Lafleur! - Face Off (Song)
Lafleur! - Skating
Lafleur! - Checking
Lafleur! - Power Play (Song)
Lafleur! - Power Play (12'' Version)
Lafleur! - Shooting
Lafleur! - Scoring
Lafleur! - Vas-y (Chanson) (Face Off)
Lafleur! - Savoir Patiner (Skating)
Lafleur! - Mettre en Echec (Checking)
Lafleur! - Y'a Rien Pour M'arreter (Chanson) (Power Play)
Lafleur! - Lancer (Shooting)
Lafleur! - Marquer Un But (Scoring)
Edited & Re-uploaded 03/03/10
I was originally thinking of putting up a more substantial disco record for this post, but given that we're in the beginning of Hockey season up here, I figure now would be a good time to put up one of the ultimate, if not the ultimate Can-Con disco novelty record. First of all though, I have to thank Disco Delivery reader Luke Barker for kindly sending me some files from this album nearly a year ago now. I couldn't get enough of them then and I just had to track the real thing down.. I'm finally getting down to doing something on it, so special thanks to Luke for getting me acquainted with this!
At the risk of having my Canadian citizenship revoked, I have to admit that I rarely, if ever follow hockey. In fact, for me, 'Hockey Night In Canada' might as well be Don Cherry bellowing in Swahili, for all I care.. Granted, the excitement that sweeps much of the country when a Canadian team ends up in the final stretch of the playoffs or in an Olympic gold medal game can be pretty infectious, even for me. Being lousy at hockey (and at most sports generally, for that matter), I've never actually sustained any interest in following it with any degree of seriousness.
With that said, a little primer for those who (like me) may not follow.. Most famous for his stint with the Montreal Canadiens from 1971-1984, during that time, particularly in the 70's, Guy Lafleur was undoubtedly one of the NHL's brightest stars.. With that status came the requisite endorsement deals and in his case, a taste for the high life. During his time in Montreal, Lafleur eventually became quite taken with Montreal's nightlife, being something of a regular at many Montreal discos, even reportedly known at one time as the "King of Crescent Street" in certain circles (at least according to Mark LePage's essay in "Remembering Guy Lafleur"). A hockey superstar in a city that quite famously loved both it's hockey and it's disco (much like the man himself, apparently), it's perhaps not surprising that this sort of project came along when and where it did..
A forgotten novelty for the most part, the legend of the "Guy Lafleur Disco Album" has had something of a resurgence lately, with the CBC dredging up some great old footage of the album's release party at Regine's (Regine Zylberberg's Montreal franchise?) discotheque ("reportedly the pinnacle of local disco society" as the reporter, Melvin McLeod quipped) out of it's archives.
RetroBites: Disco Guy Lafleur
Uploaded by CBCtv
It's rather hilarious looking at the footage itself, since one can't help but notice two things: the cameraman scoping out the ladies and the reporter's apparent scorn for the whole thing in his voice-over: "Guy Lafleur, the Baryshnikov of the hockey rink, doing... a disco album.." The tone of "disco album" pretty much says it all.. Although the clip shows people getting down on it at a lavish disco, judging from the clips' tone and from what I've had people tell me, there likely weren't too many clubs playing selections off of this record - the album ending up, it seems, just as much of a joke and a curiosity then as it is now.
Being that it was the late '70s and "going disco" was the thing to do (although perhaps less so, by the end of '79), the Montreal disco indie, Unison Records, which had been behind the original Canadian release of a couple of notable Gino Soccio projects among others - namely Witch Queen and Gotham Flasher, decided to gamble $100,000 on this little gimmick, apparently expecting to sell a copy for every dollar they sank into it.
Although there is no year of release on the record, judging from the CBC news clip, the record was apparently recorded in just five days and released at the end of 1979, just in time to capitalize on the Christmas market. Combining disco, a hockey superstar, the spendthrift Christmas market and having been recorded in both English (UNE-2000) and French (UN-7907) editions (the English being the rarer of the two, in my experience), it seemed a sure bet. Despite that, I'm not even sure if Unison made any money off of this, since, at least for me, copies haven't exactly been that easy to find. In fact, I wonder whatever became of the Unison label since this album's release, anyway..
