Various Artists Mutant Disco Vol.3


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Peter Shapiro provided more questions than answers when he attempted to explain the genre tag "mutant disco" in the February 2003 issue of The Wire. His piece detailed how during the 70s and early 80s, assorted misfits, art students, and punks concocted an alien disco music, yet his umbrella did not quite shade his honorable mentions, which were as scattered as Smokey Robinson, Public Image Ltd., Material, and James White and the Blacks. There is an argument that a scientific theory is meaningless if it cannot be explained to a 10-year-old. As for "mutant disco," well...let's just consider it disco or a trace of disco that is more likely to halt the dancefloor than continue narcotizing it.

The recently resurrected ZE label first cut its teeth releasing examples of "mutant disco" on its 1981 comp of the same name. Perhaps because of Shapiro's piece, ZE reissued and doubled the size of Mutant Disco: A Subtle Discolation of the Norm in 2003. Now the label issues Volume 3: Garage Sale, a supposed shoebox of Reagan-era snapshots from when disco evolved into "garage" or the beginnings of house music on the turntables of DJ Larry Levan at the Paradise Garage in New York.

While ZE's connection with mutant disco and house is rather forced, I just have to ask this question: Where has Junie Morrison been all my life? He planted one of the most vivid images in my mind with his 1983 electro-funk tune sold in the Garage Sale, "Techno-Freqs". The Funkadelic vet seemingly hosts a lunchtime performance for a teen science-fair; pondering video game addiction with a broken tape-loop machine and a robot that parrots idiot-box catchphrases. "Are we man or machine? We have to make the choice tonight/ (Insert the robot sidekick): 'I pity the fool who doesn't make the choice tonight!'/ Remember how to freak and everything will be alright," goes a few verses carefully crooned as to not upset each face in the front row. This is camp as a reason for living-- no matter how many friends, co-workers, and clergymen laugh at you. However, Don Armando's "I'm an Indian, Too" troubles me. His Broadway-disco number, complete with a full orchestra backing, is up there with Cher's "Half Breed"-- the legacy of indigenous America bastardized into the Star's egotistical grace. But then again, one cannot take a song too seriously that demands choreography and a diva who tells you with a hand on hip, "I am Chipo-WA, Iro-QWA, Omo-HA, like those Indians, well I'm an Indian too!" You get the idea.

Another curiosity is Daisy Chain's after-school special rock, "No Time to Stop Believing in Love", which delivers raps in Spanish and Japanese to vaguely suicidal adolescents in assembly. Detroit's great Was (Not Was) delivers an oddly melancholic, open-shirted, and jeri-curled disco number, "Dance or Die", and an idea that ceases to be clever after about five seconds, "Read My Lips"-- a Contempo Casuals house tune with Caesar I's wondrous promise, broken even after swearing on the King James version of the Bible. More faithful to the gospel and its blessings upon man is Suicide's "Dream Baby Dream", where frontman Alan Vega prays in tongues over wheatlands swaying in keyboardist Martin Rev's organs. Vega fares worse in August "Kid Creole" Darnell's remix of "Outlaw", a rockabilly jaunt that goes nowhere. Larry Levan's fingerprints on Kid Creole & the Coconuts' "Something Wrong in Paradise" are stronger, exploding a Latin-funk block party into a million colors.

Most of Garage Sale seems to be novelties more than anything else. While that essence is the comp's selling point, it could unfortunately lead many to believe that mutant disco itself is nothing more.


Finally got the 3rd installment in ZE Records series Mutant Disco. The first two of the series are spectacular and feature a lot of the regulars in the ZE catalog. This album is no different but there are quite a few surprises. The « Garage Sale » in the title gives a nod to Larry Levan's legendary club « Paradise Garage ». Much of the songs have a more clubby feel to them than the previous albums.Don Armando's song « I'm An Indian, Too » is a ridiculous dance stomper with questionable meaning that would really fit in a club setting as you need no brain to listen (don't get me wrong I like this song).

