Feb 24, 2016

Sax & Violins & Pianos & Flutes


Tunes with lead lines or extended breaks from the aforementioned instruments. Dante’s Inferno is the disco outlet for Ron Dante, writing and producing partner of Barry Manilow, who in a previous life was the Archies. Papa John Creach is best known as a session fiddler with the Jefferson Airplane/Starship and Hot Tuna.  “Joyce” was remixed by Tom Mouton and, in its promo form, is believed to be the first 12-inch disco single. (It was never commercially released in that format.)

Nothing Has Been Proved - Pet Shop Boys w/ Courtney Pine  ’89 ^ Shine- Lemont Dozier’74 ^ Blue Moon – Alexander’s Discotime Band ’76 ^ Shame, Shame, Shame – Boots Randolph ’76 ^ Disco Sax - Houston Person ’75 ^ Dangwa - Manu Dibango ’ 72 ^ Walk on the Wild Side - Herbie Mann ’79 ^ Rhapsody – Eddie Drennon ’78 ^ Life Is Like a Samba – David Benoit ’79 ^ Sister James – 5th Ave. Sax ’74 ^ Could It Be Magic? - Dante’s Inferno ’79 ^ Joyce – Papa John Creach ’75 ^ Wow - Andre Gagnon ’75 ^ Comin’ Home Baby - Mascara ’79 ^ Lovin’ Is Really My Game - Brainstorm ’77 ^ Extended Nicities – Love of Life Orchestra ’80


Feb 15, 2016



A shout out to all the Bernie Bros (and Broettes) out there – Sanders 2016! (What did you expect from the podcast that kicked off lo these many years ago with an episode called Dance, Dance Revolution?) Need to raise the question of our sheep in wolf’s clothing who offers up a disco slice of La Bamba. I’m looking at the Buddah 12-inch and it’s clearly credited to one Antonio Rodriguez. A little deeper digging suggests that we’re really dealing with an Antonia Rodriguez, and close scrutiny of the vocals would bear out that he’s a she.  Typo? Genderf*ck? Who cares, we’re all welcome at this party!

Dancin’ Man - Q ’77 + I’ve Been Working - Charles Drain ’76 + Stomp! - Brothers Johnson ’80 + La Bamba - Antonio(a) Rodriguez ’78 + Turn My World Back Around - Eddie Horan ’78 + Let’s Go Dancin’ - Papa John Creach ’77 + Tighten Up at the Disco - Archie Bell & the Drells ’79 + Are You Ready for This? - The Brothers ’74 + Que Sera Mi Vida - Gibson Brothers ’79 + You Can Make It Dancin’ - J.J. Mack ’79 + Who’s Been Sleeping in My Bed? - Barry Manilow ’79 + Heavy Breathing - Bee Gees ’74 + That Thang of Yours - John & Arthur Simms ’80 + Sweet Sweet Sweet Thang - Dalton & Dubarri ’79 + I, I, I - Osmonds ’79 + Going Back to My Roots - Lamont Dozier ’77 


Feb 4, 2016



Despite having called for disco kingpins such as Giorgio Moroder, Nile Rodgers and Arif Mardin, the Dame only ever danced around disco, stopping for only the briefest kiss as he flirted with young America’s Philly soul in 1975. The result—a 12-inch single reworking of “John, I’m Only Dancing”—was somewhat stiff but still managed to earn entrée to Soul Train. The Philly sessions paired him with disco vocal stalwart Luther Vandross, whose “Funky Music” Bowie morphed into his own “Fascination.” Vandross is joined by David Lasley and Staggering Harlette Ulla Hedwig as vocalists for Mascara with their dancefloor take on Bowie’s own disco-leaning “Golden Years.” During this time, Bowie also managed to piss off James Brown who claimed he was being ripped off, and so he decided to rip off the riff from Bowie’s “Fame” for his own “Hot.”

Bowie and the Chic Organization would forge Dance Oriented Rock with “Let’s Dance,” ushering in the boom-bap-whap of ’80s dance music. It was a style Bowie would fall back on with some frequency, often to supply music for films.

The remaining tracks come from hand-picked Bowie fellow travelers including Queen, Mick Jagger, the Pat Metheny Group, the British Electric Foundation who single-handedly revived Tina Turner’s career and dipped into the Bowie songbook on a couple of occasions, Klaus Nomi, ex-wife Angela Bowie and Space Oddity off-ripper Peter Schilling.  (Bowie likely wouldn’t welcome these last three to his own celebration, but—hey!—my podcast, my guest list.)

