Today marks the day that would have been David Bowie’s 71st birthday and of course, it’s also the week that he passed away suddenly two years ago. It’s also the Dublin Bowie Festival here in Dublin until the 10th, the anniversary of his death.
‘Let’s Dance’ is one of Bowie’s most enduring songs of his career, and today an early demo of the song was released on stream and downlaod to mark the date and week.
The song was recorded with Nile Rodgers in Mountain Studios in Montreux, Switzerland in late 1982 where Rodgers was living after the Chic man heard the songs that would make up the Let’s Dance album for the first time. The pair enlisted some local musicians to record demos of the songs and Turkish born Erdal Kizilcay, who would later work extensively with Bowie on Labyrinth, The Buddha Of Suburbia & 1.Outside, was recruited to play bass along with an unidentified drummer and second guitarist.
This version of the song was mixed 35 years later by Rodgers and Russell Graham at Nile’s Le Crib Studios in Westport, Connecticut. Rodgers remembers the excitement Bowie had for the first demo.
“I woke up on my first morning in Montreux with David peering over me. He had an acoustic guitar in his hands and exclaimed, ‘Nile, darling, I think this is a HIT!’
This recording was the first indication of what we could do together as I took his ‘folk song’ and arranged it into something that the entire world would soon be dancing to and seemingly has not stopped dancing to for the last 35 years! It became the blue print not only for Let’s Dance the song but for the entire album as well.
Rodgers doesn’t remember who played the second guitar or drums that day.
“The time we spent mixing it just before Christmas was full of tears as it felt like David was in the room with us. Happy Birthday David, I love you and we all miss you!”.
Nile Rodgers and Chic are back for two shows this Summer in Dublin and Cork. First on Thursday July 9th at Iveagh Gardens, Dublin and then Friday July 10, Live At The Marquee in Cork.
Tickets €51.15+ go on sale Thursday 12 March at 9am from all usual outlets.
Rodgers’ career is dazzling in evidence in the songs he’s had a hand in from Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’ to Madonna’s ‘Like A Virgin’ to Duran Duran’s ‘Notorious’ to Diana Ross’ ‘Upside Down’, Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky’ and Chic themselves.
From the very first time I heard Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ ‘Uptown Funk’ back in November, I couldn’t help but admire the influences the pair were mining for the track. Particularly, I’m thinking 80s funk: whether it’s the Minneapolis funk pioneered by Prince along with Morris Day and The Time or the vocoder electro-funk of Zapp And Roger, or Cameo, either way, there’s a lot of fun to be had spotting the influences.
Here are 10 tracks that ‘Uptown Funk’ is inspired by, takes influence from or reminds me of and here’s a longer Spotify playlist featuring those tracks.
1. Morris Day and The Time – ‘Jungle Love’
Prince and Morris Day were high school buddies who were in a band together in school. Prince basically started The Time and Morris joined after and Prince focused on his solo career after that. The pair would go on to define the Minneapolis funk sound. Day and his band The Time famously appeared in the film Purple Rain and they’ve a couple of fun albums I’d recommend. Minneapolis funk is the most immediate influence many people hear when listening to ‘Uptown Funk’.
2. Zapp – ‘More Bounce To The Ounce’
If you’re like me you may have heard Zapp (or Zapp and Roger as they are sometimes known) on the soundtrack to Napoleon Dynamite or as sampled by the Beastie Boys on ‘Hey Ladies’ from their sample-bouillabaisse Paul’s Boutique. The Ohio band were characterised by Roger Troutman’s talkbox vocals and an electro-funk sound that would be influential on the west coast G-funk rap movement in the early 90s which culminated in Troutman providing the hook for Tupac’s ‘California Love’. Their song ‘So Ruff, So Tuff’ (which was the song on Napoleon Dynamite) was also sampled on the Beastie Boys’
3. David Christie – ‘Saddle Up’
The French singer’s 1982 sounds a bit like 80s Paul McCartney’s ‘Simply Having A Wonderful Christmas Time’ but despite Mccartney’s credentials ‘Saddle Up’ is much funkier. It’s all about that bassline.
4. The Gap Band – ‘Early in The Morning’
The funk band from Oklahoma was started by three brothers: Ronnie, Robert and Charlie (who sang on Kanye’s ‘Bound II’ on Jools last year). They had a 43-year long history until they retired in 2010 when Robert died. This track has similarities in the rhythms, drums and some of that dancing swing.
5. Earth, Wind & Fire – ‘Getaway’
The famous American funk band are responsible for many hits – ‘Boogie Wonderland’, ‘Let’s Groove’, ‘September’ and ‘After The Love Has Gone’ but it’s ‘Getaway’, and specifically the horn section of that disco funk track that can be most obviously heard on ‘Uptown Funk’.
