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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Don't Stop the Rock Freestyle

Nothing like a group having the name of a genre.  And that was even before it started to have it's biggest run of hits.  In fact Miami Electro act Freestyle started charting in 1983!  

I think my favorite Freestyle single is Don't Stop the Rock from 1985.  It seemed to so perfectly sum up a big part of the scene.  At once so Fun House and yet so clearly a foreshadowing of the sound that would be the more commercial freestyle sound.  I'm just a big fan of the vocoder.  If it's in the song I'm probably gonna love it.  Anything that reminds me of a robot singing puts a smile on my face.

"Pretty Tony" has his name on a quite a few records I love, he was actually a member of Freestyle.

Now pardon me as I go break dance in the living room.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Get Down Connie Case

A true classic, funk, electro, italo disco all rolled into one but it's actually a record out of Miami.  The magic of Get Down by Connie Case a 1982 release on Konduku Records still sounds as fabulous today as when it was a WBMX staple.

It got rare and collectible for a minute there but then ended up getting re-issued.  Looks like Connie only had one more release, the following  year she came out with a reggae track along with The Kouchie Klan called Sooner or Later.  It was written by reggae superstar Jimmy Cliff.


Thursday, August 25, 2016

Egypt, Egypt was one of the classics of 80's Electro

Greg J. Broussard is the L.A. based artist known as Egyptian Lover.  He released 8 l.p.'s and numerous twelve inch singles.  But most likely the most well known classic was Egypt, Egypt.  It was a massive record at the Fun House among other clubs.


Wednesday, August 10, 2016


Poopee and the N.Y. Squirrels is just about the craziest name for an artist ever!  We'll have to thank the genius Patrick Adams for this one.

This disco outrageousness from 1981 also features a mix by the amazing John Morales.    Enjoy it and do whatever you want I'm not making any suggestions!


Bananarama up, down and sideways

*links refreshed and changed
Childhood friends Karen Woodward and Sarah Dallin formed Bananarama with another friend Siobhan Fahey in 1981.  They first charted with Aie A Mwana but really made it big with their second single Really Saying Something recorded along with Fun Boy Three who had been in The Specials and a prominent part of the two tone, ska scene.  Really shot up to #5 in the U.K. and got a lot of alternative play in the states.

The next single Shy Boy was even bigger making it all the way up to #4 and continuing to cement their reputation in the new wave dance scene where it became their 2nd U.S. top 20 dance hit.  

Never ones to shy away from a remake Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye became yet another top 5 for them in the U.K. But it was 1983's Cruel Summer though only just breaking the Top 10 in the U.S. and the U.K. really helped cement them to become ever present and MTV darlings.  

I was on an abroad program that year in Rome living with Dan Mathews, now of PETA fame and for some reason we though it was hysterical to replace summer with VAGINA.  So we would belt out It's a cruel, cruel vagina, leaving me here all alone with my vagina, it's a cruel cruel vagina now you've gone....  Yeah I know you had to be there, but sometimes when a memory strikes you just have to go with it.  The brilliant production work of Tony Swain and Steve Jolley who had had so much success with Imagination really helped the girls to get their own sound.

Robert De Niro's waiting was huge in Europe peaking at #3 in the U.K. but again in the U.S. was only an alternative dance hit.  I remember I had a colored vinyl twelve inch which I got from St. Marks Sounds for a quarter.  It came in different colored vinyl with a different members photo on each one.  

Kudos to the girls and Jolley & Swain for coming up with such a brilliant kitsch lyric Robert De Niro's waiting
Talking Italian
Robert De Niro's waiting
Talking Italian
Robert De Niro's waiting
Talking Italian

The next couple years were dry for the band as all their singles seemed to flop.  Apparently they were no strangers to drink and were often quite messy at live performances.  They did a ton of p.a.'s in gay clubs helping to reinforce their image as gay favorites.

 But then they went back for another dip in the remake pot and came up with their massive all time biggest hit.  Their cover of Frijid Pink's 1970 classic Venus which brought them their first #1 hit in the U.S. and started a solid collaboration with Stock, Aitken & Waterman who they would then be associated with for the next several year period of their careers.  

In 1988, the trio were named by the Guinness Book of Records as the most successful female group in pop history, beating  The Supremes.  They celebrated by releasing a SAW-produced version of Nathan Jones.  Which didn't do much in the U.S. considering how well I heard a Rumor had done there in 1987 (a #4 hit).  At this point Siobhan Fahey made the gutsy move to leave the group and form Shakespeare's Sister. 

