by Kris Needs published in Zigzag Magazine in Dec. 1981

Tear a strip off the sucker. Suddenly everybody's selfconsciously diving for the dancefloor. Most groups have got their 'funky number', even if they're not funky. Cavorting about like they've been into it for years, dropping names like Funkapolitan, Stimulin, a bit of James Brown, always the Zelot.
Some may even mention Chic, but it's a fair bet that three years ago, when the extraordinary string of classics galvanised by 'Everybody Dance' got into gear, this lot were all punks and slagging it off for being on the airwaves instead of Slaughter And The Dogs and The Cortinas.
Chic shot Disco with new excitement. They provided an instantly recognisable blueprint for thousands to copy and sometimes develop, yet were often tore down for being the upmarket, slick end of the scale.
Many have tried, no-one seems to get near that sound without severely bruised buttocks.
The only place where Chic appeared to come slightly unstuck was last year's 'Real People' album. Exhaustion from all their other projects, plus record company craving for more hit formula product, all the parasites and friends turning against them, made for a bitter, patchy statement that saw their spark slightly dulled. Co-writing and producing Debbie Harry's somewhat mistreated 'KooKoo' album certainly helped drag Chic out of the creative mire. Freed from the boundaries of their formula, Nile and Bernard could stretch out, delve into new areas, have a laugh and shoot new enthusiasm into the old batteries.
A little while ago Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards broke off mixing to tell us about it on the transatlantic telephone. I'd only met Nile before-at the Debbie Harry party. In fact, it was this meeting which led to the interview. To my surprise, Nile said he was an avid Zigzag reader and would like to talk (made my week!).
They seem two very different personalities both radiating co-oo-ol, but Bern the businessman, careful and precise. Nile comes over as a bit of a lad, bubbling and whacky. At first he had a job trying to describe the new album though: 'I don't know, it's really difficult...there's no violins. It's really different. We were listening to all our old records last night for three hours - we shoulda been mixing! I'd forgotten all about that - stuff like 'Spacer' by Sheila, Sledge, Those records are just covered in strings. This time there's no padding, just lots of piano and guitar, lots of powerchords - the guitar solos are very powerful.
It's very up. There's lots of energy, no ballads (hiss!). We just wanna go crazy and have lots of fun. We just felt like doing it.'
Enter Bernard: 'I guess this album's a bit more growth from what we've been doing - back to the more uptempo happier stuff. It's a growth from what we've been experiencing. We're not under pressure now.
What we wanted to do was get more into a 60s R & B type of sound, more uptempo with baritone saxes, a bit of MGS-type organ. It's all uptempo, no ballads, just the moderate tempo song. We tried to get excitement in the rhythm, in the foundation.'
It's like they've gone out to show all the others who's boss on this dancefloor. Play their arses off. Have fun. Make it a biggie - on their terms.
The acapella intro to 'Stage Fright' is first thing out of the grooves. The backing's just guitar, bass, piano and drums. Not even a solo in the midsection, just building drum tension.
'Burn Hard' speaks for itself and would be a dynamite 12 inch. Each instrument relentlessly stares each other out - slippery bass, rolling piano, spikey brass partping away and that guitar, doubled. 'Burn Hard, get smart'....
Nile gets a chance to stretch out on 'So Fine', scittering through Tony 'n' Bern and a cool synth.
'Flashback' is a heaving monster, mainly huge bass and drums, setting up a slow motion momentum for (I think it's) Nile's first vocal of the album. As he broods and reminisces in sinisterly low fashion, handclaps, guitar and the rest creep in. It could go on forever.
'Telling Lies' is short, sweet and very fat, the girls calling and responding, while the backing hits a vicious groove with lots of space.
Side Two's first pair are slightly weaker than the other giants. 'Your Love Is Cancelled' is distinguished by compulsive woodwindy riffing, while 'Would You Be My Baby' is solid enough. But it's the title track which blows the roof off your head. The title means just that. As Bernard explains: 'It's fun - taking off another covering, take off your clothes and see the real person underneath. No heavy messages.' Vocals from the girls and boys demand and sweat, while the music grinds with controlled muscle, a jumpy assault course which builds in power, but gets more and more clipped. "You make my heart palpitate because your body looks so great." Naked and unashamed, 'Take It Off' should be the 45.
'Just Out Of Reach' is the nearest thing here to an old-style Chic ballad. Sensitive textured with rich piano, but bolstered by the clattering guitar and a great sax solo which ends in a mighty scream. The track also showcases the yearning beauty of the girls' voices.
'Take It Off' gets rid of the remaining y-fronts with 'Baby Doll', an instrumental which hits a Booker T furrow on nifty sax and organ.
Chic are back and burning hard.
So tell us about the events which manifested in the grouchy 'Real People'. Too much pressure?
