Until now disco has taken the backseat on my blog. That’s about to change, for this article focuses on the underrated disco genius Cerrone and his debut album Love In C Minor.
Marc Cerrone was born on May 24th, 1952, in Vitry-sur-Seine, France as a son to Italian immigrants. At age 12 he started drumming and was fond of all types of music. Early 1970s he played in the band Kongas. After they had released two albums he left the band, due to artistic differences.
In the meantime Cerrone had married and had become a father. He bought a record store to provide his family with an income. Life as a musician wasn’t in the cards and Cerrone wanted to say goodbye to that life with a statement: music the way he wanted it. He teamed up with writer and producer Alec R. Constandinos and left for the London Trident Studios to record an album. They enlisted keyboard player Don Ray, a former Kongas member. Over the course of two months the album, which would consist of just three songs, was recorded. The title of the first song, which filled the album’s entire A side, was used as the album’s title: Love In C Minor.
Love In C Minor
Upon returning to France he tried many record companies to take an interest in releasing the record, but failed miserably. So, what to do next? Start your own label, Malligator Records, of course and put up your own money to press 5,000 copies. Due to an order mix-up a couple of copies were sent to the US. The song Love In C Minor was quickly picked up by a number of New York DJ’s. It turned into a hit at the discotheques.
After hearing about his success in New York, Cerrone immediately flew to the city, where a little bidding war was already brewing amongst the record companies: who gets Cerrone? Atlantic‘s president Ahmet Ertegun welcomed Cerrone with open arms and Cerrone’s debut album was released in the US, where it quickly turned into a huge success.
So what’s the reason behind the success? The title song was a huge hit in the US, in part due to the female voices simulating sex and orgasm. But, Cerrone also did something innovative. He put the drums central in the mix, the kick drum in particular. The ‘four-on-the-floor’ was the driving force behind the song (and the album).
But the cover helped as well. Nudity was always a good selling point, especially in the US. However, for the album’s release in the US the original album cover was replaced by a goody-goody one. Cerrone’s following albums all had an erotic vibe and nudity was frequently used. From mid 1980s and onwards the covers became more decent.
Even though the end result is the vision of one man, and one man alone, and stands as a typical 1970s product, the consequences were immense. It introduced Euro/French disco to a wider audience, in the US as well. Just as Kraftwerk is an important link in the development, of what ultimately became known as dance music, Cerrone and his first albums were equally important. The kick drum as a central and rhythm defining instrument, long live the boom!
Cerrone’s debut single, Love In C Minor was released in 1976, April 1977 in The Netherlands. The single contained shortened versions of the album tracks Love In C Minor and Black Is Black. No less than 3 million copies were sold worldwide.
All songs written by Cerrone and Alec R. Constandinos, unless stated otherwise.
- Love In C Minor
- Black Is Black (Michelle Grainger, Steve Wadey, Tony Hayes)
- Midnite Lady
- Cerrone – drums and production
- Mo Foster – bass
- Collin Green, Hughie Burns – guitar
- Alan Hawkshaw, Don Ray – keyboards
- Tony Carr, John Dean – percussion
- Ray Swinfield – flute, saxophone
- John Watson’s Brass Section – horns
- Pat Halling’s String Ensemble – strings
- Joanne Willams, Stephanie De Sykes, Madeline Bell, Jackie Sullivan, Jean Hawker – background vocals
After Love in C Minor
Soon after the release of Love In C Minor Alec R. Constandinos took off to release music by himself. In 1977 Cerrone released two albums, Cerrone’s Paradise and Supernature (Cerrone 3). That last album sold a lot of copies: 8 million. After renegotiating his contract, Cerrone released the album The Golden Touch (Cerrone IV) in 1978, which featured Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page (he played guitar on Rocket In The Pocket).
But, shortly after the turn of the decade international success was over. None of Cerrone’s albums would ever enter international charts again. The albums continued to sell well in France and the French speaking part of Belgium. The aversion to disco was growing worldwide and slowly but surely the music disappeared from the charts. In 1979 Angelina (Cerrone V) and Cerrone Live were released, one year later followed by Panic (Cerrone VI) and You are The One (Cerrone VII).
After, Cerrone kept releasing albums on a regular basis:
- Back Track (Cerrone VIII) (1982)
- Your Love Survived (Cerrone IX) (1982)
- En Concert (1983)
- Where Are You Now (1983)
- The Collector (1985)
- Way In (1989)
- Dream (1992)
- X-Xex (1993)
- Human Nature (1994)
- Hysteria (2002)
- Celebrate! (2007)
- Cerrone Symphony – Variations Of Supernature (2010)
- Live At The Montreux Jazz Festival (2013)
- Red Lips (2016)
- DNA (2020)
Cerrone also released 6 soundtrack albums and many, many compilation albums, the first as far back as 1981. Cerrone sold a mind blowing total of 30 million albums. In 1978 he won no less than 5 (!) awards at the Billboard Disco Forum. Later on in his career, he worked with the likes of Nile Rodgers, Toto, Laura Branigan, Jocelyn Brown and La Toya Jackson, amongst others.
What’s your take on Cerrone and Love In C Minor? Let me know!
Cerrone, Cerrone – Trident Studio tweet, Cerrone – Grammy 1978 images: twitter.com/cerrone
Cerrone (in his record store?) image: flaunt.com
Cerrone – Love In C Minor – Back cover image: musiccircle.co.in
Cerrone – Love In C Minor – US cover image: bol.com/discogs.com
Cerrone – Love In C Minor – Single (The Netherlands) image: discogs.com
All other images: spotify.com