Wednesday, December 7, 2011

1...2...Aaaaaaah!

As a kid I always loved Chic, but mostly I loved the name. The fact that it looked like you would say 'chick' but it was pronounced 'sheek'. Something that seemed so smooth and cool would be so dirty & funky. Chic really began as a proper band with their 2nd album, C'est Chic. The architects, Nile Rodgers & Bernard Edwards would try to be anonymous or at least hide behind their two new female leads, Alfa Anderson & Luci Martin. But how could one not wanna know who was chicken scratching on guitar or playing the smoothest funk bass of all time? Not me. I wanted to know the guys behind the curtain.

Le Freak is a great example of how Chic got the disco label out of timing and circumstance. Actually this is a great funk record. I love how the bass drops out on the chorus, then kicks it on the verses, especially getting funky on the climactic breakdown. Nard plays so effortlessly, it puts all bass players before or after to shame. Nile is relentless on rhythm guitar driving the song all the through with his percussive playing. It almost feels like he's pushing everyone up the hill, esp on that breakdown. It ended selling 6 million records as a single, the best ever for Atlantic Records.



I remember when the song was out that every time we would pass Le Frak city in Queens on the Long Island Expressway, I would sing Le Frak Its back. Frak out!. Yeah it's dumb, I was 7. I thought the 2 were related somehow.

I also have this memory of coming home from JFK after vacationing in Florida at Christmas time, walking into our house, late at night, after the super long delay, coming home in the snow. The song that was playing on the radio when we walked in the door was Le Freak. Why do I still remember that? Who knows?

I don't know much about the Freak as a dance. But I was in a roller rink that was a converted dance club with some people that I just met. They took me there to listen to some band who was forgettable. During their break, the DJ put on a few disco records and the floor filled up. Keep in mind that this was 1990. People still thought that the 70s were a joke, esp disco. The 80s did a number on its preceding decade. It was very rare to hear the music on the radio or even but it in the stores.

When the DJ dropped Le Freak, people started screaming. I couldn't believe it. Everyone who was in that club was on the floor and it was packed tight. The girl I was dancing with was having a religious experience. Rather than question any of it (which I did later) I completely went with it and about a couple hundred of us did the Freak in unison. I vividly remember this because the DJ turned the lights on during the song and the crowd looked at each other as it was getting off. It was the only time I ever felt anything akin to the communal experience I heard that 70s disco was.

Once the records played, the floor cleared, the band started, my crew & I hung out for 5 minutes and split.

If you don't know the story of Le Freak, I'm sure you can find it on the web. Better yet, pick up Nile's autobiography called Le Freak. Until then, turn it up and freak out!


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