Sunday, March 21, 2021

Vintage Articles:
Exclusive Supremes Interview -
by Christopher Stone // The Advocate -
August 13, 1975

It has been over a month since the sudden passing of original Supreme Mary Wilson at age of 76, just weeks before her 77th birthday. Unfortunately we’re at that time when many of the musicians I’ve either written about or have been part of the music on this blog are passing away, that’s besides the pandemic we are in right now, when so many are dealing with death and loss.

Mary’s passing prompted me to go into my archives where I found some old issues of The Advocate that I had scanned several years ago. Still the American LGBT publication of record, their August 1975 Discos! issue is where I found this particular article - an exclusive interview with The Supremes by frequent Advocate entertainment contributor and editor Christopher Stone, who is still active today as an author in gay fiction and non-fiction.

I’ve covered The Supremes here on the blog several times in the past, so it’s no surprise that I have a soft spot for the last two Supremes lineups. While those groupings had less pop success than previous incarnations, they had some of their greatest showings in the discos, which certainly further solidified their loyal gay following, a fact that’s well-highlighted in this particular article. Their current single at the time “He’s My Man” was perfectly primed for disco action and marked something of a comeback for the group after a near 2 year gap between releases.

The interview generously touches on the strong gay following they have, namely the fondness drag performers had for them. While here Mary laments that they had yet to go to a gay venue to see any of the drag tributes to them, interestingly a few years ago, a defunct local publication here in Toronto where I live had a regular Then & Now column written by DJ and writer Denise Benson, documenting memories of bygone local clubs and discos. Her columns have since been compiled into a book, but I recall one particular column on a club called David’s which featured a memory of this particular lineup of Supremes making a surprise appearance there to judge a drag competition, probably not long after this interview had been conducted.

By this time the group consisted of Mary Wilson as the sole remaining original member, plus the return of Cindy Birdsong and the new addition of Scherrie Payne as their primary lead vocalist. Though Payne doesn’t have a great deal of quotes in this interview, Mary and Cindy’s comments here more than hint at their internal struggles with Motown and the uphill battle before them trying to re-establish The Supremes as a musical presence.

Though The Supremes would only last a couple more years as an active entity, Mary’s battle for recognition was really only just beginning. It would be the better part of a decade before her first book, Dreamgirl - My Life As A Supreme would come out and help turn the tide against the official line at the time which seemed to marginalize The Supremes as little more than Diana Ross’ launching pad, with Wilson and the late Florence Ballard as mere musical footnotes.

Together with the social discussions that have been rippling through society lately, the #metoo movement among them, has me thinking about what it means to be a woman, a black woman, in an industry that has often denied one's agency on both grounds. While I am neither, so many of the artists that I love are. That being said, even I have to admit that I have at times been guilty of that casual sexism that often exists in musical coverage, where often so much emphasis and credibility is placed on the (usually male) producer as the creative driver that the agency and artistry of the woman (usually the vocalist) goes underrepresented and unacknowledged even on work that bears their name.

Certainly when we talk about agency, Mary’s legacy is a testament to it. While much has been written about Diana Ross’ legendary ambition and tenacity, she certainly wasn’t the only Supreme with grit and determination. As someone who sustained a long performing career herself, Mary Wilson had to fight an uphill battle for agency nearly every step of the way. After spending years on the wrong side of Motown politics, battling the label throughout much of the 1970s and 80s (well documented in her second book and subsequent updates), she had emerged in the last decades of her life not only a seasoned performer, but an astute operator in the politics of the music industry and a tireless ambassador for the Motown legacy. To the point where her efforts helped change laws in Washington, she also ended up cultivating a working relationship with Motown's parent company, Universal Music, having been a part of practically every Supremes release and re-issue in the past 20 some years. It was perhaps a much more generative relationship than the one she had with the old Motown label when this article was written.

To paraphrase what the lady herself said in a 2017 interview; unlike some of her contemporaries, she had a chance to fight back and show the world what she was made of.

Rest in Peace and Power Ms. Mary Wilson.


Exclusive Supremes Interview
By Christopher Stone

He’s My Man” is rapidly becoming a disco monster.

D.J.’s report The Supremes as one of their most requested albums.

THE SUPREMES ARE BACK! proclaims Motown’s billboard on the Sunset Strip.

After a two-year hiatus from recording, the most popular female group in the history of the record industry is back - and the ADVOCATE’s got ‘em!

Motown’s Supremes Biography: “…those [stars] who qualify as institutions by virtue of their extraordinary achievements are few and far between. Narrow that down to female ensembles and Motown’s fabulous Supremes are virtually without peer.”

Mary Wilson: We didn’t even have a contract with Motown for about a year and a half. They had no enthusiasm for us. We had to go in there fighting. For a minute we had to forget we were entertainers and go on a campaign, which was really degrading.

The public never let us down. Our fans have been loyal up to now. But Motown did let us down at the times we needed them most - after Diana left and after Jean left.

Motown’s Supremes Biography: “They were the first exponents of the now world-renowned Motown Sound to reap the rewards of popularity on a massive scale… “It is estimated that the Supremes have sold in excess of 50 million records, which is a conservative estimate…”

Cindy Birdsong: It has been said in print many times, even before I joined the group: The Supremes made Motown and Motown made the Supremes. To see them retreat that way was very discouraging.

Motown’s Supremes Biography: “Unlike most other groups, the Supremes have been able to undergo personnel changes without being adversely affected…”

Scherrie Payne: I may have joined the group at a time when things were looking down but I’ve always been crazy about the Supremes, because I grew up along with them as they were growing.

Many of us did.

Diana, Mary & Flo - Diana, Mary & Cindy - Mary, Cindy & Jean - Mary, Jean & Lynda - Mary, Cindy & Scherrie.

Where Did Our Love Go?,” “Baby Love,” “Come See About Me,” Stop! In the Name of Love” and “Back In My Arms Again”: the trio’s five number-one-hits-in-a-row during the mid-’60s is a feat yet to be matched.

They introduced an elegant, sparkling, sophisticated look to pop music and, with poise, polish and gobs of glamour, opened the nightclub circuit to rock & soul artists. Their fame was international. They were impersonated everywhere-in the rock musical Hair; in the local drag ensemble in Pueblo, Colorado.

When, in 1970, Diana Ross opted for solo stardom, the public asked, “Is this the end of the Supremes?”

Mary, Cindy and new lead thrush Jean Terrell answered the skeptics with chartbusters such as “Up The Ladder to the Roof,” “Everybody’s Got the Right to Love,” “Stoned Love,” “Nathan Jones,” “Floy Joy,” “River Deep-Mountain High,” “Automatically Sunshine,” and “Bad Weather,” which is still a discotheque favourite.

Then, in ’72, Cindy traded sequinned dresses for a bridal gown and subsequently, maternity smocks. Her replacement, Lynda Laurence, had barely learned her oohs and aahs when she left to become a Mrs. Then Jean Terrell hung up her wigs and went home for reasons still unknown to Supreme Mary.

After 18 months, domesticity paled on Cindy and she returned. Scherrie, Freda’s younger sister, was drafted to round out the trio. But they had no songs to release, no material to record, and no contract with Motown.