Disco Dave was not the best Bowie (that would be the incredible run from The Man Who Sold the World to Station to Station IMHO), but respect must be given as he certainly left his imprint on modern day dance music.  Pretty much as he did for modern day everything.

The Myth – Giorgio Moroder with David Bowie ’82 / When the Wind Blows – David Bowie ’82 / Hot – James Brown ’75 / Golden Years – Mascara ’79 / Underground – David Bowie ’86 / Funky Music – Luther ’76 / John, I’m Only Dancing (Again) – David Bowie ’75 / Fun It – Queen ’78 / The Secret Life of Arabia – British Electric Foundation with Billy Mackenzie ’82 / This Is Not America – Pat Metheny Group with David Bowie ’85 / 1984 – Tina Turner ’84 / Real Cool World – David Bowie ’92 / Obsession – Angela Bowie ’89 / Major Tom – Peter Schilling ’82 / Ding Dong – Klaus Nomi ’82 / Dancing in the Street – David Bowie and Mick Jagger ’85 / Absolute Beginners – David Bowie ’86 / Bring Me the Disco King – David Bowie ’03


Jan 25, 2016

Carry On: Post-Disco Modern


Déjà Vu - Giorgio Moroder w/ Sia 2015 ^ Can’t Get Blue Monday Out of My Head - Kylie Minogue 2002 ^ Carry On - Giorgio Moroder w/Donna Summer 1992 ^ I’ll Be There - Chic 2015 ^ Dance Your Pain Away - Agnetha Fältskog 2013 ^ The Boy Who Couldn’t Keep His Clothes On - Pet Shop Boys 1997 ^ Freak - Jimmy Somerville 2015 ^ Falling - Hercules & Love Affair 2010 ^ The Secret Life of Us - Sunburst Band 2012 ^ Bye Bye Bayou - LCD Soundsystem 2009 ^ Stop Me - Mark Ronson w/ Daniel Merriweather 2007 ^ Stomp! - Marcia & Deni Hines 2006 ^ Don’t Leave Me This Way - Aretha Franklin 2014 ^ Original Beast - Grace Jones 2015 ^ Sorry - Madonna 2005 ^ 100 Degrees - Kylie and Dannii Minogue 2015


Jan 11, 2016



Do It in Slow Motion - Larry Page Orchestra ’77  ( Mr. Mumbles - Joe Thomas ’78 ( Summer Rain - Babu Silvetti ’76 ( Slow Hot Wind - Henry Mancini ’75 ( La Nuit Pour Nous - Cristal ’77 ( Touch Me Where It’s Hot - Erotic Drum Band ’80 ( Quiet Village - Ritchie Family ’77 ( Yours - Salsoul Strings ’78 ( Lady Lady Lady - Boogie Man Orchestra ’75 ( Fleurette Africaine - Luv You Madly Orchestra ’78 ( Grass - African Suite ’80 ( Malaguena - 101 Strings Orchestra ’79 ( Camel in the City - Quartz ’79 ( Comin’ Home Baby - Herbie Mann ’75 ( Tony’s Theme - Giorgio Moroder ’83


Dec 28, 2015



Are You Man Enough? - Four Tops ’73 # Virgin Man - Smokey Robinson ’74 # I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down - Ann Peebles ’74 # Casanova Brown - Gloria Gaynor ’75 # Wrapped Around Your Finger - Ollie Baba ’78 # You Wouldn’t Know a Real Live True Love if It Walked Right Up, Kissed You On The Cheek and Said Hello Baby - Odyssey  ’78 # Another Man - Barbara Mason ’83 # Endicott - Kid Creole & the Coconuts ’85 # If It Wasn’t for the Money - Nanette Workman ’76 # Are You Man Enough? - Four Tops ’73 # Ain’t Gonna Waste No Time No More - Cheetah ’81 # If All We’re Going to Do Is Dance - Hott City ’79 # If You Don’t Want to Be in My Life - Mascara ’79 # Speak Well - Philly USA ’77 # Casanova - Coffee ’80 # You Killed the Magic - Arpeggio ’80 # Playboy - Frances Joli ’79 # The Runner - The Three Degrees ’79 # Think I’m Gonna to Break Someone’s Heart Tonight - Roberta Kelly ’76 # I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair - The Weather Girls ’83 # Casanova  - Loleatta Holloway ’75


Dec 13, 2015

Does Your Mother Know?