There are quite a few contributions from Don Was of Was (not Was) like « Man Vs. The Empire Brain Building » (from Born To Laugh At Tornadoes), « Dance or Die » with Sweet Pea Atkinson, « Read My Lips » (as A Thousand Points Of Night), and a very 80's dance remix of Cristina's « What's A Girl to Do ». The album has a token Kid Creole & The Coconuts song called « There's Something Wrong in Paradise ». It's remixed by Larry Levan. I don't know the timeline on this song but it sounds just like a Talking Heads track. I love it though.

Much of this album flows from late 70's New York funk to uncomfortable 80's goober soul. Think Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo. I find it endearing though. A couple of tracks are almost too embarrassing to listen to. Junie Morrison of The Ohio Players and Funkadelic provides a really groovy electro nugget called « Techno-Freqs ». There's a lot more I can say about this album but you should probably just hear it. I had a mental orgasm when I heard this album. A little warning though. If you thought the 80's was a pile of crap festering on a boil on Satan's goiter then you probably won't like this album. If your a big fan of New York music in the late 70's and early 80's then I think you should check this album out. It's crazy fun. Oh and there's a longer more upbeat version of Suicide's « Dream Baby Dream » that's pretty sweet. Pick up a copy. I loved it.

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01 • Ron Rogers • Yaya • 3:27
Written by Ron Rogers / T.Tane / Rikki St James
Recorded at Electric Lady  & Sound Heights Studios NYC
All instruments & Vocals Ron Rogers
Except Lead Vocals by Rikki St James
Produced by Ron Rogers & Vince Traina
Original Sound Made by ZE Records © 1982

02 • Don Armando 2° Av. Rhumba Band • I’m an Indian Too • 3:22 
Written by Irving Berlin    
Published by Irving Berlin Music
Lead Vocal by Fonda Rae
Produced & Arranged by “ Sugar Coated” Andy Hernandez
Recorded at Blank Tape Studios NYC 
Original Sound Made by ZE Records © 1979

 03 • Coati Mundi • Sey Hey • 4:06
Written by Andy Hernandez
Recorded at Planet Sound NYC
Produced by Andy Hernandez
Original Sound Made by Coati Mundi Production © 1983

04 • Was (Not Was) • Man Vs The Empire Brain Building • 3:58
Written by David Was / Don Was
Published by Los Was Cosmipolitanos Ascap
Recorded at Sound Suite Recording Studios, Detroit 1983
Produced by Don Was & David Was & Jack Tann
Detroit Wasmopolitan Mixinq Squad: Duane Bradley, Ken Collier and Don Was  
Original Sound Made by ZE Records © 1983

05 • Snuky Tate • He’s the Groove • 6:09 
Written by Snuky Tate
Published by Blackmouth Music
Produced by Snuky Tate
Original Sound Made by ZE Records © 1979

06 • Aural Exciters • Maladie d’Amour • 5:33
Written by August Darnell / Andy Hernandez    
Published by  Warner chappell Music 
Recorded at Blank Tapes NYC
Produced by Bob Blank
Original Sound Made by ZE Records © 1979

07 • Sweet Pea Atkinson • Dance or Died • 6:33
Written by David Was / Don Was
Published by Los Was Cosmipolitanos Ascap
Recorded at Sound Suite Recording Studios, Detroit 1982
Produced by Don Was & David Was & Jack Tann
Dance Consultant Ken Collier  
Original Sound Made by ZE Records © 1982

08 • Ron Rogers • Naughty Boy • 5:09
Written by Ron Rogers
Recorded at Electric Lady & Sound Heights Studios NYC
All instruments & Vocals Ron Rogers
Except Guitar Jim Rippetoe, Sax Stan Harrison
Background Vocals  Sue Schmidt & Stephanie Fuller
Produced by Ron Rogers & Vince Traina
Original Sound Made by ZE Records © 1982

