There is infinite number of dance tracks sitting in the music vaults. I know that DJs spend hours seeking out new tracks to play for us and in this blog I want to heap praise on those that resist playing the same old, same old click here to read my piece ‘The Same Old Song’). Like any dance music enthusiast I have my own favourites and I thought I might dare to suggest a few that might be given the once over in the hope they might get played. My fourth choice is Rose Royce’s Car Wash.
This song had disappeared into the part of my brain that stores Great Disco Tracks of The 70’s. About three months ago DJ Mark O’Reilly played a snippet of it during a Beginners Class. My brain took note and that night at home I played the full version. It brought back wonderful memories of discos past, and I couldn’t help wonder if it would make a good modern jive track. Surely it would. A whole month later Mark played it again, but this time in full during a class freestyle session. It worked and I was in my element dancing to its funky groove.
The song was written and produced by Norman Whitfield, one of the greatest of Motown’s writers and producers. Whitfield wrote and produced I heard it through the grapevine for Marvin Gaye, which became one of Motown’s biggest hits of all time. He is however best remembered for his work with The Temptations. During an eight year period, from 1966 until 1974, Whitfield created some of the most original Motown material ever recorded with The Temptations. He continually broke new ground, and is credited as the creator of the psychedelic soul style, epitomised by The Temptations 1969 hit Cloud Nine, and Papa was a rolling stone in 1973. Whitfield, like Motown’s other hit factory Holland-Dozier-Holland, finally left Motown in 1975 to form his own record label Whitfield Records. One of the first acts he signed was Rose Royce, who had been Edwin Starrs’ backing band at Motown.
I remember disco dancing to this track in the seventies. Even then I knew it was something special, but now having listened to it again, I realise just how creative Whitfield was. Click the play button and appreciate the work of a dance music master. First the hand claps – instantly recognisable. A guitar riffs starts up in the background, and then another guitar lick hits the part of your brain dedicated to funk. A piano roll (I don’t know how else to describe it) ups the funk level a little more. If you’re not dancing now, you sure as hell will be when the string section kicks in. Whitfield isn’t finished yet – he slowly fades in The Rose Royce trumpets, and you now have all the ingredients that made this track a dance classic. Was there another track as funky as this back then? I’m struggling to think of one.
Whitfield then adds Gwen Dickey’s vocals, and we get to hear a line that will forever make me smile – ‘You might not ever get rich, but let me tell you, its better than digging a ditch.’ What a distinctive and fabulous voice Dickey had, and her wonderful delivery of the smile-a-second lyrics is a large part of the track’s appeal. The lyrics really are something else. Whitfield must have had a great day at the office thinking up the rhyming words at the end of each line. Let me tell you its always cool. Now what rhymes with Cool? Mule, Tool, Dual, how about Fuel. Yeh cars have Fuel. No, doesn’t work. How about Fool. Now let me see – Let me tell you its always cool, and the boss doesn’t mind sometimes if you act the fool. Cracked it, now what rhymes with Meet? There ain’t no way of telling who you might meet, maybe a movie star or even an Indian chief. Love it!
While Whitfield’s production is top draw, Rose Royce themselves were very accomplished musicians. No hiding away in the studio for these guys. Their live experience touring with Edwin Starr had welded them into a very tight unit. I was lucky enough to see them live, at the height of their fame, and they lifted the roof with their on stage performance. They are still performing today, though I think without Dickey. Catch them live and relive the glory days of 70’s Disco.
As I was writing this post, I was constantly reminded of the great dance music that was created in the 70’s. Rose Royce’s own Is it love that you’re after is another great disco memory. There are hundreds more great tracks where these came from, and I wonder whether there is scope for a Seventies Themed Freestyle. I’ll write more about this in a later posting. In the mean time hit the play button again, and sing along to the wonderful lyrics. Well those cars never seem to stop coming, (work and work) keep those lines and machines humming.