Where once there were few disco charts, now weekly it seems more and more publications are jumping on the disco bandwagon and printing their own charts . . . with an inevitable workload increase for those DJ’s who kindly contribute returns and make them all possible. Just so that you know it’s worthwhile in case you’re one of these and are having to make a choice, Record Mirror’s long-established national disco airplay chart is considered accurate enough for the PRS to use in future as the basis for royalty payments to composers whose work appears in it! It may not be the most exciting chart, but it’s hopefully (with your help) the most authoritative – and longest? This week’s is the first to be compiled, not without teething problems, on RB Research Ltd’s computer, from nearly 200 DJ returns. We’re not exactly short of contributors, but more “hip”-type ones are still needed. John “No Jeans” Lewis (Brighton Metro) actually counters my last plea for contributors with the thought that “MoR merchants” are surely more typical of the disco scene: this may be true, but most seem so unadventurous in their programming that they might just as well send in the BMRB top thirty (which is not to knock the job they’re doing). The truest remark comes from Terry Emm (Dunstable): “the hip jocks are laziest because they’re always in record shops searching for new hip product.” On the nail, Terry! These are the jocks who, now that most major DJ’s are spoon-fed with free UK product, actually still go out and pay money for imports which, depending on the reaction they then get, may eventually get issued here – and sent out for free – months later. Don’t knock ‘em, they’re doing all the work.
Record Mirror may not have been the first to feature Beats Per Minute, but it’s certainly created the biggest stir.
Record companies are now starting to list BPM’s on their releases (in fact I seem to be doing the timing for a lot of them!), radio jocks have suddenly taken to doing BPM-locked running mixes on air, and – most important and my main intention – disco jocks are now thinking more than ever before about mixing their records.
Even jocks who understood the principle and had been happily mixing by ear for years have found the BPM info invaluable if only because it reminded them of mixes they might otherwise not have thought of. Graham Gold (Southgate Royalty / Greenlord Champers) reports for instance, “thanks to your BPM chart, that was the most together set I’ve ever done!”
Other DJ comments include Doctor John (Telford & Stafford Disco-Tech) “your BPM info has been masterful”; David Emery (Newcastle upon Tyne Scamps) “congratulations – your BPM has finally sealed the gap and put Record Mirror right into the number one spot, making it the only paper of any genuine use to decent DJ’s”; Alan Donald (Rothesay) “give yourself an award for being the most helpful columnist in the business”; John Lewis (Brighton Metro) “congratulations on promoting a stupid fad which helps to gloss over microphone inadequacies usually displayed by these so-called “hip” DJ’s – God help you if you need to tell customers that the venue is burning down!”
Yer what?!? Well, why shouldn’t someone who hasn’t got a good voice DJ too . . . I’ve been managing without using a mike except for important announcements ever since (gulp!) 1963, so I’d hardly call mixing a stupid fad!
There has been a revolution in the last year that you may or may not have noticed, but as mobile jock Grahame Goodyer (New Milton) rightly reports, “I’ve been operating for nearly five years now, playing for every taste, and have noticed recently that pure disco music is now much more accepted by the older generations – you should see them boogie to ‘YMCA’, Dan Hartman and the like”.
It may have been the Bee Gees that did it, but – whatever – the world does seem to be beating time to a new sub-conscious tempo, and that tempo is disco. All of a sudden those old rock and pop proven standards so loved by MoR jocks sound, sadly, very tired and out of date – and worse, often now don’t work. The record business, far from deserting disco for punk as I once predicted, has discovered that these two musical forms make a twin-pronged attack on the sales charts without needing radio support, and the disco side of the business is busier and more sophisticated than could previously ever have been imagined.
As someone on television might have put it, “we have the technology – now let’s use it”, disco records, especially 12-inchers, tend to feature steady rhythm intros and breaks (some now eyen have “eye-cue” scrolling bands pressed in the vinyl to show each break point), all of which is meant to make mixing easier. A long version 12in is not intended to be played right through from beginning to end, the extra length is to allow you more choice in where to mix out of it . . . or, indeed, into it. You can play the bit out of it . . . or, indeed, into it. You can play the bit that suits your mix best. This is the music that is being purpose-built for DJ’s to use, it’s the beat that the public wants, it’s the tool of our trade. All I’ve been trying to do is make sure that you know how to use your tool in the way that the maker intended!
Next week I’ll feature several mixes sent in blocks, but in the meantime I suggest that you arm yourself with the last few back-issues of RM and transfer the applicable BPM’s to your own records (write ‘em on sleeve or label – I find the latter most useful), then arrange the records in order of BPM speed and start looking for the best segue sequences.
Remember that the BPM only indicates the number of beats per minute and cannot account for the actual rhythm, which of course can vary greatly despite a similar seeming BPM rating. Practice makes perfect, so experiment – bearing in mind that you’ll be playing the expertly blended result to a hard-dancing public, who will expect a punchy hit-packed programme without too many tricky flights of fancy. If you’re among the majority of jocks still using fixed-speed turntables, this BPM style of mixing should make life a lot easier, but should not be followed mechanically, like I’ve said before. Use your ears, and have fun!
Deborah Washington is evidently on 12in, but Bob Marley is now not on 12in after all . . . Andy Gibb ‘Shadow Dancing’ is of course 102bpm and not 120 as misprinted last week . . . Lorraine Lewis, much missed, has left EMI LRD disco promotion . . . Barbara Randolph ‘I Got A Feeling’ maxi 7in is out next week with original old Tamla Motown label and olive-coloured sleeve! . . . James Brown, Isaac Hayes, Cheryl Lynn are also due then on 12in, Gold Bullion Band on 7in, while Caroline Crawford 12in is out soon too . . . Jersey jock Alex Anders – real surname Szedmaky Glendinning! – (St Peters Mermaid) and mate Michael Lee Musgrove (St Helier Skyline) spent the night at Mayfair Gullivers before jetting to Bermuda for their Record Business Disco Forum prize holiday at the Bermudian Hotel . . . Panache Music Publishers have tested an unplaced white label 12in of their Classical Mechanics ‘Woman Of Ice’ by mailing it to all DJF (GB) member jocks . . . pooh-poohed in some quarters, but is Gary’s Gang really the return of Mr Glitter?
GENE CHANDLER: ‘Get Down’ (20th Century BTCL 1040) (BNDA debut 11/18/78)
Already enormous on import, the terrific bouncily burbling 117bpm funky bumper is now on 8:14 pink vinyl 12in with plenty of thudding rhythm breaks – all visually cued with scrolled bands (except the pink vinyl doesn’t exactly help!) – which mix beautifully in front of Herbie Hancock!
DONALD BYRD: ‘Loving You’ (Elektra K 12381)
Dynamite official 12in B-side, this 111bpm girlie group-sung bumpy 7:20 swayer slots perfectly over Instant Funk’s instrumental break – it’s even got the same chord progression for the first 38 secs! – and has consequently exploded with hip jocks, eclipsing the remixed ‘Thank You For Funking Up My Life’ A-side.
SEA LEVEL: ‘(Sneakers) Fifty Four’ (Capricorn POSPX 28)
Steadily thumping subtle cool 120bpm guitar jazz-funk instrumental jitterer, huge on import LP, is now due here on 6:40 12in . . . and is another that mixes perfectly out of Instant Funk’s instrumental break! Continue reading “January 27, 1979: “Disco jocks are now thinking more than ever before about mixing their records.””