Granted, as absurd as the concept may seem, the results are actually not quite as unwieldly and disastrous as one might expect, in fact the album's actually quite the hoot, if I do say so myself... Contrary to what some seem to have thought or expected at first glance, the record is actually not Lafleur's attempt at singing; in fact he, quite wisely, doesn't sing a note on here. Instead, the album is something of a discofied spin on the old instructional LP. Lavishly packaged in a gatefold sleeve, complete with instructional booklet and fold-out poster of a shirtless Lafleur, much of the album consists of Guy's own personal hockey tips set to a disco beat with Lafleur speaking over the bass-thumping grooves, backed with a chorus of cooing, catchy female vocalists, adding encouragement and emphasis on Lafleur's key points. Just to add broader disco appeal, the album was padded with a couple of hockey-themed disco songs on the beginning of each side. Rest assured, most, or at least part of the background chorus of notable Montreal session singers, among them Laurie Niedzielski (AKA Laurie Zimmerman) and Heather Gauthier (both also of the disco group Toulouse) along with Ranee Lee and Gina Watson (later of Watson Beasley) take the vocals on those two tracks, with Lafleur nowhere to be heard...
As far as the production goes, the album itself was produced by a duo of Can-Con notables: Jack Lenz, and Peter Alves. While Lenz wasn't exactly a well-known disco producer, Lenz was and remains a highly profilic composer for film and television, with his compositions having appeared on a number of productions (both Canadian and otherwise), like the 1980's cartoon "The Raccoons" (one of childhood favourites), and more recently Mel Gibson's controversial "Passion of The Christ" and the CBC series Little Mosque On The Prairie among many others. Jack Lenz' own website has a partial, though pretty comprehensive list of his credits (which not surprisingly, exclude this album).
Alves, on the other hand, was much more prolific, at least, as far as the disco scene was concerned. Presumably a major player behind the Unison label, Alves seems to have prominent credits on practically all of the Unison releases I've come across so far (namely Witch Queen, Soirée and Gotham Flasher), two of them with Alves given equal production credit alongside Gino Soccio. Aside from the Unison releases, Alves had produced records for the likes of Toulouse, the late Boule Noire (AKA Georges Thurston), and for Watson Beasley (best known in the US for their club hit "Breakaway"). On a related note, with Gina Watson on the vocal chorus, interestingly enough, the other half of Watson Beasley, drummer Albert Beasley also appears on this record..
In addition to the primary producers, perhaps the most notable credited name on here is Gino Soccio himself, who along with France Smith is also credited as an associate producer on this record. Not sure if he was actually involved with the studio work, since his credit seems somewhat secondary (as if more of a production consultant as opposed to an actual producer), yet one can't help but hear traces of his own signature sound on here, namely in those horn arrangements, synth parts and even the vocals (although that may be because two of the vocalists, Niedzielski and Gauthier, also appear on many of Soccio's own records).
As far as the tracks go, truth be told, I actually find the two 'songs' off the album, "Face Off" at the beginning of Side 1 and "Power Play" at the beginning of Side 2 to be my own favourites. The fact that production-wise they're more conventional disco tracks, undoubtedly helps. With the vocalists singing an arresting chorus, taking hockey metaphors into the realm of dancefloor cruising, particularly on "Power Play": "...if it ever gets down to it, baby you know, I'll get my way with my power play..," both tracks make for instant guilty pleasures. Perhaps they would have been better remembered disco tracks on their own, had they been associated differently.. "Power Play" even got a 12'' release - extended to around 8 minutes and mixed by Alves and engineer Gabriel Boucher (both of whom also mixed the entire album).
Out of the instructional tracks, the second track, "Skating" with it's hefty bass, piano and synth intro, manages to get off on a pretty tight groove. With catchy piano lines and horn fill-ins augmenting "Uncle Guy's" charming, fatherly Quebecois accent along with the backup vocalists' encouraging emphasis: "stand straight!" "turn around!," it's perhaps the ultimate guilty pleasure on an album already full of them. I'm not sure if any kids actually genuinely used this thing to get hockey tips, but if I was a kid trying to get hockey lessons, I'd probably be too busy trying to sneak in a few dance moves to care about "Uncle Guy's" little skating lesson...
The track following this one, at the end of Side One, "Checking" actually isn't bad either. I confess to laughing a little to myself when "Uncle Guy" gets to my favourite line: "never put a stick where a body will go.. 'de stick was made to handle the puck, 'de body is built for CHECKING!" Again, I don't know why, but somehow his emphasis on 'checking' never fails to give me a cheap laugh..
