March 13, 1976: “Ease up before there’s a backlash”.

Something ultimately harmful seems to be happening – something that needs a warning before it gets totally out of control.

Over the last month or so, the disco market has become saturated with product. The type of music released on singles in this country has dramatically changed, so that material appealing to disco audiences now dominates. “Heavy” groups have practically vanished. MoR has become beatier, teenybopper acts and straight pop purveyors are less in evidence.

In America, which is in the throes of an enormous “disco” boom, this trend could be expected. In fact, it is amazing to see how few of the really big disco hits actually go on to make a sizeable impression on the national Top 100 there. Which is the point of my message here . . .

A hell of a lot of good disco records are coming out here – far too many! Very few of them are going on to the sort of success that they deserve. Disco DJs, radio programmers and even record reviewers are so swamped with potentially useful singles that they haven’t a chance of being able to break more than just a few.

OK, so record producers have discovered that a market exists which they can aim for when concocting their creations (and a surprisingly large number of the disco singles come from Britain and Europe). But, please fellows, ease up before you kill the goose that lays those golden eggs! A look at the British Top 50 shows that disco reaction can definitely make Pop hits, but another look also shows that there is only so much room for disco records.

Ease up before there’s a backlash, as is beginning to be the case in the States. In fact, ease up before it’s too late.  Continue reading “March 13, 1976: “Ease up before there’s a backlash”.”

March 6, 1976: Kevin Ayers, Mills Brothers, George Formby, Mighty Clouds Of Joy, Terry Webster

New Spins

KEVIN AYERS: ‘Falling In Love Again’ (Island WIP 6271)
Marlene Dietrich’s languid lilter (rousingly revived by Alan Price in 1970) now gets a flustering rhythm retread from husky-voiced Kevin (whose Lou Reed-like ‘Stranger In Blue Suede Shoes‘ is also out, on Harvest HAR 5107). MoR jocks on the lookout for another ‘Misty’ are sure to fall in love again!

MILLS BROTHERS: ‘Opus No. 1’ (MCA 235)
Excitingly brassy 1954 swinger, a well-proven must for Jitterbuggers.

GEORGE FORMBY: ‘The Window Cleaner’ (Columbia DB 8959)
Maxi-coupled with mirthful CHARLIE PENROSE’s ‘The Laughing Policeman’ (especially apt if your gig gets raided by the fuzz), this cheerful vintage silliness is useful nostalgic fun.  Continue reading “March 6, 1976: Kevin Ayers, Mills Brothers, George Formby, Mighty Clouds Of Joy, Terry Webster”

February 28, 1976: Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Andrews Sisters, Boswell Sisters, Eddie Drennon & BBS Unlimited

New Spins

BENNY GOODMAN: ‘Stompin’ At The Savoy’ (RCA 2657)
Adding further fuel to the jitterbug fire, Benny’s classic 1936 swinger gets a maxi coupling with the dreamy ‘In A Sentimental Mood’ and the jumpin’ jive ‘Swingtime In The Rockies’, which cooks and cooks! A must for adventurous jocks.

GLENN MILLER: ‘Make Believe Ballroom Time’ (from LP ‘The Legendary Glenn Miller, Volume 10’, RCA LSA 3237)
Here’s the famous 1940 radio theme, long deleted, on one of the latest volumes in this great ever-growing series of all Miller’s studio recordings. Other goodies on this volume are ‘Five O’Clock Whistle’, ‘Yes My Darling Daughter’ and ‘A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square’, while of course the theme itself makes the ideal intro to your Swing spot.

ANDREWS SISTERS: ‘Bounce Me Brother With A Solid Four’ (MCA 232)
Follow-up to their ‘Beat Me Daddy Eight To The Bar’, this 1941 boogie-woogie offshoot is full of precisely harmonized rhythm, while the ‘Booglie-Wooglie Piggy’ flip is rather like ‘The Flat Foot Flogee’ (With The Floy Floy)!  Continue reading “February 28, 1976: Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Andrews Sisters, Boswell Sisters, Eddie Drennon & BBS Unlimited”

February 21, 1976: Eddie Kendricks, Woody Herman, Asleep At The Wheel, M. & O. Band, Archie Bell & The Drells

This week’s column includes the first mention of remixing, in the review of Tom Moulton’s ‘Disco-Trek’ compilation LP.

New Spins

EDDIE KENDRICKS: ‘He’s A Friend’ (Tamla Motown TMO 1021) (mentioned in Billboard column 1/3/76, Billboard chart debut 1/24/76)
Produced by Philly’s Norman Harris, Eddie seems set to continue Motown’s new hit streak with this unhurried thumper, which — with the faster ‘All Of My Love’ flip — joins the NY disco hits ‘It’s Not What You Got’ and ‘Chains’ on his new LP (STML 12016). How long before he and David Ruffin make two ex-Tempts on the chart?

WOODY HERMAN: ‘Woodchopper’s Ball’ (MCA 230)
Woody’s jitterbugging swinger from ’39 is to be followed by many more big band singles, which can only establish the new craze even better than the twist.

ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL: ‘Bump Bounce Boogie’ (Capitol CL 15854)
Great modern-made boogie woogie in the authentic ’40s style, Andrews Sisters vocal and all!  Continue reading “February 21, 1976: Eddie Kendricks, Woody Herman, Asleep At The Wheel, M. & O. Band, Archie Bell & The Drells”

February 14, 1976: New York Disco Forum special, part 3

This week’s column includes the first mention of the new 12-inch single format, in Hammy’s review of B.C.G. – Sweet Talk.

