I’ve never hidden my love for disco music, something that I can trace to the mid-70s and spending the Sunday evenings of my early teen years in the hall attached to a nearby church as Tam, whose daytime job was selling car and motor-bike accessories, indulged in his true love as the man on the twin decks who was available for hire at weddings and parties, whatever the age of the celebrant but would also stoop to providing entertainment for adolescents who were stoking up on Coca-Cola, Pepsi or Irn Bru – sugar-free and zero calories options had yet to be invented and we were all too timid to even think about smuggling in alcohol.
Disco was very often great fun to listen to and even more fun to dance to. The difficult part was when the likes of Rod Stewart and Cliff Richard began to have chart hits – there was nothing cool about dancing to music by singers that your parents or aunts and uncles liked. Although my tastes began to drift towards post-punk/new wave in the last 70s, I never ever completely gave up on the dancefloor classics, albeit not much was now being purchased and, depending on which friend was coming up to the house to have a look over my increasing collection of albums and singles, some were actually banished to the confines of a wardrobe full of clothes.
The explosion of electronica/synth-pop at the beginning of the 80s provided a great link back to disco and did much to prevent the genre from ever being regarded as completely out of fashion. The past 40 years has proven to be a period in which disco has come and gone and come back again as a key influence in the music being made and played by young and emerging bands. Earlier this year, quite a few months ago, while browsing around Stephen Pastel’s record store in Glasgow, I got the chance to hear very distinctively disco-orientated music and which came from a release that had been chalked up on the board as one of their staff albums of the week.
I made a mental note of the name of the band and put a call into a younger ex-colleague the following day to ask for the skinny. It was disappointing to learn that the band in question had actually played Glasgow a few days earlier and that I’d missed the show. I was also advised that while some in the media were saying the band were the next big-thing, it was likely they would remain a cult group rather than crossover as they were just too strange and obtuse.
It would be around a month before I returned to Stephen’s shop, and as part of a number of purchases, I got my hands on the self-titled debut album by International Teachers of Pop.
ITOP (which is much quicker and easier to type) seemingly emerged in the summer of 2018 with the track that had grabbed my attention in the shop:-
The song title harked back to the halcyon disco days in the 70s as it was the catchphrase of an advertising campaign to encourage higher patronage of train services, all of which were provided by the nationalised and state-run British Rail. The campaign was fronted by the now disgraced celebrity, Jimmy Saville.
ITOP are a trio from Sheffield, a city which, over the years, has produced many of the best electronic pop groups to come out of the UK. The three members are Adrian Flanagan, Dean Honer and Leonore Wheatley, with the last-named being the singer. They have been described as the love child of Giorgio Moroder and the Tom Tom Club, although Leonore’s delivery is more reminiscent of Ladytron. Lyrically, there are shades of Black Box Recorder in that underneath the music you’ll find downbeat subject matters, including sideswipes at the political mess the UK finds in….and all this before Boris Johnson became our buffoon of a Prime Minister.
In order to try and get that authentic 70s sound, the album was recorded on analogue synthesisers and old, near redundant drum machines, albeit full use was made of modern studio technology. The result is a joyous, bouncy and infectious album, which I am told is more than matched by an energetic and lively live show in which stage dancers are engaged.
Three other songs from the album have enjoyed releases as promo singles:-
Hopefully, you’ll have enjoyed this introduction to ITOP. They are well worth checking out, and a purchase of the album is highly recommended. At the very least, make sure you put it on your list for Santa…….