Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Hands Up And Give Me Your Heart

Back in the early 90s I upped the ante in terms of tracking down some of the hits from my youth. But at that time there was still a dearth, in relative terms, of back catalogue material available on CD. In lieu of being able to find some, harder to uncover, lost gems of years gone by on CD, I regularly trawled through the piles of old vinyl albums and 45s at local second hand shops. Over a three or four year period I dug up around a hundred or so hits from the 70s/80s, on vinyl 45. Once I’d dusted off the dirt and verified authenticity via carbon dating, the vinyl retreads at least offered me the chance to hear some long lost favourites, at least until such time as someone, somewhere, decided to release them on digital format. One such song that I recalled from early ‘82, was a reggae tinged, disco-ish, dance track called ‘Hands Up (Give Me Your Heart)’ by the duo Ottawan.

Ottawan were yet another studio project from the French production team of Jean Kluger and Daniel Vangarde. Vangarde had already been a driving force behind the Caribbean born Gibson Brothers (see earlier post), and similarly, the two singers chosen to form Ottawan both had ties with that part of the world. Jean Patrick and Annette had both settled in Paris, and during the 70s had performed with local acts. It was whilst performing at a local French club that Jean Patrick was spotted by Vangarde, who was always on the lookout for promising vocal talent. Patrick was fronting an outfit called Black Underground, though Vangarde and Kluger felt the dynamic would be better suited by a male/female duo format. Vocalist Annette was brought on board and a new moniker, Ottawan, was applied - apparently the name was inspired by a recent trip the producers had to Canada - Ottawa…Ottawan…yeah that works. It was 1979 and disco was at the peak of its persuasive powers, so what better song to debut with than a disco-dance styled track called ‘D.I.S.C.O.’ - nothing subtle about that. The song was originally recorded in French, and was soon a hit in disco clubs across Europe. The song’s title is an acronym for the qualities of the song’s female character, her name inspired by the traits of being ‘delirious’, ‘incredible’, ‘superficial’, ‘complicated’, and ‘oh, oh, oh’ - and it’s probably fair to say that ‘original’ isn’t a word oft associated with the disco genre. After storming the top ten across several European nations, an English language version of ‘D.I.S.C.O.’ was released, and invaded the British charts in September of 1980, peaking at #2 by year’s end. Studio outfit N-Trance returned the song to #11 on the British charts during 1997.

The ‘D.I.S.C.O.’ title had worked a treat with the single, so there was no reason to look further for the inspiration behind Ottawan’s debut album. The follow up single was released in both French, ‘T’es O.K.’, and English, ‘You’re O.K.’, languages, with the French release version notching up a second major hit at home for the Paris based Ottawan. ‘You’re O.K.’ also kept the Ottawan brand in the British charts late in 1980 (#56). The album spawned a number of other European dance floor hits, including ‘Shalala Song’, and ‘Hello Rio’, the latter penned by Bobby Orlando, who later produced some early Pet Shop Boys’ material. Ottawan’s disco-fied version of, ‘Help, Get Me Some Help!’, originally recorded in the late 60s by London based pop/soul outfit Love Affair, was re-released in Britain later in 1981 (#49), mostly to catch some residual wash in the wake of the wave of popularity sparked by Ottawan’s second British top five hit.

‘Hands Up (Give Me Your Heart)’ was a feel good, dance floor hit across Europe and Britain during 1981. It was the kind of song that would have sparked mass audience involvement, prompting much hand waving and celebratory gesturing. Certainly, that was the effect it had in Britain (#3), and to a lesser degree Australia, where the track became the Ottawan empires only incursion into the Aussie charts, early in ‘82 (#25 - sorry had to do the empire gag). I can imagine ‘Hands Up (Give Me Your Heart)’ being the kind of song that would have been used at sporting venues. The kind of music based incendiary device, utilised by ground announcers to encourage crowd participation, and possibly even incite the occasional ‘Hands Up’ style Mexican wave. Doubtless the song would have received a guernsey at the odd rugby match in New Zealand, where ‘Hands Up (Give Me Your Heart)’ was a massive #1 hit in 1982.

A second Ottawan album was released, appropriately titled ‘Ottawan 2’, but the follow up singles ‘Musique Magique’ and ‘Top Secret’ proved too secretive to make much of an impact. Male vocalist Jean Patrick then opted to leave Ottawan, and strike out on his own with a new duo called Pam ‘n Pat. The former Air France employees’ new enterprise took flight with the 1982 European dance hit ‘To Be Superman’, but soon thereafter that duo was grounded, and Jean Patrick pursued a solo project under the name Ottman Jones. The Ottawan brand name continued for a time under the custodianship of Esther de Bijl and Robert Walker, but apparently in later years Jean Patrick also toured under the Ottawan banner, alongside a new female vocalist called Tamara. Doubtless, whoever performs under the name Ottawan, they would still fill the dance floor with the hits ‘D.I.S.C.O.’ and ‘Hands Up (Give Me Your Heart)’.

No comments: