Heatwave – Boogie Nights (GTO)
Brick – Dazz (Bang)
Deodato – Peter Gunn (MCA)
T Connection – Disco Magic (Seville)
Mass Production – Welcome To Our World (Of Merry Music) (Cotillion)
Peoples Choice – Jam Jam Jam (All Night Long) (*TSOP)
Tavares – The Mighty Power Of Love (Capital)
Detroit Spinners – Wake Up Susan (Atlantic)
Moments – Jack In A Box (All Platinum)
Earth Wind & Fire – Saturday Nite (*Columbia)
Undisputed Truth – Let’s Go Down To The Disco (Whitfield)
Enchantment – Dance To The Music (United Artists)
Thelma Houston – Don’t Leave Me This Way (Motown)
Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes – Don’t Leave Me This Way (Philadelphia International)
* denotes US import
Other tracks considered: Brendon – Gimme Some (Magnet) / Gladys Knight & The Pips – Nobody But You (Buddah) / Hitchhikers – Rolling Dice (ABC) / James Wells – All I Ever Need Is Music (Polydor) / Olympic Runners – Personal Thing (Chipping Norton) / Roberta Kelly – Trouble Maker (GTO)
Heatwave made their big breakthrough in January ‘77 with the now classic single, ‘Boogie Nights’. As mentioned in the Nov ‘76 text, the band was truly international, having originally formed in Germany, and with members from the US, Spain, Czechoslovakia and England. However, we very much adopted them as a British band, for it was here that they built their reputation, initially via live appearances, and subsequently with a trio of singles, culminating in ‘Boogie Nights’, a track which reached number 2 on the UK chart (Leo Sayer’s ‘When I Need You’ keeping it off the top spot). Its peak placing at number 36 on the US Disco chart was relatively disappointing. The title was, of course, later borrowed (in 1997) for one of the best movies set in the Disco era.
Having been a top 10 US Disco hit during the latter months of ‘76 for Atlanta band Brick, ‘Dazz’ would be released here, finding its way to number 36 on the charts on the back of sustained club support. The title, short for Disco-Jazz was somewhat misleading as this was much more of an orthodox Funk track. From a British perspective, Daz (albeit with one rather than two z’s) was, and continues to be, a brand of washing powder, rather than a musical hybrid.
Brazilian born Eumir Deodato had originally worked as a pianist and arranger on the Rio De Janeiro Bossa Nova scene, before moving to New York where he’d become an arranger / keyboardist for the Jazz producer Creed Taylor (CTI Records). It was on CTI that he scored a major US hit in 1973 with a single taken from his first US album, ‘Prelude’; this was ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra (2001)’, a funked-up version of the theme music from the seminal 1968 Stanley Kubrick film ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, which had been originally written in 1896 by German composer Richard Strauss as a ‘tone poem’. Reaching number 2 in the US and number 7 in the UK, ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra’ would win Deodato a Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Performance. However, he failed to capitalize on his success with his follow-up album, ‘Deodato 2’, and would leave CTI in 1974 to sign to MCA Records. ‘Peter Gunn’ saw him embrace Disco, a genre he would become closely associated with, both as an artist and a producer (most notably with Kool & The Gang, including their 1979 album, ‘Ladies Night’, the first he produced for the band). Written by the famous film / TV composer Henry Mancini, ‘Peter Gunn’ was the theme music to a popular US detective series of the late 50’s / early 60’s, which would be recorded by a multitude of artists, including a pair of top 10 British hits, by guitarist Duane Eddy 1959 and the Art Of Noise in 1986 (others included Emerson Lake & Palmer, Ray Anthony, Quincy Jones and even Jimi Hendrix – the ELP version turning up in 2002 on the 2 Many DJ’s ‘As Heard On Radio Soulwax Pt 2’ mix CD, mashed-up with ‘Where’s Your Head At’ by Basement Jaxx). The Deodato version would reach number 20 on the US Disco chart. Highly versatile, Deodato’s recording CV links him with a wide range of artists including Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin, Wes Montgomery, Roberta Flack, Astrid Gilberto and Bjork, to name but some.
