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Any Major Disco Vol. 10 – Party Like It’s 1981

December 30th, 2021 Leave a comment Go to comments

I call this mix “disco”, but by 1981, we are really in the post-disco era. The “Disco Sucks” movement thought it had vanquished disco, and as a commercial force in the US charts, disco had indeed virtually disappeared. Kool & The Gang’s Celebration was the only song of a disco heritage to top the US charts (one might, on a quibble, add Blondie’s Rapture). Even Nile Rogers was virtually in hiding.

But the genre wasn’t dead; it just kept evolving, and in different directions, with a growing emphasis on keyboards, synth, and drum machines, as well as a greater influence of hip hop. And it wasn’t called disco. Within a year or three, the brothers, sons and daughters of disco — Michael Jackson, Prince, Lionel Richie, Madonna, Whitney Houston — were the world’s biggest stars. And Nile Rogers would bounce back, producing mega hits for the likes of David Bowie, Madonna and Duran Duran.

Disco was dead, but for dance music, 1981 was a mighty year, and one that set the scene for all dance music of the 1980s.

The closing track, Heartbreak Hotel, is by The Jacksons, who had ridden the disco wave to good effect. And Heartbreak Hotel was at the centre of one of my favourite articles about music and journalism, from 1980 by English writer Danny Baker, writing for the New Musucal Express. Titled “The great Greenland mystery”, it concerns a press conference held in LA by The Jacksons to promote their Triumph album (the one with the soaring Can You Feel It). The subject matter lends itself to the bizarre, of course. For the most part of this pretty lengthy article, the Jackson angle is at once central and peripheral.

From experience, I know that Baker’s portrayal of the presser is hilariously accurate — especially so in the context of entertainment writing, as I experienced during a brief excursion into the field in the ’90s. And I suppose every entertainment hack has met guys like the hapless Yoshi, who takes centre-stage in Baker’s very funny piece

Here are the pertinent excerpts, transcribed for your reading pleasure. The whole lot is also in the illustrated PDF which is included in the package with the CD-R length mix and home-shaken-up covers.

Danny Baker, back in the day

I LOVE press conferences. Nobody says anything for the first ten minutes and then, when someone does, questions fly about in little spurts. In the gaps, hungry hacks eye up and down their comrades’ columns to see if someone is going to ask a question a split second before they open their own cake-holes, thus shutting down their own effort in its first syllable.

Then there’s the all-out strain to see who can project the best image of the seen-it-all pressman. Never admit it’s your first PC. Also sort out where the majors are present. No one wants to admit they’re from the Basildon Non-Ferrous Metals Weekly when you’re sandwiched between the Times and the Telegraph.

It’s wonderful to spot potential questioners. You can see their lips moving as they run over and over the question, ironing it out a full quarter-hour before popping it. And worse! If some bastard creep gets in your query first, they usually get approving nods from all around and you feel like screeching, ‘But I was going to ask that!’

[pre-PC preparations]

Then there’s the well-used but still fresh-looking notepad that on every page has the standard four lines of shorthand at the top. You have to rattle a pencil around your teeth — never chew it! — until you get an ‘idea’. Then you add another half line of shorthand culminating in finally slamming your notebook shut with a disturbing air of confidence. Then you just sit back, arms folded, surveying the lesser hacks who’ve yet to complete the preliminaries.
[…]
Once the artists enter you’re treated to a stampede of photographers — forming tight bundles like mating-crazed frogs. […] All the smudges yell ‘This way please, Cecil’ even though Cecil never does. They usually nick a glance from somebody else’s successful bid.
Before photographers do all this, they pick straws to see who will be the one who goes around behind the artists and takes a shot or two of All The Other Photographers Taking Photos of Cecil. The runner-up gets to be the essential smudge who stands firm snapping away after the others have retreated. He carries this on until a bouncer leads him away.
[…]
If you meet someone you know at a press conference, you always ask each other what you’re doing here. The you both decide ‘It’s a giggle’, the subject is only fit to be sent up, and ask who was that berk who asked such and such a question halfway through. Then you destroy the berk’s paper.

