Luther in CHIC 1977-1979

17 Sep

luther 1979 with Chic R-952009-1228047931 R-952009-1228047942 R-952009-1193118183 R-952009-1193118202n1279276557_481908_2443630 R-100014-1251711449 R-100014-1251711636 R-100014-1251711473 R-100014-1251711486

Nile Rodgers, Bernard Edwards and other members of what was to become CHIC were in Luther’s band touring on the road after the 1976 release of LUTHER.  In 1977 during one of Luther’s shows at Radio City Music Hall Nile Rodgers describes what happened.  “The first song I wrote for Chic was “Everybody Dance” and I remember at the beginning of Chic I was the only composer. Bernard hadn’t written a song with me yet. So the first was “Everybody Dance”, it was (plays guitar). It’s not the typical chord changes for an r&b song ‘cause in those days they’d be like (plays guitar) and you would just groove (plays guitar). Just one chord, staying in the groove, but because I wanted to hear more harmonically, I wrote (plays guitar). Will you all pretend like I sound good, pretend like I’m in tune? So the first song was C-minor 7, B-flat 11 to C-11, A-flat-major 7. And this was the cool thing, this was the real Nile thing. You can look at this many different ways, but I like to look at it as a D-minor 11 with an A in the bass. So we’d do the passing ‘cause I wanted to have Bernard do this chromatic thing (plays guitar). I’m so traditional, whatever’s in the root, I would think of it as the chord. So I think of that as a A-minor 7 with a raised 5. Because if I hear that in the root, I want to hear an A chord, I don’t want to call it a D. The reason I think of it like that is ‘cause… Well, anyway, that’s what I call it, I’m not going to explain it. So the first song I wrote I came up to Bernard and was: “Here’s how the song goes.” (plays guitar) Then I got really into it and went (plays guitar). He was like: “OK, that shit is cool, but what am I going to play?” Then he started imitating me and we were both going (noise), then all of a sudden Bernard came up with that genius bassline and we both started chucking and I started out-chucking him and about a minute later, as the writer, I thought, ‘Maybe I should just play simple and let him play the song’. Remember, no one had played this song except for me until we got to the studio. So we get there – and by the way, we’re playing with Luther Vandross, two shows a day at Radio City, so during the intermission we ran to the recording studio, where my boy was the maintenance engineer, and he paid the elevator boy $10 to keep quiet and not tell the boss that we record after hours. So our first session cost $10 and we had Luther Vandross, David Lasley, all these great singers who were working with us at Radio City. After we wrote that first song, we didn’t have a chance to hear it back, only in the studio, ‘cause we didn’t have cassettes. The only way you could hear your music was if the engineer cut a lacquer and they’d cut it right there in the studio and you’d take that and take it home and listen on your record player. Or you could make a reel-to-reel tape but then had to have a reel-to-reel tape player. So we never heard the song again until three weeks later we were going to a disco and my man says: “Hey, come down and check this out.” “Check what out?” “You just got to see this.” And it was basically an instrumental that went (plays guitar, sings): “Everybody dance, clap your hands, clap your hands.” Then for an hour we’d play (plays guitar). Then we’d break it down, do that thing, break it down again, then get to my part where I go (plays guitar) with the clavinet playing. This is going on for eight and a half minutes. We walk into this club, and my boy is playing this. Those are the only vocals on the record and everyone is losing their minds. As soon as the opening drum hits everyone went (screams) and ran out to the dancefloor. I don’t remember what dance they were doing in those days, probably the rock or something. The people in the audience were playing air bass and stuff. This went on for an hour. I’d never seen anything like that and I realised the power of the groove, the power of the DJ to talk to the audience, and it had nothing to do with the radio. It had something to do with being in that environment and hitting you with something that moved your soul, moved your heart, moved your feet, and all of a sudden we really believed in ourselves. We thought, ‘Damn, if they like that, what if we develop more stuff?’ And after ‘Everybody Dance’ it took a long time to get record companies to believe in us. Even though we took A&R people down and showed them the reaction, this was not staged, this was real. And the DJ would play the record for an hour at a time. He took two acetates and played them back and forth. Crazy! But the A&R people didn’t quite understand it, they didn’t understand the repetitive breakdowns and basically an instrumental track. A few months later, Bernard was hired to do a record and they had to have a B-side to sell it commercially. And the B-side, a lot of the time producers would just say: “OK, here’s some money, I’ll finish the song later.” And they’d write the song and become the writers. You’d do your track and they’d finish it later ‘cause it was a filler song. There are a lot of filler songs that have become huge, like “I Will Survive”. Gloria Gaynor’s biggest song was a B-side and she hated it. So Bernard – I wasn’t on this session – cut this B-side and it was basically what would become “Dance, Dance, Dance”. Since I was the only writer with Chic at the time, the guy who produced the session called me up to write it with him.” (Nile Rodgers 2011 Red Bull Music Academy)


Luther was a background member from that point on until 1979.


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