❉ Come again? Peter Robinson tries some of the best and worst for sighs…
It’s fair to say that the song Gainsbourg recorded amongst a clutch of songs in 1967 with Brigit Bardot set all these wheels in motion. Bardot, who was married to photographer and film maker Gunter Sachs at the time, decided J’Taime… was too racy for general release. Gainsbourg sat on the song for 2 years before recording the famous version with Jane Birkin. The rest, was a history worthy of a story of itself. The record re-charted over the Christmas period of 1974.
Blame Donna Summer.
Cut to a studio in Germany where a singer was talking about music with her producers. The subject of J’Taime being in the UK charts came up and the singer suggested that instead of someone putting the song out again, they make a new one. Within a week the singer had the genesis of a song and the producers, not without difficulty, managed to coax out a performance from her. Originally released in May 1975, it’s fair to say that even the creators didn’t see Donna Summer’s Love To Love You Baby coming.
Blame Neil Bogart, Giorgio Moroder, and Peter Bellotte.
A short while after the release of the track in Germany – to little initial success – Moroder flew to America to meet with owner of Casablanca records, Neil Bogart, in search of a distribution deal for his label, Oasis. After hearing Love To Love You Baby, Bogart signed a deal on the spot. A few months later, as Bogart recalled in a 1976 interview with Jim Esposito, he played the track at a party. The response was amazing and people kept asking to hear the song again, and again.
“Now it would’ve been greater had they said, ‘Hey, that’s a great record. Boy, that’s fabulous,’ and once and it was finished. But they kept having to hear it. And so I said, ‘If I put out this single version, it’s gonna leave everybody unfulfilled and it’s gonna be a downer.’
“So I get on the phone and call Germany. Right in the middle of the party. It’s about one, two o’clock in the morning in California. It was about eight o’clock in the morning in Germany. I woke the guy up.
“I say, ‘I need a 20 minute version!’”
Belotte & Moroder agreed and then had to fly Donna Summer back to Germany to record the 16:50 version which went on to grace the side of her debut album. Village Voice critic, Vince Aletti, remembered hearing it at the new venue for The Loft, David Mancuso’s legendary club…
“I remember them playing “Love to Love You” in the club, the first time for a club crowd, and just being amazed that it could work the way it did — that it could be that overwhelming and sexy and danceable at 15 minutes plus. It had that orgasmic sound to it; I don’t remember a song before that proceeded so much like love-making. Donna’s voice was so thoroughly woven into the music, but it was really this overall sense of eroticism that made it work.”
The mother track. Blame already apportioned, this is quite an impressive entry and one you can clearly set the standard by. Whilst most extended twelve inch (oh yes, pun intended) records were made for dancing, it’s fair to say that some were made with the bedroom in mind or as a rather unsubtle opportunity to find a mate on the dancefloor. Thus people wanting to fill out a long track would, on occasion, add a little something extra and thus giving (okay, rise/birth – it’s all too Freud however I phrase it!) to a rarely discussed disco sub-genre: The Very Sexy Disco Track.
This isn’t a list with those bedroom Lotharios of the likes of Barry, Marvin, Teddy, Isaac, or even their female counterpart Millie because they are merely suggesting. These are the women (and sometimes men) going anywhere from a little bit further to all the way. The results are varying in both their success and their believability. Here’s a short guide to some of the best and a couple of the worst…
Donna Summer – ‘Down Deep Inside (The Theme From The Deep)’
Less than two years later Donna puts in what can best be described as a cameo appearance on this theme for a bad Jaws cash-in movie aided and abetted by John Barry. It’s a short but sweet one. It’s worth noting Donna also covered Serge’s Je Taime… which was included as a bonus twelve inch with the Thank God It’s Friday soundtrack.
Hot RS – ‘House Of The Rising Sun’ & ‘Slow Blow’
This South African electronic disco act’s debut album gives us two for the price of one – well, kind of. House Of The Rising Sun (the band name is an acronym) is a slice of sexy, what we’d now call, Space Disco. This cover is bit of an underground electronic disco classic although the proper sex does rather take its time. Plenty of hints before going full on in the last few minutes of the track.
Slow Blow kind of does what it says in the title and is the only paean to fellatio on this list. Whatever’s actually going on the chap involved manages a good job of enjoying it.