Shakespeare's Sister had a few hits but were never anywhere near as huge as Bananarama though Siobahn married Dave Stewart from the Eurythmics which helped her gain a creative edge and move out of that commercial sounding girl group groove.  Banana substituted her with Jacquie O'Sullivan  and in 1989 they had another huge remake hit in the U.K. with the Beatles Help!  A comic relief single featuring the brilliant French and Saunders  from their greatest hits.

The next few years were not very kind to the band on the charts but they did manage to hit #30 in the U.K. with the Doobie Brothers remake of Long Train Runnin'.  Their careers in the U.S. were over by 1991 with their last appearance on the dance chart Tripping on Your Love which peaked at #14.  In the early 90's I visited London often and one of my favorite Banana songs was the camp classic Movin' On from 1992.

In 1993 they did a solid remake of Andrea True Connection More, More, More and in 2005 a reinterpretation of the italo disco classic Hypnotic Tango, Look on the Floor which was their last Top 30 hit in the U.K.  Not to say they haven't released some great songs, in 2010 Love Don't Live Here came out and flopped but it was great, one of their career bests.  It really didn't deserve to be so overlooked.  Around this time the girls dropped down to 2 members.

 Most recently they appeared on the Band Aid 2 single as they had on the first in the 80's.  Even though the hits have dried up the group have a special place in a lot of people's hearts and have come up with some amazing harmonies and solid pop dance hits.  Lots of the songs mentioned herein are in my zip especially in special remix forms.  If you really love Bananarama support them.  Buy one of the many greatest hits packages.

I suggest you support the gals by purchasing their 30th anniversary greatest hits collection that came out on Rhino in 2012.  It's quite the package for a completist.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Hangin' on a String (Contemplating)

Loose Ends had a string of hits mostly in the U.K. but they hit #1 on the U.S. R&B charts with the delicious Contemplating and then the whole thing got really real when Frankie Knuckles did a remix in 1992 and it rode up the charts again.

To me it's one of those definitive songs that sums up the whole decade.  Which is sweet because it's neither new wave or Hi nrg of my beloved italo disco.


Sunday, August 7, 2016

Freur weren't German

I'd just always assumed that the makers of "Doot Doot" were German.  It had that feeling of a non English speaking act doing a song in English.  But Freur were from Cardiff, Wales and even though they were a one hit wonder with a U.K. peak of #59  "Doot Doot" went all the way to #17 in Italy and came in as the 51st biggest single of the year in 1983.  I'd imagine it did well in some other European countries too and got some morning music play at The Saint as well.

Years later they reformed as The Underworld signed to Sire and had a huge hit with "Born Slippy" from the Transpotting soundtrack. 

"Doot Doot" remains for me one of my all time new wave favorites. 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Waking the Spirit of a Disco Innovator

Here at disco vinyl we have always celebrated the authors who want to tell the story.  The story of our times in the disco era.  A very young man named Sam Lefebvre just got his first byline in the N.Y. Times and he did so interviewing one of my close friends Jorge Socarras.  So here below I am re-posting what you might have missed in yesterday's New York Times.

On Oct. 9, 1982, the songwriter and producer Patrick Cowley observed the release event for his third solo album, “Mind Warp,” from the mezzanine of the glamorous Galleria event space at the San Francisco Design Center. Mr. Cowley, the disco innovator who spawned hi-NRG — an up-tempo, mechanized strain of dance music calibrated for the peak of the party — wore black patent-leather pants and a matching jacket. The sickly-sweet smell of the inhalant club drug known as poppers wafted up from the dance floor, where gay men dressed in jeans and white T-shirts churned to the album’s breathless pulse. But the revelry belied the grim content of “Mind Warp,” a meditation on the body besieged that Mr. Cowley created while withering from the effects of a mysterious affliction.

Mr. Cowley looked ashen against his stark ensemble, his friend Theresa McGinley recalled in a recent interview, overseeing the party from his wheelchair. The event featured performances by collaborators including the strapping singer Paul Parker and the inimitable androgyne Sylvester. Marty Blecman, Mr. Cowley’s business partner at Megatone Records, later remembered in an oral history of the era, “Tears were streaming down his face, and he said, ‘Those stupid queens, don’t they know?’”

