Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tuesday 12-inch Flashback: ‘Spacer’

This dance record by Sheila & B. Devotion was a mid-sized black-radio hit in the summer of 1980, but it was much more popular in Europe.

I remember it fondly for its grade-A Chic groove, propelled by the chugging rhythm guitar of Nile Rodgers.

As producers, Rodgers and Bernard Edwards were kings of the world at that point. Sister Sledge had blown up the year before. And Nile and Bernard rocked the charts later in 1980 with “Upside Down” for Diana Ross... and with “Rebels Are We,” Chic’s last Top 10 R&B single.

So... who the heck were Sheila & B. Devotion? “Sheila” was the stage name of Annie Chancel, a pop star in France since the ’60s.

B. Devotion – sometimes known as Black Devotion – were Sheila’s backup singers. You can see them prancing around in the music video for “Spacer.”

Anyway... cheers to the Vinyl Morpher for dropping the needle on this.


bklyn6 said...

I don't think I remember this song. The name of the group rings a bell, but not the name of the song. It does sound a bit Chic-y, though.

Only years later did I notice the Chic touch on those Sister Sledge songs.

Thembi said...


I had no idea that Niles Rodgers was behind this! Mika samples "Spacer" for "Relax," as does Alcazar for the super campy eurodance hit "Crying at the Discoteque." I actually choreographed a salute to one of my dearest gay friends to that song...but maybe I've already said too much.

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Your love sustains me!

Zackory Kirk said...

I checked out the song, and I watched the documentary on Douglas and NCLB. Thanks for sharing.

DRE said...

okay you got me. 29 milk crates of records in my basement, mostly from the 80's, and although I knew this song, I never knew who made it. Thanks UBM.

Pocat said...

Not only did Nile Rodgers & Bernard Edwards compose, arrange, conduct, play on & produce all those hits and songs on:

-Sister Sledge's albums "We Are Family" (79) & "Love Somebody Today" (80),

-Diana Ross' "diana" (80),

-Norma Jean "selftitled" contained hit "Saturday" (78),

-Sheila & B. Devotion "King Of The World" (80),

-Johnny Mathis "I Love My Lady" unreleased (81),

-Fonzi Thornton "untitled" unreleased (82)

The CHIC Organization also did almost all the back-up vocals and played all the music. In fact those albums where CHIC albums in all but name. Today they would've probably been released as "CHIC featuring Sister Sledge....." etc.

CHIC did also make an album with Debbie Harry & Chris Stein (Blondie), which was more of a real collaboration. The result was Debbie's first solo album "Koo Koo" (81). http://www.chictribute.com/arkiv/reviews/kookoo81.html

As for sampling the CHIC catalogue is arguably the most sampled songslist in history. Check out just a fraction of CHIC samplings, covers and influence on this page: http://www.chictribute.com/disco/emul.html

"Spacer" reached: #9 in Germany, #5 in Italy and #3 in France.


For more on CHIC, check out my fan site:

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Welcome, Pocat. My favorite non-Chic Chic song: "High Society."

Pocat said...

Thanks UBM.

I really like "Hold Me Lonely Boy" because of the VERY CHIC staccato back-up singing in the chorus. And I also love "I Like Love" because of Nile's hot intro guitar and his playing in the break. The Norma Jean album and the '79 single is much better than the sales showed.

skierpage said...

Yo, pocat!

Rob Sabino's piano on this is TO DIE FOR!!!!!!! Then Nile's nastyyy guitar, then 'Nard and Tony Thompson rebuilding it with the CHIC strings swirling in. A fantastic group effort. My review. I love how Sheila's non-native English works with the song.

So, the big question is whether there's an extended disco version with more of those ringing octaves. The album version on "King of the World" is 6:15 long.

My favorite non-CHIC song changes, but "You Fooled Around" off Sister Sledge's Got to Love Somebody Today, and the following song "I'm a Good Girl" are a great 1-2 combo. I just finished the book "CHIC: Everybody Dance: The Politics of Disco" and it sounds like Bernard Edwards (RIP) did so much to coax amazing vocals from women.

Thank you!