Nov 08

ODYSSEY – “Use It Up And Wear It Out”

FT + Popular36 comments • 4,464 views

#462, 26th July 1980

“Use It Up” steamed to number one on the back of its chant-friendly refrain: “one, two, three – shake your body down!”. But, effective though the surging chorus is, there’s a lot more going on here. The band are mix-and-matching a bunch of dancefloor protocols – sweet disco backing vox; whistles and latinate rhythmic tinges; chirruping and squawking synths; steelband suppleness; and finally some lovely scat-singing on the extended version’s coda. The result is pleasingly loose and relaxed, an open-door party where how you move matters a lot more than where you’re from.

If anything it’s a little too scattershot – Odyssey were at their very best on their more focused singles: the elegance of “Native New Yorker”, the determination of “Going Back To My Roots”, the frozen desperation of “Inside Out”. But just as “Xanadu” points to the waning of disco as a mainstream force, the melange of styles on “Use It Up” hints at the rich base of ideas the club scene would draw on as the spotlight moved on.



  1. 1
    David Belbin on 14 Nov 2008 #

    This always went down brilliantly on the dance floor, but Odyssey’s peak, which I’m surprised you don’t mention, was the wonderful ballad ‘If You’re Looking For A Way Out’ which stuck at number 7 for about four weeks. Tindersticks did a moving version of it on their ‘Simple Pleasures’ album. Heartbreaking stuff.

  2. 2
    Tom on 14 Nov 2008 #

    Sorry David, should definitely have mentioned “If You’re Looking For A Way Out” – excellent, though a little behind “Inside Out” for me.

  3. 3
    Vinylscot on 14 Nov 2008 #

    I believe, like the Four Pennies “Juliet”, this was originally the b-side, with “Don’t Tell Me, Tell Her” certainly being listed as the A-side on my 12″ copy. No doubt somebody picked up on the b-side and it snowballed from there.

    I agree with Tom; there’s probably too much going on here for it to be a truly great track, although there is a mild Caribbean feel running right through the track, but it’s fun, and in my opinion a step up in quality from “Native New Yorker”, the appeal of which I never understood.

  4. 4
    Vinylscot on 14 Nov 2008 #

    Ah, yes. “Inside Out”, written by Scottish hero, genius, and sometime bampot Jesse Rae.

  5. 5
    SteveM on 14 Nov 2008 #

    Sleeve notes: A nice outing for Helvetica which still seemed quite rare in this field at this stage. Presumably it was a uniform layout for RCA releases (I approve of this, at least when it looks this smart – hopefully the colours varied too) although I haven’t checked.

  6. 6
    rosie on 14 Nov 2008 #

    Wonderful stuff! After all the gloom of recent weeks, something to cheer us up!

    Actually I liked Native New Yorker rather more than this – it had a bit more to it than just bopping for the sake of it, but grand stuff all the same.

  7. 7
    unlogged-in lord soülråt on 14 Nov 2008 #

    “sometime bampot” — is there actual evidence for any of the other times?

  8. 8
    wichita lineman on 14 Nov 2008 #

    There’s something oddly unfinished about Use It Up even though there are (literally) bells and whistles all over it, and even a squelchy Moog to jolly it along. It’s almost as if a crucial instrument (rhythm guitar?) was left out of the mix.

    Inside Out is impossible to hum, it’s all atmosphere; “frozen desperation” is spot on.

    If You’re Looking For A Way Out rivals Make It Easy On Yourself for stoic despair. It was written by Sandy Linzer, a Brill Building veteran (A Lover’s Concerto, Let’s Hang On) who had a fine 1980 as he also wrote Working My Way Back To You (I’d like to know his opinion on Forgive Me Girl) and Breakin’ Down The Walls Of Heartache, originally by the Bandwagon and covered by Dexys.

  9. 9
    Mark M on 14 Nov 2008 #

    Odyssey are one of those groups whose assorted hits I have trouble remembering as the work of the same band. I like their more downbeat side more: Native New Yorker and If You’re Looking For A Way Out are both fantastic (I too like Tinderstick’s version of the latter).
    I don’t think I even knew the name of this, although I know the hook.

  10. 10
    peter goodlaws on 14 Nov 2008 #

    This is a little better after the laughable junk we’ve had to talk about recently, although it still sounds to me like it’s been recorded on one take by a gospel choir who are warming up to record something worthwhile but don’t. It just never gets going but does have the good manners to stop. I do remember this one but not at number one. Agree with the man at no. 1 (David) that this was good for the dance floor however.