During the peak disco years of 1977 to 1979, seems more recording artists had a go at the dance floor than didn’t. Old hands Fred Astaire and Cab Calloway—who had been sensations during the swing era—tried to translate the old magic into new, with Cab updating his big hit “Minnie the Moocher” and Fred having a go at Carly Simon’s “Attitude Dancing” (perhaps the most cringe-worthy thing here, although it has grown on me). John Travolta had his first go at disco during his Sweathog days when he recorded a celebrity vanity album that featured the mildly dance-y “A Girl Like You;” after the success of Saturday Night Fever, the track got a full-on 12-inch epic treatment, although I think it’s still more Vinnie Barbarino than Tony Manero. “Comin’ Home Baby” has the co-credit distinction of jazz cool cat Bob Dorough (the man behind Schoolhouse Rock and so much more) who wrote the lyrics. The song was an early breakthrough success in 1962 for flautist Herbie Mann, who made it over twice for disco—once in 1975 and again in a distinctly different version in 1979. If that isn’t enough, disco act Mascara made third cover of it that sounded nothing like either Mann version.  Dora Hall was the wife of a mid-western disposable drinking cup industrialist who indulged/underwrote her singing ambitions and gave her records away free to his customers.  (They’ve become a kind of Dixie-cup holy grail for crate diggers; fans of faux-celebrity kitsch should check out her TV specials on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8KGL6gbhlD0 Only in America, folks). Finally, the fabulous Freada. Ms. Wallace released a handful of small-label r&b singles in the late ’60s—which routinely find their way into the repertoires of drag performers—before becoming a radio personality, a church secretary and a rib-restaurant entrepreneur. She also recorded a souvenir album for the 1982 Knoxville World’s Fair that includes the discofied Jackie DeShannon heard here.  You can learn more here: http://www.bhamwiki.com/w/Freada_Wallace

Loves’ Theme –101 Strings ’76 # Speak Low – Cy Coleman ’76 # I Remember Yesterday – Tony Orlando ’79 # A Girl Like You – John Travolta ’76 # You’re Mine – the Osmonds ’79 # I Go to Rio – Peggy Lee ’77 # Waitin’ on the Robert E. Lee – Dora Hall ’7? # Comin’ Home Baby – Herbie Mann ’79 # Make Love to Me Helen Reddy ’79 # Put a Little Love in Your Heart – Big Freada Wallace ’82 # Tonight – Paul Anka ’77 # Love Is in the Air - Tom Jones ’79 # That Old Black Magic – Johnny Mathis ’79 # Any Fool Can See – Wayne Newton ’79 # Minnie the Moocher – Cab Calloway ’78 # Attitude Dancing – Fred Astaire ’76 # Love Is Alive – Nancy Wilson ’77


Nov 27, 2015

Deep Discount


Crate diggers know the joy of the discount record bin, where under-loved oddities get sold for a quarter. Often relegated to the floor under the regular stacks—forcing diggers to get on their hands and knees—these crates are home to certain artists and genres:  anything smacking of adult contemporary or easy-listening (Mancini, Ferrante & Teicher, Conniff, Faith, 101 Strings, etc.) and yesterday’s flavors that are hopelessly uncool until they’re retro-chic again (Streisand, Styx, Newton-John, Manilow, etc.). Disco has its own special circle in this Purgatory, reserved for dance instruction records (New York Hustle Inc., the Hustle Factory), sound-a-like knock-offs (Dynamic Sound, Studio ’78, Mirror Image), kiddie records (Kids Stuff Repertory Co.) and vanity pressings (the Perfect Circle, Gino Dente & the Family and Chicago Blackhawks organist Frank Pellico). The aforementioned joy comes in discovering and/or reclaiming this stuff:  Kids Stuff Repertory “butching-up” Sylvester for the pre-teen crowd, the Perfect Circle deconstructing Vicki Sue Robinson like a doctoral thesis in lounge singing, Percy Faith treating an intentional sow’s ear as a symphonic silk purse, non-hipsters like Henry Mancini, Ferrante & Teicher, Peter Nero and Cy Coleman making it work against all odds….

