to come to an abrupt end, with a new catch-all Motown label introduced in both the US and the UK in 1976. The Originals, from Motown’s Detroit homeland, had been recording since 1966, with their biggest single being ‘Baby I’m For Real’ in 1969 on the Soul label, a track co-written and produced by Marvin Gaye. Despite releasing 8 albums for Soul in 8 years, they’d never manage to reach those heights again. However, ‘Down To Love Town’, in its full length glory, saw them top the US Disco chart. It was produced by Mike Sutton & Frank Wilson, an intriguing combination, but one that wouldn’t come together again. Wilson, a protégé of Norman Whitfield, had already helped create the blueprint for the Disco mix via his groundbreaking production work with Eddie Kendricks (he’d also produced other Motown artists, including the Four Tops, The Supremes and Brenda Holloway). He would later acquire legendary status on the Northern Soul scene when a rare 45 he’d recorded for Soul as a solo artist in 1965, ‘Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)’, was re-discovered, with one of only two known copies (the rest had been destroyed when Motown had decided not to issue it) later sold for a world record £15,000! However, it was Sutton (one of the tracks co-writers) who was largely responsible for the all important 12” mix of ‘Down To Love Town’, putting it together with the help of studio staff, after Wilson had departed from Motown, having completed his work on The Originals’ album. Wilson left the company following what he describes as ‘a personal spiritual encounter’, and would later become an ordained minister. Sutton would go on to work with Cheryl Lynn and score a club success with his wife, Brenda, recording ‘Don’t Let Go Of Me (Grip My Hips And Move Me)’ for the Sam label in 1983. Despite its status as a classic Disco cut, ‘Down To Love Town’ wasn’t a commercial success. In 2005, the 12” mix of ‘Down To Love Town’ was included on the ‘Motown Disco’ retrospective, which was compiled by the Six Million Steps crew.
Another US Disco number 1, ‘My Sweet Summer Suite’, which was listed at the summit with fellow album track, ‘Brazilian Love Song’, was by Barry White’s Love Unlimited Orchestra, who’d recorded one of the archetypal Disco tracks, ‘Love’s Theme’, in 1974, topping the US chart in the process.
Parliament were back with a new LP, ‘The Clones Of Dr Funkenstein’, which I bought on import, having derived such pleasure from their previous offering, ‘Mothership Connection’. Unfortunately, it never had a killer club track like ‘Tear The Roof Of The Sucker’, the pick of the bunch being ‘Do That Stuff’, with its slight Reggae lilt.
‘Movin’ In All Directions’ by the Peoples Choice once again failed to emulate the chart status of their classic groove, ‘Do It Anyway You Wanna’, but proved to be a solid club track.
Formed in 1968, the Climax Chicago Blues Band, from Stafford, carved out a niche for themselves on the British Blues scene, signing for EMI’s progressive label Harvest in 1970. Two years later they dropped the Chicago part from their name, to avoid confusion with the American band of the same name (featured later). The band would go on to enjoy a long career, the high point coming in 1976 when their single, ‘Couldn’t Get It Right’, released on the Bronze label, reached number 10 on the UK charts. It would go on to become an FM favourite in the US, climbing all the way to number 3 on the Billboard chart. Sounding suspiciously like an earlier (and many would say superior) British release, ‘Why Did You Do It’ by Stretch, ‘Couldn’t Get It Right’ was the bands only hit single.
Rose Royce was a new name on the scene, hailing from LA and produced by Norman Whitfield, they made their UK debut with a chunk of Funk called ‘Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is’. The promotions company who mailed it to me drew attention to the fact that it was featured in a upcoming film called ‘Car Wash’, but it wasn’t until the following month that I got my hands on a copy of the now classic title track. Rose Royce had served their apprenticeship in the early 70’s, backing Motown’s Edwin Starr, but Whitfield would move them to centre stage, making them his main project, post-Temptations, and they’d go on to become one of the big groups of the Disco era. However, ‘Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is’ made an inauspicious start, failing to make any impression on the chart until January 1977, when it finally made its breakthrough on the back of the success of ‘Car Wash’, which was released in the meantime (more about ‘Car Wash’ next month), peaking just outside the top 40 at number 44.
Hailing from Brooklyn, Dr Buzzards Original Savannah Band impressively revived the swing / big band sound in a Disco style. Their self-titled debut album was huge in the US clubs, hitting number 1 on the Disco chart, with ‘Cherchez La Femme’, ‘Sweet And Sour’ and ‘I’ll Play The Fool’ listed as the key tracks. The band was formed by guitarist, Stoney Browder and his brother, bassist, Thomas ‘August Darnell’ Browder, who’d later go on to form Kid Creole & The Coconuts in 1980 with fellow Dr Buzzards member, Andy Hernandez (Vibraphone). The other main members were vocalist, Cory Day, and drummer Mickey Sevilla. The band never really caught the imagination of the British clubbers in the same way as they had in the US, but ‘I’ll Play The Fool’ and ‘Cherchez The Femme’ would pick up club support without ever troubling the chart.