Disco ’76, the recent Billboard-organized Disco Forum in New York, failed to come up with any new ideas during its formal panel sessions thanks to poor stage management and bad PA equipment supplied by the Roosevelt Hotel — the sessions never ran to time and were usually all but inaudible.

British equipment manufacturers and suppliers would have benefited by attending or exhibiting at the Forum. Had Roger Squire turned up for the panel that he was due to sit on, he would have done an immense amount of business. This being only the first Forum to be held in the States, exhibitors were wary (as they were before our own NADJ events became established).

Of the 30 manufacturers’ exhibits on show, few items of equipment were as well designed as their UK counterparts although as part of the apparent “bigger is better” belief that is widespread amongst US disco operators, there were indeed some extremely powerful speaker horns and amplifiers on display.

One of the gimmicks of the New York DJ style is to use vast bass horns, separately amplified, to emphasize certain passages of music, and likewise to bring out the sizzling cymbals through clusters of radiating miniature tweeters suspended over the dance floor.

The most eye-catching exhibits were the three competing video projection systems, all of which transmit three invisible beams of red, blue and green onto screens of up to 15 feet in size, on which they superimpose to produce full colour giant TV pictures. Video cassettes available include packaged soul shows from TV, specially created disco music programmes, and star performances including David Bowie.

For more about the Forum, see my full report in this month’s Disco Mirror.

And to finish off, let’s hope that more disco names from Britain will be there next year.


Continue reading “February 14, 1976: New York Disco Forum special, part 3”

February 7, 1976: New York Disco Forum special, part 2

“Disco ’76”, the First International Disco Forum, organized by Billboard magazine’s Bill Wardlow at New York’s midtown Roosevelt Hotel on January 20-23, was a star-studded affair.

Speakers included Van McCoy, Bob Crewe, Norman Harris, LaBelle, and many record company heads.

Performers included Bimbo Jet, the Reflections, the Salsoul Orchestra, the Trammps, Crown Heights Affair and Gloria Gaynor.

Amongst the observers were Hamilton Bohannon, Jeanne Burton, Tamiko Jones, Jonathan King, Capitol Records’s Joe Maimone and a whole host of other record company executives.  And then there were several hundred disco DJs and assorted club owners, equipment manufacturers and record pluggers.

It’s doubtful whether the Forum spread as many ideas amongst all the participants as Bill Wardlow originally hoped it would.  Many panel sessions got bogged down with the recurrent (and predictable) pleas from DJs – especially from the Midwest – for free promotional demo records.

However, the Forum was immensely rewarding on a man-to-man basis – and it was through talking amongst their fellow kind outside the main assembly room that most DJs must have swapped ideas.

In fact widely acknowledged as one of the best Forum sessions was the mobile disco session.  Well-established mobile DJs seem to command much higher fees in America than here, $120 upwards being quite normal, although an Atlanta disco firm’s rate of $220 to $250 and more made everyone gasp.

There is a certain aggressive arrogance about many East and West Coast mobile jocks who refuse to bend to their audience’s tastes and supply only the current “disco” style of programming, but they do also teach their audiences the latest dances.

Having still only just scraped the surface, it looks like I’d better continue with more about Disco ’76 next week (when I promise the DJ Hot Line will return as well).  Continue reading “February 7, 1976: New York Disco Forum special, part 2”

January 31, 1976: New York disco scene special

This week James Hamilton devotes the whole of his page to the American disco scene. He was there last week, representing Britain at Billboard Magazine’s First International Disco Forum. This column also includes his first mention of beat-mixing.

Last week, (January 20-28), there gathered at the Roosevelt Hotel in the heart of Manhattan a forum of disco DJs, club owners, equipment manufacturers and record producers who had journeyed from all corners of the United States and Canada and from as far as Italy, Hong Kong, Trinidad, Puerto Rico, Japan and Nigeria.

They all came together to exchange ideas and exhibit their wares at Billboard magazine’s First International Disco Forum, Disco ’76.

As the only disco DJ to attend from Britain, I hope that I represented your interests well. Rather than talk about the Forum now though, I’d like to tell you everything I learnt about the fascinating New York disco scene.

So much US disco music these days is dominated by a metronomic beat carried by loudly schlurping cymbals and hissing hi-hats that there has to be a reason — and there is.

The Americans have finally gone back to dancing, and typically have become hung up on doing formalized dance steps, just like in the old days of the classic dance crazes. The current craze is still the Hustle, and knowledge of the Hustle explains everything.

Latin or Spanish in origin, the Hustle is excitingly like a slowed-down version of the Jitterbug! In fact, champion dancer Barbara Tucker even refers to it as the Swing-Hustle, for to dance it in the New York style you do not let go of your partner’s hands at all. Because it needs a steadily constant beat, all the records designed with dancers in mind have a constantly ticking rhythm.

More than that — the New York style of DJing has become possibly the most demanding and skilful of all, because the DJs have to keep the rhythm going even when changing from record to record if they don’t want to lose their dancers in mid-step.

This has led to the use of turntables with variable speeds (more next week about other equipment). As DJ Alex Kabbaz uses them, he will start by playing a record at its normal speed, then gradually speed it up until it’s the same speed as the next record he’s going to play, which he then synchronizes, over the one that’s already playing, with no discernible joins!

The rest of this page — just for this week — is given over totally to the type of sounds that are currently being played by DJs like Alex in New York’s discos. Some are known, others less so.  Continue reading “January 31, 1976: New York disco scene special”