American Hustle–New York Hustle Inc. ’76; Malaguena–Ferrante & Teicher ’79; From East to West–Les Reed Orchestra ’78; Dance Disco Heat–Kids Stuff Repertory Co. ’78; Turn the Beat Around–The Perfect Circle ’78; Abana–Olatunji ’62; Baretta’s Theme–Ray Conniff ’76; Do You Want the Real Thing?–Studio ’78; Sun Goddess–Henry Mancini ’75; Superstition–Peter Nero ’75; Which Way Is Up?–Dynamic Sound ’78; Love Is Blue–Myron Floren ’77; Peter Gunn–Deodato ’76; Pink Panther–Guy Delo & His Orchestra ’78; If I Were a Bell–Broadway Brass ’76; Non-Stop Disco Dancing ’75 [edit]–James Last; Dance, Dance, Dance–New 50 Guitars ’78; Positively Positive–the Hustle Factory ’76; El Bimbo–Percy Faith ’75; Supernature–Mirror Image ’79; The Party’s on Me–Cy Coleman ’76; Bubbling Brown Sugar–Shaw ’76; The Mad Russian–Enoch Light ’77; Get Down Tonight–Gino Dente & the Family ’76; Loves Theme–Frank Pellico ’76


Nov 17, 2015

Rare Gems


Starting point: the story of disco kingpin Mel Cheren’s early days as a rep at NYC’s Wand records.  A 1972 Wand single by the Independents—the ballad “Leaving Me”—had fallen off the radio charts but was enjoying an inexplicable increase in sales nevertheless. A devoted nightclub habitué, Cheren uncovered the mystery:  disco deejays had flipped the disc to get the crowds moving to its b-side, “I Love You, Yes I Do.” It was the industry’s first indication that discotheque jocks could “make” a record as effectively as radio jocks. A year later, radio would make a super-smash of “Love’s Theme” via initial exposure on the dance floor, and the world would never be the same.

Disco enthusiasts still place a premium on rare gems—b-sides, buried album cuts, under-promoted/distributed artists and self-released vanity projects—as there’s a perceived purity to cuts discovered and/or made by the clubs, the jocks, and the dancers themselves. The selections in this podcast mostly fit this bill, to the extent that they received any floor action or airplay at all. 

A few notes: Nanette Workman is a Brooklyn-born singer who found steady gigs as a backup singer (she’s all over early/mid-70s Rolling Stones stuff) and made a name for herself in Quebec recording in French. She’s still revered there to this day.  Check out this 2009 concert footage of a surprise guest star duet on “Lady Marmalade.” You tell me who’s the star and who’s the back-up: www.youtube.com/watch?v=19Iltyefd-A

The Jim Gilstrap cut is from the 3 Days of the Condor soundtrack (never seen it—do Redford and Dunaway get down at a disco?). It was written by soundtrack composer Dave Grusin, and while it doesn’t boast the greatest set of hooks or lyrics, it is beautifully produced, and—as always—Gilstrap shines.  Gordon Grody had ties to Vicki Sue Robinson and was promoted in tandem with her. He failed to ignite, likely because he never had anything as strong as “Turn the Beat Around.”  That said, “Get Thru It” gets by quite nicely on a killer guitar lick. Sunny Gale scored a few modest jazz hits in the ’50s; in 1975 she worked with Vince Montana and musicians from the Salsoul Orchestra (one assumes) to cut the smokin’ “I Wanna Know.”  You won’t find it on many (or any?) discographies, but obviously it exists….

Lastly, our namesakes for this episode Rare Gems and Rare Gems Odyssey are one and the same.  They recorded their debut for Casablanca as RGO, but they dropped the last bit after the group Odyssey had a giant hit with “Native New Yorker.”  The band, in turn, was dropped by Casablanca, and released their next album (Million Dollar Disco) as Rare Gems on the tiny California Gold label.  The album cover—which appears to be hand scrawled—is among the cruddiest ever delivered; call it million-dollar disco in a ten-cent jacket. They never topped “What Is Funk?” which may, at first, seem like a throwaway, but careful listen reveals some interesting gender and racial politics going on.  The chanted refrain of “Hey fellas!” is called into paternalistic question by the group’s sole female member Debra Givings (sadly by citing her measurements).  On the next go-round, the band calls out to “Men, lady … and Johnny.” Group member Johnny Ross rises to the challenge and defines funk as that moment when you see your bride-to-be coming down the aisle and have “second  and third” thoughts, suggesting that Johnny is as bothered by a hetero-normative assumption as Debra is by gender dismissal.  In the next round, the lead voice calls out “Hey men … and boys” to which the group quickly shoots back with “ain’t no boys shinin’ shoes in this group,” clearly taking offense at “boy” as a racially pejorative term.