Bernard: It was a combination of factors working against us. The attitude people have to you. Previous to our success everyone was rooting for us. Then all of a sudden, when we made it, they turn against you. Nile and I were hurt and angry. It's hypocritical, but there's very little you can do about it. You can decide if you're going to write about it or not. We decided to write about it.
Was part of the pressure the record company trying to force Formula-Chic Product out of your exhausted bowels?
'That did make me upset. There's some very important messages on that album...and music. Like the bossa nova guitar at the end of 'You Can't Do It Alone'. We were just putting it all down.'
Real people
I want to live my life with some real people
I don't think my emotions can stand all of this wear and tear
They said you control your own destiny
But I can't take them getting the best of me
Spread out, give me some elbow room
And some place where I can disappear
I'm so tired of hypocrisy
Why these folks even bother me
Please just let me be.
('Real People')
Had it in for the Biz-liggers, didn't you, Nile?
'Yeah. That's why I wrote 'Back-Fired'. There's so much bullshit that goes down. It's always there. People give all this stuff to bands, all these promises. They're just charlatan-type fast-talkers who try to pull the wool over your eyes.'
'Real People' isn't without several highlights.
'I Loved You More' is a strong ballad, 'Open Up' innovative in the string section lead, and '26' is nothing less than a classic, taking the piss out of the '10' craze and a love song at the same time. With a warm, sensual vocal Nile croons lyrics like...
What's this I hear
All about these perfect 10's
My colleagues squawk about their ritzy girlfriends
A hundred pounds
A hundred pounds trash
They talk to me
They ramble on in my ear
Their conversation's boring
I would bet anyone 50 dollars
Because I only bet on the surest things
Anywhere she would go I would follow
500 miles from home
Just for a fling
My baby's a 26
On a scale of one to ten
Nile: That's a neat song. The '10' movie was out at the time and was really popular. We thought it was really commercial and everything so we were putting it down in the song, all that scale of one to ten stuff. You saw all these girls going round saying, 'oh, he's a 8 and a half, he's a Fellini' (laughs). So we just said 'well my baby's a 26!'.
What was it like working with Debbie and Chris?
Bernard: The recording wasn't difficult. Me and Nile used to work with three or four people in a band all the time. This record was going back to that kind of thing. We had a ball. We got real close to each other. There was great communication once we got in there.
Nile: We learned a lot from that. It was a very good experience. Another thing with the last Chic album - there's an important message in there that I would never have done with Chic, an important musical message. When we did that album everyone was expecting a combination of Blondie and Chic. They thought it would be the ultimate commercial venture, with the best elements of both. But we didn't do that. I know it's not gonna sell, but I had to play it like that. 'There's a lot of good stuff on that record. 'I Surrender' - that's one of the hippest guitar solos I ever played! The trouble is there's nothing traditional you could put your finger on. Everyone expected it to be the ultimate commercial seller, but instead of that we tried to make it more of an artistic endeavour communication thing. Once you get to a certain point in your career it's important to make that kind of album, where you want to say something else.'
I s'pose you've heard how Disco dancing is the current 'thing' here?
Bernard: We understand that. The whole idea for Chic was developed in England. When Nile and I were working in New York City (the group) in 74-75, we went to England and did some concerts. There was one at Hammersmith Odeon. People came to see us and said we weren't the typical Disco Radio Band. We're considered good players, a lot of people now appreciate that. They like musicians who are good at what they do, playing and performing. The Punk thing - fads come and go. You just have to wait...
'In New York, Disco is still strong. You can see it's changing over here. There's more dance clubs, dance records. Punk's giving way to Disco.'
Bernard ain't heard Defunks's vicious street mutation of 'Good Times', though inevitably he's encountered the rapping versions.
'I heard Sugarhill. It's flattering and you get the money. But there's so many versions of 'Good Times'.
So what do you listen to Nile? 'As a matter of fact, my favourite groups aren't anything like us. I like Devo. I like songs. I rarely like everything anyone has done - except Devo. I like weird stuff...the Go.Gos, and I bought that double re-issue of the James Brown stuff. That's incredible. I just like music. We just met Bow Wow Wow - they all like us.'
I just like Chic. The new album sees them out of the hole and crackling energy. They may come here and gig. Then these will be the good times!
Recommended discography:
'Tres Chic' (Atlantic)
'Les Plus Grands Succes De Chic/Chic's Greatest Hits' (Atlantic)
'Risque' (Atlantic)
'Real People' (Atlantic)
'Diana' - Diana Ross (Motown)
'Spacer' (45) - Sheila B. Devotion (Carrere)
'We Are Family' - Sister Sledge (Atlantic)
'Love Somebody Today' - Sister Sledge (Atlantic)
'KooKoo' - Debbie Harry (Chrysalis)



Get album info on 'Take It Off' GO

Watch video clip of Debbie Harry's 'Backfired' GO

Read 'Take It Off' review GO

special fan section courtesy of Glen Russell e-mail:glen@chictribute.com,
by pocat productions, sthlm 2003. e-mail:pocat@chictribute.com