Michael Jackson and his brothers have entered, “all sporting huge jamtart sized sunglasses”.

The questions are real tat. ‘Ven fill hue be wisiting Sweden, Michael?’ ‘Are you a close family, Michael? (to which the family Michael showed a keen drollery in snapping back ‘No Sir’), ‘Can you give us information about your new record?’ It was pretty bleak until this one poor wretched Japanese-looking bloke committed the cardinal sin of any press conference — he tried to crack a joke. Oh, but he did. Y’see, there’s a track on their new LP called “Heartbreak Hotel” and this bloke — who had little command of English anyway — thought he had cooked up a real zinger.

‘Ah, Michael’, he stuttered, seizing his chance. ‘Ah if you had not been a hit with your LP, ah, would you have gone to, ah, Heartbreak Hotel?’

In the ensuing silence, the wind blew, crickets chirped and you could hear the guy swallow hard as the apologetic grin froze on his chops. It turns out nobody understood him. Tito asks him to repeat the ‘question’. ‘Ah, Michael, i-if your LP had n-not been success…w-would you have, ah, have gone t-to Heartbreak Hotel?’

By now most of us hacks have caught on to what’s being said and the less valiant turn away and clear their throats. The guy is still grinning although he has stopped blinking by now and is wobbling perceptibly.

A Jacksons aide steps in. ‘Er, Yoshi, what do you mean?’
‘Ah Michael. If your album h-h-had not been su-su-success wouldyouhavegonetoHeartbreakHotel?’

Michael shakes his head and Jackie tries. ‘OK, I got Heartbreak Hotel but that was on our LP — what’s it got to do with Michael?’

Poor Yoshi is drenched in flop-sweat. He is darting his eyes around looking for an ally. His neck has gone to semolina and his palms perspire like the Boulder dam.

‘I-I-I’m playing with words you see.’
Nobody sees and Yoshi’s grasp of the lingo falls an inch short of the word ‘joke’.
‘P-P-Playing with words…words.’

The eyes of the world are burrowing deep inside that tweed jacket of his. He’s trembling like a sapling in monsoon and smoke is starting to belch out of his ears. Then a voice at the back ends the torture. ‘I think the guy’s trying to make a funny.’
‘Yis! Yis! That’s it!’ babbles the released spirit. ‘I’m making funny! Funny!’

As he begins to appeal for clemency, the final cruel blow sounds. Amidst the unnecessary sighing the aide says: ‘Hey Yoshi. This is a press conference, man. Save the funnies, huh?’

The dumb questions resumed but I couldn’t take my eyes from the broken Japanese. Ruined, he never heard another word all afternoon. Today, I suspect he sits in a bathchair in some far off sanatorium, grey-haired and twitching, mumbling to anyone who will listen: ‘The words. Playing with words you see…is funny.’

______________

Pity poor Yoshi. Personally, I reckon he bounced back. So, here’s what people danced to on New Year’s Eve 40 years ago — if they had a good DJ.

So, from me, HAPPY NEW YEAR! May your 2022 be corona-free and  filled with good health, good fortune and much love!

1. Bill Summers & Summers Heat – Call It What You Want
2. Carl Carlton – She’s A Bad Mama Jama (She’s Built, She’s Stacked)
3. Earth Wind & Fire – Let’s Groove
4. Cheryl Lynn – Shake It Up Tonight
5. Brothers Johnson – The Real Thing
6. Patti Austin – Do You Love Me
7. Melba Moore – Take My Love
8. Sister Sledge – All American Girls
9. B B & Q Band – On The Beat
10. Change – Hold Tight
11. Southern Freeze – Freeez
12. Odyssey – Going Back To My Roots
13. Champaign – Can You Find The Time
14. Chaka Khan – What Cha’ Gonna Do for Me
15. Grace Jones – Pull Up To The Bumper
16. The Jacksons – Heartbreak Hotel

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  1. amdwhah
    December 30th, 2021 at 09:40 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

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