March 10, 1979: Report from Billboard’s Disco V Forum, New York (Part One)

Four hundred quid and next to no sleep later, New York was certainly good fun last week, when a huge horde of disco business Britons descended on that city for Billboard’s Disco V Forum. In fact the consensus of opinion was that the actual Forum sessions were the least vital part of the affair, while the equipment exhibition was the most useful, and a statuesque 6 foot 1” young lady called Fern was the most stimulating. Say no more, wink wink, spare the blushes (thanks for the money, lads)!

After a sleepless weekend of getting last week’s page written, I arrived in New York on Monday evening, and went straight into a gargantuan spread at the amazing Gallaghers Steak House just over the road from the Roseland Ballroom. The Roseland, like a half-size Purley Top Rank was the world-famous venue for the Forum’s live music entertainment, and inside the specially disco-fied room we soon found the exuberant British contingent led by Chris Hill, Southgate Royalty-owning Adrian Webb, Froggy, Biddu and his rather Debbie Harry-hairstyled wife Sue, Polydor’s Theo Loyla, CBS’s Greg Lynn & Malcolm Jones, Miracle’s Pete Waterman, Magnet’s Tilly Rutherford, Island’s Erskine T, Funk Funktion’s Roger St Pierre & Sally Ormsby, Satril’s Henry Hadaway & Greg Gregory, Carlin Music’s Mike Collier, Lorraine Lewis (ex-EMI) and Rokotto-managing Murdo Wallace.

In no time we were chanting “wall to wall, carpet” as Edwin Starr souled his latest hit, and then we substituted “extra extra, read all about it” to words of his new ‘H.A.P.P.Y. Radio’ (which coincidentally he was composing down at Mayfair’s Gullivers on his last UK visit). Edwin however sounded fine, which cannot be said for the appalling Chic, who died the death – partly through poor amplification. Then we all piled into buses to head out across the towering Brooklyn Bridge for Flatbush where Casablanca Records, with much sought little stick-on camel badges as invitation, were hosting a roller disco party at the Empire Rink to promote their new star, Cher. Doing anything to get a hit, the society column queen was zipped around the rink by some steadying supporters, while her ‘Take Me Home’ disco effort was expertly mixed so’s you couldn’t notice into Donna Summer’s greatest hits. The jock at the rink was brilliant, but although the place was still crowded with skaters in the middle of the night, few were actually dancing as they roared around. So much for roller disco? Back at the Gotham Hotel, I set my Aiwa stereo radio/cassette to record WKTU (Disco 92) and hit the pillow for the first time in 66 hours.

Tuesday dawned late for many, but it was the first real day of the Forum at the Hilton Hotel. A must for most of the British contingent was the afternoon’s discussion panel about disco DJ mixing techniques. Here we pulled a popular “funk mafia” trick, by suddenly standing up with ready-prepared scorecards to cause a bigger sensation than the very respectable running mix by Jim Burgess of ‘I Will Survive’ into ‘At Midnight’. Amongst the tricks of the US style that we learnt about were the “flanging” effect, like phasing, of playing two copies of the same record, in exact synchronisation, and the method of playing two copies slightly out of synch to get phasing and echo effects, but with each record split balanced to opposing sides of the stereo speaker image – Roy Thode of New York’s Ice Palace demonstrated this using Instant Funk to perfection. However, the session was badly marred by continual squabbles about the Forum’s bad organisation, lack of mikes for the audience, and general untogetherness. Of the DJ’s making up the panel, though, it must be said that their use of the microphones provided for them merely underlined the fact that American DJ’s quite simply CAN’T, rather than don’t want to, use mikes when jocking.

Interesting stuff, huh? Well, sorry it’s got to end there, but the real meat of the week’s happenings will be revealed next issue.

Note: The second part of this report was actually printed a fortnight later, on March 24th.

Disco News

Sparky & Wendy beat 40 dancers to survive for 50 hours at Bristol Assize Courts’ all-weekender marathon competition, while the dancing skill competition was won by Derek after already doing 30 hours non-stop (same length as Martin Starr jocked – losing his voice!), the bash raising over £1500 to ‘Save Some For The Children’ in hospital . . . Terry Betts of the gay guys ‘n gals Lemmons in London’s Westway, normally candlelit Fri/Saturday, has a rollerskating competition on Thursdays with £250 grand final in six weeks . . . Mike Davidson funks Liverpool Hollywood in Duke Street every Thurs-Sunday, operating a club mailing list for members with discounted records, hairstyling and concert coach parties . . . Bournemouth’s Village complex has shut for a major refit and renovation, opening before the summer season . . . Dartford Flicks, the funk venue with Studio 54 pretentions, goes – gulp! – rock ‘n roll on Tuesdays to the boppin’ beat of the Wild Wax crew . . . Island’s new disco division is headed by Erskine T with Eon Irving, their Inner Circle & Gibson Bros hits soon to be joined by Roundtree . . . Hamilton Bohannon’s ‘Cut Loose’ LP, reviewed on import last week, is out here as SRM 18702, while the title track on 12in is Mercury 9198082 . . . Patrice Rushen ‘Hang It Up’ is now on longer Elektra 12in remix . . . Joneses ‘Sugar Pie Guy’ classic from ‘75 has been remixed into 6:29 12in form for Mercury rerelease soon.

