Recently found this piece I did in June 2007 for the now defunct magazine One Week To Live, where I listed a track per year from the summers of ’74 through to ’80. It’d be good to hear your own memories of summers gone by if you’d like to post a comment.
Wishing you fun in the sun in the months to come.
George McCrae: ‘Rock Your Baby’ (RCA Spain) 1974
I was 14 and went on holiday to Majorca with my Mum, to a resort called Cala Millor. I made her swear that she wouldn’t let anyone know how old I really was – I was pretty big for my age and, apart from still having a bit of a baby face, could just about fool people into believing I was 18. My father had died the previous year and, as a result, I had a lot of freedom that I wouldn’t have had if he’d still been alive. I had a pretty cool Mum who let me do my own thing and, when she’d retired to her room, I’d head out to a discotheque at the nearby Hotel Said. The track that evokes the strongest memories of that holiday was George McCrae’s ‘Rock Your Baby’, which would enjoy phenomenal success, going to number 1 in countries all over the world, including the US and the UK. Written by Harry Wayne Casey and Richard Finch of KC & The Sunshine Band, ‘Rock Your Baby’ would be hailed as a seminal Disco record, and was voted song of the year in Rolling Stone magazine. Whilst records like Hues Corporation ‘Rock The Boat’, ‘When Will I See You Again’ by the Three Degrees’, and Johnny Bristol’s ‘Hang On In There Baby’ will be forever associated with my Majorca adventure, ‘Rock Your Baby’ was THE record. I even bought a copy of the 7” whilst I was there, on the Spanish RCA label, which I still have somewhere, complete with a sticker I added, which has ‘Cala Millor 1974’ handwritten across it.
Listen here: //youtu.be/P08cLiLOmto
Van McCoy & The Soul City Symphony: ‘The Hustle’ (Avco UK) 1975
This brings back memories of New Brighton baths in my Merseyside hometown, once the largest outdoor swimming pool in Europe, where I could be found on most summer days throughout my teens. A US number 1 and Grammy winner, ‘The Hustle’ peaked at number 3 in Britain, but was the key element of the summer soundtrack for ’75. The hustle was a dance craze in the US that never really caught on here. A New York DJ, David Todd, had invited McCoy to his club, the Adam’s Apple, to see the dance, but he never had chance to go and sent one of his friends instead. On his return his friend demonstrated the dance he’d seen and, as a result, ‘The Hustle’ would be quickly knocked together as the final track recorded for McCoy’s album, which was entitled ‘Disco Baby’. Although the majority of people over here never did the hustle, they certainly danced to ‘The Hustle’. Talking about dance, I saw people Northern Soul dancing for the first time when I went to Butlins in Pwellheli with my school friend Derek Kaye, who ran a Mobile Disco, which I made some of my early DJ appearances with. Derek and I camped out in the woods to save money, sneaking in and out through a hole in the fence we’d found. Liverpool never really went for Northern Soul, being more of a Funk-based city during the ’70s, but there were some people from Lancashire who used to get up and do their thing to Northern favourites like Al Wilson’s ‘The Snake’ and ‘Cochise’ by Paul Humphrey, which the Butlins DJ played for them.
Listen here: //youtu.be/qeUfDTn5huM
Candi Staton: ‘Young Hearts Run Free’ (Warner Brothers UK) 1976
Capturing the spirit of ’76 more than any other track, Candi Staton’s ‘Young Hearts Run Free’ made you feel glad to be alive throughout that long hot glorious summer. Having slowly edged up the chart it eventually reached number 2 as Britain began to experience a heatwave with record temperatures, accompanied by a bizarre explosion in the ladybird population that literally turned entire walls and bushes red and black! My schooldays now behind me, I was now a fully fledged club DJ, having started at the Chelsea Reach in December 1975, whilst I was still 15. I’d added nights at another local nightspot, the Penny Farthing, a couple of months later, and was now out almost every night, either working or socialising. As a consequence, I was falling asleep in class and I totally messed up my exams, coming out of school with next to no academic qualifications. Not that I cared though, I was having a great time deejaying and hardly went into school at all during the last few months anyhow. The title, ‘Young Hearts Run Free’, perfectly captured the way that I felt at the time, as I’m sure it did for many other people of my generation. ’76 was an extra special summer for sure.
Listen here: //youtu.be/SBcJR3jJ_zo
The Emotions: ‘The Best Of My Love’ (Columbia US) 1977
This will always remind me of Terry Lennaine, the DJ who did the weekly Monday night Soul show on BBC Radio Merseyside, which was absolutely essential listening back then. I became friendly with Terry around this time and would frequently accompany him on drives to Manchester, where he’d buy records from the North’s top import specialists, Spin Inn. I picked up a US 7” of ‘Best Of My Love’ on one of these trips, and apart from Terry and the legendary Liverpool DJ, Les Spaine, from The Timepiece, I would have been one of the first DJs in the region to have a copy. Despite only being available on import until September, when it was finally released here (having topped the US chart), it would be one of the biggest tracks of the summer, right up there with the seminal Donna Summer single, ‘I Feel Love’, in terms of dancefloor popularity. It was so big that even the most mainstream of DJs, who’d never previously bought an import in their life, would have to somehow get hold of a copy, having been constantly badgered to play it (it would climb to number 4 on the chart after it was finally issued here). Having left the Penny Farthing I was now at the Golden Guinea, the club where I’d really make my mark locally, whilst continuing my nights at the Chelsea Reach.
