Last night a DJ saved my life. I was in a club in Clapham, which in all honesty, I thought was going to be a cheesey music night. Now let’s get one thing straight people, when I say cheese this means the Baywatch theme tune, Ghostbusters theme tune, Grease megamix, 5ive megamix etc. It does NOT include disco. Disco ain’t cheese. It’s dance music.
I’ve been reading Nile Rodgers’ autobiography:
I’ve gotten a little obsessed with it. I wanted to read a fiction book but my sister put me onto this saying it would inspire me to write music. Not only has it done that but it’s also reminded me of my obsession with disco when I was a teenager. I’ve liked disco since I was a kid. We used to have record nights on Sundays, and my dad would always put on a mix of his “classics”: The Weather Girls, Sister Sledge, The Three Degrees, Yvonne Elliman, Liquid Gold. When I got a little older, I’d listen to more of these old dance tunes.
I really got into disco when I was about 13. I used to daydream about going to a proper disco – I wanted to live in the seventies and go to a disco, or at least go to a school disco and dance to…disco! I hated most of the stuff in the charts at that time – pop and garage music mainly. Saying that, I did love some modern music, and that was funky house – mainly because a lot of funky house is simply sampled disco with a faster beat. I also got into the film 54, practically fell in love with Ryan Phillippe (Rodgers has some wild stories about that club). The disco obsession was unhealthy. Even more unhealthy than later obsessions with Woodstock, The Beatles, the sixties… Now I’m reading this book, it’s making me obsessed all over again. And I feel like I did when I was thirteen.
People at school thought I was a bit weird because of it (and many other reasons). But actually, I just really loved the bass and drum grooves, and in fact, disco pretty much made me want to learn how to play the bass. In particular, Bernard Edwards, the bassist of Chic, made me want to learn. I can’t remember who it was who first taught me how to create that distinctive disco bass sound – the octave run up and down the neck, but that was the start of my bass journey. As a result, I just had to learn how to play Everybody Dance, one of the trickiest basslines I’ve come across. I finally managed to conquer it, but still need to practise it regularly in order to keep my hands from cramping, because it is so fast and I use a different technique to Edwards. It is probably my favourite Chic song.
It was the first song they laid down as well – written by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, who went on to write many other songs that have inspired songs in all genres, and have been sampled across the board – most notably in The Sugarhill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight. I’m pretty sure that even the pop song Stomp by Steps was inspired by Everybody Dance.
Rodgers’ story about the song Everybody Dance in his autobiography is the most memorable so far. He writes that a month after they laid down the track, a DJ in a club called Rodgers in the middle of the night. He told him to go to his club and tell the doormen that he made Everybody Dance. When he got there, the doorman let him in and pretty much congratulated him. When he got inside, he found out that the crowd would dance to nothing but their song. He watched as they danced to it on repeat for an hour.
Which brings me back to last night. I was dancing with my friend, and I said, “I want to request something, but most DJs hate it when you request things.” A DJ got annoyed with me at new year for requesting something. But then I looked at the DJ and thought, maybe he won’t mind this particular request. I asked my friend if she’d ask for me and she said yes. I wrote a text on my phone: It would be great if you could play something by Chic. She took the phone and showed him.
I can’t remember what was being played but then the next song changed to a completely different genre – Chesney Hawkes possibly – and I thought, he’s changing the tempo – maybe he will play something by Chic. And then I heard the bassline and whooped: my first opportunity to dance to Everybody Dance in a club. Most of the people were a little earshocked by the change from a cheesey rock song to an upbeat disco tempo (mainly white people). Think I might have bumped into a few people while I was dancing. I said thanks to the DJ afterwards.
I went to see The Best Disco in Town back in 2004 with my sister and brother in law. A number of disco acts were playing, amongst them Shalamar, Rose Royce, Tavares and headlining them was Chic. I was all ready to watch them play and they came onstage…but no Bernard? I didn’t know that he’d died back in 1996. I was pretty gutted when I found out why he wasn’t there. I’ve yet to read how it happened in the book.
Still, the bassist in the contemporary Chic was pretty decent, and the concert was great, but as we could only afford seats waaay back in Earls Court, we couldn’t really see much. So I’m going to see Nile Rodgers with Chic again in July and I’ll get the chance to dance to that song again – but live this time. And I’ll see Rodgers up close.