James Hamilton’s first column: June 28, 1975

Gee, but it’s great to be back home! Has it really been ten months?

Welcome, anyway, to this, the first of a regular weekly page devoted to fax & info for regular disco DJs, dancers and super sharp record freaks in general.

Just to give it all some credibility, I’d better explain where I’m coming from. I’ve been a discotheque DJ myself for over 13 years, having started out as a club jock in London and New York. During the mid-60s my main interest was soul music – and, in fact, when I was doing the weekend allniters at Soho’s The Scene in ‘65/’66 I played nothing but Northern Soul . . . on its first time around!

When I went mobile in 1968 I soon saw that an all-soul policy was too restricting, and also that as most other mobile discotheques were aimed at the kids it would make sense if I set out to win over an older age group. Older audiences, incidentally, are usually richer and more appreciative of the trouble you take. Consequently I now tend to play to very mixed age groups, for which I carry a vast range of music. There are even occasions when I don’t play a single current chart record – mainly because modern music really does sound so dull in comparison with the sort of crazy “party” music I’ve made my specialty.

This is an aspect of disco dee-jaying that I hope this page, with your participation, will bring out into the open. There are – or ought to be – huge differences of approach to dee-jaying in a club and on a mobile date. In a club you know that the audience has paid to be entertained by the musical specialty of that club, whereas at most private parties the audience is totally uncommitted. Thus in a club it would be suicide but at a mixed age probably a sensation if you managed to work in a knees-up or Scottish reel, for instance.

Let’s hear from you, the dee-jays, about some of the more lunatic records that you to liven up your presentation. Every week we’ll run a hot tip with a suggestion about record sequences or other tricks that work for you. To kick it off, try this!

When you’ve misjudged and the disc you’re playing isn’t going over well, turn it to your advantage. Don’t just fade the record out: switch off the deck and let the disc grind to a halt as you start the next one. You’ll get a laugh!

Together with the first weekly Disco Page, here is the Record Mirror’s very first National Disco Chart, compiled from the returns of all the disco dee-jays who recently registered as contributors to it.

It was obvious from the very first glance at all the completed chart forms that Van McCoy’s ‘The Hustle’ would come out on top . . . but then that could have been predicted anyway, right? What is really interesting is that amongst all the more usual current chart names, some of the contributing DJs have placed really quite obscure or unlikely records. All the submitted charts make interesting reading, so let’s see what some of the less likely records are.

Dougall DJ of Twechar, Kilsyth in Scotland earns my respect for including Pete Wingfield’s great doo-wop cum sweet soul parody, ‘Eighteen With A Bullet’ (Island WIP 6231), which if it isn’t a hit here will certainly be one in America, where the music trade jargon will mean more to the radio-listening public. Dougall DJ also includes A Raincoat’s ‘I Love You For Your Mind Not Your Body’ (EMI 2289), which is almost as witty although in a totally different musical style, this being kinda Roxy/Sparks/Harley-type staccato and modern . . . and good.

Pete Brown of Seasons Discotheque from Wembley, Middlesex, is right on the spot in my estimation – he’s got ‘El Bimbo’ at number one already (as an import)! As he’s evidently well into the soul sound – listing such as the Brothers, Joe Bataan, Earth, Wind & Fire and Miami – I wonder if he realised at the time that Bimbo Jet are Spanish?  Continue reading “James Hamilton’s first column: June 28, 1975”

May 3, 1969: Canned Heat, Vikki Carr, Marv Johnson, Billy Butler, Gene Chandler & Barbara Acklin

CANNED HEAT: Time Was; Low Down (Liberty LBF 15200)
Will it be third in a row for Heat’s prepossessing new rock-a-ballad? Maybe, but although it combines some of Stevie Wonder’s lilt with a nice rumbling bass, freaky guitar and steady drumming, it lacks the last two’s magic spark of life – time will tell. Typical so-called “boogie” noises on flip, O.K. later on. CHART POSSIBILITY

VIKKI CARR: If Ever You’re Lonely; Fly Away (Liberty LBF 15217)
Though “With Pen In Hand” is still kicking (not out the jams), here is a newie from Vikki – all melodic with heavily crescendoing patches and torch singing (she even sounds a bit like Cilia at times). ‘S not bad at all, and could do rather well. Personally, I preferred the light, Bossa-Nova-ish, reminiscent flip. CHART POSSIBILITY

MARV JOHNSON: I Love The Way You Love; You Got What It Takes (United Artists UP 35010)
Recorded at the turn of the decade, when Marv was 20, these old UA sides are among Berry Gordy’s earliest productions. “Love” (a U.S. hit) hints at the course Tamla was to take in its first years, while the slightly earlier (muzzily re-mixed) “Takes” was a hit here for both Marv and Johnny Kidd (and was actually written by Bobby “Watch Your Step” Parker). Motown addicts should hear the old London LP, “Marvellous Marv Johnson” (HA-T 2271), the better of his two UA albums, which includes some deliciously falsetto-sung straight standards. Presumably aimed at collectors. * * * * * *  Continue reading “May 3, 1969: Canned Heat, Vikki Carr, Marv Johnson, Billy Butler, Gene Chandler & Barbara Acklin”

April 26, 1969: Booker T. & The M.G.s, The Ronettes, Glen Campbell, 5th Dimension, Crazy Elephant

BOOKER T. & THE M.G.s: Time Is Tight; Hang ‘Em High (Stax 119).
From the soundtrack of the Booker T. Jones scored up-coming ”Uptight” flick, and a fast riser Stateside, this walloping, galloping -pounder is a gas dancer in spite of sounding like a backing track for “I Can’t Turn You Loose“. In the current climate it could be a smash here. Flipside (from their Iast L.P., never a single before) was a U.S. Pop hit, and is the movie theme read in semi-funky manner. CHART POSSIBILITY.