  11. 11
    LondonLee on 14 Nov 2008 #

    Now this is much better, like having your brain cleaned after the horror of ‘Xanadu’ – as has been said not up there with ‘Inside Out’ and ‘Native New Yorker’ but I was happy to see them at the top, there was a lot of love for consistent dance hit makers like Odyssey, Shalamar and The Whispers (whose “It’s A Love Thing” from the same year was the first 12″ I bought I think). This was a very good time to be going down the local disco.

    There is a lot going on in this but it’s a measure of how brilliant and assured dance music had gotten that they could get it all together so well. I still listen to some of the Solar records output from then and just marvel at how great they sound.

    Strange to think now that back them I was spending my week night evenings in my bedroom listening to John Peel play Joy Division but come Friday and Saturday night I was out shaking my body down to the ground to stuff like this. I always had a theory though that the reason so many English boys were into soul and dance music because that was where you met girls. Not that I had any luck.

  12. 12
    Erithian on 14 Nov 2008 #

    “Bopping for the sake of it”, in Rosie’s words, was generally something that turned me off a record – “Native New Yorker” was patently about something and conveyed an atmosphere and attitude, “If You’re Looking…” was classy and sumptuous, but this one, OK it might have been fine on the dance floor, but was little more than annoying on the radio. Quality vocal though, I’ll give you that.

    Number 2 Watch – Leo Sayer’s fairly wimpy version of “More Than I Can Say” (wo-wo yay-yayyy…)

    Oh, and thanks to Wichita for making “Breaking Down The Walls of Heartache” my earworm du jour. Cracking song.

  13. 13
    Mark G on 14 Nov 2008 #

    This may not be their best one, but it’s certainly the best one for being number one!

    (i.e. the other ones noted would stand, despite not making the top. This one’s all the better for making it!)

    What I am basically saying is that one has to use it up, wear it out, and that there’s nothing left in this whole world I care about.

    Was this the last punk number one?

  14. 14
    mike on 14 Nov 2008 #

    Oh my God, Odyssey! One of the things I loved about them was the scatter-shot stylistic diversity of their hit singles, and I’d be hard-pressed to rank them in any order of preference.

    One of my colleagues at the toy shop was a fully-fledged, white-socks-and-loafers, Essex soul boy. Most Monday mornings, he’d be raving about the latest import, weeks before it hit the charts. One week it would be Rodney Franklin’s stop-start jazz-funk instrumental “The Groove” (which was received less than reverently, the whole club shouting WANKER! in each of the gaps). Another week, it would be Stacy Lattisaw’s “Jump To The Beat”, or “Keep In Touch” by a new Brit-Funk act called Freeez, or The Gap Band’s “I Don’t Believe That You Want To Get Up And Dance”, later re-titled “Oops Upside Your Head”.

    He was a bit sniffy about “Use It Up And Wear It Out”, but another older colleague, who had spent some time working in Trinidad, went all misty-eyed over it. “It reminds me of the spirit and the freedom of the people!” she sighed, somewhat theatrically.

    I saw Odyssey perform at Nottingham Rock City (of all places) in the spring of 1981. A great show, and a landmark evening on a personal level, for reasons which I shan’t go into here. (Consider yourselves spared!)

    If there’s one musical subculture which I regret never having experienced for myself, then it’s the early 1980s soul/funk subculture.

  15. 15
    Conrad on 14 Nov 2008 #

    Odyssey tended to have one big hit a year during the late 70s/early 80s (1980 was the exception – as “If You’re Looking For A Way Out” followed this to give them two top ten hits this year). And, each of their major hits was a belter.

    Arguably, this is the weakest of the five, although thoroughly enjoyable all the same. It’s neither as subtle or insidious as the magnificent “Inside Out”, nor does it contain a line as memorable as “zippin up my roots, goin’ back to my roots…” but it’s infectious and uplifting. Great to see them at Number One. As a kid, I associated this track with Lipps Inc’s “Funkytown”, although I can’t see any particular connection now.

  16. 16
    Elsa on 14 Nov 2008 #

    SteveM’s right: this was a standard RCA sleeve design. My Spanish & Portuguese Baccara singles have the same layout, each one with a unique color scheme.

  17. 17
    LondonLee on 14 Nov 2008 #

    I thought the sleeve looked like one of those import sleeves you’d see pinned up on the wall at some of the smarter record shops back then (Flyover Records in Hammersmith had a lot of them) but it was usually for the likes of Bowie and Led Zep for those who wanted to pay over the odds for a Japanese 7″ of “Young Americans”

    I have a single of the German version of “Heroes” with the same type and layout.

