Monday, October 15, 2007

Faust was right, have no regret..

Amanda Lear - Follow Me (Wally MacDonald Disco Mix) (1978, Inter Global Music/Epic)
Amanda Lear - Enigma (Give A Bit Of Mmh To Me) (1978, Inter Global Music/Epic)

Although I originally planned to this post this a couple of weeks ago, I had put it aside for a while after hearing some of Bobby Viteritti's stunning DJ sets. However, given the connection between this song and Bobby Viteritti, I figured I might as well do a little something on it now.

Although a much bigger star in continental Europe than in North America, "Follow Me" has got to be one of the enigmatic Amanda Lear's best remembered singles on both sides of the Atlantic. Although a largely underground disco classic in the US, "Follow Me" was apparently her biggest pop hit in much of Europe. If anything, the fact that "Follow Me" has been both remixed and re-recorded by Amanda herself a number of times since it's release seems proof of that... Originally the first single off her excellent "Sweet Revenge" (1978, Inter Global Music/Epic) album, that album was in itself nothing less than a Euro-disco classic. Moulded by Anthony Monn's pulsing, synth driven euro-disco production (also see Orlando Riva Sound and Magnifique), and Amanda's distinctively deep, smoky (albeit somewhat limited) voice; the resulting sound and concept - the combination of her voice, those lyrics, the string-laden, elegantly synthesized backing make the whole thing a kind of Dietrich-meets-Donna piece of disco brilliance. A combination of storytelling and sonic disco trance tinged with an enduring, enigmatic glamour.

The album version originally appeared in two parts, at the beginning and end of the A-side, both introducing and concluding a discofied Faustian fairy tale of a girl who sold her soul to the devil for fame and fortune and her eventual "revenge" over the devil's offer.. The first part has Lear playing the devil-as-temptress: "...Faust was right, have no regret.. Gimme your soul, I'll give you life.. and all the things you want to get.. so follow me..," while the second part has Lear playing a proverbial angelic character: "...I'll give you love, I'll give you strength, I'll give you wings, I'll be you're friend..if you agree to follow me..". Lyrically and conceptually excellent, perhaps the most striking lyric in the reprise would be: "there must be better things to do than sitting around sniffing glue.." A somewhat desperate rhyme if there ever was one, it's quite possibly one of the strangest verses I've ever heard in a disco song. It would be laughable if delivered by anyone else, but with her unique, inimitable delivery, it somehow manages to work, both evoking and complimenting the sort of solemn euro-disco decadence that typfied much of the record...

Although her primary label at this time was Ariola in Germany, the 12'' Mix was evidently comissioned by Canadian licensee Inter Global Music, a little regarded (at least these days) CBS-associated label whose catalogue seemed largely to consist of licensed European disco productions (David Christie, Penny McLean, Dee D. Jackson, Sticky Jones Gang etc..) for the Canadian market. Remixed by the late Toronto DJ, Wally MacDonald (who had done a few other disco remixes for Inter Global, among others), his mix is perhaps the definitive version of this record. The remix takes the original from the book-ends of the album's conceptual A-side, merges the two parts from the album, turning it into a sweeping, albeit slightly stripped-down, ten minute Faustian epic all on it's own..

Perhaps the greatest achievement of this disco remix has got to be in it's treatment of the orchestration. Somewhat submerged on the album version, the way those swelling strings, with their swirling crescendos coloured with those heavenly harp sounds (along with the much more prominent beat), were brought right up to the forefront, really bring out the beauty in the track, their presence taking the original to new heights altogether.. The heightened orchestration adorning those extended passages, in a way, seem to fill in for a lyrical narrative, painting pictures and evoking drama like no words or vocal could.. Towards the end, the effect of Lear's smoky whisper fading out amidst the swirling strings, in it's blissful beckoning seem to provide the perfect summation for the thing of beauty that this record is..

In a related note, with it's dramatic elegance, it's perhaps no wonder that this particular song ended up becoming Bobby Viteritti's signature anthem at San Francisco's Trocadero Transfer during his tenure. It became such a Trocadero staple, that Viteritti had evidently done four different edits/mixes of it, in order to keep it fresh for his audience. As Viteritti relates in his interviews with and, it's emergence as his signature anthem was something of a happy accident. A record that practically everyone in his record pool had slept on, it was only when Viteritti was close to running out of records one night that he decided to play it. The overwhelming response that followed ended up solidifying it as a veritable Trocadero anthem..

As far as the different releases of the remix go, Inter Global had evidently released the disco mix on both regular vinyl and red coloured vinyl. Although it was later reissued on the small Canadian label Siamese Records, and later on CD on a now out-of-print Canadian compilation, "Hi-NRG Classics" (1997, SPG), according to the interview with Vincent DeGiorgio (a prominent figure in the Canadian disco scene and friend of remixer Wally MacDonald), apparently the initial Inter Global releases were the only ones to be taken from the master tapes. All subsequent copies/pressings (including the Siamese pressing) were apparently mastered from vinyl copies, as the original tapes of MacDonald's remix were unfortunately lost after Inter Global Music's demise.

