Boogie: A Melting Pot on The Post-Disco Dance Floors of The Early 80s
Part 1: It’s a dance—and an even better style of music!
Boogie. A word most used to refer to a dance, be it with your friends at a party or from the comfort of your own home. But aside from being a doing word, it is a huge area of forgotten records and untapped gems.
A brief history of boogie music
The often overlooked cousin of disco and funk, boogie is dirtier, grittier and slower than its more known kin. Characterized by slower tempos (usually around 105–120bpm) and a blend of electronic and acoustic elements. Distancing itself from the 4 to the floor of its fellow funk genres in favour of strong downbeats and handclaps, there is much overlap with other styles that were emerging in tandem with Boogie which sees an amalgamation of new wave, funk and even jazz all blended into the Boogie hot pot. Kashif and Larry Levan were both early pioneers of the boogie genre.
With such a varied genre —spanning decades and subgenres— it would be difficult to give a comprehensive guide within one article. With this in mind, this will be a series of articles beginning with an introduction to the style and it’s beginning before sharing some early boogie favourites. Boogie is an often overlooked genre when it comes to funding projects on KollektivX, so I’m personally hoping to see a renewed interest in the style and be introduced to some new sounds from you and the communities projects!
As previously mentioned, the origins of the word ‘boogie’ come from a term used to describe dancing with a strong rhythmic pulse and was first used in association with rockabilly and rock and roll. Emerging in the post-disco era in the 70s (when disco sadly fell out of favour for numerous reasons) the term was coined by British DJs Norman Jay and Dez Parkes and gained traction within subcultures worldwide. With the benefit of hindsight it’s clear that this period was a time full of innovation and experimentation and this is reflected in variety of music that was produced in the period. Falling under the umbrella of Post-Disco, boogie was often referred to as electro funk or disco funk but in todays landscape Boogie can be used to refer to the downtempo funk we know and love.
The word itself pops up in countless disco classic, Heatwaves “Boogie Nights”, Earth Wind & Fire chart-topping “boogie Wonderland” to name a few but it was artists like Kashif and George Benson that really made Boogie stand on its own two feet. Whilst disco faded into the background, the clubbing culture it had helped create was here to stay and boogie was primed and ready to fill the funky-shaped hole left by disco along with of all of it’s musical cousins.
5 boogie tracks from the early 80’s to get you familiar with the style:
Midnight Express — Danger Zone
A personal favourite of mine and a track that instantly clicked from the first moment. Originally released on Tri-Fire Records in 1983 it was later reissued by cult Washington Label Peoples Potential Unlimited (PPU) in 2008. It was one of the first releases on PPU and helped establish the outfit as choice selector of all things boogie. The label is a goldmine for similar music and it’s most definitely worth a dig through their back catalogue!
A dusty drum beat starts proceedings and is promptly joined by juicy synth bass, twinkly guitar and lush e-piano. Horns take the track to higher ground before vocalist Robbie M brings in a super performance. The reissue is accompanied by an original demo version alongside a club-ready edit from Tom Noble — both are worth a listen!
George Benson — Give Me The Night
A huge hit from an all-star team gave boogie one of its first landmark tracks, Written by Rod Temperton (who wrote Michael Jackon’s thriller, rock with you and heatwave’s Boogie Nights) and produced by Quincy Jones. The track has many of the hallmarks associated with the genre, a slower groove of 110bpm, peppy handclaps and layers of intricate synthesizer work all fusing together into a tight, danceable record that went on to fill floors at clubs and led to Benson winning Best male R&B Vocal Performance at the Grammys in 1980.
Another 1983 release this time from an early pioneer of the boogie sound, Kashif. As previously mentioned, earlier boogie releases saw the use of live drums and this killer groove is no different. The lead single from their self-titled debut album released in the same year, the track went on to give Kashif their first top 5 single in America. Regarded as one of the early adopters of the boogie sound Kashif released a string of albums throughout the 80s that are full to the brim with boogie goodness.
Netwerk is a group created by 3 highly sought-after session musicians of the time, guitar player Kevin Robinson on guitar, Howard King laying down the drum grooves, and Kenni Hairston on keys. Their session work saw them play for the likes of Cindy Lauper, Cameo and Gary Bartz to name a few. The 1984 album never saw a release due to spiralling financial issues for their label so it wasn’t until last year 2021 that this holy grail of NYC boogie saw the light of day it rightfully deserves. Dense harmony, naughty synth bass and unison vocals stack together to make Cover Girl a standout on an excellent record start to finish. Funnily enough, the track was covered by B.T express, A group Kashif was part of before leaving to pursue his own music.
This one slipped in just before the turn of the decade (1979) and features vocals from none other than funk legend, Luther Vandross. A cover of Toto’s original from 78, Charme puts a boogie spin on the track filling out the arrangement with a horn section, a more danceable beat and a reimagined take on the vocal rhythms. This track straddles not only the decades but sits in a unique place as in terms of instrumentation, the track mostly relies on a live band, akin to disco, but shares its stylings and tempo with boogie.
And 3 more boogie records that were featured on KollektivX in the past months:
Wade Duncan — I’ve Got To Love
Successfully funded last month this slice of Belgian Boogie was released in 1982. After some further research, it seems that this was Wade’s only release (that we know of) but these are exactly the kind of hidden gems that KollectivX is all about!
Killer boogie funk from Canada Imprint, T.C.I. Productions. This 1983 12” single is a great addition to any boogie diggers collection and deserves another chance to be added to the Kollektiv!
Where Boogie meets City Pop you know something special is on the horizon. Taken from Sato’s 1985 album, This Boy, Say Goodbye is a great example of the worldwide reach the boogie style has had effortlessly blending AOR, City Pop stylings with the trademark boogie sounds we have come to love. This is a highly sought-after album and whilst the project was not successfully funded this time around it will more than likely pop up again soon. If you can’t wait until then, why not start a new project for it yourself?
Discover more great grooves and help preserve our global musical heritage at http://www.kollektivx.com/.