  18. 18
    Tom on 14 Nov 2008 #

    Maybe it’s just the drawn sleeve that’s fogging my brain but I’m sure this design was nicked by a comics or bande dessinee company at some point…

  19. 19
    AndyPandy on 14 Nov 2008 #

    The Summer of 1980 was the period when for a couple of months due to an industrial dispute there was no Top of the Pop (and as that was basically it for chart pop on the telly) it meant that a lot of quite specialist soul/jazz-funk etc did well in the charts, Rodney Franklin “The Groove”, Bobby Thurston “Checkout the Groove” Surface Noise “The Scratch” got in or near the Top 10.I remember James Hamilton (pioneer of bpms in this country etc)explain this at the time in his column.

  20. 20
    rosie on 14 Nov 2008 #

    The drawn sleeve, Tom? Surely it was the air pollution…

  21. 21
    Elsa on 15 Nov 2008 #

    Musically I hear shades of “Cherchez La Femme.” I could never love this as much as I love “Native New Yorker” though.

  22. 22
    lonepilgrim on 15 Nov 2008 #

    I have a lot of affection for this song -for the rich vocals and the clattering layers of rhythm. This definitely stands out against the gloom and doom of recent number ones.
    It’s great to be reminded of ‘If you’re looking for a way out’ which is a song I used to love and which I had inexplicably forgotten.

  23. 23
    will on 15 Nov 2008 #

    Re 19: Spot on about the MU strike providing a window of opportunity for disco’s last commercial hurrah. Apart from this gem you also had other great records like Teena Marie’s Behind The Groove, George Benson’s Give Me The Night and Funkin’ For Jamaica.

  24. 24
    pink champale on 17 Nov 2008 #

    perhaps this is unfair, but i kind of suspect the musicians’ union were not big on disco.

    but anyway, another vote for good, but it’s no ‘native new yorker’.

  25. 25
    Mark G on 17 Nov 2008 #

    So, I’m the only one that likes this one best?

  26. 26
    pink champale on 17 Nov 2008 #

    the gb(rb)p liked this one best too

  27. 27
    Billy Smart on 17 Nov 2008 #

    It’s ‘Inside Out’ that is the pinnacle for me, but we all seem to agree that there are about half a dozen great Odyssey singles, which this is emphatically one of.

    The MU strike of the time probably contributed to my having no contemporaneous memories of this. Its hard to add much to what’s already been written, just to say that the crisscrossiness of the rhythms make it an endlessly pleasurable thing to listen too.

  28. 28
    MildredBumble on 6 Jun 2010 #

    ‘Native New Yorker’ was a fabulous record.

  29. 29
    Alex on 19 Oct 2010 #

    The people who did Native New Yorker*. And to think it could have been St Winifred’s in an alternate timeline.

    *also the name of a rather good club in 90s Leeds

  30. 31
    wichita lineman on 28 Feb 2011 #

    Great piece, Billy. I’d never realised quite how twisty-turny the lyrical conceit of Upside Down is. Matches the title, if not the video.

    My strongest memory of the song is having it stuck in my head for 90 mins (would… not… go… away!) while watching Honduras v Yugoslavia. A draw would’ve sent Honduras through but they lost to a last minute penalty.

    Not a very appropriate memory, really. But I’m glad I’ve never related toooo strongly to the lyric.

  31. 32
    wichita lineman on 28 Feb 2011 #

    Is this the shortest Popular thread of the 80s and beyond?

  32. 33
    Auntie Beryl on 23 Feb 2013 #

    Hopefully not, so I’ll chip in with a hat-tip to Electribe 101’s version of Inside Out.

    The song fits their approach perfectly, Billie Ray Martin’s careworn vocals layered over the dehumanised bleeps of the Electribeblokes. Lovely.

  33. 34
    mapman132 on 14 Sep 2014 #

    I was surprised to just find out this never charted in the US – I was under the impression that it had possibly peaked as high as #2! For a moment I thought maybe I was confusing it with another hit, but no, this is the song I thought it was. Not the only early 80’s dance hit to shockingly miss the US top 40 either: there’s another much more famous one that reached UK #2 but only US #46, but I’ll leave that until we reach the much later still-bunnied version.

  34. 35
    Adam on 22 Mar 2015 #

    Hope Marvin Gaye’s family is unaware of this.

  35. 36
    Gareth Parker on 6 Jun 2021 #

    I like the get up and go here. 8/10.

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