Mary: Because of the many changes in the group, Motown was unsure. They didn’t want to put any money behind us, All of a sudden the good writers were taken away from us, and we got no more material. We were just shoved aside.

Cindy: Even though you have been in the business for 15 years, like we have, it’s always a thrill to hear a new record played on the radio. When you hear nothing at all except your old records, knowing there isn’t a new one to be played, it’s a horrible feeling.

It seemed endless, these last two years without a recording. So now it’s such a pleasure to hear our new album being played.

Scherrie: I understand we’re supposed to go into the studio the end of this month to start on some new things for the next album.

As spokesperson for the group, Mary did most of the fighting and negotiating that resulted in a contract, a new album and a fresh club act.

Mary: I made them contribute. Now Motown is doing a lot, It’s not as much as they did in the past. It’s not as much as we’d like them to do. But they are doing what they think is a lot. I think there is still a lot of skepticism there. We want more. The only way we’ll get more is if we become popular again. Then we’ll get everything we want.

Their new album, The Supremes, will hopefully regain popularity for the women as recording artists. One of the LP’s selections,”He’s My Man,” is already a disco success.

It was the danceability of the group’s early records that helped skyrocket them to success. During the ‘60s most every other song played on juke boxes in gay bars was by the Supremes. And almost every show bar featured three guys in sequinned gowns and coiffed wigs pantomiming Supremes hits and duplicating their gestures.

Mary: We have always been very, very popular with the gay community in all areas. I don’t know why they love us or identify with us. I’m just happy about it.

Cindy: They send us pictures and some of them actually favor us. There are a few that really favour Diana. You know - the same eyes.

Mary: Why we have never gotten around to a gay bar to see one of these groups, I don’t know.

Cindy: They sometimes come backstage wearing jeweled gowns. From a distance you might actually think they were the Supremes. You know the wigs we used to wear? Their wigs would be almost identical. Their gowns would be something similar to something we had worn in the past.

Little was heard from the Supremes last year, but an ex-group member was making news. Florence Ballard, who was heard on over 20 of the trio’s hit records, was discovered living on welfare with her mother in a ghetto neighborhood.

Motown’s Supremes Biography: “In ’67 Cindy Birdsong stepped in to replace Florence Ballard, who had grown weary of the hectic pace of show business, preferring marriage and family.”

Rumors have persisted that Flo did not prefer to leave, but was forced into retirement.

Cindy frankly discussed the woman she had replaced: Florence was my favorite before I joined the group, because she was so outgoing and she welcomed strangers openly. I never thought I would be taking her place. When I met the Supremes, I was a member of Patti Labelle & the Bluebelles. Girl groups didn’t get along too well. Ignoring that, I became friends with the Supremes. I like their group - their style. Of course, I always loved our group. I thought we were better than them.

I knew the Supremes were having a lot of problems. The way Florence left was … rather … bluntly. It seemed that they just scooped her out of there so fast. She was on stage one night and I was on stage the next. She didn’t have any idea that she wasn’t going to be on that stage the night I replaced her.

I guess a lot of people point the finger at me. I came in there so fast. I was on stage within a day and a half after I joined the group. Of course, I was so wrapped up in what was happening to me that I didn’t really consider Florence. But I felt funny about it because I found out a little of what was really going on just before I went on stage.

And how do they feel about that other ex-Supreme - the one they performed several paces behind when they were re-dubbed Diana Ross & The Supremes?

Cindy: All those rumours about fights are completely untrue. I think our relationship with her is better then when she was singing with us - when we were singing with her.

Mary: We’re probably better friends now than we’ve ever been. That’s not saying that we see each other every day. But I think we’ve both grown up a lot. I see her… maybe once every time I’m home.

Cindy: Our paths cross so infrequently because she is busy with a movie career.

Mary: I thought she did a fantastic job in Lady Sings The Blues.

Cindy: She should have gotten the Oscar, I thought.

The Supremes are not preoccupied with the past. They’d much rather talk about the 50 million records they hope to see rather than the 50 million-plus already sold. They have emerged from a crucial, grueling two years confident, rested and real.

Cindy: Everything has gotten very casual and relaxed. You see how we come dressed for an interview (she tugs on her T-shirt). When I first joined the group we would have walked in here decked out like we were going to church on Sunday - almost with gloves and hats on. Our lashes would not be missing.

Mary: With the responsibility of getting things back in order, we have not had as much of the fun or excitement as before.

Cindy: Scherrie asked, “Where are all the guys you told me I was going to meet?”

Mary: And all the glamorous parties …

Cindy: Scherrie’s the only single one now.

Mary: Don’t worry, Scherrie. It’ll all come in time.

Hit records, television, Vegas. “It’ll all come in time” seems to sum up the feelings of these optimistic voices.

Mary: For the mass public, we have not been around. For us, we’ve never stopped. Sometimes I get very upset when people say “Well, the Supremes are dead.” DEAD HOW? We work just as much as we’ve ever worked. In fact, we’re trying to cut down some of our work because we each have families and other things we want to do.

We’ve been popular among our fans. It’s the mass public, the people all over the world that you have to reach through television and records, that we have not been popular with. But that’s because we have not been involved in those mediums for two years. We’ve got to saturate those two markets again.

They say the other groups, the Three Degrees, Labelle, are beating us. I think they still have a long way to go before they can catch up with us.

As far as I’m concerned, the Supremes have never died, honey … I want everyone to know that

disco delivery #51: the supremes - high energy (1976, motown) (saturday january 26, 2008)
the supremes - mary, scherrie & susaye (reprise) (thursday march 8, 2007)
disco delivery #1: the supremes - mary, scherrie & susaye (1976, motown) (tuesday january 10, 2006)

the guardian - mary wilson: the supremes' tenacious star who refused to accept defeat (by alexis petridis) (tuesday february 9, 2021)
new york times - mary wilson, co-founder of the supremes, dies at 76 (by derrick bryson taylor) (february 9, 2021)
rolling stone - lamont dozier remembers mary wilson: ‘she was the glue that kept the supremes together’ (by elias leight) (february 9, 2021)
rolling stone: mary wilson's tireless music business advocacy (by ethan millman) (february 12, 2021) - motown spotlight february 2021 - mary wilson (by sharon davis)
eur web - mary wilson: reflections of a supreme journey! (by scherrie payne) (february 14, 2021)
the irish post - tribute to a musical legend: remembering mary wilson of the supremes (by michael j. mcdonagh) (march 3, 2021)

wikipedia: the supremes (1975 album)
discogs: the supremes - s/t lp
the funk & soul revue - rare cut: the supremes - he's my man (by george haffenden) (october 28, 2017)
christopher stone - author


Sunday, October 27, 2019

Disco Delivery Mix #8: Dealing with desire

As I try to get out there and play records more often these days, I'll be posting little mixes like this to accompany them. This particular mix as just over 30 minutes long, starting out in disco and moving into a more mid-tempo boogie groove in the second half. If you're in Toronto, I'll be playing at The Embassy Bar in Kensington Market this Tuesday evening (October 29, 2019). If you're around, drop by and say hi!

In the meantime, enjoy the mix.