New Spins

VILLAGE PEOPLE: ‘In The Navy’ (Mercury 6007209) (BNDA debut 4/7/79)
Adding sailor suits to their stagewear, the boys clap ‘n holler an instantly catchy 127bpm singalong romper that’s also due on remixed 12in – for UK release this time, unlike the ‘YMCA’ remix!

INSTANT FUNK: ‘I Got My Mind Made Up’ LP (Salsoul SSLP 1511) (‘I Got My Mind Made Up’ BNDA debut 1/27/79)
Only the British LP has this full 9:40 113bpm US disco remix version of the title track, plus its 6:00 soulfully jumping fast 128bpm ‘Crying’ flip, while other warm cuts include the applause-spiced jazzy 128bpm ‘Wide World Of Sports’ instrumental and long P-funkily introed 119bpm ‘Dark Vader’ bumper. They’re better heard on record than seen live.

GEORGE BENSON: ‘Love Ballad’ (Warner Bros. K 17333)
Beautifully scat-sung ‘n plucked bouncy 112bpm mid-tempo driving jazz skipper, deceptively fast though slow seeming on 5:15 12in. 

MOTOWN SOUNDS: ‘Bad Mouthin’’ (from LP ‘Space Dance’, Motown STML 12105)
Spiky instrumental 6:09 strings, vibes and bongos 126bpm jazz-funk jumper is warm on import, while the slightly impersonal set’s other action track is the 5:48 chix-cooed racing 130bpm ‘Groove Time’, with a nice vibes break.

MANDY PERRYMENT: ‘Do You Want My Love’ (Magnet 12MAG 142)
Heavily phased 132bpm pop bouncer keeps copying the old ‘Stand By Me’ chord structure, in an exciting Sarah Brightman-style pounding fast treatment on 6:35 12in with piano-led “disco remix” flip.

AMII STEWART: ‘Knock On Wood’ (Atlantic K 11214) (BNDA debut 2/3/79)
Out again in its US hit remix form on both 12in and 7in, this crass pop pounder now slows slightly to 139bpm with the drums outro (its only original good point!) added as intro too.

SEX PISTOLS: ‘Friggin’ In The Riggin’’ (Virgin VS 240)
Filthy four-letter words, but – should you ever use it for fun – the sea shanty tune actually mixes nicely in front of Village People ‘In The Navy’.

GERALDINE: ‘Casablanca’ (Coma CUT 002)
Useful MoR Europop with a 127bpm tango beat, by the Campari-and-lemonade girl complete with Humphrey Bogart-impersonating co-star.

JOY FLEMING: ‘The Final Thing’ (Atlantic LV20)
Pete Belotte-produced 108bpm Euro-chugger by a soulfully wailing chick, on 6:55 12in, held in check by the plodding tempo though lukewarm in New York.

CELI BEE: ‘Fly Me On The Wings Of Love’ LP (TK TKR 83351) (BNDA debut 1/13/79)
Snappily bass-driven jittery 121bpm nagging side-long title track 12:56 medley, warm in New York and not bad in that context – though not for here.

D.D. SOUND: ‘She’s Not A Disco Lady’ (Decca FR 13828) (‘Café’ BNDA debut 6/2/79)
La Bionda-produced 119bpm Eurodisco chugger actually sounds like Jonathan King, but the 130bpm ‘Cafe’ instrumental B-side galloper is a better bet for mixers.

LOVE DIMENSION: ‘You Stepped Into My Life’ (Black Bear BLA 2010)
Bee Gees song done yet again, at 99bpm slower than the others though not bad.

GALAXY: ‘Book Of Rules’ (Sidewalk SID 103)
Boney M-type slow-starting unsubtle pounding 120bpm pop-reggae revival of the Heptones oldie.

KOFI & KIKI: ‘24 Hours In A Disco’ (Bronze 12BRO 70)
Osibisa members with a too-British Hi-Tension-type rattling percussion and clapping chanter, on 4:26 12in.

DEL-CAPRIS: ‘Hey Little Way Out Girl’ (Grapevine GRP 112)
Gently churning 144bpm Northern pop lilter, rather attractive if naturally dated.

