5 Faves: Best of Chic
In celebration of Nile Rodgers’ new memoir, we cull out five favorites within the Chic library
Nile Rodgers’ triumphant autobiography, Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco and Destiny, is getting major attention from critics and glowing accolades from a mass load of music lovers (see Rolling Stone’s 4-star review in Issue 1141 (Oct. 13), New York Times feature). And I must say it’s about time that the story of one of the greatest musical organizations was finally told in full. Fortune 500 companies all over the U.S. have profited off of the disco-funk jams of Nile Rodgers and his longtime writing partner Bernard Edwards‘ in their commercials, especially the eternal 1980 No. 1 pop hit “Good Times.” But the missing link in the unbreakable chain is the untold story. And Edwards, the sole survivor of the ’70’s dance band Chic, finally unearths all the gritty details – the sex, the drugs, the fame, the childhood struggles and even tales of hit men and dealers. It’s an intriguing narrative. And, after being nominated over six times without any good news, it’s certainly enough to slam the Chic Organisation right into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on the next round.
In the meantime, Chic’s work is colossal. Not just while the band was actively recording hit records in the Seventies but even when the group disbanded. Separately, the band’s main players – Rodgers, Edwards and drummer Tony Thompson – began spreading their wealth on ’80’s biggest superstars. Nile Rodgers worked on Duran Duran (“The Reflex”), Madonna (“Like a Virgin”), Diana Ross (“Upside Down”), Sister Sledge (“We Are Family”), David Bowie (“Let’s Dance”) and INXS (“Original Sin”). Bernard Edwards produced for big names also, including Robert Palmer (“Addicted To Love”) and The Power Station (“Some Like It Hot”). Mind you all these songs were either No. 1’s or Top Ten hits. Even while rock fanatics laughed in the face of every disco act alive when the “Disco Sucks” revolution took off, Chic was still earning the last laugh. Had it not been for most of their delicious bass lines and their catchy sing-a-long melodies, hip-hop wouldn’t have a leg to stand on. (The first commercial rap song, “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugar Hill Gang, sampled “Good Times” in 1980.)
The zenith of Chic’s recording career only maxed for a couple of years, from 1977 to 1980. But their work, now celebrated in an chronological four-CD box set, is still simply the best. And so, in celebration of one of the funkiest pop-meets-R&B amalgams ever assembled in rock history, we at HIFI Magazine decided to pick the best from their catalog. Picking out five particular favorites in the Chic playlist is a heard feat to pull off, but proved to be manageable. Look at the list as an essentials sampler. This will definitely get you started and on your way to being “c’est chic.”
I Want Your Love
It would’ve been excellent porn music. All the elements of Andrea True’s “More More More” are tucked inside. The deciding factorin it not being associated with X-rated sleaze: Those easy breezy strings in the background.
Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)
It was the group’s first hit single. The small Buddah Records, distributed by Arista, shipped the single first. Atlantic Records picked up on the new sound Chic was imagining and took a shot at it. Magically, it flew to the top of the disco charts. The song is totally energized by the steady percussion simulating the sounds of horse-galloping action. And it also whips up some time machine nostalgia with its Roaring Twenties’ “yowsah, yowsah, yowsah” chatter.
Wanna hear Chic do department store music? This instrumental, wrapped in sultry romanticism and string euphoria, will satisfy the urge.
Bernard Edwards’ sloppy funk bass and Nile Rodgers’ are symmetrically interchangeable. While the singers are pouring their Diana Ross pizzazz on the lyrics, the background forces are obviously the stars of the show. Because of the innovative funk presented here, Queen got into the sampling field with “Another One Bites The Dust.”
Listen closely to that chorus. That’s Luther Vandross being heard in the background. Oh, where do you think the R&B crooner found that funky “Never Too Much” New York-disco magic? It sure wasn’t Dionne Warwick.