Enchantment - Settin' It Out
Taka Boom - Red Hot (12" Version)
The Duncans - Communication
Pilot - You're The One
Kevin Morane - Banco
Nile Rodgers - Yum Yum
Hipnotic - Are You Lonely?
Krystal Davis - So Smooth


Thursday, August 29, 2019

Disco Delivery Mix #7: Magic Minstrel

*tap* *tap* is this still on?

I know it has been a four year absence from updates and as one can imagine, quite a bit has happened in that time. Even if life has brought many other beautiful experiences, commitments and achievements, I'm happy to leave this blog up as an archive even if there's writing here that even I find a bit cringeworthy now. Lately though, I've been feeling the urge to start DJing and posting mixes again, so hopefully this blog can still serve as a repository for that.

I had recorded this little mix in late June as a laid-back summer mix, largely featuring records I had bought at the time. As I have in the past, this one isn't overly long (just over 30 minutes).

On a related note: If you're in Toronto, I'll be DJing at the lovely Handlebar in Kensington Market this coming Labour Day. If you happen to be in the area, I'd love to see some friendly faces.

Enjoy the mix!



Norman Connors - Anyway You Want
Leon Ware - On The Island
Sylvia St. James - Magic Minstrel
Sheree Brown - Feelin' Crazy
Plush - I Don't Know Where Love Comes From
D.J. Rogers - The Love Shuttle
Smokey Robinson - Virgin Man
Bobby Womack - Git It
Doris Troy (feat. Mystic Merlin) - What'cha Gonna Do?

now toronto - events: midnight message with discodelivery
blogto - events: midnight message with discodelivery
eventbrite: midnight message with discodelivery
handlebar toronto


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Disco Delivery Mix #6: Summer Fever //

Usually around this time of year, I pull together a mix for Pride weekend.. This year is no different, however I have a bit more on my plate this time.. Tonight for Pride Saturday, I'll be DJing with Toronto artist Andrew Zealley (AKA Clinical Sonician), - a little night we're calling Disco Hospital + Disco Delivery present INTERGENERATIONAL.. Culling from our combined four/five decades of record collecting.. Disco Hospital is a reference to one of Zealley's recent works - his MFA Thesis exhibition Disco Hospital: Safe & Sound - an interdisciplinary research project investigating sound, queerness and non-Western healing practices. For tonight, we figured our titles went together well, as did our mutual love of vinyl. We'll be playing all wax tonight (Saturday June 27) at The Rivoli pool hall from 8 till late..

As far as the mix goes, this one's a bit shorter than usual, and only covers one decade of our five combined decades of music so perhaps not a full preview for tonight's offerings, but hopefully this little quick and dirty thing I pulled together will still be enjoyable..

Summer Fever by Disco Delivery on Mixcloud


Hott City - Feelin' Love
Harry Thumann - Underwater
Rinder and Lewis - Love Potion #9
Donna Summer - Summer Fever
Goody Goody - It Looks Like Love
Cory Daye - Green Light
The George Bussey Experience - If You're In Your Seat, You Gotta Pat Your Feet
Motown Magic Disco Machine - Bend A Little

i n t e r g e n e r a t i o n a l (facebook event)
andrew zealley
the wardens today: andrew zealley in conversation with henri faberge
ocad university: andrew zealley's disco hospital investigates healing and sound


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Vintage Articles:
Disc Profile: Grace Jones - The Lady Is a Vamp! - by Regina Rose // Mandate - September 1977

With today being Grace Jones' birthday and with all the attention around the recent reissue of her disco trilogy - "Portfolio," (1977) "Fame" (1978) and "Muse" (1979) as part of her "Disco" box set, (which I've had on regular rotation since receiving it last week), I thought this would be a good time to post this profile of her that I'd found in an old 1977 issue of Mandate. For the uninitiated, Mandate was one of the top gay titles in the holdings of late porn king, George Mavety and his Mavety Media/Modernismo empire, which also published such esteemed titles as Juggs, Inches, Honcho and Leg Show to name just a few.

While Mandate folded in 2009 along with many other Mavety Media titles, these earlier, seventies issues of Mandate and other competing titles from the era like Blueboy and In Touch (no relation to the current tabloid) are, aside from being great time capsules generally, a veritable treasure trove of gay disco history and ephemera. With extensive cultural coverage - sections dedicated to artist profiles, record reviews, (in pop, rock and even classical) alongside fairly comprehensive theatre and literary columns; Mandate and its contemporaries, at least at this point in time, seemed intent positioning themselves much like Playboy had done - as "lifestyle" titles for the culturally sophisticated, sexually liberated, affluent gay male. Looking through their back issues, the difference between the "international magazine of entertainment and eros" of the 70s and the all-out skin mag it would later become is quite stark.

As far as this profile on Grace is concerned, while I wouldn't call it an especially in-depth one, (it's quite brief and something of a puff-piece); it's an interesting glimpse at the kind coverage she was getting at the very start of her career. With her first album, "Portfolio" new on record shelves and true to that title with Grace still better known as a model in many circles, this is perhaps one of the earliest documents of her rising stardom. Quoting Vince Aletti, Richard Bernstein and Francesco Scavullo and mentioning breaks she had gotten as a model from the likes of Antonio Lopez, Bruce Laurance and Hans Feurer, one thing this article does do quite well is trace the trajectory of her modeling career in a way that very few profiles of her have done since. The 1973 Bruce Laurance photograph that helped launch her modeling career opens the article, (although I, for one, would have loved to have seen a picture of the Richard Bernstein designed amyl nitrate costume described in the first paragraph also, but I digress..)

It also has to be said, that the writer seems to be taking more than a bit of license when she mentions how Grace "managed to become a successful recording artist without ever taking a singing lesson." Tom Moulton would likely beg to differ, having mentioned in two of his recent interviews promoting her new Disco box, that despite whatever reservations he may have had about her abilities in the beginning, just how dedicated she had been to her vocal training at this period of her career. A listen to some of her earliest recordings, like "Again and Again" or "I'll Find My Way To You" from the Italian film "Quelli della calibro 38" (Colt 38) - later re-recorded for the final installment of her Disco trilogy - "Muse" (1979, Island) - certainly show as much.

Exaggerations aside, enjoy this early glimpse at a budding icon...


Disc Profile: Grace Jones - The Lady Is A Vamp!
by Regina Rose

She slowly descended a long staircase, hundreds of phosphorescent tubes circling her tight outfit, silk-screened in an amyl nitrate motif, with some of the poppers depicted as broken. She was a definite high, and the usually staid audience went wild. The scene was a black tie benefit in New York sponsored by the Lung Association, with a tribute to the artist Erte as its theme. And the show-stopping beauty was reigning disco diva Grace Jones, who introduced her rock version of "La Vie en Rose" to thunderous applause. New York's "in" artist Richard Bernstein who created the costume as well as la Jones' album covers, says, "She's an electrifying experience and incredibly talented... black beauty on her way to superstardom." Fashion photographer extraordinaire Francesco Scavullo had two words: "She's dynamite!"

