When Disco embraced New Wave

A genuine New York City expression

W- 2020/02/01-02


As “American Gigolo” screened on Friday, February 1st, 1980, a phenomenal smash hit single was on the spread: ‘Call Me.’ The main theme song of Paul Schrader‘s movie soundtrack was a composition by Italian disco producer Giorgio Moroder with Deborah Harris (Blondie) on vocals, who also took the chance for writing the lyrics.
The song had a diversified release in three different record companies, attending length and language used for the singing. The original and most extended version came from the original soundtrack by Polydor. Chrysalis went for the 7″ and 12″ formats. Finally, the Disco label Salsoul Records offered a Spanish version of the song with lyrics written by Buddy and Maru McCluskey.
Blondie‘s front-woman claiming ‘Call Me‘ in Italian, French, and Spanish on the bridge of the original English-language version was an exultant exercise of multilingual sophistication. The song made its way up on the home lists and abroad very rapidly. It reached number one for six consecutive weeks on the Billboard Hot Hundred chart until Lipps. Inc smash hit ‘Funkytown‘ knocked it off. It was time when Disco was rushing to the peak, tagged as commercial, and considered as “what people want to hear.”

Blondie’s ‘Call Me’ single 7″cover (Chrysalis, 1980)

After ‘Heart of Glass,’ track included in the 1978 album “Parallel Lines,” ‘Call Me,’ was the second # 1 hit single for Blondie on the domestic charts. Both runs were in disco flavor and had a growing time-line of controversy to the band. Aroused from the New York explosion of new wave, Debbie Harry and Chris Stein were involved in the alternative move placed south of Washington Square as much as seduced for the funkier sound of the disco beat. Blondie revolted the CBGB‘s audience when decided to include a rendition to Donna Summer‘s ‘I Feel Love‘ at the Blitz Benefit Concert in May 1978. For the first time, the crowd split in two at the famous venue, with a majority wooing how a punk turned a new wave band dared to play a disco number. That was a daring crossing-over, but the spirit of the city had already step further in that direction, liquidizing barriers since 1976.
At the time, these were the main options for the night: Southbound, straight to whitey punk-rock Saturday-night-kicks at CBGB‘s, or Mudd Club. The other one was to turn right from Christopher St. down To Hudson Square. That implied other Lower Manhattan venues, specifically, for black music lovers, way apart from the Bowery: The Larry Levan‘s temple, The Paradise Garage, unfortunately, nicknamed as the “Gay-rage.” Of course, Palladium and the infamous Studio 54, but those were on restricted access. What Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager did with their club was to normalize a living trend for avoiding prejudice, taking all kinds of options from dark no-go places to the lights of Broadway. The proposal of Le Clique, the nightly extravaganza moving from place to place, full of clowns, burlesque artists, punks, strippers, and acrobats going wild, finally took a definitive location. It improved in a Downtown old theater, restyled as a selective venue for a free-minded glamorous jam. They were “la creme” of avant-everything followed by a multitude of wannabes standing at the door.
The song ‘Call Me‘ brought attention from the screen to the streets, wrapped up with images of a mistreated professional until then in movies (a male prostitute involved in a politic thriller). New wavers were to call for Disco’s demise. The music industry believed the phenomenon of Disco ought to turn into Dance, as one of revitalizing ingredients for rock, and tagged it as D.O.R. (Dance Oriented Rock). Ironically, on the same weekend ‘Call Me‘ took off for glory, Studio 54 closed down due to legal problems. In some way, ‘Call Me‘ aired what the rutilant club did for the city’s night-life, a ground-breaking for the indulgent Xing instead of parceling options over the square map. It is from where everything came. A synthetic path followed through the years by bands like Liquid Liquid, LCD Soundsystem Blondie kept it with ‘Rapture,’ adding rap on the bridge. Another genuine N.Y.C. expression.

Loleatta Holloway – Stand Up (Pangaea’s Mix)

A Moving Highlight of 2017

Salsoul Records officially release the Pangaea’s mix of “Stand Up,” a rendition to Loleatta Holloway. Good news for those who missed the White Label 12-inch from Hessle Audio’s member that came out in early August as “Devotion 17” through Hadal and packaged with an edit of Nomad’s ‘Devotion’ on the A-side. It has been doing the rounds since, either as a soulful play on the radio or a signing DJ moment in sets. The flip-side is about to remember the leading ’70s disco diva from Chicago. A classic revisited that went sold out. A moving highlight of the year is now available.

Kevin McAuley (a.k.a. Pangaea) approaches to Loleatta Holloway’s classic with reverence bringing up a bit of suspense. It takes a minute and a few seconds before her full-bodied gospelized vocals irrupt in tremendous energy. If you have forgotten this is a re-edit, heavy-bass points the intro to clarify what you are about to listen is a respectful time capsule from current sound perspective. He compassed a nitid way that belongs to the tradition of UK bass artists, bearing his dubstep signature credited from the beginning in 2007 all through his career to “In Drum Play,” his debut in the album format back in 2016. If there were hard-hitting percussions, this time around Pangaea flourishes an in-out Brazilian-style percussion loop to reach Loleatta’s soulful and timeless workout.

All the Loleatta’s whoops and shouts come from an acapella, the breaking part of ‘Dreaming,’ a song included in the album “Loleatta” (Gold Mine Records, 1976). Like the original, the re-edit placed her in a central position. She is the meaning of the track, flanked by stripped-back rhythm from both sides, at the beginning and the end and contrasting with the tech-treated reimaging speech in the middle. Sparse and minimalistic beat that acts elliptically, like the omission parts of a sentence or a statement, a sequence of dots for the updating.

Pangaea’s rework makes me think of the origin of House music where re-edits created new versions of soul and funk classics in reel-to-reel tape to play differently every day. Those that distinguished the dance-floor sound of Music Box from the one in Power Plant, the two Chicagoan clubs fronted by Ron Hardy and Frankie Knuckles respectively. Those pioneers shared almost nothing in music style but friendship and Loleatta Holloway in their respective charts.