VARIOUS: ‘Casino Classics’ LP (Casino Classics CCLP 1001)
Predictable 14-track ‘Volume One’ of the label’s Northern pop fodder, including Tony (Lenny Gamble) Blackburn and nine more hits, while Russ Winstanley’s latest instant classic, the attractive 138bpm ‘I’m Gonna Share It With You’ by Diana Foster, is actually Fusion Orchestra and Shampoo lead singer Jill Saward!


EUGENE RECORD: ‘Magnetism’ (US Warner Bros. WBSD 8774)
Although not happening in New York, this dynamite 7:03 12in by the ex-Chi-Lite is the most exciting sound I’ve heard in ages and is just MADE for Britain! Starting with a series of mind-blowing synthesizer explosions, the 125bpm leaper suddenly becomes an old-style soul romper before hitting a jumping jazz-funk freak halfway that carries on instrumentally nearly to the end. Already exploding for me at Gullivers, this will be a UK smash!

GINO SOCCIO: ‘Dancer’ (from LP ‘Outline’, US RFC 3809) (BNDA debut 2/24/79)
Recently reviewed, this monotonous jiggly 122bpm stamper has in fact revealed a hidden power and is currently getting huge in New York (it works here too!), mixing well with varispeed alteration into Sister Sledge. Check it out, it could be big.

SISTER SLEDGE: ‘We Are Family’ (US Cotillion DSKO 144) (BNDA debut 2/10/79)
Now equally as big in New York as its 118bpm ‘He’s The Greatest Dancer’ 12in A-side, this steadily tripping repetitive 117bpm stamper has also begun happening here, especially in the North-West.

PHILLY CREAM: ‘Jammin’ At The Disco’ (US Fantasy WMOT D-124) (BNDA debut 4/14/79)
Deceptively slow and casual-sounding 109bpm jogger has chanting gals ‘n guys, organ chords, rattling percussion – and a powerfully intensifying hypnotic effect that builds over 6:45 of 12in into some great tension-filled instrumental breaks. Another that should be good in the UK.

ROD STEWART: ‘Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?’ (US Warner Bros. WBSD 8727) (BNDA debut 1/20/79)
As many of you must realise by now, Rod’s UK hit has been remixed by DJ Jim Burgess for 8:29 US 12in with the rhythm brought up and – especially at the intro – the backing pushed right back behind the bare bones of the beat. It’s effective, it’s different (though not vitally so) and it’s top of the US disco charts.

DISCO MIXER: ‘Hollywood’ (Volume 1)
The envy of all who hear them, this and the next one are the ultimate disco bootlegs, made up of all the best bits from famous disco hits, cut up and spliced together into a new 12in! This actually sets the scene with a rattling intro and “studio, lights, music, action, dance!” part before getting into snippets of such as Donna’s famous ‘I Feel Love’ synthesizer and other hot breaks, all divided up by a repetitive “disco disco disco” theme.

DISCO MIXER: ‘Dedley Medley’ (Volume 2)
Badly equalised in the re-recording of the different snippets but even more exciting is this more recent bootleg cut-up, which starts straight out with the ‘Instant Replay’ intro, chopping into “bush bush bush bush, in the bush”, “hot shot hot shot hot”, “you and I”, “boogie oogie oogie” . . . and so on – even ‘YMCA’! Seems it’s made in Trinidad, so good luck if you can find a copy!

HEMLOCK: ‘Disco Break’ (US Warner Bros. WBSD 8779)
Frantic almost over-fast and furious 133-134bpm skitterer races along with “shooebedoobedup” harmony scattering and exciting instrumental breaks, on 6:39 12in, all rather like a faster Crown Heights Affair ‘Dancing’.

AMANT: ‘If There’s Love’ (from LP ‘Amant’, US Marlin MAR 2227) (BNDA debut 11/25/78)
Also on not much shorter 12in, the prettily tinkling 130bpm pounder has plenty of mix points and breaks in its 14:33, so it’s much used in New York – if rarely played in full.

STICKY FINGERS: ‘Sticky Fingers’ LP (US Prelude PRL 12164) (BNDA debut 3/3/79)
In an innovatory move this debut LP’s four long tracks are spread across the four sides of two twin-packed 12in singles, so that DJ demand and initial consumer consumption can be satisfied by one pressing run prior to the normal LP’s appearance later. All the Phyllis & Helen Duncan-sung tracks are hot, with the exciting 133bpm ‘Wastin’ My Love’ pounder and tuneful 132-133bpm ‘Night Time’ flier the strongest, ahead of the funky 99bpm ‘Party Song’ and jerky 118bpm ‘Takin’ A Chance On You’. Zingy though the surface sound may seem, the excellent Canadian production is filled out very solidly and features Latin-tinged brass amongst other quality touches.