A firecracker with a lit fuse, about to be thrown, creating an explosion sure to leave the entertainment world rocking. That's Grace Jones. Her first record was what the music industry equates with winning the Irish Sweepstakes: a double-sided hit. The songs, "That's The Trouble" and "Sorry," remained on the Billboard Action chart for 17 consecutive weeks. Her second release, "I Need A Man!" is the first 12" single to make it onto the pop music charts, usually made up solely of 7" records, proving her appeal has crossed the disco boundary to reach the general record-buying public.

Vince Aletti, disco editor for Record World, commented on Grace's phenomenal success. "When I first got her record I wasn't sure it was Grace. I had met her a few years ago but I didn't know she was into singing. I just knew she was a model and very striking." He continued with, "One of the things that striked me about her is her voice is not one of those polished singing voices. It has a lot of character. It's like a whole lot of voices put together. I like the rough edge to her voice. Her image, her whole look and style, come across on the record. I like the way they package her."

Grace Jones was born and raised in Jamaica, moving with her family to Syracuse, New York, when she was twelve. Her childhood aspiration was to be a movie star, and she constantly played with make-up and nail polish, something her mother dubbed "vain." At Syracuse University she took a drama course which led her, after graduation, to Philadelphia where her professor was producing a summer stock play. After the run of the show, Grace headed for New York in pursuit of a modeling career. Armed with photographs, slicked back hair and high cheekbones, she was hired by Wilhelmina and spent the next two and a half years struggling in the highly competitive New York modeling jungle. Her beauty was considered too avant garde for the time, but her picture taken by photographer Bruce Laurance and used on the cover of his party invitations got Grace's face into all the right mail boxes. Five and a half years later, Laurance says, "She's a really good friend. Grace is a very sensitive girl and intuitive and a little bit of a psychic. She's got the voodoo in her." It shows!

On the advice of fashion illustrator Antonio Lopez, Grace went to Paris where Lopez had arranged introductions to Europe's elite fashion circle. Photographer Hans Feurer showed her how to look more in tune with the haute couture market, even having real gold teeth made at tremendous expense for a photograph of her lips that appeared on the cover of Uomo Vogue (sic). Her pictures began showing up in all of Europe's major fashion magazines, and she modeled in some of the top Paris designer collections.

In 1976 Grace was having dinner with a group of model and photographer friends and began singing at the table. A record producer was present and asked her on the spot to make a recording for him. The result was "That's The Trouble," first released in Paris, but not destined to be a hit until Tom Moulton, Grace's U.S. producer, rearranged the recording.

Grace's managers, Sy and Eileen Berlin, watch over her with parent-like guidance and supervision, approaching her career with a definite science, preventing the public from become over-saturated with too many records or performances. The sizzling artist, at age 25, is up for a major role in a Broadway musical and will soon act and sing in a movie to be filmed in Jamaica. In true diva tradition, the girl is going to wind up on top. After all, she managed to become a successful recording artist without ever taking a singing lesson.

In New York, Grace Jones recently dropped in unnanounced at two "in" discos, 12 West and Les Mouches, and of course she found herself spinning on the turntables. But then, the girl is spinning on every turntable in reality.


i'm very superficial, i hate everything official (tuesday september 15, 2009)
strange weather - the tumultous re-emergence of grace jones (part two) (tuesday january 6, 2009)
strange weather - the tumultous re-emergence of grace jones (part one) (wednesday december 24, 2008)
the return of grace jones? (friday june 20, 2008)

facebook: grace jones (official fanpage) - mandate magazine
queerty: george mavety's noble cause behind creating a bunch of skin rags for gay men (september 23, 2009)
queerty: say goodbye to these porn mags (may 12, 2009)
the guardian: tom moulton on grace jones: 'they were just like her slaves, just looking at her all goo-goo eyed' (by alexis petridis) (friday may 8, 2015)
ransom note - interviews: drama, disco & divas: tom moulton talks (by ian mcquaid)
udiscover: grace jones' disco years in new box set (march 12, 2015)
facebook: the art of richard bernstein
1stdibs: bruce laurance - grace jones at compo beach, 1973
dangerous minds: grace jones modeling card, 1973 (august 30, 2012)
new york times - obituary: richard bernstein, 62; created covers for interview magazine (by stuart lavietes) (november 2, 2002)
the antonio lopez book
designspiration: vogue hommes - spring 1975 (grace jones photographed by hans feurer)


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Vintage Articles:
'The first step in getting ahead is getting started.’ An interview with Bob Crewe. -
by Donald von Wiedenman //
The Advocate - April 7, 1976

Something to add on to the previous Disco Delivery post on the Bob Crewe Generation's Street Talk album - I found this interview back when I was researching through back issues of The Advocate for nothing in particular aside from anything that seemed interesting and relevant to my interests (and there was plenty). I had quoted a section of this interview in the previous post, but I figured I might as well post the entire thing here for posterity. The article, written by The Advocate's features editor at the time, Donald von Wiedenman - an interesting figure himself, descendant of Bavarian nobility footnoted in rock history for his brief marriage to the late Mama Cass Elliott - is perhaps one of the most vivid descriptions of Bob Crewe that I've read.

Although he's widely acknowledged as a gay songwriter now in his death and in light of his portrayal in the Jersey Boys musical and film, it's interesting to note that even while speaking to the leading gay magazine about a record that more than hinted at homoeroticism, he's nonetheless gently evasive about his own sexuality in print. Even when the topic of the gay community comes up, he never manages to implicate himself as part of that community, even while talking about it. Although one can fill in the blanks and realize that someone who speaks about it as knowledgably as he does has to have more than an outside passing familarity with it all.

Although he reportedly wasn't entirely happy with his Liberace-lite portrayal in Jersey Boys, having only seen the film thus far, what it does seem to do well, just as this article does, is portray the infectious charisma that Crewe seemed to have when in his element as a writer and producer. Taking inspiration from everything around him and in turn inspiring those around him; notwithstanding any camp liberties in the storytelling, his inspiring personality is one thing in evidence in the film, just as it is here, and just as it is when hearing old friends and colleagues speak about him.

Apart from producing the award-winning "Leader Of The Pack" cast album in 1980s, the volume of his musical credits seem to drop off after the disco era into the 80s. He appears, as many do, to have turned a new chapter and dedicated much of the last part of his life to his visual art and philanthropic efforts. Prior to his passing this past September 2014, Crewe's health had apparently been diminishing rapidly following a 2010 accident which left him in hospice care and suffering from dementia. The statement left by his surviving brother spelled it out quite grimly. Looking at this interview from 2008, which must have been one of his last, he nonetheless seemed determined to remain as active as possible as a creative person, well into his later years. If anything, this article captures him at a high point, as the quintessential dream-maker, to paraphrase the article, with a million things happening around him and all the connections to back it up...


‘The first step in getting ahead is getting started.’ An interview with Bob Crewe.
By Donald von Wiedenman

         It is early in the morning (for me anyhow), and I am slouched on Bob Crewe’s leather-covered bed at his home high in the Hollywood hills. The house is a shambles. A bevy of workers are gutting, sawing, ripping, hammering and generally making pests of themselves as they tear out the inside of Bob’s house, making it ready for the new era to come. Down where we are, on the lower level that harbors his bedroom and makeshift office, we sit among the debris of a life lived in madness. Golden records here. Golden records there. Autographed photographs, record jacket designs, mislaid mottos and a bookcase that contains, among other goodies, Cities of Destiny and The Suicide Academy.