Led by T (Theophilus) Coakley, T Connection were formed in Nassau, Bahamas, in 1975. The following year they moved to Miami, where they signed to TK records, issuing their debut single ‘Disco Magic’, which became a club hit in the late summer of ‘76, reaching number 10 on the US Disco chart. The single wasn’t issued in the UK until Jan ‘77 and never quite found the level of popularity it had received in the US clubs. However, later in the year they’d be back with one of the biggest club tunes of the year – the mighty ‘Do What You Wanna Do’.
With a name that rhymed with Brass Construction (coincidently, as far as I’m aware), Mass Production announced their arrival with a similarly dynamic brass heavy offering, ‘Welcome To Our World (Of Merry Music)’, which would become a big US Disco hit, reaching number 5 (listed along with ‘Wine-Flow Disco’) following the release of the bands debut album of the same name. From Richmond, Virginia, Mass Production formed in the early 70’s. On its release as a single in the UK, ‘Welcome To Our World (Of Merry Music)’ would climb to number 44 on the UK chart.
Philadelphia International funksters, Peoples Choice, issued a new single in the US called ‘Cold Blooded And Downright Funky’. Its title alone made it a mouth-watering prospect, but it was the flip side, ‘Jam Jam Jam (All Night Long)’ that totally stole its thunder. This was immediately something of a cult single on Merseyside, with the more adventurous DJ’s taking Les Spaine and Terry Lennaine’s lead by picking up an import copy of the 7″ on TSOP. This was one of those records that was around for ages, always fresh because it wasn’t something you’d hear played everywhere (the majority of DJ’s would rarely play anything outside of the Top 40, let alone an import). Eventually, 12 months later, in January 1978, it would be released in the UK (as an A side), becoming the bands 2nd biggest British release behind ‘Do It Anyway You Wanna’, when it made it to number 40 on the chart. In contrast, the track failed to register at all on the US Disco chart.
Having scored a pair of huge hits with ‘Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel’ and ‘Don’t Take Away The Music’, Tavares went in for the hat-trick with another track from their ‘Sky High!’ album, ‘The Mighty Power Of Love’. Not surprisingly it couldn’t match the top 5 placings of their 2 previous releases, running out of steam at number 25.
The Detroit Spinners had only managed one previous top 10 hit in this country, 1973’s ‘Ghetto Child’, and ‘Wake Up Susan’ wasn’t the track to provide the second, struggling to reach the top 30, where it stalled at number 29. With the exception of the re-release of one of their best-loved tracks, ‘Could It Be I’m Falling In Love’, as part of an EP that would make it to number 32 in May ‘77, the band were absent from the chart for almost 3 years, before returning with a bang in 1980, when their ‘Working My Way Back To You – Forgive Me Girl’ medley went all the way to number 1.
The Moments returned to the UK chart, following an absence of over a year, with their third and final UK top 10 hit, ‘Jack In A Box’, which reached number 7. From Hackensack, New Jersey, the trio would continue to record for Sylvia & Joe Robinson’s All Platinum company until 1979 (they’d been with All Platinum, with various personnel, since the late 60’s), but when they decided to leave, the Robinson’s retained the name, forcing the trio to continue to record as Ray, Goodman and Brown (their surnames).
Having established themselves as club favourites, Earth Wind & Fire would finally break into the British chart with ‘Saturday Nite’, the second single taken from their album ‘Spirit’ (following ‘Getaway’). The track peaked at number 17, but it would be another year before they returned to the chart with ‘Fantasy’ (after which they’d enjoy an impressive run of hits, both singles and albums, that marked them out as one of the era’s best-loved bands).
Undisputed Truth followed-up the US success of ‘You + Me = Love’ with another epic Norman Whitfield track, ‘Let’s Go Down To The Disco’. I received a promo 12″ from record company, WEA, with the 2 tracks back-to-back, although they’d decided there was still unfinished business where ‘You + Me = Love’ was concerned, holding back ‘Let’s Go Down To The Disco’, while its forerunner climbed to 43 in the UK. ‘Lets Go Down To The Disco’ was eventually released in its own right 3 months later, but failed to make any impression on the chart. This would turn out to be their final single, although they’d record a further album for Whitfield in 1979.
