10
Mar 09

The Top 100 Tracks Of All Time: 32. Amii Stewart – Knock On Wood

FT4 comments • 1,041 views

Putting the sin into sin drums…

Knock On Wood is one of those party staples which ended up representing a whole scene. You can understand why. Not just because it is a consummate disco record, with its infectious opening like a tube train whooshing into a station. The tempo is forgiving enough for lousy dancers, open enough for good dancers to strut their stuff. Its got sound effects. Amii’s extravagant act also adds something to the track, especially when coupled with the clarity of her voice though the effects. But the fact it is a cover version makes it special. It shows what disco could offer a song, what it could do to beef it up and make it truly disco.

Watch it:
http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=1ztZ7WFo3nw&feature=related

Like some slinky avatar of Aries The Ram, Amii, aided by a quantel paintbox and a playfully aggressive delivery sells the song. Its one of the most direct tracks I know about getting on the dancefloor, and getting up to speed. It takes glitter band percussion to the next level, stapling its relentless shuffle to the synthesized tune and beat. It takes Eddie Floyd’s R&B stomper and adds a shuffle to it, keeping the raunch but removing the strut. The song has always been about the horn crescendo under the title, and Amii’s version turns that into a cyborg honk of electronic clarity. Amii’s is almost like an answer record to Eddie’s, his is how he pulls a girl, all funky strut and brassy. Hers is cooly efficient, less aggressive but with an edge of raunch with her thunder and lightning on show. And whilst both tracks are great, there is only one I would play at a wedding.

Comments

  1. 1
    vinylscot on 10 Mar 2009 #

    Well written piece, Pete. To those of us a little too young to remember (although we may have been aware of) either the Eddie Floyd, or the Otis Redding/Carla Thomas versions from the 60s, this was seen as a cover of a Bowie hit – he was the first to crack the top 10 with it in 1974, although only just, and it was one of his lesser hits of the period.

    Amii’s version completely obliterated Bowie’s hesitant, uncommitted version, both in terms of chart performance and effect. The percussion could have carried it on its own, but Amii’s energetic vocals complimented the backing seamlessly. As Pete states, this is one of those tracks that shows what disco could do, and made it OK for disco to do covers. (We could have done without her “Light My Fire” follow-up though)

  2. 2
    lonepilgrim on 10 Mar 2009 #

    I liked this a lot at the time – I had a compilation album on which this featured called ‘The Best Disco Album in the World’ which was pretty much one hit after another with the exception of a track by Mick Jackson and Boney M singing ‘Hooray, hooray it’s a holi-holiday’.
    Details here: http://www.discogs.com/Various-The-Best-Disco-Album-In-The-World/release/684432

    There was a version of ‘I can’t stand the rain’ by Eruption which similarly discofied a soul classic to similar effect.

  3. 3
    StellaVista on 11 Mar 2009 #

    Great article for a great song! I think it has a similar feel to “I feel love”, although it feels less electronic, alien and abstract. There is something in the production that just tramples over you.
    I think its timeless quality is the ability to pitch it to every required speed throughout the decades and the mixture of electronics and standard soul orchestration which makes the sound somehow undated.

    In 1979 “Sheila B. Devotion” ripped the complete orchestration and sound for their “Seven lonely days”. I looked it up, it is a different production team and it appears to be uncredited.

  4. 4
    Eric L . Williuams on 2 May 2011 #

    I have been a very great big fan of Amii Stewart since the days of “Knock On Wood” since 1979 and this is what i have to say, in the style of disco this song is nicely none. I still listen to this song to this day, The best Knock On Wood song ever ! I would very much love to see a new remake in the 2000’s by a new artist with the same energetic felling. Oh also love the video that sicadelic look. signing off Eric L Williams peace .

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