Listen here: //youtu.be/JFC6IDh00gI
Rick James: ‘You And I’ (Motown US)
Having received an import 12” from Motown’s club promotion department, ahead of its UK release, this would become my biggest tune at the Golden Guinea during the summer of ’77, despite only reaching number 46 on the chart. Described at the time as Punk Funk, ‘You And I’ would be the breakthrough release for the, then, new artist, Rick James. By this point the Guinea had gained a reputation for being one of the best clubs on Merseyside for Funk, Soul and Disco, whilst my status as an up-and-coming DJ was now firmly established. Since early ’77 I’d received pretty much all the UK dance releases on promo from the British record companies, who would often send me import copies as well, further enhancing my reputation as a black music specialist. I had a core group of people who came to the club early to listen to all the new stuff I’d received / bought, and they would influence the other dancers, helping me bring a more upfront edge to my nights, which other local DJs couldn’t get away with. It was a joy to work at the Golden Guinea, but, despite this, I felt a need to move on to the next challenge. I was very ambitious and not content to be a big fish in such a small pond. I’d become aware of international agencies that hired DJs on monthly contacts for clubs throughout Europe and, in some cases, the world – so, after the summer, I headed out to Denmark (Frederikshavn) and then Norway (Skien). I hadn’t bargained on being so homesick though, being only 18 I wasn’t quite ready for this change of direction, so I returned home and was welcomed back to my beloved Guinea with open arms, much to the annoyance of the DJ who’d taken my place. I stayed there until the summer of 1980, when I’d give the international option another try, this time leaving the Guinea for good.
Listen here: //youtu.be/dWZkxYamLUs
Chic: ‘Good Times’ (Atlantic US)
Not only a massive record on a mainstream level, reaching number 1 in the States and number 5 here, this was also a track that, unbeknown to us at the time, had gained anthemic status with a new breed of DJs in New York’s Bronx, who were doing weird and wonderful things with records that UK DJ’s couldn’t have imagined at the time. Over here the majority of DJs still regarded the microphone as absolutely essential to their work and, although mixing had been something most DJs had given a go, hardly anyone believed this to be more than a passing fad. With most UK clubs having very basic sound equipment, we never had the tools at our disposal to do what the New York guys were doing and, besides, we prided ourselves on our own tradition of deejaying, which we had no intention of giving up at the time – mixing being regarded as no more than a supplement at best. It’d take a few more years before mixing, and its mutant offspring, scratching and cutting, would begin to make a real impact over here, but Hip Hop (although we didn’t refer to it by this name until much later) would first make its presence felt via a record by NYC’s Sugarhill Gang that took rap music into the UK chart the following December, having become a huge favourite on import, not least because the words were spoken over the top of the ‘Good Times’ groove, allowing DJs to switch seamlessly from the Chic original to this new rap version, which was very much regarded as a novelty by most people. If you’d have told anyone then that Rap music would go on to become the most dominant style of music of the late 20th Century they’d have laughed in your face!
Listen here: //youtu.be/8g6bUe5MDRo
George Duke: ‘Brazilian Love Affair’ (Epic US)
You don’t get much more summer than this! ‘Brazilian Love Affair’ is a classic sun-drenched groove that never fails to lift my spirits. Only recently, Luke Unabomber played it whilst we were appearing together at the Electric Chair event, which closed the wonderful Garden Party Festival weekend in Croatia, where I found myself joyfully singing every word! Back to 1978 – I’d left the Golden Guinea by this point and had returned to Europe, working in Denmark for a month at a club in Vordingborg, called Prinsen, before heading to Germany, where I spent 2 moths at Club Eastside in Mülheim an der Ruhr, near the city of Essen. This significance of this excursion is explained elsewhere, but suffice to say that it served as inspiration for what came later. Whilst in Mülheim I received the news that I’d landed my dream job, at the state-of-the-art Wigan Pier (not to be confused with Wigan’s Casino, the famous Northern Soul venue), one of the first New York style discotheques in the UK, with truly amazing sound and lighting, which no other club could match at the time (except the new nightspot that had just been opened by the same company – Legend in Manchester). Everything was about to change for me, Legend and Wigan Pier being the venues I’ll forever be linked with (along with The Hacienda, which simply wasn’t in the same league back then). I was embarking on a new era, having now upped sticks and moved out of my hometown. Exciting times awaited, but that formative period, from 1979 over in Majorca, when I went into a club for the first time, through to 1980, when I took over at Wigan Pier, will eternally be remembered with the special affection of younger days, via their association with a specific place in time, be it the Chelsea Reach, the Penny Farthing or the Golden Guinea, not to mention all the other clubs I worked in along the way, both here and overseas. It’s always difficult to pick a small number tracks out of so many that have touched my life, but these 7 certainly capture the essence of those summers and, as such, will always remain precious to me.
Listen here: //youtu.be/TK5Bhb6KGq8
Greg Wilson – July 2007