Sadly, Wally MacDonald, the Toronto-based DJ behind this remix had apparently died of AIDS in the early 90s. Although little seems to be known about MacDonald, who has been cited as an influence by the likes of Barry Harris (formerly of Thunderpuss) and referred to as a "Picasso on two turntables" by friend Vincent DeGiorgio, he was evidently quite a highly regarded DJ in the Toronto scene. A user on the forums had, at least several years back, embarked on a kind of memorial project for MacDonald, so hopefully more information about him will surface in the near future..

As for the B-side, "Enigma..," the version on the 12'' is exactly identical to the one on the album, yet being another one of the best tracks off "Sweet Revenge" (I don't there are any bad ones,acome to think of it) I also had to include it here. With it's stunning intro, punctuated by those shooting disco laser sound effects, Amanda's deep, icy vocals, not to mention the lyrics, practically (and purposely, I'm sure) epitomizing the aura of perpetual mystery surrounding her, it's perhaps one of her most iconic tracks.. Recently, "Enigma.." has had a mini-resurgence of sorts as a result of being used in a popular European ad for Kinder Bueno (see the Czech version on YouTube)..

All that aside, I couldn't possibly do a post on Amanda Lear without including some of her many stunning archived TV appearances from this time. All lip-synced of course, but the woman looks so absolutely fabulous on camera, it's no wonder YouTube is full of her TV performances. The first one included here is a stunning lip-sync of "Follow Me" off what looks to be Musikladen - with her fabulous outfit, her feline grace all complete with audience clapping along (on the one and the two, naturally), it's a total gem... The others - for "Gold (one of the best tracks off "Sweet Revenge," in my opinion) and "Enigma..", are nothing less than a couple of campy, crazy, and in the case of "Gold" totally fucked up performances from Italian TV (which I probably would have been better off saving for Halloween, but I couldn't help myself). Apparently, these were from a TV program called Stryx on the RAI network, which from what I can see, was likely campy, over the top Euro-variety TV at it's absolute best. I'm sure there's also a performance of "Follow Me" from that very same program, which I'd die to see, but which so far, no one has uploaded yet..

Amanda Lear - Follow Me
Uploaded by Homeland42

Amanda Lear - Gold
Uploaded by MateushPrv

Amanda Lear - Enigma (Give A Bit Of Mmh To Me)
Uploaded by MateushPrv

Although at times her music seems to take a back-seat to the mystery surrounding her, her origins and that perpetual question of whether or not she is a post-op transsexual (which she has repeatedly denied), the resulting intrigue seems to have proved rather lucrative for her career. Still appearing on TV and releasing records, the rumours only seemed to add another dimension of intrigue to her already distinctive style, and her already rather storied place in rock history (Salvador Dali muse, Roxy Music cover girl, David Bowie paramour etc..). Speculation aside however, with Anthony Monn's stunning production and Amanda's own unique vocal and lyrical contributions, "Follow Me" remains not only a touchstone in Lear's musical career, but perhaps one of the more beautifully distinctive, enduring disco classics out there..

Although Amanda's "Sweet Revenge" album has been available on CD for some time now, SPG's "Hi-NRG Classics" (1997, SPG) compilation (now out-of-print) is so far the only place where it's ever officially appeared on CD.








Anonymous said...

Skip the CD, which isn't engineered up to snuff. Anyway, the sheer thrill that sets in by the point of "Run, Baby, Run" probably has to be heard on a good club system to be appreciated. I speculate -- who would ever play the whole suite nowadays? :(


Unknown said...

Thanks for posting these YouTube clips. I haven't seen them before. You really how strong an influence she was on the Patsy Stone character in AbFab thru these clips... And speaking of fucked up performances from the disco era on Italian TV, check out the short clip up on YouTube of Grace Jones performing "Pride" from her "Portfolio" album. As genius as the 2 Italian TV clips you've posted here... Amanda Lear. Tranny or not, still a huge inspiration to a legion of drag queens.

Anonymous said...

I love the melody of the song Follow Me, I think Wally Macdonald did an Excellent remix job!
Thank you for this songs!

I would like to request for you Disco Delivery (Tommy) this songs:


A- I'm gonna dance 6:26
B- Music Machine(Dedication to studio 54)7:42 from the album L'Indiana.

Anonymous said...

I find that Amanda fits neatly in the middle of a continuum containing fellow Teutonic smoky-voiced rockers the proto-emo Nico on one side and the proto-punk Nina Hagen on the other. The influence of disco on early punk artists has been largely ignored (see Bowie, Eno, et al.), but all of this music was being produced and heard simultaneously in late 70's Europe, particularly in Berlin.

It's also interesting to me that though possessed of similar low-toned singing voices and more-or-less androgynous physical aspects, there has never been (to my admittedly limited knowledge) any controversy about Nico or Nina being biological women, while the question dogs Ms. Lear.

BoogieMan said...

