353. ‘Rock Your Baby’, by George McCrae

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…


15 thoughts on “353. ‘Rock Your Baby’, by George McCrae

  1. “Rock Your Baby” is arguably the first intentional disco hit as other earlier hits and #1s like “Rock The Boat” and “TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)” are also considered the first disco #1 songs in America even though they are more in the vein of R&B and soul music. And the fact that it was created by the future KC of KC & The Sunshine Band, one of the dominant chart acts of the disco era alongside The Bee Gees and Donna Summer also gives more credence to this idea. It even served as an inspiration to future hits like John Lennon’s “Whatever Gets You Thru The Night” and ABBA’s “Dancing Queen.”

    Since we’re at that time of year now, I’m reviewing hit Christmas songs with my first one on Andy Williams’ immortal standard “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year.”

    • Yeah I’ve always heard it referred to as the first big disco hit. I had also heard about the John Lennon inspiration, but not Dancing Queen. I can’t hear it myself…

      I’ll be sure to check out the Christmas reviews, too : )

  2. It is catchy I give it that. My older (I would not say cooler) sister was listening to this. Bell bottoms, stacks, and enough wood paneling for everyone…one of those songs that screams seventies.

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  4. Rock Your Baby is the record that kicked-off Disco as a thing. The Sound Of Philadelphia (see The O’Jays, Howard Melvin et al), Isaac Hayes, and Barry White had been around for years as prototypes, and I’ve heard late 60’s tracks that scream-out DISCO in huge red neon signs, but Howard Casey’s Rock Your Baby was the inspiration, just beating out Gloria Gaynor by a few months. Not only did he create this record (and all George’s subsequent hits) but KC & The Sunshine had a parallel career and huge USA chart hits.

    There was this, in the summer of ’74. There was a TV strike on, there was no Top Of The Pops, so no Glam sales impacts to the same degree just Entertainment TV-promoted fodder, and that allowed dance hits to get bigger. Disco’s were starting to boom and young teens were going, and this one appealed across the board at a time when the singles charts were getting clogged with novelty pop and MOR ballads. Around the same time as this there was Rock The Boat, then Queen Of Clubs, KC’s frantic, funkier, cooler sound of Disco, and then came the game-changer Never Can Say Goodbye, Gloria Gaynor’s thumping, soaring masterpiece, and off we went, Disco ruled as a genre until New Wave came along for a challenge.

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