he New York disco group Chic had previously ascended to the top of Billboard's Hot 100 in December 1978 with "Le Freak." With each succeeding production, the Chic sound was growing more complex and sophisticated. To perfect their craft, leaders Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards found themselves spending more time in the studio. Atlantic had budgeted the first Chic LP at $35,000, and the two writer/producers had brought it in under budget, taking just three weeks. By the third album, Risque, the figures escalated to $160,000 and eight weeks.
But the effort was well worth it. Perhaps Chic's most fully realized creation, Risque yielded "My Feet Keep Dancing," "My Forbidden Lover" and the chart-topping "Good Times."
Success, however, bred slavish imitations of the group's trademark sound. Many people thought Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" was a direct copy of "Good Times." "Well, that Queen record came about because that bass player... spent some time hanging out with us at our studio," Edwards told England's New Musical Express. "But that's O.K. What isn't O.K. is that the press... started saying that we had ripped them off!
And it wouldn't be the only time that the Chic sound would be appropriated. "In the last year, we've been listenin' to the radio," Edwards told another British publication, Melody Maker, in 1981. "There's been at least 20 or 30 groups that have actually rewritten a tune that we wrote. We're not hassled, we don't go around yellin' and screamin' about it. But for some reason we're not respected as songwriters and producers in the rock areas, where we've influenced a lotta people."
With the end of the disco explosion, Chic added more ballads to its repertoire and took a harder dance-rock approach. Though the experiments were never less than interesting, the group seemed to be losing the old Chic magic. While their own hits were becoming rare, Rodgers and Edwards began to get more involved with writing and producing for other artists.
Their success rate had been remarkable. In tandem or separately, the two have produced hits for Sister Sledge ("He's the Greatest Dancer," "We Are Family"), Diana Ross ("Upside Down"), David Bowie ("Let's Dance"), Duran Duran ("The Reflex"), Madonna ("Like a Virgin"), the Honeydrippers ("Sea of Love"), the Power Station ("Some Like It Hot"), Robert Palmer ("Addicted to Love") as well as records for Debbie Harry of Blondie ("Backfired"), Sheila B. Devotion ("Spacer") and original Chic vocalist Norma Jean ("High Society").
But, they admitted, juggling careers as artists and producers was sometimes a strain. "I'm standing onstage playing 'Good Times' and I'm thinking about 'Upside Down' or something, y'know," Edwards professed to Melody Maker.
In 1980, critic Barry Cooper of the New York Rocker took a crack at explaining the Chic mystique, "...behind the lush string orchestrations and colorful polymelodies lies a raunchy pulse, a pulse that comes from the street, a gut-level instinct not necessarily sexual but raw and stripped of any phony trappings. That's why 'Good Times' had such broad appeal. The lyrics were easy and catchy (and ambiguous), but it was the music: that bass line like a jungle drum, that handclap like a heartbeat lifeline, allowing everyone to pour out their troubles on the dance floor."
Bernard Edwards put it more simply: "We're trying to establish an entertaining kind of music. We're not trying to deliver any heavy message, just entertainment -- when you're off from work, come and see us and have a good time. No moral issues, no heavy problems -- you just come to see us, have a good time and split -- that's it. We're just trying to have a good time."
As disco started to fade at the end of the '70s, so did Chic's popularity. After releasing the 1983 album Believer they disbanded, but their influence remained throughout the decade. In 1992, Rodgers and Edwards reformed Chic with a new drummer and new singers, but they failed to recapture the fire of the group's glory days. Both Rodgers and Edwards released solo albums in the mid-Eighties, but none were successful.
- Fred Bronson, The Billboard Book of Number One Hits, Billboard, 1988.
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