Tuesday, October 06, 2009

And Party Every Day..


A label which began in 1974 as a lowly independent in Warner's corporate constellation, to one of the industry's leading lights, and back again by the end of the decade, sucked into yet another conglomerate, hemmoraging money; the story of Casablanca Records has been oft-cited (as both success story and cautionary tale) yet, at least until the release of this book, still largely untold in it's entirety.

While it didn't start off as such, to many, the name Casablanca Records has become practically synonymous with Disco, with both it's successes and excesses, right along with Studio 54, and perhaps Saturday Night Fever, as emblematic of the beat and line driven juggernaut that was the enterprise of disco in the late 70's. So much so, that the company's reported overindulgences (the alleged secretary sent out to collect employees' drug requirements to name one well-circulated myth) have become the stuff of legend. What has gotten somewhat lost in the sensationalism of it's history however has been the bold, entrepreneurial spirit of it's late founder Neil Bogart, which fueled the company and was evident throughout it's roster, in all of it's major hits and misses (see the now infamous Johnny Carson album and the Kiss solo albums, which to quote one oft-cited Casbah anecdote, "shipped gold, and came back platinum").

While Casablanca's successes - it's roster lined with the likes of Kiss, Cameo, Parliament, The Village People and Donna Summer and it's place as perhaps the most commercial of the so-called Disco labels is well represented, its output beyond it's commercial side is just as revealing. The incredible works of Alec R. Costandinos and Giorgio Moroder, long-lost soul like Gloria Scott (one of the first major Barry White productions), James & Bobby Purify, Jeannie Reynolds to Hugh Masekela, Margaret Singana and funkstress Lalomie Washburn. Personally, they also get special credit for backing the unabashedly gay sensibilities of D.C. LaRue and Paul Jabara, not to mention the Village People's back-room leather bar counterparts, The Skatt Bros. along with Jacques Morali productions such as Dennis Parker, and the Ritchie Family as well. Beyond their well-known successes, the wealth of underexploited music still out of print in it's catalogue is immense. With acts that ranged from the outlandish to the influential and hopelessly obscure, it's not only emblematic of a label that seemed to thrive on doing things differently, but one that could have only been assembled by what was one of the industry's great music men.

Written by Larry Harris, cousin of Neil Bogart and one of the label's original co-founders, along with Curt Gooch and Jeff Suhs. While Harris according to some of his recent postings on discomusic.com attempts to "set the record straight" from some of the accounts described in Frederic Dannen's still definitive book "Hit Men," the previews and early reviews certainly don't paint this as a whitewash either. Today (October 6th) marks the official release (via Backbeat/Hal Leonard) of the three hundred page book, which so far looks to be the definitive account of the incredible rise and spectacular fall of what should be considered one of the great, and certainly most infamous record labels of it's time.

For a preview, the authors have set up a website with some choice passages at www.casablancabook.com. Aside from the official previews however, a fitting companion/primer to the book and to the Casablanca story as a whole would have to be Christian John Wikane's incredible series on the label, "Play It Again" at PopMatters. Until the release of this book, Wikane's piece has to have been one of the more comprehensive articles on Casablanca yet. Published this past August to commemorate the label's 35th anniversary, mostly focusing on the music, Wikane's series traces the Casablanca story in five parts, with interview quotes from more than 50 of Casablanca's artists and executives.

On the visual side of things, the people behind the Casablanca book have also set up a YouTube account to promote the book, where they've posted up some great, long lost TV ads and performances. Some of my favourites include the commercial ads for Alec R. Costandinos' "Romeo & Juliet," the final Munich Machine album "Body Shine," Space's "Just Blue" as well as the whispery candle-lit commercial for Donna Summer's "Love To Love You Baby," all of which I had to post below..


Alec R. Costandinos - 1978 "Romeo and Juliet" Promo Film
Uploaded by CasablancaBookTV


Munich Machine - 1979 "Let Your Body Shine" Promo
Uploaded by CasablancaBookTV


Space "Save Your Love For Me" 1979 Casablanca Records Disco Promo Film
Uploaded by CasablancaBookTV


Donna Summer - 1975 Casablanca TV Commercial
Uploaded by CasablancaBookTV


PURCHASE:
AMAZON.COM | AMAZON.CO.UK | PLAY.COM | BARNES & NOBLE | CHAPTERS.INDIGO

PREVIOUS RELATED ENTRIES:
VINCE ALETTI'S DISCO FILES (WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 4, 2009)
BBC RADIO 2: CLASSIC SINGLES - I FEEL LOVE (SUNDAY DECEMBER 20, 2007)
DISCO DELIVERY #40: MUNICH MACHINE - A WHITER SHADE OF PALE (1978, CASABLANCA) (SUNDAY APRIL 27, 2007)
DISCO DELIVERY #24: LOVE & KISSES (1977, BARCLAY/POLYDOR) (MONDAY JULY 31, 2006)
DISCO DELIVERY #16: BRENDA & THE TABULATIONS - I KEEP COMING BACK FOR MORE (1977, CHOCOLATE CITY/CASABLANCA) (FRIDAY APRIL 21, 2006)
DISCO DELIVERY #5: GIORGIO MORODER - FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (1977, OASIS/CASABLANCA) (FRIDAY FEBRUARY 3, 2006)

LINKS:
AND PARTY EVERY DAY - THE INSIDE STORY OF CASABLANCA RECORDS (OFFICIAL SITE)
BACKBEAT BOOKS: AND PARTY EVERYDAY - THE INSIDE STORY OF CASABLANCA RECORDS
DISCOMUSIC.COM FORUMS - "AND PARTY EVERY DAY" CASABLANCA RECORDS BOOK COMING OUT
THE VILLAGE VOICE - LA DOLCE MUSTO (TUESDAY AUGUST 18, 2009)
HITS DAILY DOUBLE (BOOK REVIEW) (SEPTEMBER 4, 2009)
THE VINYL DISTRICT: TVD RECOMMENDS - AND PARTY EVERY DAY: THE INSIDE STORY OF CASABLANCA RECORDS (THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 24, 2009)
POPMATTERS: CASABLANCA RECORDS - PLAY IT AGAIN (BY CHRISTIAN JOHN WIKANE)
SOULTRACKS: INCREDIBLE CASABLANCA RECORDS STORY REMEMBERED (AUGUST 17, 2009)
DISCO-DISCO.COM: CASABLANCA RECORDS
BOTH SIDES NOW: CASABLANCA RECORDS STORY
WIKIPEDIA: CASABLANCA RECORDS
DISCOGS: CASABLANCA RECORDS
WIKIPEDIA: NEIL BOGART

CATEGORIES: DISCO NEWS, VISUAL DISCO

4 comments:

M.E. Grant said...

Thanks for the tip, Tommy. All this should pique Christian's interest. That Munich Machine ad is insane. And we think people are oversexed NOW. There's no way that aired on US television, is there?

Enrique said...

Can't wait to read it!

Tommy said...

M.E Grant - I can hardly believe that it could either.. I'd guess maybe late at night, in specific markets, perhaps.

Hey Enrique, looking forward to this too. The tidbits I've come across definitely look interesting.

Greg May said...

I always wanted GRACE JONES to record Shirley Bassey's 'Goldfinger' to a disco/dance beat. I know it would be a monster hit. I mentioned it to TOM MOULTON and he agreed. Grace was - after all - a Bond Girl!

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