09 • Alan Vega • Outlaw August Darnell ReMix • 5:14
Written by Alan Vega
Published by Revega Music Inc. Ascap
Recorded at Skyline Sutios NYC
Produced by Alan Vega
Remixed by August Darnell
Original Sound Made by ZE Records © 1982

10 • Thousand Points Of Night • Read My Leaps • 5:54
Written by David Was / Don Was
Published by Los Was Cosmipolitanos Ascqp
Produced by Don Was & David Was
Original Sound Made by ZE Records © 1989

11 • Junnie Morrison • Techno-Freqs • 5:54
Written by Walter Morrison    
Published by Island USA Music Inc. / Jun-Trac Music Bmi
Recorded at The Disc & United, Detroit & The 5th Floor, Cincinnati
Produced by Walter Morrison
Original Sound Made by ZE Records © 1984

12 • Daisy Chain • No Time to Stop Believing in Love  • 5:50
Written By Sigerson, Zito, Kawasoe, Toro, Blasquist, Landrau
Published by Rondor Music / Copyright Control
Strings Arranged by Paul Riser
Mixed by Harvey Goldberg
Produced by Davitt Sigerson & Phillipe Rault
Original Sound Made by ZE Records © 1984

13 • Kid Creole & The Coconuts • Something Wrong In Paradise • 4:56 
Written by Mark Mazur August Darnell    
Larry Levan ReMix
Published by Island Music Ltd / MCPS – Perennial August Music
Produced by August Darnell for Bindisi Reet Productions
Original Sound Made by ZE Records © 1983

14 • Cristina • What a Girl To Do ReMix • 4:20 
Written by David Was / Don Was / Barry Reynolds
Published by Sleep it Off Music Bmi, Airstream Music Bmi, Los Was Cosmipolitanos Ascap
Recorded at Sound Suite Recording Studios, Detroit 
Produced by Don Was 
Original Sound Made by ZE Records © 1984

15 • Suicide • Dream Baby Dream • 6:20
Written by Alan Vega / Martin Rev
Published by Revega Music Inc. Ascap
Recorded at Power Station NYC
Produced by Rick Ocasek
Original Sound Made by ZE Records © 1980

P © ZE Records Mundo Ltda 2009
Very special thanks to Michael Zilkha 
Edited & Remastered by Charlus de la Salle at Sounth Factory Studio,
Art cover from original work by Bruno-Cristian Tilley. Booklet & Desing by Michel Esteban



It is probably difficult to imagine that Club culture was born in a small underground room in the Latin quarter of Paris during the period of German occupation in the Second World War. The Nazis had prohibited jazz and closed the Clubs where musicians performed thus forcing music lovers to meet in secret in cellars to listen to their favorite music on 78s. One such place was on Rue de la Huchette and was known as « La Discothèque ». Historically this was the first time that the name was used to designate a club where people could go to listen to recorded music.

Next came the « Whiskey a Go-Go » created by Paul Racine, which introduced the concept of a public dancing on a dance floor to music played by « Disc-Jockeys » with two turntables. Racine developed his concept throughout Europe. When Régine opened her first club “Chez Régine” in Paris in 1960 this was frequented by the American jet set and immediately inspired « Le Club » in New York, quickly followed by the « Peppermint Lounge » in 1961. The rest is history!

In 1981, when ZE Records first published the vinyl LP « Mutant Disco » there were only 6 tracks on it. In 2003, when I decided to relaunch the label that Michael Zilkha and myself founded in New York in 1978, I transformed this mini album into a double Digipack CD with 25 tracks. It was as if Mutant Disco had become a style of its own in which musicians from different cultures and nationalities could find common ground. Between 1978 and 1983 in New York City, music from a wide range of styles developed based on a common denominator – you could dance to it.

