Tag Archives: Chic

1001 Songs – 1979: Part Two

List Item:  Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die

Gloria – Umberto Tozzi

Okay, so like a lot of people I know the Laura Branigan version and had no idea that it was a over of this Italian disco track. When we’ve been doing tracks for the 1001 list and are thrown a French or Italian song, it’s usually to give a sample of something a bit different that was alongside the English-language songs that dominate the list.

In this instance, however, this is very much a related movement. After all this is the country that bore Morodor aka the father of disco – which would not have happened in isolation. It’s actually really cool to hear this take on disco, one without the prolonged dance breaks… but we’ve already heard a better version of this in ABBA’s ‘Voulez Vous’. Still though, I love hearing these originals.

Black Eyed Dog – Nick Drake

This is a real cheat. Nick Drake was already dead for five years by the time this demo came out on a compilation box. Granted, this was the compilation box that caused a massive re-evaluation in his music and resulted in his subsequent elevation in the musical canon – but this hauntingly beautiful song is so out of time.

‘Black Eyed Dog’ was one of the final songs that Nick Drake recorded before his suicide which gives this song about depression an even more haunting sense of relevance. It’s a real whiplash to have this in between a disco song and one of the great early electric pop songs though. I’m going to need a minute.

Are “Friends” Electric? – Gary Numan & Tubeway Army

Where ‘Black Eyed Dog’ was out of time because of the posthumous release, ‘Are “Friends” Electric?’ is out of time for being so out there for 1979. At this point Kraftwerk and other electronic acts from Germany are where you can hang this, but this song by Gary Numan and Tube is already a few more stages removed from that.

It’s this weird mix of new wave, post-punk, electronica, synth-pop and ambient. I mean I would want to call it prog-synth if I wasn’t sure that existed as a sub-genre that I would probably dislike. This song is extraordinary given the time, which is all the more extraordinary given how it topped the charts in the UK. I guess people really were looking for the next thing after disco.

Boys Don’t Cry – The Cure

A bit of a nice and inoffensive pop-rock here that further serves to remind me that The Cure are actually from the UK and not, as I keep thinking, American. It’s an interesting step for the post-punk movement and a very weird to actually hear The Cure making this sort of music before that began to have more of a goth and alternative rock look rather than this piece of new wave.

The Cure is one of those bands I keep saying that I need to give more a go to. Just give me the time I guess.

Good Times – Chic

At 90 seconds in, it felt like this song had already blown it’s load. By minute three when the dance break began on this 8 minute song I had had enough. Look, it’s a product of it’s time and I am not opposed to long songs (hell, ‘Only Skin’ by Joanna Newsom is 17 minutes long and I adore that). Thing is, this dance break lacks punch and it isn’t worth the 4-5 minutes you spend on it.

What is really interesting is how the idea of ‘Good Times’ in the lyrics is tinged with irony. I wish I could have felt that more in the song, but boy do I appreciate that sentiment.

Don’t Stop ‘til You Get Enough – Michael Jackson

This is how you do a disco song. I have heard this song a lot in my life and it still is able to maintain that huge joie de vivre that you are meant to get from a disco song. Hell, this is still as repetitive in places as other disco songs but it has enough variation in the instrumentation and in the arrangements to keep you engaged.

There is no denying that the duo of Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones led to moments of genius – but with this is just feels like they learned from the disco out at the time and found a way to right all the things that could have held it back. Such a great song.

Lost in Music – Sister Sledge

Another song in our disco stretch, the second of the three that was produced by Nile Rodgers from Chic. After hearing disco being done brilliantly by Michael Jackson it is near impossible to compare these two songs – which is a resounding loss for Sister Sledge. I was there with them for the first three minutes and then it was just this… variation-free repetition.

Disco is over soon, right?

Brass in Pocket – Pretenders

New wave. Check. Female vocalist. Check. Upbeat with a killer chorus. Check.

My husband cottoned on immediately that this was one of those songs I adore. My big smile the moment it started will have helped too because I know it very well. Plus, I crossed the parent album from this not too long ago and have been enjoying that ever since.

 

1001 Songs – 1978: Part One

Non-Alignment Pact – Pere Ubu

We start this series of songs with another in a long run of different shades of post-punk. This time, we’re getting in some more industrial sounds and interesting whistling choices in order to make something more experimental, like it’s the art rock version of punk. I’m assuming art punk exists, right?