Detroit’s Enchantment had entered the Billboard Disco chart with ‘Come On And Ride’ a few months earlier, but it was ‘Dance To The Music’, released as a double-a side with ‘Gloria’, which made the most impact here. The group would continue to record until 1983, without ever making a commercial breakthrough.
We finish off with 2 versions of the same track, ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’. Written by Gamble & Huff (with Cary Gilbert), it was originally recorded by Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes, featuring on their 1975 album, ‘Wake Up Everybody’. Bizarrely, this now classic song was never released by Philadelphia International in the US, leaving the way open for Motown’s Thelma Houston to cover it, giving it more of a Disco flavour; a move which would result in the record topping the US chart, whilst becoming one of the biggest club tracks of the year Stateside – to top things off the song would also win Houston a Grammy for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. However, it would work out differently here, with the Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes version winning out. Watching developments overseas, the UK company rushed released the original as a single, beating Motown to the punch, and scoring a top 5 hit in the process. Unluckily for Thelma Houston, her version peaked at number 13. This would be the final Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes single for Philly, the band (minus lead singer Teddy Pendergrass, who stayed with the label as a solo artist), moving on to ABC Records. Mississippi born Houston would only manage one further chart entry in the US (‘Saturday Night, Sunday Morning’ – number 34 in 1979). She’d leave Motown and sign for RCA, where she’d return to the Disco top 10 with 1981’s ‘If You Feel It’. She’d then re-locate to MCA and further US Dance hits with ‘You Used To Hold Me So Tight’ (1984) and ‘Bad Times, Good Times’ (1985), before making a final bow in 1991 when her single for Reprise, ‘Throw You Down’, saw her return to the top 10 of the US dance chart. Both ‘If You Feel It’ and ‘You Used To Hold Me So Tight’ were minor British hits (number 48 and 49 respectively). Ironically, a third version of ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’, by The Communards (led by ex-Bronski Beat singer, Jimmy Somerville) would become the most successful version of the track in the UK, hitting number 1 in 1986 and becoming the biggest selling single of the year (it also, as with Thelma Houston’s version, topped the US dance chart).
Throughout the past 12 months I’ve been able to consult a diary I kept during 1976, to help me pinpoint exact dates for the Time Capsule text concerning my club work at the time. Unfortunately I didn’t keep a diary for ‘77, or subsequent years, so I’m unable to be as precise. However, I’m still able to piece things together via other sources, so hopefully it won’t hamper me too much.
By now I’d managed to get myself onto the majority of record company mailing lists, the latest being the most difficult one, WEA (Warner-Elektra-Atlantic), which was run by Fred Dove. Unlike many of the other companies, who went for blanket DJ coverage, Fred Dove kept his list to a selective few in comparison, going for quality as opposed to quantity. With this in mind, I felt I’d joined some sort of elite when I begun to receive records from WEA, especially as Fred used to mail imports from time to time, something no other company did (CBS would follow suit when Greg Lynn, another innovator in the field, took over their club promotions, moving across from RCA). I made sure I filled in all the reaction reports that came with the records I was being mailed, whether I liked or disliked them, and, during 1977, in addition to keeping regular telephone contact, I began to make trips to their London offices whenever I got chance (often picking up albums that hadn’t been mailed out). In this way I began to establish a strong relationship with the various promo people, which would really serve me well during the years ahead. I was very aware that receiving records in advance of their release gave me an edge over other DJ’s locally.
Before Christmas, I’d spent a week asking people to pay 3p for every request I played at my venues – the proceeds going to a charity appeal on the children’s TV show, Magpie. I sent this off to the programme and thought nothing more of it, so it came as a big surprise when my name was read out on the television, along with those of my clubs, thanking me for the money I’d raised (the grand total of £8.50!). Playing requests and reading out dedications (what would later be termed ‘a shout out’) were a big part of deejaying back then. You’d invite people to come up and speak to you and, if possible (or applicable), you’d be happy to play a record you’d been asked for. Back then you’d never have imagined that in the future some DJ’s would regard it as an insult if approached for a request. The times they’ve a changed!
Records from January 1977.
Revisited January 2007.