St Tropez – ‘Belle De Jour’
A studio project by disco producers Rinder & Lewis which clearly takes its cues from Mr. Gainsbourg. Plenty of sensual French talk that builds to a steamy finish (I am so trying not to write climax here…). The album also features a guest appearance from cult jazz harpist Dorothy Ashby. She must have needed the work…
Space – ‘Carry On, Turn Me On’
In this case one can at least argue that you’re fairly warned before you start listening. Featuring session singer par excellence, Madelinne Bell, this one scores highly on all fronts. The track itself is a slow burn original French disco gem which must have permanent residence in the collection of almost every French act to make a house record since the 90’s. Its opening could be argued as the blueprint for everything that the likes of Bangaltier, Falke, and Dimitri From Paris ever wanted to make. Then comes the vocals which start off suggestively before she absolutely goes for it, she out Donnas Donna in ecstatic overdrive.
Sylvester – ‘(You Make Me Feel) Mighty Real’
Full marks to a proud gay man getting in on the act. Sylvester’s sexy interlude manages to fall somewhere on the convincing but really only just. A classic disco track which someone clearly felt needed a bit of spicing up for the full length version.
Diana Ross – ‘Love Hangover’
Diana, never one not to be getting in on the act, did a pretty decent job at disco here. This was a bit of desperate stab at staying relevant and there’s no prizes for guessing who she was in fear of her crown from. Sexwise, this is more of a wink than a full on experience. If this were a movie it would doubtless be one of those where, after the first kiss the lovers fall into each other’s arms before a fade to black. If sexy disco records had the Hays Code, they’d all be this.
Thelma Houston – ‘Any Way You Like It’
My jury on this one will remain permanently out because this isn’t the sort of thing you expect from a Motown artist of the Thelma Houston kind. This is a woman who rocked up on Top Of The Pops to sing this album’s mega hit, Don’t Leave Me This Way, dressed in what can only be described as Sunday Best clothes. You know, the kind people wear to church. Like some of the others she takes her time and isn’t exactly going all out here. One suspects this was more the idea of a producer trying to spice up the track.
Musique – ‘In The Bush’
More teasing and coy than it probably could have been and one might be forgiven for concluding this was an aim to get radio play (which worked well in the UK where it was a top 20 hit) and one of the rare examples where seven inches of radio edit are actually more satisfying – even in disco, size isn’t always everything. They build up a good head of steam but do manage to keep it from going too far. It’s a Patrick Adams produced romp with lyrics that are Freudian in the most obvious sense although, considering what many even self respecting gay men were up to in this hedonistic period this could just as easily be a coded message too. Good track but the sex is rather hurried and possibly taking place amongst foliage.
The, um, well…
Ashford & Simpson – ‘It Seems To Hang On’
Ok, I honestly don’t even know if this counts. During a couple of the breakdowns on this track there’s all kinds going on. “Loose me!” they appear to cry. I’ve absolutely no idea what an earth it’s all about but they do sound like they’re in the middle of the throws of some kind of passion although why they decided to share this in the middle of a cracking mid-tempo soul/disco track has puzzled me since I first heard it on release. I comfort myself by reminding myself they were husband and wife so, any shenanigans are at least consensual.
Boystown Gang – ‘Cruisin’ The Streets’
A cautionary tale in trying too hard. This must have its tongue firmly in its cheek. Its aim seems to be to provide a glimpse into the world of cruisy gay sex. To say that it fails spectacularly to be anything remotely sexy is an understatement. So bad it’s almost good is probably a bit kind. It wasn’t exactly what I would call effective at the time and the passing years mean that, apart from the historical value, it now just sounds like pure comedy. If you stick around to the end you’ll be treated to a classic line which will just have you laughing out loud all over again.
Lil Louis – ‘French Kiss’
This little musical cul-de-sac managed one last hurrah when French Kiss housed up the original format and produced a top 3 UK hit. It’s a bona fide Ibiza classic although I always feel that the poor woman sounds in a bit of discomfort.
It’s by no means exhaustive but I’m now off for a cold shower.
❉ ‘Fakin’ It’ playlist on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/
❉ Peter Robinson is a regular contributor to We Are Cult.