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

Northside: Shall We Take a Trip (1990)

Northside: Shall We Take a Trip (1990)

The difference between the American psychedelic experience of the Sixties and that of the British can be captured in two phrases: in the States Timothy Leary was telling people to "tune in,... > Read more

Ian and Sylvia: You Were On My Mind (1964)

Ian and Sylvia: You Were On My Mind (1964)

When the British singer Crispian St Peters died in June 2010, many were shocked at his age. He was 71, and yet back when he was spinning hits like You Were on My Mind and Pied Piper in... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

HELLO GIRLS AND BOYS! A NEW ZEALAND TOY STORY by DAVID VEART

HELLO GIRLS AND BOYS! A NEW ZEALAND TOY STORY by DAVID VEART

This Wednesday at Art+Object in Auckland there is an auction of vintage toys. These aren't Star Trek collectibles still in their plastic wrappers, but much loved and played-with toys from the... > Read more

Al Fraser: Toitu te Puoro (Rattle)

Al Fraser: Toitu te Puoro (Rattle)

About a third the way through these sometimes weightless, sometime deeply grounded taonga puoro instrumentals – which are spacious and evoke states of mind as much as environments -- I... > Read more