Like a famous Liverpool band before them, the Soulful Dynamics, from Liberia, had first made their name playing the clubs of Hamburg, following their arrival in Germany in 1969. Fusing catchy pop tunes with African rhythms the 7 piece band would secure a recording contract and have a big German hit in 1970 with ‘Mademoiselle Ninette’. Their most popular single in the UK clubs was the jaunty ‘Jungle People’, but little was heard of them after this release, until one of their former members, Ernest Clinton, produced the decidedly dodgy Goombay Dance Band in the early 80’s, who scored hits throughout Europe with ‘Seven Tears’ and ‘Sun Of Jamaica’.
Marlena Shaw followed ‘It’s Better Than Walking Out’ with another Disco aimed single on Bluenote, ‘Love Has Gone Away’, but, as with its predecessor, it never managed to take her into the chart (still, to this day, Marlena Shaw has never spent a even a week on the UK chart, with either single or album).
‘One For The Money’ by The Whispers was released on the Soul Train label, set up by Don Cornelius, who hosted the legendary US black music show of the same name. Cornelius had formed Soul Train Records with partner, Dick Griffey, but it was a short lived venture, Cornelius and Griffey amicably deciding to shut the label down in 1977 so Cornelius could focus all his energies on the hugely popular TV show, which demanded his full attention (Griffey would go on to form Solar Records, which would enjoy a number of hits by acts like Shalamar, Dynasty, Carrie Lucas and The Whispers). The Whispers had been around since 1964, when they formed in LA. Their recording career took off in 1970, via the major US R&B hit, ‘Seems Like I Gotta Do Wrong’. Prior to ‘One For The Money’, their best-known track in the UK was probably 1974’s ‘Mother For My Children’, which had fared well in the clubs, but it wasn’t until ‘And The Beat Goes On’ in 1980 that they cracked the British chart.
Lou Rawls failed to capitalise on his top 10 UK single, ‘You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine’, when the follow-up, ‘From Now On’ missed the chart. He’d be destined to remain a one hit artist from a British perspective.
Diana Ross suffered the same fate with ‘One Love In My Lifetime’, although, unlike Lou Rawls, she was already one of the Worlds most successful artists in terms of hits, both as a solo artist and with The Supremes.
Sussex born Leo Sayer burst onto the UK Pop scene at the end of 1973. He performed his debut single, ‘The Show Must Go On’, dressed as a Pierrot style clown and the record just missed out on the top spot of the chart, peaking at number 2. His manager was former British teen idol, Adam Faith, who had been the first recording artist to achieve top 10 status with each of his first 7 singles – a feat that Sayer would replicate. ‘You Make Me Feel Like Dancing’ was the 5th release in this sequence, and would become his 3rd number 2 (‘Moonlighting’, his previous single, being the 2nd) – he wouldn’t always remain the bridesmaid however, as his next single, ‘When I Need You’ hit number 1, as did Meck’s update of his 1977 single, ‘Thunder In My Heart’ (re-named ‘Thunder In My Heart Again’), which took Sayer back to the top earlier this year. ‘You Make Me Feel Like Dancing’ continued the trend of Pop artists making Disco aimed singles and, although it didn’t quite give him his first UK number 1, he well and truly hit the jackpot when the single went one place better in the US. Quite remarkably, ‘You Make Me Feel Like Dancing’ would actually earn Sayer and co-writer, Vini Poncia, a Grammy for Best Rhythm & Blues Song!
Reggae had a special place in the affections of many people in the UK – this dated back to the late 60’s / early 70’s, when the genre began to make a big impact on the UK chart via artists like Desmond Dekker, Jimmy Cliff and Dave & Ansil Collins, whilst the Trojan label would become something of an institution, especially with the original skinheads, who were heavily influenced by the rude boys of Jamaica. From a club perspective, a run of 3 or 4 Reggae tracks was often welcomed by the audience, especially as the night was winding down, with them working as a bridge into the slowies. Junior Murvin’s ‘Police And Thieves’ was one of the tracks I’d use in this way. I actually received it as a promo in the same envelope that brought me ‘Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is’, so it was a very welcome package. Produced and co-written by the irrepressible Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, who, along with King Tubby, was at the vanguard of Dub, ‘Police And Thieves’ is a Reggae classic, although it wasn’t until it was re-issued in 1980 that it reached the UK chart, peaking at number 23 (this was after the seminal Punk band, The Clash, had helped bring it to wider attention, having covered it on their self-titled debut album in 1977).
