I think the important thing is the out of sorts, quite satisfying but largely unrecognisable introduction.
I would take you there. But I’d have to take you somewhere utterly different or at least stranger immediately afterwards. I don’t like to sit in one place for too long, musically speaking.
I don’t own funky town, and I’m pretty unlikely to play it out if I was DJing, but I have no issue with it. I do have quite a bit of property in that sort of neighbourhood. I think of my disco as being mostly post. Stripped down to throbbing bass and grittier drums. Perhaps Arthur Russell’s monstrous sounding cello or Peter Gordon’s nervously crunchy guitar screeches playing along with that bouncy substructure.
I also can’t stop myself from thinking of the Beach Boys’ ten minute long disco version of ‘Here comes the night’, which I think is considered by most to be a nadir not just of the Beach Boys career, but potentially the whole of the disco form (doesn’t stop me loving it). Its the pop cash in that marks a watershed of credibility failure in an underground dance scene. (And I don’t even know how to narrativise Herbie Hancock doing his own absolutely incredible take on the genre – Jazz disco crossover? Yes please. Though it’s not as well recieved as his adventures in Hip Hop).
But actually, you’ve got this interesting thing where once something goes mainstream, you get to have a hardcore of people who are keeping it underground. And you get the experimental offshoots, and you get the metamorphosis into things that are newer and less friendly. The evolution of house and techno (and as such all modern dance music) owes a debt to the subculture of disco. Genre and culture coruscate around each other, constantly striving to create new things that can’t be appropriated.
It never works, but you end up with this wealth of sounds to explore and wonder at and wander about.
So I’d take you to funkytown on a wave of history and records. I’d geek out about certain drum breaks and chord changes. I’d tell you dreams about the paradise garage, and I’d try to show you how a straightforward beat and aesthetic can be broken down into component parts, historicised and recreated. How music shifts and changes and becomes something utterly different, but seems to still move the same gut bits about in roughly the same way.
Music is kinda my home, almost as much as my home. I don’t see funkytown as anything other than a place in my gut and my heart. This is immensely pretentious, excepting that it’s true. At least for me.
Music stirs my body in a way that almost makes me wonder if I have synesthesia between sound and touch. I can feel music tearing at my insides, bursting out of my heart and lungs in a moment’s crescendo.
I don’t know if I can take you there. But I’ll always try.
Illustration by Adam.