Mr. Cowley died almost exactly a month later from AIDS-related illness at home in the Castro district. He was 32. Mr. Parker’s “Right on Target,” one of Mr. Cowley’s compositions released on Megatone that year, still lingered on the dance charts after hitting No. 1 that summer. In the decades that followed, Mr. Cowley’s influence as a producer was cited by new romantic acts such as Pet Shop Boys and New Order; the critic Peter Shapiro recognized his work with Sylvester for “pretty much [summing] up the entire disco experience.” And in recent years, his profile has assumed a new dimension as listeners and scholars excavate disco’s intersection with gay liberation.

That’s partly because of the belated release of a deep cache of Mr. Cowley’s recordings, first uncovered in 2007, that more than doubles the amount of his available work. And more is coming. In October, “Candida Cosmica,” an EP compiling five songs recorded in the mid-1970s that illuminates Mr. Cowley’s pre-disco collaborations with underground theater ensembles, arrives; and next year, “Afternooners,” a double album collecting some of his final recordings, will be released.

Since 2013, Honey Soundsystem — composed of Josh Cheon, Jacob Sperber, Robert Yang, Jason Kendig and until 2012 Ken Woodard — and Dark Entries Records, the label operated by Mr. Cheon, 35, have issued four compilations of Mr. Cowley’s work. The releases reveal an artist who explored San Francisco’s sexual vanguard for a decade and, exploiting an expressive new palette of synthesized sound, articulated his findings — even as the scene hurtled toward oblivion.
Sexuality and music were inextricable for Mr. Cowley, whose music reflected and later stimulated the rites and environments of gay life in 1970s San Francisco. Fittingly, it was Honey Soundsystem — a gay D.J. collective descended from the dance music scene that Mr. Cowley helped define — that found the neglected reel-to-reels in the Megatone archives. That discovery led to a key trove of corroding tapes in the Van Nuys storage unit of a retired gay pornographer. Mr. Cowley’s formative synthesizer compositions had been set to explicit films in the early 1980s and were rarely heard outside of that context.

“It’s a way to reconnect with an awful but important part of queer history, the onset of AIDS,” said Mr. Sperber, 29. “It’s our responsibility to retell that story, because there’s a generational gap; there are young people getting into these records now, but only so many people who were actually there.”
Continue reading the main story

Mr. Cowley arrived on San Francisco dance floors in 1978 with an unauthorized remix, padded with billowing synthesizer additions, of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love,” the Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte production famous for replacing disco’s orchestral arrangements with all-electronic instrumentation. That he stormed the discothèque on the strength of a decadently elongated bootleg is a bit of poetic justice. Since mainstream disco regularly denied its origins among gay and African-American artists, the remix now seems a coup for the genre’s secret history.

Mr. Cowley, who was born in Buffalo, had moved to California seven years earlier. As his roommate Janice Sukaitis writes in the liner notes to “Candida Cosmica,” he sent postcards adorned with drawings of male genitalia back home to announce that he was gay. At City College of San Francisco, he withdrew into the newly established Electronic Music Lab, which had a set of early, compact analog synthesizers. Electronic music then required patience: conjuring blips and scree from fickle machines, often in laboratory-like settings, and recording them individually to tape before splicing together (hopefully) semi-coherent pieces.

Mr. Cowley and classmates Maurice Tani and Arthur Adcock constructed their own production and recording studio off campus and formed a sound design company, Short Circuit Productions. “Patrick would record a band and add so many synthesizer tracks that, by the end of the day, he’d remove the band,” Mr. Tani said in an interview. “When Patrick wasn’t at the studio, he was at the bathhouses. He was interested in the full spectrum of sex in San Francisco, and music was another way for him participate in those worlds.”

Jorge Socarras recalled how Mr. Cowley — reserved and slight, with sandy blond hair and a literary air — relished initiating him at the Jaguar bookstore, a Castro retailer known for its back-room sex club. Mr. Socarras also remembered that Mr. Cowley admired the elegantly composed gay pornography of filmmaker Wakefield Poole.

“Patrick was all about sexually charged atmospheres, places where rituals could happen,” said Mr. Socarras, whose unreleased collaboration with Mr. Cowley, “Catholic,” emerged in part from an archive belonging to John Hedges. Mr. Hedges assumed control of Megatone after Mr. Blecman died of AIDS-related illness in 1991. “It was about mythologizing, really dramatizing the experience.”