6. Duran Duran – ‘Notorious’
Ronson told the Guardian in an interview that his father, who was in the 80s rock band Foreigner, asked him if the guitar in ‘Uptown Funk’ was Nile Rodgers. It wasn’t but Ronson’s guitar lick isn’t a million miles away from Rodgers work, particularly to these ears, Duran Duran’s ‘Notorious’.
The line “Uptown Funk You Up” that Mars sings could be from anywhere due to it being used in funk vernacular over the years but the cadence of it does closely align with this 1979 track from The Sequence, an all-female trio of Angie Brown Stone (Angie B, now just Angie Stone, a Grammy-winning long-standing recording artist), Gwendolyn Chisolm (Blondy) and Cheryl Cook (Cheryl The Pearl). The Sequence were the second release on Sugarhill Records after the song that brought hip-hop to a larger consciousness – ‘Rapper’s Delight’.
7. Skyy – ‘Call Me’
Cited by others as a closer influence to the guitar riff, this New York band also known as New York Skyy released this in 1981 and it was their biggest hit.
8. Brass Construction -‘Get Up To Get Down’
The 1979 funk track from the New York band has a similar style.
9. One Way – ‘Let’s Talk’
A 1985 funk hit from a Detroit band embodies the spirit of Ronson and Mars’ track.
10. The Bar-Kays – ‘Too Hot To Stop Part 1’
The late 60s/early 70s group were known for backing Isaac Hayes and their Stax Records recording career. This song opened their 1976 album Too Hot To Stop and a parallel between its double time rhythm is found in ‘Uptown Funk’ as is its “too hot” title.
There are plenty of other artists heard by others too from Cameo to Rick James to Prince. I should also say that the only credited track in the liner notes is for ‘All Gold Everything’ from Trinidad James which gives the song it’s “don’t believe me just watch” line.
Fancy another Chic fix this year? Then you may be making a mid-week trip to Belfast during Belsonic Festival as Chic and Nile Rodgers are playing on Tuesday August 19th in Custom House Square in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter.
Fittingly for a song featuring Nile Rodgers, Tensnake’s new single ‘Love Sublime’ has an old school disco bounce to it, paired with house grooves and upbeat vocals from Fiora. The song is from the German producer’s new album Glow, out in March on Virgin/EMI. The video also features the Chic man making an appearance on a TV screen. ‘No Relief’, another track featuring Fiora is available as a free download.
The song comes with a remix package featuring Duke Dumont Le Youth and Ewan Pearson. Hear those below in previews and full tracks below.
Tensnake – ‘No Relief’ feat. Fiora.
Tensnake – ‘Love Sublime’ ft. Nile Rodgers & Fiora
A towering debut of anthemic dance music from London producer is this week’s album of the week. It’s hard to get away from the brilliance of the title track ‘Drone Logic’ but ‘Naive Response’ also comes close. Positively robotic.
2. Mano Le Tough – ‘Please’ (New Jackson Remix)
In light of last week’s debut of ‘Of A Thousand Leaves’ by David Kitt aka New Jackson, I delved back into this fine remix by DK of fellow islander and international electronic producer Mano Le Tough.
Hopeful, nostalgic and cinematic track from the Dublin rapper who is poised through his sheer talent to breakout. This is Irish rap to be proud about on our own terms. Roll on the album 1988.
4. Planningtorock – ‘Human Drama’
It’s Marmite stuff for sure but I’ve got a soft spot for Janine Rostrom’s weirdness. On ‘Human Drama’, she tackles her dominant subject: gender. “Gimme a human drama / And understand that gender’s just a game.” It’s from her new album All Love’s Legal out in February.
If you’re like me you’ve been singing the chorus to this new Daft Punk song for the last week or so (alternating it with “go rub a Mexican monkey” soundalike). The song is now on iTunes. I’m of the opinion that ‘Get Lucky’ is a masterful pop record. A lot of people were crying foul yesterday saying it must be fake and that Pharrell’s vocals were done by somebody else. Clearly, these people were obviously projecting something of their own hopes on the return of Daft Punk being something closer to shake up the world of dance music, that would help rid the tide of poor-quality “EDM” from our Soundclouds and iPods. Instead, ‘Get Lucky’ is just a great pop tune.
For me, getting Pharrell and Nile Rodgers in for their comeback single is a smart move. It indicates that Daft Punk are perhaps happy with making great pop music rather than changing the dance game as they did before. Daft Punk are the elders now. ‘Get Lucky’ is basically a great funk record. I’m sure the kids listening to Trap music probably hate it. And lest we forget their last album proper Human After All was pretty uninspired. Away from the amazing marketing campaign they’ve created, this makes them relevant musically, for now. Random Access Memories, the album is a whole other story.