Well now, it's about time you posted something I already have.LOL
Though she's not at the top of my Disco artists list, I never-the-less like Amanda Lear. She sort of reminds me, of a modern-day, Disco-styled, Marlena Dietrich with that smokey, cabaret, voice. I have her Sweet Revenge album (1978). I remember all the speculative whispers, years ago, about the possibility of her really being a man or, transvestite. Then there were the Amanda Lear/David Bowie and Mick Jagger sex scandal rumors too. Anyway, about the YouTube posts, I've seen so many classic ones, by so many different artists. Every time I watch them, I think, "How campy!" OR "How gaudy!" The scary thing is that, in retrospect, when these were new, they were considered (eehgad) "Avant Garde" or "Cutting edge". Then again, I cant help saying, "I can't believe I used to dress like that!", whenever I look at one of my old, Disco era, photos. Oh well, que sera, sera.

Anonymous said...

In New York City this type of "Disco" was rare. Yes Eurodisco was huge especially in The Bronx if you can believe that but never Amanda. Strange that Grace Jones was very popular in NYC especially in Paradise Garage but not Amanda. Maybe an article comparing the two?

Tommy said...

Hey FreddyinPtown.. I hope to one day hear the "Sweet Revenge" suite on a good club sound system. Totally brilliant stuff, IMO..

On another note, I've seen your mini-reviews on and your recent post on 'Salsoul, West End or Prelude' on the forum, and I must commend you on your way with words.. I have yet to find too many people who write about disco as eloquently and personally as you do. You should have your own blog!

Hey Enrique! Yeah, I totally see the Patsy Stone inspiration now.. I remember the little hints they dropped on AbFab, the jaunts to Morocco, the Patsy-as-a-man flashbacks.. I think I've seen that Grace Jones clip (I believe it's actually from her "Fame" LP) pity it was so short :( I just checked the Italian Wikipedia page on the Stryx TV program and that Grace clip might even come from that very same program.. What an absolutely brilliant TV show that must have been.. Anyway, thanks as always for the comment, Enrique! :)

Hey Sandra, I'm glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for the suggestion also. I have to say that I absolutely love Asha's L'Indiana album.. Without sounding overly gushy, it's one of the most brilliant euro-disco records I've ever heard.. I am definitely going to do a post on it (in the very near future, at least).

Anonymous, thanks for the comment! Very good points about the continuum of Nico-Amanda-Nina and the influence of disco on Bowie, Eno etc.. I'm somewhat familiar with Nico, even less so with Nina, I'm going to have to buy more of their records one of these days.. In addition to her music, I have to admit, I've been fascinated with the whole Amanda Lear gender controversy.. I'm sure there was an effort to use the transsexual angle as a 'hook' to generate interest, but I'm guessing it's persistence is probably because her origins seem foggy, at best. I would have accepted her denials about being a transsexual, but with people like April Ashley filling in the blanks, revealing details about her supposed 'past identity' as Alain Tapp and as the performer Peki d'Oslo, I'm still left wondering.. Anyway, the public library here has a copy of the book she wrote about her time with Dali, maybe that will reveal something.. I borrowed it very briefly several years back, but I'm gonna have to borrow it again shortly.

Hey DungeonDJ! Yeah, I've always found her "Sweet Revenge" album to be something like Dietrich-meets-Donna. The Dietrich connection with her vocal style of course, and the high-concept Euro-disco production reminding me of some of Donna's finest moments. I could kill so much time (in fact, I already have) watching those clips on YouTube. Campy and occasionally gaudy, admittedly, that's exactly what I love about 'em lol.. Anyway, it's great to see you here again, thanks for the comment! :)

Hey Anonymous, I'm waaay overdue on a posting on Grace Jones.. I'm totally going to do one sometime, in fact with how iconic her image and her records have been to me (and to many others, I'm sure), I really feel I have to do one sometime.. Anyway, after looking at the Billboard Hot Dance/Disco 74-03 book, I was surprised to find that "Follow Me," nor anything else by Amanda Lear even charted in the US(unless they made a serious omission). So I guess, in light of that, I can see what you mean about her lack of exposure in NY clubs.. I would have thought either this or the "Sweet Revenge" suite would have gotten some significant play, but I suppose whatever it did get was probably very localized.. Anyway, thanks for the comment! :)

Mike said...

Fabulous post about one of my favourite divas! You've inspired me to feature Amanda on my own Blog.

"Follow Me" is fantastic but "No Credit Card" is Amanda's finest moment in my opinion!

Tommy said...

Hey Mike, I saw your post on her version of Copacabana.. It's so fabulously campy, I can't help but enjoy it! I'll be leaving a few comments shortly :)

Yeah, I thought "No Credit Card" was fab too! Amanda does Italo.. love it!

Anonymous said...

the "fashion pack" video wasn't mentioned and this song was quite popular in the euro disco scene not to mention in montreal disco scene as well.

Tommy said...

I guess I'll be saving "Fashion Pack" for another post ;)

Anonymous said...

Elegant review and history of an elegant classic record.

Gina Morana said...

Great cover of follow me by American transsexual Sabrina Jones

Search this blog