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Nov 07

GEORGE McCRAE – “Rock Your Baby”

FT + Popular70 comments • 7,410 views

#353, 27th July 1974

Oh George!The high tide of glam goes out and soul music fills the gap, but soul is changing. Disco is heavenly music – it rests on a belief in the eternal (the groove), and decrees that such an eternity must be filled with sweetness… and if you weren’t a believer, its rewards might well have seemed like life-sapping monotony, the false paradise of a sinister cult.

Personally I say – heathens begone! I love disco and I love what disco wrought – “Rock Your Baby”, while plainly and deeply of its time, also sounds like the most modern thing I’ve covered so far. It’s still more sex music than dance music, more bedroom than club – the perfect union of music, place, dancing (and drugs) that links disco to now isn’t quite manifest here. But it’s still disco, and I still love it.

Mine isn’t an unusual love, mind you – even Mojo now runs features on Chic, and all but a handful of recidivist crits give disco at least grudging due. (The picture among fans is probably quite different, though I’m guessing that disco compilations comfortably outsell 70s rock ones). So I will do my best not to be defensive any more, and to assume nothing: after all it’s only the perversity of this project that makes “Rock Your Baby” feel like a break-point.

There had been big hits built on groove before, of course, but the rock groove feels so much more insistent, nagging and scratching away at a point. On “Rock Your Baby” the groove is yielding, its endless cycles there for you to relax into, and when you do you notice the little embellishments, flourishes and details so much more – McCrae’s voice included. He gives a lovely performance, tender and bliss-struck, but it’s also one happy to surrender to the rhythm and the mix: especially after the great beasts of glam, McCrae is wonderfully ego-free, dissolved in joy.

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Comments

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  1. 61
    Tilda on 30 May 2008 #

    A good example is the best sermon,

  2. 62
    DJ Punctum on 30 May 2008 #

    And the end of passion is the beginning of repentance innit.

  3. 63
    Billy Smart on 13 Feb 2009 #

    NMEWatch: 29 June 1974. Single of the week from a spot-on Charlie Gillet;

    “Too fast to type to, to catchy to concentrate on words to describe it, this slinky thing slips and slides for as long as you can stay on your feet. George McCrae is as new to us as he probably is to you, but he’s been listening to Al Green, waited until he saw Al’s eyes start to droop, and came in with this wide awake invitation to take him in your arms. The bass is steady, maraccas shuffle twice as fast, and this will leapfrog the charts before TOTP have time to take their copy out of its sleeve. Nice work by President to pick up the rights to it, from the Florida-based TK label; up till now Jay Boy has been restricted to meeting the peculiar tastes of Northern soul dancers, but the whole country will swing and sway to this one.”

    Also reviewed;

    The Sweet – The Six Teens
    ABBA – Ring Ring
    The Wombles – Banana Rock
    The Jackson 5 – Dancing Machine

  4. 64
    Jimmy the Swede on 11 Feb 2011 #

    # 52 + #54 – Well, David Essex will indeed soon be arriving in Albert Square, playing Alfie Moon’s uncle, I believe. Rock on? Probably not.

  5. 65
    swanstep on 11 Feb 2011 #

    Very good record this one: 8 easy.
    All I have to add to what’s already been said is the song’s connections for me. On the one hand the drum machine anticipates the beginning of things like Heart of Glass for sure, on the other hand it reminds me of the first two bars of the Doors’s Break on Through. A clicky metronome pulse before the real beat comes in just is powerful in pop no matter where it comes from, I suppose. Interestingly, the early versions of Heart of Glass from 1975 (when it was called something like ‘The Reggae song’) have almost exactly RYB’s disco guitar but not its groove. That would reverse later of course. Famously – and I’m surprised no one’s mentioned this – Abba listened hard to RYB’s groove, and copied it and used it as the base for Dancing Queen. DQ is one of pop’s great joyous moments, and it’s easy to hear in retrospect that by starting from RYB (+ Frida and Agnetha’s voices) they gave themselves a huge head-start in that direction.

  6. 66
    swanstep on 19 Feb 2011 #

    Well, for some reason this record popped up on my itunes right after my second time through the slightly less somnabulent second half of King of Limbs – *god* it sounded and felt good.

  7. 67
    Paul Ramsey on 28 Jan 2012 #

    Deserves a ten if only for replacing the appalling she at number one. Has to be remembered though that the top of the pops strike at the time played a huge part. No opportunity for the quo and cliff and cilla to plug their records on that show and take up valuable places in the chart. George was broken through the discos; people danced to it and then enquired about it. It’s all about the underrated songwriting genius of casey and finch. They went on to write some of the most commercial and infectious dance music of the seventies.

  8. 68
    hectorthebat on 1 Jul 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010)
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Dave Marsh & Kevin Stein (USA) – The 40 Best of the Top 40 Singles by Year (1981) 8
    Dave Marsh (USA) – The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made (1989) 988
    Greil Marcus (USA) – STRANDED: “Treasure Island” Singles (1979)
    Stephin Merritt (Magnetic Fields) – The Best Recordings from 1900 to 1999
    New Musical Express (UK) – NME Rock Years, Single of the Year 1963-99 (2000)
    New Musical Express (UK) – The Top 150 Singles of All Time (1987) 15
    Paul Roland (UK) – CD Guide to Pop & Rock, 100 Essential Singles (2001)
    Q (UK) – 100 Songs That Changed the World (2003) 92
    The Guardian (UK) – 1000 Songs Everyone Must Hear (2009)
    Hervé Bourhis (France) – Le Petit Livre Rock: The Juke Box Singles 1950-2009
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)
    New Musical Express (UK) – Singles of the Year

  9. 69
    lonepilgrim on 26 Oct 2019 #

    it is such a relief to hear something that sounds like the 1970s rather than the Butlins style 50s glam pastiches that have been clogging up the number 1 spot.
    The piano and organ are a staple of gospel but in that mode tend to have a propulsive energy leading the congregation ever upwards. As Marcello suggests, near the start of this thread, here they sound more like the shimmering gyroscopic movement of Miles and his band on something like ‘In a Silent Way’ and Macrae’s unworldly falsetto dances inside it. Glorious

  10. 70
    Gareth Parker on 5 May 2021 #

    I think this is a gorgeous record. I could go up to a 9/10 here.

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