CHER: ‘Take Me Home’ (US Casablanca NBD 20150 DJ) (BNDA debut 3/3/79)
Beginning to get big in New York, this much discussed promo 7:30 12in version of her hot LP cut starts as a blandly tinkling 124bpm hustler but intensifies into a Donna Summer-style groove with beefier bass and busier backing, although it’s all pretty lightweight.

Hot Vinyl

Norman Scott – no, not that one! – jocks at London’s Global Village under Charing Cross Station and at the gay Bang opposite Centre Point in Charing Cross Road, with a playlist that more than most begins to approximate the type of music played in gay New York venues. His hot import tips include:

WONDER BAND: ‘Stairway To Heaven’ / ‘Whole Lotta Love’ (US Atco LP) (BNDA debut 3/24/79)
PETER JACQUES BAND: ‘Fire Night Dance’ (all cuts) (US Prelude LP) (BNDA debut 2/10/79)
SEVENTH AVENUE: ‘Midnight In Manhattan’ / ‘New York’s On Fire’ (US AVI LP)
SISTER SLEDGE: ‘He’s The Greatest Dancer’ (US Cotillion 12”) (BNDA debut 2/10/79)
SYLVESTER: ‘I (Who Have Nothing)’ (US Fantasy 12”) (BNDA debut 3/24/79)
NARADA MICHAEL WALDEN: ‘I Don’t Want Nobody Else’ (US Atlantic 12”) (BNDA debut 4/14/79)
CARRIE LUCAS: ‘Dance With You’ (US Solar 12”) (BNDA debut 3/10/79)
MACHINE: ‘There But For The Grace Of God Go I’ (RCA 12”) (BNDA debut 1/27/79)
KRYPTON: ‘Can You Read My Mind’ (A&M 12”)
ULTIMATE: ‘Ultimate’ (all cuts) (US Casablanca LP) (BNDA debut 1/20/79)
STICKY FINGERS: ‘Sticky Fingers’ (all cuts) (US Prelude LP) (BNDA debut 3/3/79)

No UK Disco chart this week – the previous week’s chart was printed again.

New York Disco Top 30

New York’s current disco chart is compiled very much in the usual way, by adding up points for a range of club and radio playlists, plus extra points for titles that I was particularly aware of hearing all the time.

01 Rod Stewart – Da Ya Think I’m Sexy – Warner Bros. 12”
02 Instant Funk – I Got My Mind Made Up – Salsoul 12”
03 GQ – Disco Nights (Rock Freak) – Arista 12″
04 Sister Sledge – He’s The Greatest Dancer / We Are Family – Cotillion 12″
05 Gino Soccio – Dancer – RFC LP
06 Amii Stewart – Knock On Wood – Ariola 12″
07 Gary’s Gang – Keep On Dancin’ – SAM 12″
08 Bombers – (Everybody) Get Dancin’ – West End 12″
09 Gloria Gaynor – I Will Survive – Polydor 12″
10 T-Connection – At Midnight – TK 12″
11 Gonzalez – Haven’t Stopped Dancin’ Yet – Capitol 12”
12 Ultimate – Ultimate (all cuts) – Casablanca LP
13 Grey & Hanks – Dancin’ – RCA 12″
14 Evelyn Champagne King – I Don’t Know If It’s Right – RCA 12”
15 Kleeer – Keep Your Body Workin’ – Atlantic 12”
16 Peter Jacques Band – Fire Night Dance (all cuts) – Prelude LP
17 Machine – There But For The Grace Of God Go I – RCA 12”
18 Edwin Starr – Contact – 20th Century 12″
19 Arpeggio – Love And Desire – Polydor 12”
20 Sticky Fingers – Sticky Fingers (all cuts) – Prelude LP
21 Alton McClain & Destiny – It Must Be Love – Polydor 12”
22 Chic – I Want Your Love – Atlantic 12”
23 Cher – Take Me Home – Casablanca 12”
24 Linda Evans – Don’t You Need – Ariola 12”
25 Wonder Band – Stairway To Heaven – Atco LP
26 Wardell Piper – Captain Boogie – Midsong 12″
27 Bell & James – Livin’ It Up (Friday Night) – A&M 12″
28 Lemon – A-Freak-A / Chance To Dance – Prelude 12″
29 Narada Michael Walden – I Don’t Want Nobody Else – Atlantic 12″
30 Witch Queen – Bang A Gong – Roadshow LP

One thought on “March 10, 1979: Report from Billboard’s Disco V Forum, New York (Part One)”

  1. “The appalling Chic” well well well, the band that has come to define the best in all things disco did not impress James Hamilton with their live performance “back in the day”! Nile Rodgers having an off day? Amazing how history can see things very differently. Little throwaway nuggets like these are what help make this blog so compelling!


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