by Roland Pemberton (AKA Cadence Weapon)
We often view disco (and the time period it comes from) through a blurred lens. We can glean a semblance of knowledge from archival footage, soundboard recordings of Frankie Knuckles’s Paradise Garage DJ sets, photos of event flyers and big-budget biopics based on oral histories from unreliable sources. And yet, one cannot truly synthesize the in-person, full-body sensation of seeing Bianca Jagger ride into Studio 54 on a white pony, knowing you’re about to chemically erase all recognition of the best night of your life.
This same lack of recall has punished the underground pillars of this temporarily mainstream institution, a genre whose most prominent dance craze was fittingly called “the Hustle.” Starting his music career in 1967 on the legendary Miami dance label TK Records, Jimmie “Bo” Horne’s sonic DNA can be found in the primordial goo that spawned not just disco but also precedent styles such as house and techno.He discovered the first incarnation of chart-topping pop disco superstars KC And The Sunshine Band, whose leader Harry Wayne Casey would later produce him as well. Horne’s biggest solo hit was 1978’s “Dance Across The Floor,” a Blaxploitation horn stomper that loosened up into roller disco boogie. Anchored by Horne’s breathless exhortations to “dance across the floor!” and “do it!”, “Floor” would be beamed across America as groove fodder on both American Bandstand and Soul Train, garnering double gold sales.
The same year brought “Spank”, a sumptuous slab of gritty piano funk with a mellifluous bassline that skewed more Larry Levan than Nicky Siano. Written for Horne by the late horn player and songwriter Ronald L. Smith, the lyrics on “Spank” appeal to the central conceit of the disco nightclub: “Let’s make love from my heart / When we do, it’s really hard to part / Combine our minds this time,” begs Horne, campaigning for a deeper connection than the superficiality and social norms provided by the straight world.
To date, “Spank” has been sampled by at least 18 artists of many different stripes. This is a credit to the original song but also brings into question our contemporary system of artistic tribute. Horne’s music has been used as foundational clay (with or without compensation) by a diverse groupof artists including Public Enemy, Vanilla Ice, Cee-Lo Green and Christina Aguiliera. DJ Falcon, a French touch producer renowned for his work with Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter as Together, had a club hit with his hard-headed filter house repurposing of the bridge from “Spank” called “First.”
We are engaged in this modern method of exhuming the ghosts of a specific recording session, gripping the breath and detail of an instance to capture its essence within the frame of new work. This leaves Jimmie “Bo” Horne alone with the one thing we can’t forcibly extract: his memories. How many of those he’s willing (or able) to share with us now is up to him.
Jimmie Bo Horne plays the Église POP Little Burgundy on September 22. Full details here.
At the symposium in convo with Cadence Weapon Sept 21 5:30pm Quartiers POP : Full details here.