SHALAMAR - Body Pop or Mindless Soul Power
NME September 25, 1982 by Graham K Smith
Shalamar - body pop or mindless soul power? GRAHAM K SMITH experiences the all-American interview scenario.
MUCH AS WE may want to lay the ghost of disco to final rest, to shed the lingering memories of banal cotton-woool auto dance in favor of a music both intellectually provocative and irresistibly rhythmic, there's always something there to remind us of the appeal of brainless gloss.
Not that I'd describe Shalamar as being tuppence short of a shilling in any respect - it's just that their single-minded pursuit of success remains uncluttered by constraints of ideological correctness or political consideration.
Despite aggressive positive discrimination in favor of a more 'enlightened' cerebral agility to match the footwork, most pretenders to the crown of golden sales have either tasted the bitter dust of defeat or the false sweetness of compromise. ABC, formerly the shock troops of the 'radical' dance, capitulated without a second thought to enjoy what what has now become a very hollow victory - while the surprise charting of Flash's gigantic 'Message' (the exception that reiterates the rule) merely highlights the impotence of Britain's Red funksters.
And as if to politicos' fumbling rhetoric, Shalamar breeze effortlessly time and time again into the charts.
Shalamar, to you and me the funsters down the local record emporium come Saturday morning are Jeffrey Daniel (the one seen distorting his rubbery frame on TOTP), Howard Hewett (macho foil to Jeffrey's effete artistry) and the sylph like beauty Jody Watley. Though I'm fact, like in a thousand and one similar pop rags to riches stories, Shalamar is the vehicle of Leon Sylvers and Sound of Los Angeles Records. Our three spotless icons are a simple public face, an image with which we can associate those insidious hit tunes culminating in today's "There It Is."
Jeffrey, Howard and Jody are everything you'd expect homogenized American pop product to be - painfully polite, immaculately professional emissaries, spreading the ruthlessly refined word of Shalamarism. We chat, spar, joke. I question and the answers flow back like a gelatinous palliative - the talk is of albums, tours, hit formula's, the very wonderful Leon Sylvers, "what the people want."
A little niggly probing about something as innocuous as possible musical diversity frightens this creature back into it's shell. Shalamar ums and ers, stresses how it's got to feel right, how it depends how Mr. Sylvers records the backing tracks, and how although you've got to progress you can't beat a winning formula - and I only asked if they'd maybe funk it up a little more.
They all agree that a more intensive involvement in the workings of Shalamardom is on the way - in a songwriting in playing, in arranging, even in production - of course that involvement will commence with the next album (yup, it's all gonna happen on the next album!).
Famous names fly about the room now Shalamar's chart success has edged beyond the first nervous scratchings of one-hit wonderbums-Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones, Paul McCartney and Stanley Clarke all get name checked as possible additions to future Shalamarations, but Jeffrey's quick to point out that "we won't say anything too premature just yet" attaboy, Jeff, stick your neck out!
It's always a pity to have to meet the perpetrators of such transient subliminal pop as Shalamar's. If my initial reaction to their recent outpourings was of haughty dismissal in the hope that something 'worthwhile' was poised to take it's place, an ultimate submissions to their subtle melodic assaults was unavoidable. The corporate manufacturing organization beavering away behind the dazzling two dimensions of Jeffrey, Howard and Jody, has succeeded admirably in its formularisation of sound and product quality control.
'Interviewing the visible orifice of such an organization really is irrelevant - surely seamless conceptualization such as this should outmode such trivial and wasteful contact.
Buy Shalamar's album (I'd recommend it to anyone), watch Jeffrey on TOTP - that's all you need to know. If Shalamar were communists they'd be the perfect group.