Introducing “Too Slow to Disco” – vol. 1
„The Eagles were the dream of rock and roll incarnate. Hotel California became a state of mind – the land of blue jeans and cocaine, mirror shades reflecting palmtrees, blond hair flowing from convertible cars on freeways that led to oceans. You love it and you hate it!“ (Don Henley in Barney Hoskyns’ book „Hotel California“)
Ah, the mid-70s ‘Me Generation’, not so happily remembered. And in the taste-conscious music world for years now people have laughed at the L.A.-sound with its super-smooth, over-lavish, luxury-laden excesses. Chord progressions as thrusting as that bridge across the bay. Love the white blazer by the way. Neiman-Marcus, right?
But “Too slow to disco – vol. 1” isn’t interested in your ageing hang-ups. As you know, once musical genres get old the best parts still shine through, and this collection is a delectable document of this forgotten phase of the mid-70s West Coast music world. We’ve unearthed some of the lesser-known but still beautiful mood music of this period, by people who were often still starting out, or would write their biggest hits years later, but who surfed the West Coast wave penning some total gems. So, yes, welcome to phase 1 of our PRM (Personal Rediscovery Movement, cult fans).
This sound is everywhere these days, echoing down the years, influencing the likes of Midlake, Haim, Gonzales, John Grant, Ariel Pink, Jonathan Wilson, Rhye, Devendra Banhart, Darkside, Destroyer, Phoenix, out to the more discofied sounds of Chromeo, Breakbot, Holy Ghost! and Todd Terje. And what was Daft Punk’s „Random Access Memories“, if not an album entirely dedicated to late 70s L.A.? (And indeed Thomas and Guy recorded with some of the most legendary late 70s studio musicians, quite a few of whom appear in younger guises on this very compilation).
And it’s not just dusty rediscoveries in old record shops, there’s also a growing „new sound of L.A.“ spearheaded by bands like Poolside, Classixx, White Arrows, Miami Horror, Kisses (and more bands on the CASCINE label) whose music is infused with the city’s trademark mellow, sunny pop and disco notes.
And anyway, you can’t blame music-loving youngsters for falling in love with this style and sound – it’s almost otherworldly in its deft smoothness, so effortlessly uplifting, all those warm and breezy melodies. You think anyone ever got tired of an endless beach with a beautiful sunset? That’s why across Europe and the USA soft-rocking mixes and re-edits are gently filling up the music clouds, and once more tastemakers putting quality songs in the party playlist. Looking at you Todd Terje, Aeroplane, Rayko, Northern Rascal, LNTG, Alkalino,…
Giant hanging coke spoon? Best club in the world! Yes, pop culture has always liked to use excess as its default measure of historical worthiness. That’s why the cable channels and bookstores are filled up with books, documentaries and compilations covering the late naive hippie sixties/early seventies West Coast in endless detail. But the excessive, megalomaniac, big ego-bands like The Eagles, CSN&Y, Fleetwood Mac kind of sucked all the oxygen out of the mid-70s era until Punk and Disco provided two blessedly different routes out of all those Lear Jet parties and lyrics about sleeping around in your own band. As a result loads of great artists and songs have simply been forgotten.
Musical pleasures should always be unabashed, so with this first volume of our TOO SLOW TO DISCO compilation-series we want to share some of the great acts and songs that made the mid-late 70s California scene so awesome. And pleasingly (judging from the many telephone calls we had to make in order to find the mastertapes) most of the artists are very much still alive and kicking.
So, think of us as your enablers: in just a moment you too can be transported from your current grey, drab modernity to a lost world, a sun-drenched land of possibility, where the music is as deftly arranged as the cocktails they’ve just brought round. Good? Oh that’s good, yeah…
A Soft History of Too Slow to Disco
“The mood in America was flat. 1974 began with lines at gas sations, Patty Hearst was kidnapped, Watergate scandal. In America’s inner cities, drugs and crime grew to unprecedented level. The Sixties were finally over. Most of the 60 superstars had grown 30.”
(Barney Hoskyns: „Hotel California: Singer-songwriters and Cocaine Cowboys in the L.A. Canyons 1967-1976“)
They might not all hail directly from LA, but for the acts assembled here the West Coast sound is their mantra – “keep it soft, make it melodic, keep it smooth”. They share a gently voiced commitment to soundtrack that gorgeous headland as your convertible sweeps down the Pacific coast highway. Sure hits the spot.
Forget, for a moment, the hippies and the cult murders, this is California as land of plenty – from sun-bleached beaches to orchards, mountains and easy driving. And yes, plenty of… excess. A city of madness, big shiny egos, motivation from mountains of marching powder. A city of falling angels that birthed the Me! Me! Me! Generation. But the upside of that self-absorption is in the slinky sophistication of many of these songs. It’s this glorious „delusion of grandeur“, now quite hard to imagine, that renders the music that’s left so damn exciting and special.
This is America, so of course the other thing you can hear is ambition. These were supremely confident musicians, who thought BIG, without limitations, embraced the absolute certainty of arena-rockin’ through their careers. We’re talking about the glory days for the record industry too; you want a string section? Use a frickin’ orchestra man, we got budget. It’s kind of a sad cultural joke that at the time this music was often labelled “M.O.R.” (middle of the road), given the epic scale these guys were recording at. Bands today look up from their tiny laptop studios and whistle quietly with envy at the whole damn production.
And yes, you can also hear the clash of egos, as most of the big 70s bands consisted of many outstandingly capable songwriters battling with each other for supremacy in the studio. This resulted in glorious, soaring, complex albums, and not a few court cases or divorces along the way. But then creative destruction never sounded so, well, smooth.
In the mid-late 70s perhaps the most interesting development was the moment where the troubadour singer/songwriters and counterculture hippies discovered their ‘groove’. Opinionated and political folkies were giving way to something less cerebral. Motown and Staxx had exploded, black music from funk to jazz and African music had injected some much needed movement around the hips. Suddenly bands were embracing horns, gospel organ, complex percussion, banks of vocal harmonies, and together they all conspire to define this new „big and wide“ sound.
Looking back, the potency of that period becomes even more evident when you realise that many of these artists, although not always successful with their own early work, have later become an important part of music-history, writing million-sellers for big stars even today. Jon Lind from White Horse co-wrote „Boogie Wonderland“ and Madonna’s „Crazy for you“, as well as becoming the Head of A&R for Disney’s Hollywood Records (bringing us Timberlake, Britney, Miley…). The twins from Alessi Brothers released 5 albums and later wrote million sellers for bands like Paul McCartney, Frankie Valli, Richie Havens, Olivia Newton John, and Christopher Cross. Richard Page from The Pages became Mr. Mister and gave us the epic „Broken wings“, Micky Denne (Denne and Gold) wrote Delegation’s hit „You to me are everything“. Tony Joe White wrote tracks for Elvis Presley, Tina Turner, and Brook Benton.
There’s something beautifully telling about the way FM radio DJs would call it “adult-orientated” music. Guy, you’ve made it, you’ve got the suit, the car, the beautiful wife… now put on some quality adult-orientated tunes, you deserve it dude. For ourselves, we could reach for countless adjectives… silky, jazzy, sophisticated, soft rock disco, “Yacht rock” (can you guess why?), vanilla funk, country-tinged blue eyed soul… But really, for us it’s quicker just to say we love it, and we hope you do too.
More information about the release here.