Machine-There But for the Grace of God Go I (1979)
The social commentary of this song is unique for the disco genre. It’s a bittersweet morality tale of a runaway child who craves freedom from her oppressive Caribbean parents and is delivered into the subversive and not always healthy, world of rock n’ roll. What else is a “natural freak” from the suburbs to do? The high energy beats drive the message home, evoking a flight from something pressing. The stretching vocals of singer August Darnell adds to the urgency. This “apocalyptic disco” song continues to be a favorite with disco and Hi-NRG DJs and is often mixed with Lime’s Babe We’re Gonna Love Tonight for an anthemic, rousing dancefloor set.
A question for the ages: “Is too much love worse than none at all?”
Kid Creole and the Coconuts – Stool Pigeon (1982)
Until I read The Secret History of Disco, I had no idea Kid Creole & the Coconuts was a follow-up group to Machine, with August Darnell fronting both outfits. With Kid Creole, Darnell created a retro world of music drawing on vintage Zoot Suit fashions and 1940s musical nods including the requisite trio of female vocalists. It’s not my cup of tea but I have admiration for folks who don’t follow trends and push culture into new and innovative places.
Speaking of which, M.I.A is a good example of an artist doing her own thing while at the same time drawing on past musical influences. She does a cover version of Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band’s (another August Darnell band) Sunshowers.
Previous Secret Disco posts.
One thought on “Secret Disco: August Darnell’s Legacy”
Talented group. I like them. I think he has a funny persona–the cheeky player type who’s always a bit broke. But his music can annoy anyone who isn’t in on the joke. It’s often blaring and musical-y. America’s music industry is twisted in that you could be a one of a kind like August Darnell and never hit it, but then something like Mambo No. 5 comes along and it sells like hotcakes.
Thanks for this post! I didn’t know he had so many memorable pre-Coconut records.