Monday, 12 January 2009

1980 Odyssey: Use It Up And Wear It Out

Musically, New York City was an interesting place to be in the early eighties. Disco still flexed its muscles in the clubs, but the more savvy and streetwise were down with the ever popular Nu Yorican Latin and Caribbean salsa grooves, as well as the newly growing and influential hip hop scene. Like London in the sixties, it was a melting pot of new styles and new sounds where innovators like Afrika Bambaataa could sample Kraftwerk and create a hybrid that was totally fresh.

Magpie like, “Use It Up And Wear It Out” borrowed heavily from each of these genres - a tight but loose rhythm meanders over a spare backing of bells and whistles that, although restless, never loses focus. And how could it when that chorus kicked in and brought every back to their senses as to what they were meant to be doing in listening to it:
"Gonna Use it up - wear it out. Ain't nothin' left in this whole world I care about. I said one two three shake your body down". It's a hook so strong the band could almost let the song peter out to virtual silence save a few whistles, safe in the knowledge that the underlying beat was a steady pulsebeat that would keep the song alive indefinitely. No message, no politics and no agenda; all the band were saying was just get out there and move to the music. 

Because of it's wide range of influences, “Use It Up And Wear It Out” has broad appeal - it was (and still is) guaranteed to fill any disco floor from Studio 54 to the school gym (I can vouch for the latter from personal experience), while the more serious minded could stand at the sides and smugly identify where each of the pick and mix components came from. Clever yet accessible, intricate yet simple, it went some way to belying the claim that disco was disposable rubbish - maybe some of it was, but not this one.

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