Bob Crewe is the man of the moment. One can’t dance at a disco these days without dancing to records that Bob wrote and produced. No overnight success, his career goes back to “Tallahassee Lassie” and “Daddy Cool.” Today, he is one of the most powerful and successful record producers in the wonderful world of rock-and-roll, and his recent hits include “My Eyes Adored You,” “Swearin’ To God,” “Disco-Tex & The Sex-O-Lettes Review,” “Lady Marmalade,” “Get Dancin’” and “I Wanna Dance Wit’ Choo.” He had created stars, made millions of dollars and exerted an influence that has definitely had an effect on all of us.

From upstairs-- almost drowning out the noise of the carpenters -- Bob’s latest 45, “Street Talk,” is blasting away on speakers that are bigger than a bathtub. The music is lush, sweeping and sensual. It is Wagnerian rock, an all-encompassing, third-world sensation of unearthly delights. It’s the kind of music that makes you want to lie down, take off your clothes and fuck your way to The Big Dance Floor in the Sky. It is, to put it quite simply, very horny music.

Crewe is talking about 10 things at once. His chatter is the patter of jumbled jargon, obscure references and the first names of the biggest names in the business. To listen to him is to be confused and elated at the same time. I have the feeling that everything he says is a special confidence intended only for me. So I listen and I watch, keeping careful track of all that surrounds me. Observations are what it’s all about and if it works for him, it’s bound to work for me.

Crewe tells me that he is deep in the midst of expanding the theme of “Street Talk” into what he terms the world’s first trisexual rock ballet. “I don’t know whether to spell it with an ‘i’ or a ‘y’ “ he muses. “I suppose it should be trysexual, as in try anything.” He laughs, pleased at the sound of yet another undiscovered secret. He knows that everything he says--everything he thinks--is only the fragment of an idea that can be developed later. The world is an adventure to him: Everything leads to something else.

         Bob goes back a long way, and for a man somewhere near the age of 40, he is remarkably young. Tall, goodlooking, he has a boyishly lived-in face that is handsome in the classic sense. In many ways, he is as immediate as his music, yet he has a kind of timeless quality, as if he’d be just as much at home dancing the Hustle as he would the Madison. Today he is a vision in blue. Faded jeans, a blue pullover, blue suede sneakers, and shades of the ‘50s white socks. His body seems to light up, as if his energy can actually be seen by the naked eye. Even when he is calm, he never sits still.

He is telling me more about his trysexual rock ballet. As he talks, he pulls out a copy of After Dark, flips through the pages until he comes to a drawing of a lustily innocent boy with his underpants coyly pulled down over one hip. It is unmistakenly the work of Los Angeles artist Toby Bluth, a lusty young man in his own right.

         “This,” says Crewe, “is how I see the hero of ‘Street Talk’.” He smiles. “I call him Cherry Boy. The ballet--or rock opera, film, stage musical, whatever--begins with Cherry Boy going into a disco. He is young, naive, never made it one way or the other. He’s hot. He’s street talk. Everyone notices him, wants him, desires him. Of course, he gets picked up, by a guy and a chick named Rod and Selma. Rod is for Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Selma is Selma Avenue in Hollywood. The music we hear is called ‘Menage a Trois,’ a very sensual understatement, not sordid at all. These two people keep him.

“The mood shifts with ‘Back Alley Boogie,’ a really funky sound.” Crewe pauses, thinking of the next logical step. “At the end of the piece, we see Cherry Boy with a chick on his arm going into a disco and picking up another boy, the new street talk. It’s a very circular piece. The hunted becomes the hunter. It’s a microcosm of our own lives.”

Of course, this all hits home. From the hunted young man to the hunting older man, the story is universal; a come-to-grips-with-reality morality play that never knows a final curtain.

Crewe decided to call Toby Bluth and discuss all this with him to see if Bluth will do the illustration for the album jacket. I am amazed at the speed with which Crewe works. Right in front of my eyes an unfocused concept has taken on a definite form. I feel as if I am in the middle of rock & roll history.

As Crewe talks avidly on the phone, I notice a sign on the wall that reads, “The first step in getting ahead is getting started.” My heart stands still. It is the very core of reality for those of us who dozed through the last decade in a haze of smoke and a pile of pills.

Crewe is off the phone. He starts “Street Talk” from the beginning again, takes the phone off the hook and tells me that he first came to Hollywood in 1960. At that time he wanted to get into acting. He already had a long string of hits behind him, and he wanted to try something new. But the meatmarket approach to acting in Hollywood was too much for him. Although he was attracted to the glamor of it all, he was too afraid of failing to really pursue it very far. So he went back; back to producing records, back to New York, back to the safety of doing what he knew best.

“Those were incredible days for me,” he confesses. “I had so much fun doing what I wanted to do that I didn’t know it was work. Do you know what I mean?” He doesn’t wait for an answer. “I always thought work was something dreary, something that was alien to one’s being. It took me a long time to realize that I was actually working when I was having such a great time. I guess that is what it’s all about--getting paid a lot of money for what you like to do best. I used to think that I wasn’t suffering enough.” He pauses, throws a jaded shrug at the work ethic, and adds somewhat obscurely, “I was more daring then. I guess it was the time. I often think that a lot of that was just so much shit. Or was it? I mean, I got dressed-up in an ape costume, for example, and went to Philadelphia to plug Frankie Valli’s ‘I Go Ape.’ Can you imagine? And another time, I took a bunch of my friends back to Newark, where I grew up, to see my humble beginnings.” (I can only think of Diana Ross in Rock Dreams, her eyes scanning the darkness of the past.) “And do you know what?” Crewe asks. “Everything was gone. Nothing was like it had been before. I felt saddened because no one would ever see it again.”

We talk about the popularity of his music--and disco music in general--in the gay clubs. The hot records break first in gay circles, leading the way for the non-gay world to follow. Crewe knows his business very, very well. He answers without hesitation.

“I think gay clubs are the most honest forum for determining the success of disco music. First of all, the patrons are very affluent--more affluent and more independent than the men and women who go to other bars. Most of the gay men that I know are very proud. They work for a living (unless they’re kept), and they have a lot of money to spend. And they spend it on themselves--whether it’s buying drinks or paying a cover charge.

“Another big factor about gay bars is that everyone there is into dancing, much more than at a straight bar. As a rule, you can’t bullshit gay men and women. They’re looking for music that will make them move, and if the music doesn’t get them onto the dance floor, it’s no good. The club closes down. It’s very much cause and effect.”

         The door opens. Lou Ann (sic), his right hand woman, comes in with assorted messages that need to be dealt with. Someone upstairs starts “Street Talk” all over again. In the middle of discussing a check for the architect, which needs to be sent right away, Crewe smiles at me and tells me that when he was eight, he was one of Lippel’s Cutie-Cutes.

Cutie-Cutes? Oh yes, he tells me, it was a school for dancing for bright young things like himself. Even today, I realize, after time and the tides have taken their toll, Crewe is still one of the Cutie-Cutes, just a kid out on the boards trying to make his dreams come true. Get down, get back and get dancing--life can be just as fun as you make it.

