Rinder & Lewis – Lust (Pye Records, 1977)
The first one is by Rinder and Lewis – “Lust”, which is kind of a space disco prototype so to say. For 1977 it was kind of a landmark record I guess.
For 1977, yes. I suppose Rinder and Lewis were a very prolific production team in the 70s and 80s. They made an awful lot of records, a lot of albums. That’s probably one of their most moody tracks. A lot of their stuff has got a 1920s, big band, Charleston influence to it. But I like a lot of their stuff. But some of it is unusual in its arrangement. That one’s got a slightly more mystical vibe to it.
Would you say they tried to explore their field a bit further with this record? You mentioned that a few of the other productions had certain influences, like the latin stuff for example. But this one is really something different, almost science fiction.
Yes, but that’s quite different from the rest of the “Seven Deadly Sins” album. I reckon it wasn’t a track that was made to be a hit. It was probably considered an album track. But with that weird bit in the middle with the glockenspiel, it goes into a sort of devil bit about two thirds of the way through. Which is very out of character with the rest of the record. But what I think is interesting about that is that you don’t get those sort of unexpected bits in records now. I guess when musicians are making records, it’s very different to when DJs are making records. Now, when DJs make records they just tend to have the same stuff going throughout the track, it just loops round and round. Maybe there might be some changes, but there’s nothing drastic coming in really loud. A bad DJ produced record might just be a bit boring, whereas a bad record from the 70s might have a great verse and a really terrible chorus. Or you might have something really cheesy. A lot of records now are just rhythm tracks made by DJs for mixing and whatever, whereas then you might have records that have got loads in them, maybe too much. But the reason that they’re not great is maybe because they’ve got too much in them. They might have some great musical parts, but the vocals are crap. I think I’m digressing a little bit. A lot of Rinder and Lewis stuff – have you got that album “Discognosis”?
No, I know the THP Orchestra stuff which I found really good.
Yeah, and there’s El Coco and Le Pamplemousse. I like that track. It’s always very well orchestrated, they always had a bit of money to make the records. It wasn’t done on a shoestring budget, they must have sold pretty well. I think El Coco’s “Cocomotion” is one of my favourites by them as well. Obviously a lot of the stuff on AVI was produced by them, they were putting out a lot of music. They must have lived in the studio in 76, 77, 78, 79.
This is also a really good example for what you can do if you’re a good arranger – the arrangements they did are really complex and beautiful. Is that something you miss? You talked of modern rhythm tracks and functionality – I think it’s hard to pull off these days because you don’t have budgets for studio work…
Yeah of course. I suppose you have to think, this is now and that was then. Record sales were much higher, I suppose disco was like r’n'b was 5 years ago in terms of its worldwide popularity. So there was a lot more money, obviously there weren’t downloads or people copying CDs. I don’t know what the sales figures were like of something like Rinder and Lewis, but it probably sold half a million or something like that. It’s a completely different time, in terms of being able to get a string section in for your record. I’ve paid for string sections before, but to be honest with you what I’ve found is a string section with 30-40 people is so different to a string section with 7 or 8 people. I’ve only been able to afford 6 or 7 people. It isn’t really a string section! Nowadays, with CD-ROMs and whatever you can make something that sounds pretty good – not the same – but pretty good with just samples. To really make it sound a lot better, you need a 30-40 piece, big room orchestra. People at Salsoul and a lot of them classic disco records had that big proper string arrangement. Also, paying someone to do the arrangement isn’t cheap if you get someone good. Very difficult to do that now. So yeah, I do miss it. But there’s no point missing something, it’s like saying “Oh, I wish they were still making Starsky and Hutch”.
As long as a glimpse of an orchestra won’t do, it doesn’t make sense?
I think the only it could make sense is if George Michael decides to make a disco album, or someone like that. He could afford it. Or Beyonce. Some big star. But your average dance record – I suppose Jamiroquai had some live strings on some of his stuff. But then again, he was selling a lot of records.
Doobie Brothers – What A Fool Believes (Warner Bros. Inc., 1979)
“What a Fool Believes” by the Doobie Brothers, which is a merger of rock and disco.
There’s other tracks, like the Alessi Brothers “Ghostdancer”… I suppose that just shows how popular disco music must have been at the time when people like The Doobie Brothers and Carly Simon were actually making disco records. I suppose it’s the same as nowadays people making a record with a more r’n'b type beat. Or at the beginning of house music, there were lots of pop acts making house records. I was listening to a best of ABBA a few years ago. It started off sort of glam-rock, sort of sweet, like Gary Glitter, that sort of production. And by the late seventies their stuff had got pretty disco-ey. And by 82 it was folky. So I think the disco beat was just featuring on a lot of productions by acts who just wanted to make a contemporary sounding record. That’s probably why a lot of the American rock establishment hated disco so much. It wasn’t just that it was there: their favourite acts were making disco records! They hated the fact the Rolling Stones made disco records, it just wasn’t allowed.
But the thing is, that when the disco boom ended, a lot of the rock acts who made disco records acted like they never did! They deserted it pretty quickly.
Yeah, once it became uncool they pretended they never liked it, it wasn’t their idea and all that. I tried to once do a compilation album of that sort of stuff. But it’s too difficult to license it all. They’re all on major labels, they’re all big acts, and it’s very hard to license that stuff. In fact I’d go as far as to say it’s impossible: just too difficult and expensive.
Was it just because of budget reasons, or because the acts didn’t want to be reminded of what they did in that area?
I think often those big acts have to approve every compilation album license. A lot of the time, for the people who work in the compilation album license department, it’s easier for them to say no than to write to the management of Supertramp or Queen. And often, if they do see a title that has disco in it, they will say no. And a lot of them won’t license the Rolling Stones to a comp that’s got a projected sales figure of less than half a million. There’s so many reasons why it’s problematic. You could do it, but you’d have to leave off so many tracks, there would hardly be any point doing it. I did have a chat with a major label about doing it and that was one that owned quite a lot of them. But it’s just so difficult. They want to see a big marketing budget, they want to see you spend a hundred grand on television adverts. Otherwise they just go, why are we on this compilation album?
I think it’s a shame really, there were so many good disco records done by major artists…
Yeah. I like a lot of those things. I’m doing this compilation for BBE which is maybe a similar thing, just it’s not all well known acts. People like Fleetwood Mac, they did that track “Keep On Going”, those sort of things. I guess it’s blue-eyed rocky soul. Quite danceable… it’s not all disco, but it’s not really rock either. More black music based. I always think, if you look at the back of a rock album and it’s got someone playing bongos on it, it’s worth checking out. Read the rest of this entry »