In any event, the use of synthesizers and a less angry (whilst distinctly punky) sound makes this a interesting way to start the bunch. It’s the ushering in of new wave music, whose big name is in two songs time, and it’s going to be interesting to see where these threads of influence lead.

Blue Valentines – Tom Waits

Well, this is a far cry from swordfishtrombones and Rain Dogs. You still have the rough and untamed voice. There’s no strange noises or comically gruff use of his vocals, instead this is a remarkably earnest blues song and that’s knocked me a bit for six.

His voice is perfect for this kind of blues as he can sound like that half-drunk guy at the bar whose voice breaks the moment his emotions get hold of him. I need to listen more of this era of Tom Waits.

Heart of Glass – Blondie

Ah man, I love this song. Parallel Lines is in the running to be my favourite album from the 1970s and this is such a highlight. It’s just such a strange departure to have this disco-influenced new wave on a song that is far more focused on being cool and within the vision of being a new wave pioneer.

However, facts are facts – ‘Heart of Glass’ is a brilliant song that, despite some die-hard Blondie fans of the time’s accusations of them selling out for commercial gain, endures to this day. It’s one of those songs I’ve been playing since I got a Greatest Hits album back in 2001 that made me a Blondie fan… which makes it hard to think of this within a historical context.

All I know is that this is a disco-infused masterpiece and is one of a few songs that I’ll be coming across for this list.

Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve) – Buzzcocks

Much like most of Blondie’s 1978 output, ‘Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)’ is a exceptional piece of power pop and pop punk. It almost feels like a punk band doing a cover of a fragment of Beatles song, because it doesn’t exactly fall into the punk category and it’s too strong for pop.

This is the kind of music I can really get on board with and it really flies in the face in the face of what you would consider a proper punk subject. There’s no anger, just a sense of incredibly urgency that just doesn’t want to get out of your head.

Le Freak – Chic

Time for some pure disco. Growing up, the only time that I would ever hear disco music would be in commercials or if I was in someone else’s car and it came on the radio. ‘Le Freak’ came up pretty often, so I’ve probably heard the chorus done to death.

Little did I know, however, that I would be hearing that chorus again and again and again. I know that songs like this needed to be played in the club and allow time for dance breaks, but come on if you’re going to be playing it in your home or on the radio it needs more variation. I do appreciate that this song started life with ‘Fuck Off’ in the lyrics rather than ‘Freak Out’. That’s cool.

Milk and Alcohol – Dr. Feelgood

Well, the album cover for this song is pretty damned scary. The song is not. At the core is the very basic kind of rock and roll structure that I would have heard back in the 1950s, but with more of a proto-punk feel. Wikipedia calls this pub rock, which I guess makes sense as it feels pre-punk and it is a song that was apparently influenced by a night of drinking Kahlua.

It’s a bit of a throwback, which isn’t always a bad thing, but it doesn’t add much to the table compared to other songs in this section of the list.

Don’t Stop Me Now – Queen

This is the only Queen song that I have some positive associations with, so it’s nice to see it here as being one of their entries on the 1001 list. We sang it at school as part of a singing competition between houses. We didn’t win, but that doesn’t make it any the less fun to sing and to come up with dance moves to… kinda wish they hadn’t made us freestyle through the guitar solo.

It’s yet another example of how wide the berth is in the world of power pop and, with punk’s instantaneous collapse, this was one of the big genres that was born to fill the void. I still have a complex relationship with this band, but there’s no denying how much fun this song is.

Teenage Kicks – The Undertones

You can’t have good power pop without there also being some good pop punk, and that’s exactly what ‘Teenage Kicks’ is. I probably heard the Nouvelle Vague bossa nova version of this song before hearing the original many years later, which is undoubtedly the better version.

With such a pop punk/punk pop start to 1978 I can only wonder how the rest of the songs are going to shake out, but for now I got to say that I am enjoying this year.

You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) – Sylvester

This might be the first time that I’ve ended a batch of songs on something that is this gay, but it’s also a whole lot of fun. There is so much joyful energy in Sylvester’s impossible falsetto vocals that helps you to forget that you are pretty much hearing the same 4-5 lyrics over and over again.

Then there is the production that takes more than a note from Georgio Morodor’s work on the disco pinnacle of Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’. We’re starting to see disco morph into what would later become dance music and, once pop starts to grab a hold on songs like this, then it’s going to be time to welcome synthpop and the New Romantics. The 1980s cannot come soon enough.

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