Mr. Cowley also worked with theater troupes White Trash Boom Boom and the Angels of Light, offshoots of the anarchic commune dwellers the Cockettes. Their thrift-store extravagance inspired him as much as the dank leather dens on Folsom Street. “Candida Cosmica” — which Mr. Cowley recorded with singer Candida Royalle, who later achieved fame as a feminist pornographer — includes the tellingly absurd musical theater ditty “The Tomato Song,” written from the perspective of a self-described “tomato cocktail.”

Mr. Cowley’s output from this period — the early to mid-1970s, before his fortuitous meeting with Sylvester — remained largely unknown until the 2013 release of “School Daze.” As with “Muscle Up” (2015) and next year’s “Afternooners,” “School Daze” mostly compiles recordings that quietly appeared in a gay pornographic film of the same name produced by Fox Studio.

The material captures Mr. Cowley’s affinity for synthesizers’ potential not to replicate sounds but to forge new ones. Tracks murmur and thrum or surge and palpitate, flush with bleary murk and melodic curlicues reminiscent of earthen atmosphere and galactic ascent alike. The duality evokes the carnal grit and transformative, escapist role-play that characterized sexual scenarios available to intrepid San Franciscans. As the reintroduced soundtracks illustrate, Mr. Cowley’s music seemed to seek sexual application well before his explicitly lascivious hi-NRG releases of the early 1980s, including “Menergy.”

In 1978, Mr. Cowley’s connection with Sylvester — the former Cockette — yielded epochal singles like “Dance (Disco Heat)” and “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real),” which coupled synth rays and the singer’s ecstatic melisma to staggering effect. “Stars,” an album redolent with Mr. Cowley’s playing, consummated Sylvester’s newfound stature with its 1979 release event at the War Memorial Opera House.

But Mr. Cowley’s commercial rise mirrored his physical decline. In 1981, he helped found Megatone and released the solo albums “Menergy” and “Megatron Man.” That November, he arrived for the first time in the hospital, where doctors puzzled over his deterioration. Throughout 1982, he struggled to eat and walk. Nevertheless, propped up with pillows in the studio, Mr. Cowley recorded many of his most popular singles, including Sylvester’s “Do Ya Wanna Funk,” and toiled over “Mind Warp.” Friends called it “the death record.” Its opener, “Tech-no-logical World,” darkly refers to “Dr. Terminus” — “That was him just totally losing faith in the medical system,” Ms. McGinley, his longtime friend, said.

On Oct. 18, 2009, the eve of what would have been Mr. Cowley’s 59th birthday, Honey Soundsystem held its first party to celebrate his life. “It became part of the Honey identity,” Mr. Cheon said. “Playing his music, summoning his spirit.”
For Mr. Cowley’s remaining contemporaries, the revival is painful but vindicating. Mr. Hedges, who recalled the Galleria event as a sort of festive wake for his friend on the mezzanine, was taken aback by Honey Soundsystem’s interest in the archives. To Mr. Hedges, the audience for hi-NRG had been practically eliminated by AIDS. As he remembered, “Watching sales drop — that was us losing our friends.”

Lately, however, Mr. Hedges has heard D.J.s reintegrate Mr. Cowley into their sets: “And on these new systems they’ve got, he sounds even better.”

Friday, August 5, 2016

Karen Carpenter Disco

My friend Jimmy M mixed the entire Karen Carpenter disco album for fun.  He did a great job.  Since the album itself is rare I figured his mixes would be appreciated in a big way here.


Jimmy is just one of those people that was born in the wrong era.  Actually only a fetus when Karen was working on this album in 1979.  I don't think I've ever met anyone who has more love for the music of the disco era.  In the 90's he even got an opportunity to spin a retro night at a gay club in Phoenix.

As for the disco album, this was really a controversial release.  Herb Alpert the head of A & M considered it unreleasable.  But you can hear for yourself and I highly doubt you'll agree with him.  I think it was just a matter of the wrong time.  By 1980 the labels didn't know what to do with disco.  Not that a lot of great disco wasn't still being recorded but it was no longer holding 4 out of the Top 5 on the pop charts anymore.  It's kind of like what I would imagine will eventually happen to EDM.

Most of the label heads were rock people anyway so I'm sure they were glad to push music they understood better, I mean even new wave was a type of rock though it was often so danceable that it owed just as much to disco as rock.

Apparently Karen put up $400,000 of her own money for the recording of this album with A & M only contributing $100,000.  Even though it was produced by Phil Ramone the label still wouldn't release it.

Some of the songs in a remixed form appeared on The Carpenters' 1989 album Lovelines, released long after Karen died of anorexia.