Speaking of cheap laughs, the last track on the album, "Scoring," is probably the best known track from the album these days, having made the rounds on the 'net for quite some time now.. Starting from the title and the references to 'shooting it high' and 'curved sticks', etc.. made for some hilarious, if not, completely unintentional double-entendres, judging from one of the blog entries out there..
Although this didn't exactly launch "disco sports" into the stratusphere like the CBC news report had predicted/feared, the likes of Jane Fonda and Jayne Kennedy would later take a variation of this instruction-meets-disco concept and do fairly well for themselves with it, not that it makes either any less cheesy or ill-conceived either, for that matter. While aerobics might have been more conducive to this concept than hockey was, perhaps the producers weren't completely off on cocaine and disco fever when they dreamt this thing up.
Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1988, officially retiring from the game in 1991, these days Lafleur himself has apparently settled into the restaurant business with his own resturant/bar Mikes Signature Guy Lafleur in the town of Berthierville, Quebec. More publicly however, Lafleur has also become a spokesman in recent years for battery recycling and perhaps more infamously for the likes of Hairfax and Viagra (despite apparently not needing the latter), which have not surprisingly rendered him the butt of a few jokes (I suppose the disco album was only the beginning).. Although his legacy remains largely intact, unfortunately, more recently, Lafleur's name has been in the press, not so much for his sports legacy or his endorsements, but for the troubling circumstances surrounding his 23 year-old son, which early last year, would also land Lafleur himself in hot water.
Reading what I've just written though, I can't believe that I'm about to praise something this desperate and ill-concieved, but have to admit that overall, being something of a disco die-hard (if that wasn`t obvious already), I actually found this record to be much more enjoyable than it probably could or should have been. True, it was easy ammunition for the 'disco sucks' crusade and was as crass as crass disco cash-ins representing, ultimately, the nadir of the disco genre - the 'bandwagon effect' that gave rise to absurdities like the "Ethel Merman Disco Album," for example.. Taking it out of it's late 70's commercial context for a minute, the album is actually a fun listen, charming, even; as well-produced musically as such a thing could be and not to mention good for a few cheap laughs as well.. Although perhaps something of a miscalculation (too bad there was never an instrumental version of the album to go with the English and French editions), one has to give props to Guy Lafleur for not taking himself too seriously and providing the unsuspecting masses with a one of a kind piece of kitschy nostalgia in the process..
All things considered, the "Guy Lafleur Disco Album" at the very least is not only an intriguing piece of Canadiana but perhaps one of the ultimate guilty pleasures in the Can-Con constellation. If Gary Genosko's piece on this album, "Hockey And Disco" is any indication, I suppose I'm not the only one to plead.. Anyone up for a reissue?
PREVIOUS RELATED ENTRIES:
DISCO DELIVERY #9: KAREN SILVER - HOLD ON I'M COMIN' (1979, QUALITY/ARISTA) (FRIDAY MARCH 3, 2006)
HOCKEY AND DISCO (BY GARY GENOSKO)
OTTAWA CITIZEN - WINTER'S FLOWER STILL FLOURISHES (BY CHRIS YZERMAN) (MONDAY OCTOBER 29, 2007)
JACK LENZ @ WIKIPEDIA
JACK LENZ @ IMDB
JACK LENZ @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
JACK LENZ @ DISCOGS
JACK LENZ WEBSITE
PETER ALVES @ DISCOGS
PETER ALVES @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
GINO SOCCIO @ DISCOGS
GINO SOCCIO @ DISCOMUSEUM (ARCHIVED)
ONE-TIMER: GUY LAFLEUR - DISCO KING (AUGUST 13, 2007)
AWFUL ANNOUNCING - BEST. DISCO. HOCKEY. ALBUM. EVER. (AUGUST 13, 2007)
NEATORAMA: THE GUY LAFLEUR DISCO ALBUM (FEBRUARY 20, 2007)
MONTREAL GAZETTE - HABS INSIDE/OUT BLOG: LAFLEUR SCORED, SORT OF, WITH DISCO ALBUM (FEBRUARY 21, 2007)
WFMU 365 DAYS PROJECT - GUY LAFLEUR - SCORING (SEPTEMBER 23, 2003)
CATEGORIES: DISCO DELIVERIES, CAN-CON DISCO, VISUAL DISCO