Bringing proceedings to an end its Chicago with a record that topped the chart on both sides of the Atlantic, ‘If You Leave Me Now’, which proved to be an end of night favourite on dancefloors the length and breadth of Britain. The band, originally named Chicago Transit Authority, are noted for having the longest numerical sequence of albums, ‘Chicago 26’ the most recent, in 1999. Many of these albums went platinum in the US, where they were absolutely huge – all in all they sold in excess of 120 million records. As their names suggests, they were from Chicago, but re-located to California in 1967, although they were nowhere near as big in the UK as in their homeland, prior to ‘If You Leave Me Now’ they’d had two top 10 singles in this country, both in 1970, ‘I’m A Man’ and ‘25 Or 6 To 4’, plus 3 top 10 albums, all between 1969 and 1971. They’d return to the top 10 in the ‘80’s, via 2 singles, ‘Hard To Say I’m Sorry’ (1982) and ‘Hard Habit To Break (1984), and a best of compilation album, ‘The Heart Of Chicago’ (1989).
I received a pleasant surprise when I went into Radio Catherine to do my show at the start of October and was given a letter addressed to the Nurses of Wards C, E & D at the hospital. Unbeknown to me, they’d sent a letter to BBC Radio Merseyside, recommending me to the station, and the reply had asked for me to send a demonstration tape to the Programme Organiser. Having never done this before, I asked Dave Porter if he could help me put one together, recording onto reel-to-reel. It had to be on 1/4” tape, as opposed to cassette, which they just wouldn’t have listened to, cassettes being regarded as unprofessional. There was a protocol to these things – there had to be green leader tape at the start and red to finish, and it was important to only use the beginning and end of the records you played, the main point of the tape being for the Programme Organiser to hear your presentation style – he didn’t want to sit through half an hour of music when you’d only be on the microphone for a matter of minutes. This meant that you’d introduce the record, then after it had continued to play for a couple of bars you’d edit to near the end of the track, just before you started to speak again over the outro. This would be the pattern, until you had a completed demonstration tape. Dave did most of the edits, explaining the process to me and showing me how you found the edit point by manually moving the tape back and forth across the tape head. I tried a couple of edits myself, and this was the first time I spliced tape. Just over 6 years down the line I’d be buying a Revox B77 reel-to-reel and editing would subsequently become a major part of my life.
I had some publicity photos taken to send with the demonstration tape and selected 2 of them for duplication, ordering a couple of hundred of each from the company in Nottingham that were doing the job – one of these shots is incorporated in the Time Capsule collage. Once the publicity photos came back I put one of each in the package with the tape and sent it off to Radio Merseyside. I’d receive a reply at the start of November (more next month).
A new club was opening in nearby Birkenhead, called the Deerstalker. It was primarily a cabaret venue, with the acts appearing in the clubs large main room (I’d see lots of people perform there, including The Drifters, Bob Monkhouse, The Barron Knights, Faith Brown, Sweet Sensation and Lenny Henry, who I’ll write more about next month). Downstairs they had a disco room, which was a really good space (years later this would be the room where Desa held his Basement nights, which inspired The Bassheads project he put together with partner, Nick Murphy, spawning the Rave classic, ‘Is There Anybody Out There?’). I was pretty impressed when I went in there to audition, everything being so new, and I was made up to be offered the Wednesday night there. My first night was a major anti-climax though, with hardly any customers upstairs for the cabaret, let alone downstairs with me. I filled in for them on a Saturday night, when the club was busy, and had a great time. The management re-assured me that once the word got around, they’d be packing them in during the week as well, but this never materialised. Still, I’d end up working at the Deerstalker well into the next year.
I ended my Monday night Funk sessions at the Penny Farthing and arranged to do them instead at the Deerstalker, starting in November. I wasn’t really enjoying myself at the Penny, but my nights at the Chelsea Reach kept my spirits up. I’d taken a big risk by doing the Saturday one-off at the Deerstalker, as I was supposed to be at the Penny, but had told them I was ill. Had they found out I’d probably have lost my job there, although I wouldn’t really have cared the way I was feeling.
I was now deejaying 6 or 7 nights per week – between the start of October and the end of the year I’d have little more than a handful of nights off. In relative terms I was making pretty good money, between £40 – £50 per week, at a time when most of the people I’d been in school with were either in further education or earning a meagre wage doing an apprenticeship, yet, for years, I’d be asked the same old question by an older generation who looked on what I was doing as no more than a bit of a hobby. ‘What do you do for a living’ they’d ask, ‘I’m a DJ’ I’d reply, at which point I could have put money on the next words out of their mouths – ‘yes, but what’s your proper job’.
Records from October 1976.
Revisited October 2006.