Sister Sledge – Lost in Music

(DSD Balearic Mix)

When Sister Sledge went into the recording studio with Chic in 1978, time was already running out for the Philadelphia girls.

They’d already given themselves till the end of the decade to make a commercial breakthrough or they’d resolved to return to civilian life and abandon their musical ambitions. They’d signed to Atlantic in 1973 as teenagers and had a minor UK hit with the jaunty ‘Mama Never Told Me’, produced by Thom Bell’s brother Tony, while ‘Love Don’t Go Through No Changes With Me’ had been an R&B hit in the US. Neither song had led to anything greater.

Chic were hot property when Atlantic bosses had given them the run of the label on whom to next produce, right up to the Rolling Stones. They chose the Sledges precisely because of their lack of success. It was a chance for Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards to put a definitive stamp on the girls with their trademark shimmering disco sound. 

“I wait for new work by Chic’s Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers in the way that I once waited for the latest items from Phil Spector and Smokey Robinson: breathless in the anticipation of a familiar originality and excellence tricked up, every time, with a fresh device,” wrote Richard Williams in the Melody Maker upon the release of the album, We Are Family. 

 Both Chic’s second album C’Est Chic and We Are Family were recorded simultaneously at New York’s Power Station with the same line-up: Tony Thompson on drums, Robert Sabino and andy Schwarz (piano), Raymond Jones (Fender Rhodes), Sammy Figueroa on percussion, with strings provided by Karen Milne, Cheryl Hong and Marianne Carroll. The selection of songs for both albums remained fluid throughout much of the recording (for instance ‘I Want Your Love’ was originally mooted for Sister Sledge, while ‘He’s The Greatest Dancer’ was originally slated to appear on C’Est Chic).

‘Lost In Music’ was the third release from the album and reached 17 in the UK pop charts, not quite matching its two predecessors, both of which made Top Ten. Amazingly, one of the best songs on the album, ‘Thinking Of You’, was its B-side and wouldn’t be a hit until 1984 when it was reissued. In total, ‘Thinking Of You’ charted three times in total, with a Nile Rodgers remixed version taking it up no. 4 in the UK charts and Sure Is Pure’s reworking (also Top 20), done to promote the Very Best Of Sister Sledge in 1993.

The Chic modus operandi offered very little democracy in the studio, which is perhaps another reason why Chic chose the sisters in the first place (Chic’s later experience with Diana Ross was somewhat more fraught). Frequently, the songs would be developed in the studio as they recorded, with Nile often feeding Kathy the song line-by-line as she groped towards a suitable melody for the song (it was not unusual for him to still be frantically scribbling the lines down in the control room).

‘Lost In Music’ was covered numerous times over the subsequent decades, mainly unsuccessfully it has to be said, though The Fall’s 1993 version was highly entertaining if completely non-dancefloor friendly, while it has been the source of an occasional sample. None anywhere near the majesty of Chic’s original version, however. “Pound for pound, I think We Are Family is our best album, hands down,” wrote Nile Rodgers, an assessment we can all get behind.

Bill Brewster

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