The next day I bop down to Cherokee Studios where Crewe is laying down the tracks for his Street Talk album. I walk into the pounding, grinding, tantalizing sound of “Menage a Trois,” a perfect melody, I think, for the collection of lovelies around me. First there is Cindy Bullens, who is co-arranging this opus with Crewe. She is slight, boyish, determined, loose and immensely likeable. Then there is AJ, the Great DJ, his hair the color of a dye job gone wrong, his face looking suitably dragged out after being up all night, one supposes, playing the music that brings happy feet onto the disco floor.

Toby Bluth comes in, portfolio under his arm; a tall, thin, jaded young man named Jock (or possibly Jacques) in tow. They smile at the multitude. The multitude smiles back. The studio receptionist, who looks as if she won the Philadelphia David Bowie look-alike contest, swoops in, listens to a few heady bars and floats out. All around me--converging on the plate of shrimp with the lusty gusto of those who live under only the darkest of rocks--there are assorted technicians, artists, musicians and hangers-on.

Crewe, noting in the confusion that Bluth needs to be tended to, heads in his direction, asking AJ on the way if he’s seen Cherry Boy. “Seen him?” AJ grins back. “Darlin’, I’ve had him.”

Somehow in this dialog, complete with jaded smiles and a thinning air of decadence, flashes me back to London in the Sixties. Again, I am reminded of how much things stay the same, of how the same lessons I learned years ago are the lessons people are still learning today. I have the feeling, as one often does in the windowless world of recording studios, that I am in a time warp. Yes, that’s it. It’s straight from the “Ed Sullivan Show,” but the emphasis is not on straight.

In the midst of all this craziness, Crewe, with a cigarette constantly in his hand, is in control of everything. Working the complex controls of a million buttons and levers on the magic dashboard of the rock & roll spaceship, he is definitely the mastermind behind the mastermind. He punches up the piano, punches out the violins, turns this knob to get that effect and no one knows that all that hard work is really a piece of cake to the man who can’t understand why everything is so much fun.

         In front of me, there is either a woman or a man undulating to the music, a thin, androgynous shape that is at once yesterday’s unisex and tomorrow’s way of life. Crewe comes over to me. The music in the control booth is so loud that it is impossible to concentrate on anything else, the very purpose of it all, I suppose. He starts to sing, and, cliche or no cliche, the room stands still. He sings the words that only he knows, the words that hatch as he thinks, the words that follow will form the shape and content of the world’s first trysexual rock ballet.

         I am thinking that all of this sounds a little far-fetched, that it smacks of being just a little too unreal to be believed. But then I look around the studio at smiling faces and good-time graces, and I know that only a dream-maker can make a dream come true. Bob Crewe and street talk--they are the very heartbeat of the music in our souls.

All things considered, that’s not bad coming from a Cutie-Cute who never grew up ■


disco delivery #66: the bob crewe generation - street talk (1976, elektra) (sunday march 15, 2015)
disco delivery mix #4: disco pride '14 - street talk (saturday june 28, 2014)

discogs: bob crewe
frontiers media: bob crewe, gay music legend, dead at 82 (by karen ocamb) (september 11, 2014)
the advocate: #tbt: the gay jersey boy (by christopher harrity) (september 11, 2014)
jersey girls sing: bob crewe - the master and the music
the new york times: bob crewe, songwriter for frankie valli and four seasons, dies at 83 (by william yardley) (september 12, 2014)
the guardian - music: bob crewe obituary (by richard williams) (september 17, 2014)
bob - at this time
ann ruckert: an update on the health of bob crewe (november 19, 2011)
about artist and writer donald von wiedenman
jersey girls sing: bob crewe - the master and the music


Sunday, March 15, 2015

Disco Delivery #66:
The Bob Crewe Generation - Street Talk (1976, Elektra)

"your ass is your ticket to paradise, you're gonna have to pay the price.."

The Bob Crewe Generation - Cherry Boy
The Bob Crewe Generation - Menage a Trois
The Bob Crewe Generation - Street Talk
The Bob Crewe Generation - Back Alley Boogie
The Bob Crewe Generation - Welcome To My Life
The Bob Crewe Generation - Free (Medley): I Am.../Free.../Keep On Walkin'
The Bob Crewe Generation - Ah Men!
The Bob Crewe Generation - Time For You And Me

B.C.G. - Street Talk (12" Unedited Main Theme) (1976, 20th Century)
B.C.G. - Street Talk (12" Var. II) (1976, 20th Century)
B.C.G. - Street Talk (12" Var. III) (1976, 20th Century)

A little known piece of homoerotic disco theatre, this album has long been a point of fascination to me and given the release of a double CD of Bob Crewe's Elektra recordings last week, I figure it was time to stop holding off from writing about it.. Despite being known for all those Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons hits written with Bob Gaudio ("Can't Take My Eyes Off You," the gay love song you never knew about, for one), Bob Crewe's disco period is perhaps one of the most interesting phases in his work. After a frustrating period as a staff writer and producer at Motown (where Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons also languished for some time), Crewe would end up tapping into disco quite early on, charting a small string of disco singles, like "Hollywood Hot" by the Eleventh Hour, a retooled disco version of "Can't Take My Eyes Off You," by Gerri Granger, one of Frankie Valli's comeback hits "Swearin' To God," "Get Dancin'" by Disco Tex and the Sex-O-Lettes, easily one of the most flamboyant iterations of disco camp and perhaps biggest of all, "Lady Marmalade." Although made famous by Labelle under Allen Toussaint's production, the song was originally written and produced by Crewe and Kenny Nolan for their studio group The Eleventh Hour (and included on both Eleventh Hour albums). According to his official bio, having apparently helped start one of the early record pools - the LADP (Los Angeles Disco Pool), Bob Crewe's contributions in the earlier part of disco, from 1974-76, represent perhaps his last major period as an active, on-the-pulse record producer and songwriter.

Despite his portrayal in Jersey Boys (I had seen the film only recently), Crewe was by many accounts much more discreet about his sexuality while he was alive, only ever publically admitting to being bisexual, for one thing. Whether that was an honest statement of identity or a half-measured coming out dictated by the fashion or limitations of the times; it wasn't until Crewe passed away this past September at the age of 83, that I had ever seen him openly referred to in the press as a gay man. Perhaps an open secret for those in music industry circles at the time, one close listen to this album would likely dispel any remaining speculation.

Although this album was billed in a 1976 cover story in The Advocate as a "Try sexual disco-rock ballet," the lyrics in "Cherry Boy" - "your ass is your ticket to paradise," or "Ah Men!" - "we're all alike, ah men! ah, men! That's what I like, ah men!" - left much less room for ambiguity, especially when one considers that this was also the man behind the unabashedly camp, gay sensibility of Disco Tex and The Sex-O-Lettes just prior to this. Released under his Bob Crewe Generation banner, (which he had previously used behind the lounge classics "Music To Watch Girls By" and the Barbarella soundtrack), given the synergy between disco and the burgeoning gay scene, it was perhaps no surprise that disco would form the backdrop for this newly homoerotic, sexually charged side to his work.

