As part of our ‘The Future of Yesterday’ theme for EMC 2018, we’re bringing you curated playlists paying homage to some of the golden years in electronic and dance music from the last 4 decades – 1978; 1988; 1998; 2008 and 2018.
Our next playlist has been curated by DJ Greg Wilson. Regarded as one of the most important figures on the UK dance scene Greg has put together a playlist of his favourite disco tracks from 1978. Find out what these tracks mean to him plus read some of her favourite moments from that year.
They’re a combination of the most popular tracks I played that year, plus some personal favourites.
I was 18 at the time and resident in a local club called the Golden Guinea in New Brighton, opposite Liverpool on the River Mersey. It was very much the Disco era and I was able to cultivate a local scene playing across the spectrum of available dance music. I was always more black music-geared, so I naturally drew from the strong Disco/Funk crossover at the time. 1978 saw a big shift towards the Jazz-Funk direction, where the cutting-edge of the UK black music scene would be focused throughout the coming years (I’d begin to make my name on this scene nationally in the early ‘80s via my nights at Wigan Pier and Legend in Manchester).
I would also spend a couple of months working in Denmark and Norway, where many British DJs played, working monthly contracts.
Donna Summer’s seminal ‘I Feel Love’, produced by Giorgio Moroder & Pete Bellotti, had been unleashed the previous year, so ’78 saw Euro-Disco make a big impression, especially on the gay scene in the US, eventually resulting in Hi-NRG. The French producer, Cerrone, scored big with ‘Supernature’, as did compatriots Voyage with ‘From East To West’. Then, of course, there was Sylvester’s all-time Disco classic, ‘‘You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)’.
There were a couple of further inclusions that were highly influential in advancing electronic music – Jazz great Herbie Hancock’s use of the vocoder throughout his hit ‘I Thought It Was You’, introduced the instrument to many people, and was a definite forerunner to Daft Punk in the ‘90s, whilst Parliament’s ‘Flash Light’ was notable for bringing its essential synth bassline to the fore, played by Bernie Worrell (and this was with one of the great bassists, Bootsy Collins, in the band!).
Well I suppose there wasn’t really a culture as such at this point, the whole direction very much in its infancy. It’s difficult to compare the business then to now – in 1978 I could keep tabs on the majority of records released in the UK, whereas now you can only know a small proportion because of the sheer amount of tracks out there. Everything is more compartmentalized now, requiring DJ specialization in different areas. This was only the case back then with scenes like Northern Soul and Jazz-Funk, the majority of DJs playing a combination of chart records and oldies, the more adventurous adding new releases, and even imports, whilst the specialists disregarded the chart altogether playing new or rare records.
If you look at the playlist you’ll find that the music comes in different shapes and sizes, from downbeat to uptempo. Perhaps this variation might be taken more into account now – many DJs rarely play anything below the 120s BPM-wise, which negates so much great music. Things weren’t so rigid back then and, from a personal perspective, I’d like to see more DJs prepared to widen their BPM spectrum to take in more mid-tempo/downtempo tracks alongside what they already play. I certainly prefer to listen to a DJ who’s more open-minded in their approach, rather than someone who sticks to a narrow genre.
You can catch Greg Wilson chatting with Gilles Peterson on the Psychology of DJing at this years conference. Tickets available here.
Written by: emc-admin
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