The title of « Garage » comes from « Paradise Garage », the now mythical club at 84 King Street, which was one of the focal points for New York gay and disco culture for 10 years (1977-1987). The turntables were under the magic touch of Larry Levan, one of the pioneers of NY Dance Music that some began calling Garage, while his childhood friend Frankie Knuckles did pretty much the same in Chicago where certain began to call his style House music.

I have never really been too fond of labels, which are often stuck on for marketing purposes in order to sell more products. I have always believed that there is good music and the rest… The ZE Records back catalogue is proof of the eclectic approach that Michael Zilkha and myself have in our musical tastes. For an adolescent who had the privilege of growing up in the 60s there is no difference between James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Sly Stone, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Jimmy Hendrix, nor between Norman Whitfield, Brian Wilson or Phil Spector.

Larry Levan also promoted open and eclectic musical sources and many DJs today have drawn inspiration from this. The Sound System at Paradise Garage developed by Larry and Richard Long was reputed to be the best in NY. Many producers would test their mixes on the dance floor at the Garage. Many of the remixes at ZE, especially those by August Darnell were first played at the Garage before being produced. Larry remixed for August and Kid Creole & The Coconuts : Something Wrong in Paradise, (...) which certainly has its place in this third volume of MUTANT DISCO.

In addition to this remix, « GARAGE SALE » includes several jewels from the ZE Records’ back catalogue : the long play version of the sublime Dream Baby Dream by SUICIDE; a remix of Alan Vega’s Outlaw by August Darnell; Techno-Freqs by Junnie Morrison, founder member of Funkadelic who brought out an excellent album, Evacuate your seats, on ZE in 1983; a mix by Don Was of What’s a Girl to Do by Cristina. Don was also involved in the production of Dance or Die by Sweet Pea Atkinson (singer of Was (not Was) from his solo album Don’t Walk Away (ZE Records 1982) this can almost be considered as a WNW album given that virtually the full band is present. Also present are Man VS The Empire Brain Building from the second album by Was (Not Was) for ZE in 1982, Born to Laugh at Tornadoes and Read my Lips, another production by the Was (not) brothers under the pseudonym of « A Thousand Points Of Night.» There is also the underground classic He’s the Groove by Snuky Tate, released on ZE in 1979 as a single and 12” single, plus the classic No time to Stop Believing in Love, by DAISY CHAIN, in the international version. There are two excellent tracks from RON ROGERS, a very active member of the ZE dream team in the early 80s. Ron also took part in the sessions with AURAL EXCITERS, BOB BLANK’s After Hours Party Band, with Maladie d’Amour.

As Kevin Pearce wrote in the liner notes in MUTANT DISCO Volume 1 & 2: « Yes, the urge to let our imagination run riot, and the need to dance to twisted sounds remains. « The MUTANT DISCO, the haunted dancehall will never close down ». This new selection is a step towards perpetual motion!

Michel Esteban Paris, October 2004

Track List
  • 1
    Yaya - Ron Rogers
  • 2
    I'm an Indian Too - Don Armando's 2nd Av. Rhumba Band
  • 3
    Sey Hey - Coati Mundi
  • 4
    Man VS The Empire Brain Building - Was (Not Was)
  • 5
    He's the Grove - Snuky Tate
  • 6
    Maladie d'Amour - Aural Exciters
  • 7
    Dance or Die - Sweet Pea Atkinson
  • 8
    Naughty Boy - Ron Rogers
  • 9
    Outlaw - Alan Vega - (August Darnell Remix)
  • 10
    Read My Lips (Thousand Points Of Night) - Was (Not Was)
  • 11
    Techno-Freqs - Junie Morrison
  • 12
    No Time to Stop Believing in Love - Daisy Chain
  • 13
    Something Wrong in Paradise - Kid Creole & the Coconuts - Larry Levan Remix
  • 14
    What a Girl To Do - Cristina - Remix
  • 15
    Dream Baby Dream - Suicide - Long Version