"Street Talk" was originally released as a stand-alone 12" as part of his 20th Century Records deal, where it became another disco hit peaking at #8 on Billboard's disco action chart in early '76. Vince Aletti in one of his Record World columns made a point of singling it out as one of his favourites at the time, calling it "a lush but hard-punching instrumental that even at its longest is constantly involving." Upon signing to Elektra as an artist (on a tip from Jerry Wexler at Warner), "Street Talk" would eventually form the basis of this album, his first under his Elektra deal which he described to Billboard's 1976 Disco Forum as a concept album for what he hoped would be "a Broadway-bound disco-rock ballet."


The loose story was essentially centered around a basic Hollywood narrative - the innocent midwestern naif who arrives right off the bus from "Nowhere, Nebraska," with hopes and dreams of stardom, and the pitfalls and pleasures of Hollywood's seamy sexual underbelly that he has to navigate along the way.. Speaking to Donald von Wiedenman in The Advocate, he would flesh out the concept more fully:

"I call him Cherry Boy. The ballet - or rock opera, film, stage, musical, whatever - begins with Cherry Boy going into a disco. He is young, naive, never made it one way or the other. He's hot. He's street talk. Everyone notices him, wants him, desires him. Of course, he gets picked up, by a guy and a chick named Rod and Selma. Rod is for Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Selma is Selma Avenue in Hollywood. The music we hear is 'Menage a Trois.' A very sensual understatement, not sordid at all. These two people keep him.... The mood shifts with 'Back Alley Boogie,' a really funky sound... At the end of the piece we see Cherry Boy with a chick on his arm going into a disco and picking up another boy, the new street talk. It's a very circular piece. It's a microcosm of our own lives."

While the circular story Crewe talks about is evident; right from the outset, with the "Cherry Boy" being the album's sole object of desire, a listen and a look at the lyrics make it seem like the protagonist was ultimately more interested in one sex than the other.. In Side Two (where Crewe does much of the lead vocals) one can't help but read the familiar tropes of a coming out narrative, especially towards the final section of the album in the "Free" medley.. with lyrics like: "High time for celebratin', feelin' free.. Tell everyone it's been a long time coming....Thank God I am who I was born to be," which is followed by "Ah Men!" - "Ever since Adam, when little Eve had 'em. Good for the grabbin' - All Men. Love 'em all, the short and tall. Let's keep ballin' - All Men. That's what I like! That's what I like!" All of which comes to a conclusion with a love song, "Time For You and Me," led by Crewe singing solo in notably gender non-specific lyrics - "We walk in wonderland day by day - hand in hand. Lovingly.. Time for you and me." Draw your own conclusions..

Although the title track, "Street Talk" is the album's main attraction at just over 8 and a half minutes, its 'unedited' 12" version, released previously in early 1976 on 20th Century in a promo 12" sporting three versions (two shorter edits on side two curiously separated by a locked groove, likely to make it easy for DJs to mix out of one version, without the needle running into the next) is not that drastically different. The album and 'unedited' versions clock in at roughly the same time (despite the labelled duration of the on the 12" as 9.22), however the 'unedited' 12" mix packs much more punch than the LP version, with more of its percussive elements higher in the mix..

Aside from the title track, "Menage a Trois" was released as a single, with special disco mix (included as a bonus track on the Elektra Recordings double-CD). Although not an official single, the side two opener, "Back Alley Boogie," is easily one of the album's best tracks. Taking the raucous party atmosphere (a Crewe trademark) as previously heard on "Get Dancin' " and "Hollywood Hot," but rendered with a little more funk, focus and finesse (one may have mixers Tom Moulton and Tony Bongiovi to thank for that), it's one of the album's high points and could-have-been singles. While not officially released, according to Discogs there's an acetate of an extended/unedited version of the song still floating around out there..

If the concept itself wasn't enough, a look at the extensive list of credits reveals the ambition of this project. Entirely written by Crewe with either Trevor Veitch or Cindy Bullens; recorded in LA, New York and Philadelphia with around 63 musicians credited - 3 lead vocalists, including Crewe, himself and 1950's starlet Lu Ann Simms (on "Menage a Trois") and 19 backing vocalists, including big session names like Patti Austin, Gwen Guthrie and Philadelphia's Sweethearts of Sigma - along with Tom Moulton on board mixing (or, rather co-mixing, with either Jay Mark or Tony Bongiovi) much of the album. The back cover even features a front and centre quote of endorsement from A.J. Miller - then a leading L.A. Disco DJ.

Despite this, Bob Crewe's "trysexual rock ballet" never did come to fruition. Given that the album didn't end up doing too much and having come just before anyone was seriously marketing disco on film or stage, let alone one that also had gay and bisexual themes front and centre, it's perhaps not all that surprising. Following this album, Crewe would do a 180 from disco and release a solo record as a singer-songwriter entitled "Motivation" (1977, Elektra) (stream on Spotify), an R&B tinged album recorded under the auspieces of Jerry Wexler and Barry Beckett in the storied Muscle Shoals Sound Studios. Regardless of how well this record did or didn't do at the time, "Street Talk" remains Bob Crewe's disco opus - a notable time capsule and personal statement from one of America's greatest pop songwriters.

vintage articles: 'the first step in getting ahead is getting started.' an interview with bob crewe. - by donald von wiedenman // the advocate - april 7, 1976 (tuesday march 17, 2015)
disco delivery mix #4: disco pride '14 - street talk (saturday june 28, 2014)

bob crewe - the complete elektra recordings (2 cd) (2015, second disc records/real gone music)
real gone music | | dusty groove

discogs: the bob crewe generation - street talk lp
discogs: b.c.g. - street talk 12"
discogs: the bob crewe generation - menage a trois 12"
discogs: the bob crewe generation - ah men!/back alley boogie 12" acetate
frontiers media: bob crewe, gay music legend, dead at 82 (by karen ocamb) (september 11, 2014)
the guardian - music: bob crewe obituary (by richard williams) (september 17, 2014)
new york times: bob crewe, songwriter for frankie valli and four seasons, dies at 83 (by william yardley) (september 12, 2014)
rolling stone: bob crewe, singer and four seasons songwriter, dead at 83 (by jason newman) (september 12, 2014)
windy city times: 'jersey boys' discuss fifth gay 'season,' aging in movies (by jerry nunn) (june 18, 2014)
wikipedia: bob crewe
bob crewe - official website


Friday, March 06, 2015

More, More, More, The Pre-Moulton Mix.

Late last year just before the Christmas holidays, in an evening of compulsive record digging, for the princely sum of $3, I had stumbled on a copy of the elusive original Jamaican pressing of Andrea True's "More, More, More."Notable not just for being an early pressing, but for containing an altogether different, early mix of the song as well as an instrumental B-side, not available anywhere else. Released on the Federal Records label, copyrighted 1975, the year before it would be picked up by Buddah in the US, before the "The Andrea True Connection," and before it was given "A Tom Moulton Mix" into the version that is well-known today.

