Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Former Member Of Parliament Becomes Half A Sly Fox

‘Let’s Go All The Way’ is one of those quintessential 80s songs, that when you hear it immediately transports you back in time to an era when Alf was big and mullets were even bigger. Whilst Alf is no longer ‘Stuck On Earth’, and mullets are thankfully restricted to isolated suburban enclaves, the classic ‘Let’s Go All The Way’ still lives on here at the home of the classics Retro Universe.

The artist behind ‘Let’s Go All The Way’ was the American duo Sly Fox. Sly Fox was the brainchild of Gary ‘Mudbone’ Cooper. Cooper was a former member of 70s funk legends Parliament-Funkadelic (from ‘74 to ‘79), the ever evolving assemblage of gifted musicians under the creative directorship of George Clinton (see earlier post), and fellow Parliament alumni Bootsy Collins’ project Bootsy’s Rubber Band . After taking an extended sabbatical from the music business (during which he worked as a telemarketer) Cooper returned to the fold, singing and playing drums on George Clinton’s 1982 hit ‘Atomic Dog’ (see earlier post). He continued an ongoing association with Clinton and Collins but started looking for a vehicle to express his talents beyond P-Funk. He found an ally in vocalist Michael Camacho and Sly Fox was born. The name Sly Fox references one of funk’s pioneers Sylvester ‘Sly’ Stewart of Sly & The Family Stone, with who Cooper also worked for a time.

The duo signed a recording deal with Capitol and with British producer Ted Currier at the controls, laid down tracks for a debut album titled ‘Let’s Go All The Way’. The title track was the first single release and soon took the airwaves and charts by storm. The song ‘Let’s Go All The Way’ took all the best elements of Cooper’s funk music heritage and added layers of hip-hop, disco and a dollop of synth-driven new wave, all propelled by a relentlessly hypnotic electronic drum track. The basic rhythm track borrowed from the 1985 U.S. R&B hit ‘A Fly Girl’ by Harlem rap ensemble Boogie Boys. ‘Let’s Go All The Way’ was a song that could only have been born of the decadence and extravagance that defined the 1980s.

It debuted on the U.S. charts in the last week of 1985 and went on to peak at #7, spending an impressive 25 weeks inside the top 100. Both Australia (#18) and Britain (#3) also fell in love with the song during 1986, and for a while you couldn’t turn on Countdown or Sounds (remember that show) or Britain’s Top Of The Pops or MTV in the U.S. or…or… the 6 o’clock news without seeing the music video. But as hugely popular as the single ‘Let’s Go All The Way’ was, the album of the same name failed to deliver both commercially and critically. The title track was really the only stand out and the follow up single ‘Stay True’ barely touched the fringes of the U.S. charts (#94), whilst a third 'If Push Comes To Shove' missed altogether.

And so Sly Fox became a member of the union no-one really wants to be a member of, the one hit wonder club. Though my belief is that any act that features on the honour roll at that club deserves respect, because let’s face it most acts don’t even get to have one hit. Gary ‘Mudbone’ Cooper has gone on to a plethora of other projects including work with blues guitarist Kelly Richey, Prince, Mick Jagger and Jimmy Cliff among many others. His latest album project ‘Fresh Mud’ was a collaboration with Dave Stewart (the Eurythmics variety not the keyboard impresario variety of an earlier post). Vocalist Michael Camacho returned to his roots in the jazz genre and most recently released the album ‘Just For You’. ‘Let’s Go All The Way’ was sampled by U.K. girl group The Sugababes on their song ‘Whatever Makes You Happy’.
So let us celebrate all that was wildly wonderful about the 1980s and go all the way with Sly Fox!

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