Van McCoy: The Hustle (1975)

 |   |  1 min read

Van McCoy: The Hustle (1975)

So how long does it take to write a song? James Taylor says he wrote Steamroller Blues in as long as it took to scribble the words down, but maybe that doesn't really count -- especially if you've heard Steamroller Blues.

If you look at the credits on some current r'n'b songs and see the artist's name alongside that of the four producers (and the lyrics are "oh baby, give it up baby") you might argue that if you have that many people iin a room it is going to take a lot longer than if just one person grabbed the thing by the neck.

According to Peter Shapiro's excellent Turn the Beat Around; The Secret History of Disco, this massive hit by Van McCoy was done in an hour. As Shapiro notes, "thanks to its accompanying dance craze, [this was] the record that truly catapulted disco from an underground phenomenon to worldwide furor. "

As Shapiro tells it, longtime soul and r'n'b producer McCoy was working late and his friend and business partner Charles Kipps Jnr headed off to check out the scene at the Adam's Apple nightclub in Manhattan. McCoy had been regularly hassled by the DJ there, David Todd, to come and look at this new dance craze but was too busy to go himself, so Kipps was dispatched.

Kipps was so excited by what he saw that he dragged two of the dancers back to the studio at midnight and they showed McCoy what they were doing. He loved it.

"It was something completely different from the you-do-your-thing-and-I-do-mine dances; it was people dancing together again."

He wrote The Hustle right then -- and the following day in an hour of studio down-time recorded it with seasoned jazz and studio players Steve Gadd, Rick Marotta, Gordon Edwards, Richard Tee, Eric Gale, a horn section and string players.

The song went global -- as did the dance, instructions here!-- and Shapiro notes it was probably "thanks to that infernal flute line boring into your skull".

It was "the kind of record that crawls under your skin, subliminally taking root to the point where you find yourself whistling it while masturbating".

Well, hmmm . . .

It was certainly massive, but for Van McCoy it was a great one-off.

He never again troubled the top 40.

(Note, the version posted is by a tribute band, the original is on the video clip) 

For more one-off or unusual songs with an interesting backstory see From the Vaults

Share It

Your Comments

Lloyd - Oct 29, 2012

Hi, Van did actually chart again: "Party" made No.69 in the US, "The Shuffle" went all the way to No.4 in the UK, "Change With The Times" and "Soul Cha Cha" also charted in the UK. Finally, "Night Walk" charted at no.96 in the US. I love Van McCoy!

post a comment

More from this section   From the Vaults articles index

Bunny Wailer:Amagideon/Armagedon (1976)

Bunny Wailer:Amagideon/Armagedon (1976)

As Bob Marley was advancing a more light-filled, if still serious, face of Rastafarianism into the world, it fell to deep roots groups like Culture, the great Burning Spear and Bob's old bandmate... > Read more

The Woofers and Tweeters Ensemble: Daytripper (1983)

The Woofers and Tweeters Ensemble: Daytripper (1983)

And you thought YouTube threw up fly-by-night stars and oddities? This one puts the surfing cat and dancing pig into perspective. In the early Eighties a couple of Australians -- over a few... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Enrico Rava: On the Dance Floor (ECM/Ode)

Enrico Rava: On the Dance Floor (ECM/Ode)

Of all the tributes to Michael Jackson, this -- by the great jazz trumpeter Rava -- would seem the most unexpected. If Miles Davis were still alive we might not have been surprised by such an... > Read more

BENJAMIN ZEPHANIAH INTERVIEWED (2000):  The people's poet laureate

BENJAMIN ZEPHANIAH INTERVIEWED (2000): The people's poet laureate

Britain's most popular serious performance poet for more than two decades, Benjamin Zephaniah, laughs as he recalls hating poetry as a kid. If you said you liked it, it was as if you were... > Read more