To BPM Or Not To BPM
Starting this issue as we intend to go through 1979, all significant record reviews will in future feature the Beats Per Minute (bpm) as an aid to the ever-increasing number of jocks who mix between records with similar rhythms. This week also, although not a regular feature, the entire Disco Top 90 and its various “breakers” sections indicate each title’s bpm rating . . . so I suggest that you keep this issue handy if you can’t transpose the bpm info onto your record sleeves immediately.
Next week there will be a listing of all currently in-use product grouped together in order of bpm speed, so that all the titles at 130 bpm will be noted, followed by those at 131 bpm, etc. Really useful, huh? I hope so!
To work out your own bpm timing for any type of record, all you need is a stopwatch (of the type with a sweep second hand is best) and – making sure your deck is at the spot-on correct speed – tap your foot in time with the record’s main bass beat. When you’ve got the feel of the rhythm, hit the stopwatch start button on a beat/tap and start counting “nought, one, two, three – etc” for either 10, 15, 20 or 30 seconds, depending on which length of time it takes for a beat to fall as closely as possible onto one of those time divisions. Say you got 20 beats in 10 seconds, multiply 20 by 6 (to bring the 10 secs up to a minute) and you find you’ve got 120 Beats Per Minute. Likewise, multiply your 15 secs total by 4, the 20 secs total by 3 or the 30 secs one by 2. It sometimes helps to have several tries at different timing lengths to get a really accurate result (and don’t forget that not all drummers use a metronome or tape loop yet!), while it’s a good idea to check the bpm discrepancy between different sections of the same record, as some get faster or slower.
However, having worked out the bpm ratings for all your records, don’t think that just because two have the same surface tempo similarity they will make a perfect mix from one to the other – you must use your ears as well! Beats are one thing, but rhythm and attack are dictated by the rest of the instrumentation, by the key and vocal sound. Also, don’t be afraid to jump up or down the tempo scale, as a smoothly blending sequence of all the same speed gets dull without some dynamics being injected into it – we’re not all New York hustlers here!
To do a synchronized mix, running in one beat on top of another, or to do a chop mix, cutting from one to another on the beat, you also need to have a feel for the musical progression: it’s useful to tap your foot in time with the rhythm and count off to yourself the beats in each bar of music – “one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four” – so that the new record will slot neatly into the one being played. Best of all, though, is to have a set of variable speed decks, with which you can then alter the record’s speed to suit the mix – taking, say, something from 124 bpm up to 131 bpm (not that with variable speed decks you’re particularly aware of the bpm rating, as you’re mixing purely by ear). If, with variable speeds, you do want to check the bpm at which something is playing, then you can quickly get a rough idea by checking it against your wristwatch’s second hand in the same way as when doing a proper bpm.
Finally, the reason why so many of today’s disco records – especially on 12in – have a thumping instrumental intro and rattling rhythm break about two thirds of the way through should be obvious . . . they’re making it easy to mix! (Gah, penny’s dropped!)
Also, in this issue, we start again a review section for disco imports. The chart has become increasingly import-orientated in recent months, proving that many jocks can’t be bothered with what the UK companies may or may not decide to release. To quote Capital Radio’s Mike Allen, who runs 1979’s answer to the old Rosko road show, “you have to buy imports because the days of using UK issues are over – by the time something is out here, it’s ancient history!”
Dave McAleer, known to many for Pye’s old Northern soul series, is now Black Product and Disco Manager at RCA . . . Caroline Crawford ‘Coming On Strong’ / ‘A Nice Feeling’ is due on Mercury 12in this month while Decca are coupling Hamilton Bohannon’s old ‘Foot Stomping Music’ / ‘Have A Good Day’ on full-length 12in soon . . . General Johnson, Mandrill, Afro-Cuban Band and Raydio are the next Arista 12in batch in about four weeks . . . Gonzalez ‘Haven’t Stopped Dancin’ Yet’ is belatedly hitting in US on Capitol 12in remix . . . Phil Salter (Manchester) and Roger Harold (Tunbridge Wells) both info that the Funkadelic 12in that they bought on UK issue has an 11:13 Part 1 and 5:35 instrumental Pt 2 – so, sorry if my earlier info was misleading, but I did get it at WEA’s own Xmas party! . . . Fatman Graham Canter and Froggy’s Roadshow funk Southgate Royalty this Saturday (6), when Bournemouth Village sees the return of previous residents Andy (Radio One) Peebles and Clive B Dearsley . . . Richard “Tricky Dicky” Scanes had 2000 records ripped off in South London a week before Xmas, but as some WEA 12in promos were numbered it may be possible to trace where the villain unloaded them: have you recently obtained any of these on 12in with the following rubber-stamped numbers – Rod Stewart (0009), Ashford and Simpson (00013), Funkadellc (00056), Goody Goody (00013), Chaka Khan (00092), Curtis Mayfield (00088), Chic (00099)? If so, please tip off Dicky at 01-551 1987 . . . London’s LODJ Assn meets this Sunday (7) at 4pm in the Blue Coat Boy pub near Angel tube to learn about technical matters from Brian Davies . . . Tony Holden of the DJF(GB) (0734-882794) is running a master diary to prevent any clashes in the dates for planned DJ events, so contact him early on if you’re organising anything like an exhibition or DJ meeting . . . Colin Hudd now funks Dartford Flicks in Kent Road every Fri/Saturday, while Danny Wilde is newly resident at Bristol Vadims in Clifton’s Queens Road, and Greg Davies info’s that Stevenage Bo Jangles has a new sound and laser lighting system . . . Dave Middleton (0908-76079) needs a hall in Milton Keynes for his projected Monday night soul disco but can’t block-book council property: can anyone help?
DAN HARTMAN: ‘This Is It’ / ‘Countdown’ (Blue Sky CBS 12-6999)
Far better in its continuous 14:12 LP and promo 12in form, the ‘Countdown / This Is It’ track has been cut in two with the blinder 6:45 latter part made plug side and more exciting 7:05 first part put on the flip of both 12in and edited 7in (SKY 6999). Similar to ‘Instant Replay’, the 133 bpm stormer’s a great mixer (try it out of Edwin Starr) and deserves to be heard in full: why don’t CBS do right by Dan (and us) this time at least? Think how many they’d sell if this and the full ‘Replay’ were on 12in back-to-back!
BLONDIE: ‘Heart Of Glass’ (Chrysalis CHS 12-2275) (BNDA debut 4/14/79)
Dynamite 5:50 117bpm disco remix 12in powers along like a heavier slowed-up Donna ‘I Feel Love’ crossed with Rod’s ‘Do Ya Think I’m Sexy’, and is sure to smash pop.
LAKESIDE: ‘It’s All The Way Live’ (RCA FO 1382)
Stolidly thumping 7:17 funky 12in chanter shifts up from 118 to 120bpm and chop mixes nicely in front of Shalamar (skipping very start). Continue reading “January 6, 1979: To BPM Or Not To BPM”