dirty martini

old music for new people

i love 1981: the last days of disco January 12, 2008

studio54.jpg

legend has it that 1981 saw the very last days of disco, as documented in the 1998 film. of course, there is a huge flaw in this statement as costa-bound brits discoed until the late 80s. it was 1977 in spain until about 1991 everywhere else.

one of the very first bars i went to in the early 90s –  a wine bar, no less – played disco and boogie. at the time i thought it was a quirk of soundtrack similar to amusement parks, where law dictates that all music played must be at least 7 years old. it was actually because i was 15 and i wasn’t supposed to be there.

the music was for the older crowd – the disco crowd. the ones who had probably wished they could dance on illuminated dance floors a la saturday night fever but had to settle for that funny 70s slightly glittery flooring they used in shopping centres. but encrusted with disco dirt and littered with fag ends, at their local ritzy.

the last days of disco may be a pretty accurate account of those days, i don’t know. its quite bleak for a disco movie, i suppose no one quite knew what to expect after the excitement of a new decade died down. its not as depressing however, as the reality of the uk in 1981 which was majorly depressing according those who remember. as a five year old i was oblivous to the riots, strikes and nuclear warnings i have since viewed thanks to ‘i love 1981’.

the disco sucks movement, perpetrated by greasy rednecks in lumberjack shirts, finally won in 1981, and disco became boogie…

download here and visit 1980 here

aurra – nasty disposition

the duo started as aurra at the tail end of disco, and passed through the mid 80s jheri soul movement to become deja by the time new jack swing hit.

bb&q band – starlette

better known for their mid 80s tinkly jheri soul efforts.

class action –  weekend

this was reborn as a house anthem later in the decade and remixed in the 90s by todd terry.

coffee – casanova

ravers baby d made their cover version the follow up to the huge ‘let me be your fantasy’. there was a nice jungle remix.

earth wind and fire – lady sun

not as obvious as ‘let’s groove’…

evelyn champagne king – if you want my love

not as obvious as ‘shame’!

inner life – moment of my life

imagine this on the dancefloor at studio 54.

madagascar – rainbow

perfect late disco classic.

patrice rushen – haven’t you heard

patrice might just be the most sampled artist ever.

rose royce- magic touch

proving she, and disco, still had it in 1981.

sharon redd – can you handle it

the line between disco and boogie was thin, at best.

slave – watching you

slave spawned steve arrington, who summed up the mid 80s with ‘feel so real’.

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just let your soul glo April 29, 2007

sometime in about 1984 surfaced a phenomenon that would last well into the late 80s – jheri curl soul.borne out of the post-disco movement, curl soul was a more electronic style that made use of damn near every new sound available. jheri curl soul identified itself in a number of ways –

  1. the hair, obviously. before eddie murphy and co satirised said hairdo in ‘coming to america‘, the jheri curl was big business. cue glistening curls and plenty of grease-stained sofas
  2. the bands often resembled an extended family photo – it was not uncommon for groups to have more than five members
  3. a glitzy name – bonus points for inclusion of the word ‘star’ or ‘band’ and for translating your name into fauxfrancais: atlantic starr, five star, midnight star, the sos band, the bb&q band, royalle delite, club nouveaux, intrique
  4. if you can’t convince your family to join in, or are a norman-no-mates, a duo is your best bet – rene and angela, aurra, ashford and simpson
  5. reflective and/or brightly coloured silk suiting must be standard issue, and don’t forget those shoulder pads. essential for the moody yet inviting, hands on hips pose favoured by many of said bands
  6. allude to yet more glamour and excitement in your lyrics. recommended themes are – gold and silver, notoriety, electricity, being the finest, a freak, turning someone on, having secret affairs, taking your clothes off
  7. sprinkle liberally with tinkly sounds, synths, squelchy basslines and hyperactive drum patterns

for all that, the music should have been shit. but it was amazing. yes it was manufactured, so what. it sounds positively organic next to the late 90s robo-pop of the backstreet boys and britney spears. nothing quite sums up the 80s and a sunny day as effectively as this glossy, aspirational music. nothing made me more desperate to grow up and go to a real club so i could pretend to be one of these perfect specimens.

but since i was ooh, a good 8 years from being able to slip into a club with fake id, i danced in front of the tv in my pixie boots and silver dress, hair piled high and as much makeup as i could get away with. i strutted and pointed and pouted, to my parent’s amusement.

ten jheri curl soul classicsdownload here

midnight star – midas touch
midnight star comprised nine members. the exact role of each is unclear, but they all sported the prerequisite curls and loud suit, so contributed in some small way to the band’s success. this ode to all things gold was their biggest uk hit, in 1986.


klymaxx – the men all pause
pioneering ‘curl soul. klymaxx were a six-piece girl band in the traditional sense – they all played an instrument. this track was from their 1984 album ‘ meeting in the ladies room’.


lillo thomas – sexy girl
textbook 1987 example of the genre. associate of kashif and paul laurence, lillo was an olympic calibre athlete before an accident in 1984 forced him to pursue an alternative career.


the sos band – no one’s gonna love you
exquisitely produced track that almost sums up the genre. lovely bells, swooshes and that bassline. if it sounds familiar, it was sampled by r&b singer maxwell for a remix of his first hit ‘ascension’ in 1996.

rene and angelai’ll be good
slightly scary example of the curl’n’suit combo who had several sizable hits in the mid-80s. this 1985 hit was later used to good effect by jay-z and foxy brown.

jermaine stewart – we don’t have to take our clothes off
song that we delighted in singing at brownies, because we thought it was rude. from the poppier end of jheri curl soul and in fact, jermaine had unnaturally straight hair. perhaps in protest? can’t have been any easier to maintain…


atlantic starr – silver shadow
active throughout the 80s, atlantic starr are best known for ballads ‘always’ and ‘secret lovers’. this track was only released in the uk, where it prospered on the back of the club scene ignited by loose ends et al.


kashif – i just gotta have you
a big part of the 80s soul scene, producer kashif‘s own releases aren’t as well known as his work for others, including disco queen evelyn champagne king, george benson and dionne warwick, amongst others.


mac band – roses are red
a good example of the simple but effective lyrics used in many jheri soul cuts. this track still gets played out today.


the jets – curiosity
this polynesian eight-piece family act first rose to fame in 1987 with the poppy ‘crush on you’ led by then 15 year old vocalist elizabeth. since their late 80s success, younger siblings have replaced those retiring, from a pool of seventeen candidates.