525. ‘Give It Up’, by KC & The Sunshine Band

Back when I was a student at university, I worked part-time in bowling alley. It was a great job, with great friends, and I had a great time… Why do I bring it up now though, at the start of this post? Because I hear the opening bars of our next #1, and am instantly transported back to AMF Bowling circa. 2005…

Give It Up, by KC & The Sunshine Band (their 1st and only #1)

3 weeks, from 7th-28th August 1983

The lights are dimmed, save for flashing neon and spinners – Saturday night means ‘Disco Bowl’ – and the DJ we get in especially for these occasions has just started playing ‘Give It Up’, as he does every single weekend. I am probably cleaning up a spill on Lane 12. Everybody wants you… Everybody wants your love…

It’s a fond memory, and I never grew to hate this song – no matter that I heard it every weekend for three solid years. How can anyone truly hate this song? It’s the very definition of a fun, throwaway hit. And yet… I don’t love it, and that’s not simply down to overplaying. There’s something about it that’s always sounded a little forced, a little soulless. It’s a catchy song, but the nanananananas and the funky synths feel pre-programmed, almost cynical, while the singer – KC himself – doesn’t really sound like he’s enjoying himself.

There are probably prejudices at work here… I think ‘Give It Up’ lacks some of the funky rawness of the Sunshine Band’s big seventies hits: ‘That’s the Way (I Like It)’, ‘Shake Your Booty’ and the like. And yes, despite promising to try not mentioning 1980’s production values in my last post… I think that the 1980’s production is the problem here. That glossy, electronic sheen. Or maybe all those years of hearing it like clockwork have at least dulled my senses, and my ability to analyse this record, even if they haven’t made me actively dislike it.

This was a bit of a comeback for KC & The Sunshine Band, who had had plenty of huge disco smashes in the ’70s (including five US #1s), but who had struggled in the new-wave, ‘disco sucks’ years. Credit to them then, for regrouping, adopting the sounds of the time, and getting one final hit, their biggest by far in Britain. The band were led by Harry Wayne Casey (‘KC’, gettit?) and a revolving cast of musicians who made up The Sunshine Band, and when I say one final hit I mean it: they never went higher than #59 after this swansong… They’ve been around though, in one form or another, since re-forming in the early 1990s.

Maybe I’m being a bit harsh on this one. I have had it forced on me an incredible number of times and still don’t hate it… That must mean there’s something great in there, right? And isn’t memory a strange thing? Certain sounds instantly transporting you somewhere… The clatter of bowling pins, the sound of a drink being spilled over on Lane 12, the opening bars of ‘Give It Up’ by KC & The Sunshine Band…

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17 thoughts on “525. ‘Give It Up’, by KC & The Sunshine Band

  1. A year or two, an online musical friend and I were comparing this one and Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’. We both agreed that we enjoyed (and still enjoy) this one much more. I was spinning this regularly at my discos for the next two or three years after it came out, and it nearly always ensured a full floor. It’s fun, it’s catchy, and if it is a bit soulless or contrived, or doesn’t quite have the spark of some of the 70s KC numbers you mention, it is indeed impossible to dislike. Even nearly forty years later, I still think it’s one of the best of the 80s dance hits.

  2. Sorry, me again. Looking at your comments again, there was a reason for KC’s struggles in the early 80s. It was all connected with a run of bad luck – the Sunshine Band disbanding after their label TK Records went bankrupt, a severe accident that left him confined to a wheelchair and having to learn to walk again, then re-entering the studios and recording much of the single and album on his own, finding US Epic would not release and having to launch his own independent label. It was only a minor hit there (after several No. 1s in the 70s), but in Britain it was a very different story.

    • I didn’t know any of that… Wow. I did wonder why it was so hard to find a picture of the whole band from 1983 (hence why I went for the album sleeve as my main image), and I did think KC looked significantly older than in the videos for their 70s hits… Now I know why.

  3. Love it! I mean this type of music,, generally, isn’t really my thing,but maybe, perversely, that’s exactly why I love it! Just a good, fun ‘sunshine’ song that puts a smile on my face. 🙂

  4. As an American, it’s weird to think of KC and the Sunshine Band scoring hits after the ‘70s. I mean they did have the first US #1 of the ‘80s with “Please Don’t Go” but that was released in ‘79 and the ‘80s weren’t obviously the ‘80s yet. They feel so definitively ‘70s and disco (further highlighted by having a song on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack) with all the big songs they had and that you still hear today in commercials, movies, and dances.

    • I think this was a Top 20 in the US, but yeah, nowhere near as big as in the UK. They definitely feel rooted in the 70s, with some pretty definitive disco hits, but I quite like the fact they had this swansong. Another poster just mentioned that Casey had had label troubles and a serious accident in the early 80s, so it’s a nice moment for him to have one final big hit.

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  6. I’m with you on this one – I was a huge fan of KC in the 70’s – not just the brilliance of Queen Of Clubs, Get Down Tonight, That’s The Way funk disco, but also George McRae records (bar the vocals) not least the disco-starting Rock Your Baby. I also loved Please Don;t Go, but that ballad was hinting at the 80’s synth of this one, which I still like and enjoy, but never loved like I love Queen Of Clubs. Now THAT’S pure excitement. My memory of this one is my niece was born while it was at number one, summer of ’83, sunshine, working in a Photographic developing factory (RIP holiday photos). I think KC looks a bit odd, and sounds a bit not-quite-there, as he’d been in a serious head-on car crash in 1981, paralysed for 6 months, and he’d had to re-learn how to walk, dance, sing and then get back into the recording studio to get it together again, so I see this as a last final hurrah after the battle to health and compensation for not getting getting any number ones in the UK from his heyday. Though, of course, Please Don’t Go eventually got there in an annoying cover version, and Get Down Tonight wasn’t far off as a sampled dance hit 🙂

    • Yeah, someone else mentioned what KC had been through in the early eighties, which sheds a different light on this record. Fair play to him for getting back to the point of writing and recording, let alone having #1 hits. But I do think there’s a lack of joy about this one… pretty understandable given what he’d gone through.

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