Listen: Andrea True - More, More, More (Original 7" Vocal) (1975, Federal)
Listen: Andrea True - More, More, More (Original 7" Instrumental) (1975, Federal)

Stream: Andrea True Connection - More, More, More Pt. 1 (A Tom Moulton Mix) (1976, Buddah)

As undeniably infectious as the little breathy disco song about getting the cameras rolling and getting the action going is, the story behind it - how a porn star ended up with one of the biggest hits of the time, is probably one of the most interesting behind-the-music anecdotes of disco.. Having reportedly filmed a commercial for a real estate company in Jamaica, due to a ban on asset transfers - a response to US sanctions placed after the election of Prime Minister Michael Manley (branded a Castro sympathizer by the US), True wouldn’t be able to leave Jamaica with her earnings intact. Alongside her adult film work and some bit parts in mainstream films, True had done some small-time nightclub singing around New York and reached out to one of her connections. Hatching a plan, she'd call on her friend - musician and up-and-coming producer, Gregg Diamond (whose biggest gigs up until that point seemed to have been playing in a band called Five Dollar Shoes and with the enigmatic gay glam icon Jobriath in his backing band The Creatures) to help cut a song for her, so she could effectively launder her earnings out of the country in the form of a master tape. Speaking to Abby Garnett at RBMA in a recent (and rare) discussion of their disco work, the late Gregg Diamond's brother and right-hand man, Godfrey Diamond told the story:

"So we had this song hanging around for about a year. We tried different people on it, but we really didn’t know what to do with it. Andrea True knew Gregg and would come over to the house all the time. About a year after we created the demo, we get a call from Andrea, and she says 'I did this movie down in Jamaica and I made some money, but I can’t leave the country with the money or they’re going to take half of it. One of the guys that I know here has a studio. Do you have anything up there I could sing on?'

So we go down there with our demo, throw on her voice, make it sound as good as we can because she wasn’t really a great singer – we had her sing it like a dozen times, over and over, so we got this thick version of her, this big, lush, breathy and sexy vocal. Then we edited it, cleaned it up and put a bunch of reverb on it so it has that big effect. We come back to New York, Gregg hooked up with some lawyer that he knew, they shopped it around, and every label in New York passed on this record.

One of the guys we talked to in that time was Art Kass, a very smart guy who had a record company called Buddah Records. He’d let everybody pass [on records], and he’d be the guy that calls later and goes 'So what happened?' So after everybody passes, I get this call from Art, and he ends up drawing up a deal for the record, and signs Andrea True as the artist. When it broke the Hot 100, me and my brother were like, 'This is the best we’re ever gonna do in our life, we hit it, this is it.' And it just kept creeping. It took like eight months to get into the top 20. And then we’ve got a #1 record on our hands. "

That being said, this early version, while considerably more raw than the pretty, polished Tom Moulton mix that would rise up the charts, still keeps the song's bare essential elements. The soft-focused, double-tracked vocals on the chorus, the combination of sex and sweetness and overall catchiness all still very much intact, if still slightly blurry. The intro is noticeably much sparser on this version, however the trumpets are just as prominent; the cowbell hooks - sampled in the late 90's on Len's "Steal My Sunshine" are there, though much more subdued. Overall, it wasn’t exactly a radical overhaul, however listening to this and Moulton's mix side-by-side is almost a study in how far all the finer points of good mix - all the small, but key elements, can really go in refining and elevating a record.

Andrea True - More, More, More (Musikladen - May, 29, 1976)
Uploaded by gigantis2000

Speaking to James Arena in his book, The First Ladies of Disco, Tom Moulton relates his own initial impressions and contributions:

"When I say crude, I mean there were a lot of horn mistakes, and it was sloppy. It was like a demo that people kept adding things to. The basic thing about it was it was very rough. In other words, you'd have heard the tape and you would have said 'Okay, that's good, now let's record it for real.' But there's always something about a hook that gets me - that's why they call them hooks. And I liked it. I had heard it and I liked it and I thought I could do something with it. Andrea wasn't singing much on it, I had to double her vocals and add a lot of reverb on it just to make it, you know, very sweet and dreamy.. It took me about six hours to finish it.”

"I thought the record had something. I liked that sort of hokey Herb Alpert-ish trumpet solo. I thought it was kind of corny enough to really work... Buddah said they would take it if I mixed the record, but Gregg said, 'no way!' He didn't want anyone to touch it. Well, Gregg must have gone around the block several times and finally got back to Art [Kass] and said, 'Okay, Tom can mix it, but I have to be there.' I said, 'That's fine as long as he keeps his mouth shut. He can be there. I don't care.' We already [heard] his version, and nobody seemed to want that! So anyway, we agreed to do it . He had to have a limo to drive him to my studio. I thought he was kind of whacked out - seemed like he was high as a kite. I never saw him doing anything, but he appeared like someone on something. He was sleeping when he arrived. The driver asked if he should wake him up, and I said 'Hell no! Just drive him around and come back in three or four hours!' " (pg. 45)

Although she was never considered much more than a marginal talent; while, like with any success, there are always a multitude of people and circumstances to credit - one couldn't deny Andrea True's own agency in her own story. The lady was smart and tenacious and had the hit to prove it. Not to mention, all this seemed to happen concurrently with some of her adult film work. Interestingly, in 1976, an X-rated film she both starred in and directed called “Once Over Nightly” seemed to be playing, just as “More, More, More” was hitting airwaves. Even with the abundance and accessibility of porn today it’s still hard enough, if not nearly impossible for anyone working in porn to achieve any level of mainstream success, let alone a #1 hit, even after their porn careers are over. Speaking perhaps to the relative innocence of the times, however brief and fleeting her crossover stardom was, it’s a feat which has yet to be duplicated all these years later. For those who haven't read it, James Arena's book The First Ladies of Disco has it's first and one of its most comprehensive chapters dedicated to her. Apparently, Arena's First Ladies project began as a biography of her, however with the lady herself no longer with us, and with much of her life story pre- and post- stardom completely elusive, with no children or surviving relatives coming forward to fill in the blanks, it's perhaps the most detailed and dedicated recollection of her life story that we'll get.. Andrea True, born Andrea Marie Truden, passed away on November 7, 2011 in Kingston, NY at the age of 68.

having you fills my life.. (thursday april 23, 2009)
disco discharge and other recent/upcoming disco releases & reissues (friday september 18, 2009)
even more disco fun with youtube (friday may 12, 2006)

discogs: andrea true - more, more more (jamaican 7")
discogs: andrea true connection
discogs: tom moulton
discogs: gregg diamond
wikipedia: more, more, more
red bull music academy - interview: godfrey diamond on andrea true's "more, more, more"... and more (by abby garnett) (august 13, 2014)
daily freeman: disco singer andrea true, 68, dies in kingston; had hit with 'more, more, more' (november 19, 2011)
new york times: andrea true, singer of disco hit, dies at 68. (by paul vitello) (november 24, 2011)
los angeles times: andrea true dies at 68; porn star turned disco singer (by valerie j. nelson) (november 25, 2011)
the independent - obituaries: andrea true: disco diva of more, more, more fame (by pierre perrone) (sunday november 26, 2011)
google books: first ladies of disco (by james arena)
iafd (internet adult film database): andrea true


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