THE RONETTES: You Came, You Saw, You Conquered; I Can Hear Music (A&M AMS 748).
Sounding straight out of 1963 (“worry” pronounced “wowwy” even!), Veronica Spector and the girls come storming back with another brand new Phil Spector production. If the era of “Be My Baby” and “Do I Love You?” was an unforgettable slice of your past, you will go into ecstasies over this, as nothing much has changed (who’s complaining?!) – the pace is a bit faster and the noise a bit fuller, that’s all. The coupling naturally has especial interest at the moment, as it’s the original version of Beach Boys’ click, and makes a timely re-release that could have sold well on its own. CHART PROBABILITY

GLEN CAMPBELL Galveston; Every Time I Itch I Wind Up Scratchin’ You (Ember EMB S 263).
“Phoenix”, “Wichita”, now “Galveston” (the port for Houston, Texas) – where next, Jim Webb? This lacks the easy charm of “Lineman”, having a more aggressive beat and approach, but it retains the same guitar tone, the strings’ sound, and much of the lilt of its predecessor – without its romance. Radio 1’s playing it fit to bust, so it must happen . . . but not as big as the former hit, methinks. More easy-on-the-ear sounds on flip, co-penned by Glen with Jeremy Slate. CHART CERTAINTY.  Continue reading “April 26, 1969: Booker T. & The M.G.s, The Ronettes, Glen Campbell, 5th Dimension, Crazy Elephant”

March 22, 1969: David Ruffin, Tommy Roe, Mama Cass, Sarah Vaughan & Billy Eckstine, Judy Collins

DAVID RUFFIN: My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me); I’ve Got To Find Myself A Brand New Baby (Tamla Motown TMG 689).
Not exactly going out on a limb to say that this will be a hit, as not only is it a smash in America, but also these days the climate seems right for ANYTHING from Motown, new or old. The ex-Temptation sounds exactly that as he does a “My Girl” type of song, and, although I hate to say it, this really is the formula as before. It’s a pretty good formula, though, and if the British public can stand all those older Tamlas, it can stand this also, as it steps back a few years in style. Equally nice flip has rather more expressive singing from Dave. Now the great British public will go and prove me wrong! CHART CERTAINTY

TOMMY ROE: Dizzy; The You I Need (Stateside SS 2143).
Erstwhile top popster from the early ’60s, Tommy’s just had a U.S. chart topper with this bit of superior Bubble Gum Music (unfair to call it that, really, but it is very Pop and has definite elements of that style). Nice rumbling piano and heavy violin bits, beat emphasized by organ, and a simple set of teen lyrics with catchy repetitive “Dizzy” chanting. Tommy always was a classy performer of dignified bearing, and it’s good to see him doing well again. Bright ‘n’ bouncy flip. The very busy Steve Barri produced. CHART PROBABILITY

MAMA CASS: Move In A Little Closer, Baby; I Can Dream Can’t I (Stateside/Dunhill SS 8014).
Cue for countless boring articles headlined “Mama Cass Anita Harris-s Harmony Grass”. So – it’s a good enough song, as most Radio 1 listeners can testify, and though she’s kinda big there’s room for Cass too. Try the quiet and melodic flip, which is a good smoochie. Another Steve Barri production. CHART POSSIBILITY.  Continue reading “March 22, 1969: David Ruffin, Tommy Roe, Mama Cass, Sarah Vaughan & Billy Eckstine, Judy Collins”

March 15, 1969: Dionne Warwick, Tyrone Davis, Stevie Wonder, The Rascals, Richie Stevens

Editor’s note: a few of James’s earlier single reviews for Record Mirror have surfaced, spanning from 1969 to 1974. These will also be posted on this blog.

DIONNE WARWICK: This Girl’s In Love With You; Lonely In My Heart/Dream Sweet Dreamer (Pye International 7N 25484).
Right and proper that Dionne should sing Herb Alpert’s big vocal hit, as it is of course a Bacharach and David song (of exceptional beauty, which everyone must know already). This is much the same as Herb’s version — if not better — except that in place of his trumpet it has what sounds like, but surely can’t be, comb and paper! The song is so good that it should be a smash again with no difficulty, and is already just that in America. Some confusion over what the flip is, but if it’s “Lonely In My Heart” it’s nice. CHART CERTAINTY.

TYRONE DAVIS: Can I Change My Mind; A Woman Needs To Be Loved (Atlantic 584253).
Release at last for this monster American R&B/ Pop smash. Tyrone Davis debuts most impressively, and, if he can maintain this quality, should soon become a Giant of Soul (Doctor Soul’s prediction). With a fantastically powerful but beautifully controlled, roaring, Little Milton-ish voice, he power-drives through the gentle B-side slowie with such force that it gave me goose-bumps on first hearing! However, it’s the ambiguous-beat, slowish and catchy “Can I Change My Mind” that should be a hit, especially just after “For Once In My Life’s” success. Tony Blackburn, please play it! CHART POSSIBILITY.

STEVIE WONDER: I Don’t Know Why; My Cherie Amour (Tamla Motown TMG 690).
Lovely freaky noises lead into mature-voiced Stevie, who pours his heart out more and more as the strings and brass build and build. The mid-tempo slowie is nowhere near as melodious as “For Once In My Life”, and will probably have less wide-spread appeal as a consequence, but it must sell well just on the strength of Stevie’s impassioned delivery . . . he leaves you feeling quite limp! For melody lovers, the pretty flip is the side, and it could be equally popular. CHART CERTAINTY.  Continue reading “March 15, 1969: Dionne Warwick, Tyrone Davis, Stevie Wonder, The Rascals, Richie Stevens”