This next #1 arrives like a fluffy cloud, a soft pillow upon which you might rest your head after a long day. Satin bedsheets. Rose petals scattered. A heavy-breathed Sexy…. Smooth. As silk.
Rock Your Baby, by George McCrae (his 1st and only #1)
3 weeks, from 21st July – 11th August 1974
Woman, Take me in your arms, Rock your baby… The voice sounds as if it’s coming from on high, slightly out of focus, drenched in echo. Is he singing about dancing, or sex? Dancing then sex? There’s nothing to it, Just say you wanna do it… I’d go with sex. Especially with that chucka-chucka rhythm nudging us along, like the soundtrack to a classic, moustaches and chest-hair porno.
There’s not a huge amount to this record. It floats in then floats out. Chilled, funky, and soulful. Kids today would call it a ‘mood’. George McCrae’s voice is honeyed and high-pitched, especially when he reaches for the falsetto at the end of the Now let your lovin’ flow, Real sweet and slow… line. (Ok, there’s no way this song isn’t about sex…)
This is soul with a capital S, the sound that had been dominating US pop music for years, and that had made headway in the UK charts in the late sixties/early seventies, before getting turfed out the way by glam. But it’s back, baby. The backing track existed before the lyrics, recorded by a member of KC and the Sunshine band and using a drum machine when that was a very experimental thing to do. McCrae came along, added his vocals and scored a huge debut hit around the world.
But wait. A. Second. Calling this ‘soul’ isn’t telling the whole picture. ‘Rock Your Baby’ is something else too. One of those watershed moment that come along every so often, when a #1 single points to the future. A five letter future: D. I. S. C. O. The five most sneered upon letters in pop music…?
Not that I’ve got anything against disco. I’m really looking forward to writing posts on some of the decades later, cheesier disco hits. And I’ve nothing against this song. It’s cool, and catchy. Get this track down your headphones this while walking along the street and you won’t be able to stop swaggering. It sounds so much more grown-up, so much more sophisticated, when compared to the year’s earlier chart-toppers from Gary Glitter and – as much as do I love it – Mud. This is a disc your cool older sister would have been listening too while you were still blasting ‘Tiger Feet’.
George McCrae struggled to follow-up this monster hit – it was #1 everywhere – but he’s still alive and still performs, in his mid-seventies. Press play, then, and enjoy the sound of the summer of ’74. As we pass the midway point of the year, popular music gently ticks over into a new era…