Now’s the Time (Give It Up) – Solar Source ’81; The Tease – G-String Orchestra ’74; Don’t You Have Any Love in Your Heart? – Margo Thunder ’75; Lady Marmalade – Nanette Workman ’75; What Is Funk? – Rare Gems Odyssey ’77; Get Thru It – Gordon Grody ’77; It Must Be Love – Alton McClain & Destiny ’78; I Love You, Yes I Do – the Independents ’72; Do It to the Music – Raw Silk ’82; I Got a Thing – Silver, Platinum & Gold ’76; I’ve Got You Where I Want You – Jim Gilstrap ’75; Bahia – Alice Street Gang ’76; Burning Alive – Tony Rallo & the Midnite Band ’79; Saturday Night Steppin’ Out – Webster Lewis & the Post-Pop Space-Rock Be-Bop Gospel Tabernacle Orchestra and Chorus ’76; Music Is for Dancing – Rare Gems ’78; I Wanna Know – Sunny Gale ’75; Don’t Hold Back – Chanson ’78


Nov 10, 2015

Attitude Dancing


Home from our whirlwind world tour, it’s time for a thematic breather in the form of a collection of tracks from artists who have piqued my interest of late. A recent phone call from Drake reminded me of Timmy Thomas’ 1972 claim to fame, still as weird and wonderful as it ever was.  Dexter Wansel’s “Solutions” is an ills-du-jour time capsule precursor to Prince’s “Sign O the Times.”  Like Prince, Wansel still manages to sound fresh even if his concerns are dated; now it seems a nice reminder that time has a way of curing even the seemingly intractable. Also like Prince, Wansel wrote and produced for a stable of other artists including the Jones Girls and Jean Carn (featured here).  I finish my “Little Bit of Love” trifecta with a version by Gladys Knight and the Pips; I should point out that all three versions were produced and arranged by Van McCoy, making him the master of multiple variations.

From Larry Harris’ And Party Every Day: The Inside Story of Casablanca Records: “Casablanca kept issuing product, so much of it bad, at full bore. It had become a throw-it-at-the-wall-and-see-if-it-sticks operation. In the six months between August 1979 and February 1980, the company released 36 albums, most of which were just filler. The artists (ever heard of Platypus, Mike Heron, Bad News Travels Fast, or Loose Change?) should never have been signed in the first place.” I can’t speak for Mike Heron (who is a British folkie), but my podcast has featured cuts from Loose Change (a wonderful record) and BNTF (certainly accomplished and enjoyable if not essential). You’ll find Platypus on this episode. The website Popmatters describes them as “purveyors of funk-infused progressive rock and perhaps the first black band ever to inhabit the orbit of Yes and Genesis.” Okay…you certainly don’t hear that on their debut album for Casablanca, which sounds closer to the Ohio Players, the Gap Band or perhaps Parliament.

Why Can’t We Live Together? – Timmy Thomas ’72 % Solutions – Dexter Wansel ’78 % Zone – Rhythm Makers ’76 % Bump Me Baby – Dooley Silverspoon ’75 % Show and Tell – Elusion ’82 % Little Bit of Love – Gladys Knight and the Pips ’77 % The Queen – Nanette Workman ’76 % I Can’t Stop – James and Bobby Purify ’75 % Try Love – Tony Wilson ’79 % Attitude – Giants ’78 % Love Will Find a Way – Margaret Singana ’76 % Body and Soul – Platypus ’79 % Louri’s Theme – Sir Monti Rock III ’81 % Bodacious Woman Child – Rhetta Hughes ’80 % Communication – Duncan Sisters ’81 % Inside Out – Odyssey ’82 % Give It Up – Jean Carn ’79 % Weak at the Knees – Steve Arrington’s Hall of Fame ’83 % Do What You Gotta Do – Eddie Drennon & B.B.S. Unlimited ’75 


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