Monday, February 2, 2009

What the F*$k is the Lowdown?

In 1976, at the peak of disco's cross-over success, pop-r&b vocalist Boz Skaggs recorded '"Lowdown" for his album Silk Degrees. The tune is an elegant proto-disco vamp with a thumping bass line and locked groove that highlights a lovely flute melody and Skagg's weird wedding singer/blue eyed soul vocals. The track was widely acclaimed on the disco infused pop charts of the late 70s and won a grammy for the best R&B song of 1976.

Anyone who has heard "Lowdown" knows that it is a strange, rare piece of American pop music. I recently djed a cocktail party filled with thirty something intellectuals, and when the opening bass-drum-keyboard intro came coursing through the speakers, a few stiff necks began nodding to the beat. Everyone at this strange party had a different taste in music, but this one song connected each person to a very weird moment in time. A time when disco and classic rock were making out in the panel van of pop music. It was a time when a guy, looking like a cross between a mailman and one of your dad's bowling buddies, could croon about a loose woman over a terse funk groove and create a timeles track of pure swagger. I have never been able to put my finger on why this tune is so universally accepted and enjoyed. I have played it at parties filled with trendy hip hop kids, metal heads, disco snobs, and jaded hipsters, and I've never heard a complaint. The strange thing about "Lowdown" is how it comes so close to failure, yet succeeds. Mixing disco, with blue-eyed soul, Phillie-strut, synth strings, and classic rock guitars sounds like something I would play to get a terrorist out of a cave. When all these insane elements are combined, what you're left with is a musical anomaly- the universally appealing tune.

Pull the "Lowdown" out at your next soiree and see if there is a sad face among the dancing horde. Not since Michael Jackson had skin the color of Swiss Miss has a piece of music caused so many heads to nod.

No comments:

Post a Comment