The Nile Rodgers Tribute Chic-Chic Cheer Chic-Rebels Are We Norma Jean-I Like Love Sister Sledge-Thinking Of You Chic-Just Out Of Reach Johnny Mathis-It's Alright To Love Me Chic-Soup For One Chic-Doin' That Thing To Me Debbie Harry-The Jam Was Moving Chic-You Are Beautiful David Bowie-Shake It Chic-My Forbidden Lover Chic-When You Love Someone Nile Rodgers-Yum Yum Chic-Stage Fright Diana Ross-Friend To Friend [Chic mix] Fonzi Thornton-I'll Change My Game B-52s-Dry County Chic-Happy Man Carly Simon-Why Outloud-Fundamental Chic-What About Me Sister Sledge-Got To Love Somebody Chic-So Fine Chic-Strike Up The Band Chic-Real People Chic-You Can't Do It Alone
Nile Rodgers & Bernard Edawrds got the biggest gig of their life when in 1980 they were asked by Motown to write & produce Diana Ross' next album. Diana ended up withe biggest album of her career. Motown got a much needed hit. Music fans got a solid albums and 2 monster singles, Upside Down & I'm Coming Out. The only losers in the deal were Nile & Nard.
Seems that after Nile & Nard submitted the album to the Motown execs, they had it rejected. They stood defiant and said we're not changing a thing, so Motown took all the tapes, remixed it and released it a new mix themselves. Now I've heard both mixes and it's very hard for me to be subjective since I'm so used to the Motown mixed versions. It's not the Chic mixes were bad. I just think Motown felt that Diana needed a little more sugar. Plus the Motown mixes put Diana out front & center and being the diva she was and is, that made perfect sense. But it definitely was a blow to Nard & Nile's ego. The fact they still had hits and continued to do so only proved that these guys had the goods.
Upside Down (with Michael Jackson on backing chorus vocals) and I'm Coming Out showed that the Chic Org excelled first and foremost on jamming & breaking it down. Upside Down is straight disco funk, creating a groove that was unique to any other record at the time. Lyrically Diana's talking about hanging with an unfaithful dude cause she's still in love with him, but the music makes you think Diana's in complete control of the relationship. I'm Coming Out is the most direct way a mainstream icon connected with their gay following. From the climactic build starting with the insistant guitar of Nile, you just wait for that beat to drop in. Then when they fall out in the middle again (the part P.Diddy sampled by Notorious BIG's Mo Money Mo Problems) Tony's thick drumming doubles that intro's sensation until the big final release. And Meco, the bandleader who hit #1 with the Star Wars Theme in 1977, plays a trombone solo.
Smooth yet heavy, always classy funk!
Here's the Chic mix of Upside Down:
Here's the one we all remember:
Here's I'm Coming Out:
It was sad that Chic never had any more Top 40 hits after they released Good Times, but in a way it makes sense. Not that they didn't have good songs after this - they certainly did. And I'm sure they didn't want the ride to end. But if you're gonna out, at least in the public's eye, this is the song to go out on.
This tune turned Chic from some disco group with a few hits to one of the most important bands in history. The entire next decade of music suddenly had a pivot point from the moment Nard dropped his bass out on the 4. How can you fully quantify the influence of a song that, at once, instantly makes B-boys from the Bronx and New romantics from Britain want to start a band? There wasn't a block party happening without this tune. Every New Wave bass player wanted to be Bernard Edwards and every rhythm guitarist wanted to be Nile Rodgers. This was the spark in the fire of rap & new wave simultaneously. That's pretty amazing.
And whether I'm digging on this jazz funk that Chic lays down for 8 minutes, singing along with Fonzi Thornton as he hits his third over Alfa & Luci on the chorus or slap my hand in the air on cue with the string slide at the start of the breakdown, I can't help but feel the inner sadness at the heart of this record. Yes these are the good times. That's what they're saying, followed by 'a rumor has it that it's getting late. Time marches on, just can't wait....you can't change your fate.' Should I be dancing or crying? Nile knew the party was over as they hoped they it would never end. That's they captured both feelings in this song is a measure of Nile & Nard's talent. That a rappin granny spit a few verses of Rapper's Delight over this groove in The Wedding Singer is a measure of how little we treasure it.
I've always had this idea for a scene in a movie that I hoped to insert in whatever screenplay I end up finishing. Two guys walk into a church needed to speak with a priest about a very important issue. One guy is very serious and impatient, the other is easily bored and a goofball. Guy one tells guy two wait inside the church while he finds the priest and leaves. Guy 2 comes across a table full of hand bells. He picks one up, rings it tentatively, picks up another and rings it louder. Then in perfect rhythm he rings them, duplicating the chorus of Chic's, I Want Your Love. Ding, dong. Ding dong. Ding dong.........dong ding. Guy 1 finds him, tells him to knock it off and follow him.
There's not much of a joke there, I know, and it's weird describing it out of context. But for me, it would me a personal nod to Nile Rodgers, a 'joke' I would share with a guy I never met. A way of telling him how much I love that song. And I do.
From 1978's C'est Chic, it may be my favorite Chic song as well as my favorite 'Nard bass line. I sing along with that bass part every time I hear that song, out of habit. Don't even realize I'm doing it. With it's robotic yet demanding chorus and jazzy melancholic vibe, it just gets me every time. I can't really explain it. But if it gets you too, I don't need to.
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 once I was hanging out in an old roller rink that was a converted dance club with some new friends. They took me there to listen to some band whose music 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, especially disco. The 80s did a number on the reputation of the preceding decade. It was very rare to hear the music on the radio or even buy 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!
Segarini-Gotta Have Pop Level 42-Overtime Echo & the Bunnymen-Bedbugs And Ballyhoo Judee Sill-The Kiss Mayer Hawthorne-The Walk Carole King-I Can't Hear You No More Gene Loves Jezebel-Suspicion Bugatti & Musker-Fate Manhattan Transfer-Feel Flows Basia-New Day For You Los Amigos Invisibles-Sweet Tower of Power-Soul Vaccination Brand New Heavies-Fake UK Players-Dancing In The Street El Chicano-Tell Her She's Lovely Breakfast Club-Kiss & Tell Mildred-Rise Above XTC-Down In The Cockpit Nick Lowe-Stoplight Roses Baby Grand-Bring Me Your Broken Heart Jakob Magnusson-Magnetic Storm Toy Matinee-Last Plane Out Prince & the Revolution-She's Always In My Hair Ole Borud-Keep Movin' Alphaville-Dance With Me Andrea True Connection-What's Your Name, What's Your Number New Order-Shellshock
On Tuesday, Dec 13th at 8PM on AshevilleFM.org, in honor of his new autobiography, Le Freak, The UnCola will be broadcasting a tribute to Nile Rodgers. Everything from Chic & solo albums, rare, live & demos and Nile productions. And of course, no hits!
To get ready for this event, I'll be talking about those 'hits' and the influence they had on my life.