Mighty Real — Sylvester, Disco and Throbbing Gristle

Target has launched the campaign for its new fashion line from Peter Pilotto with Sylvester‘s “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)”:

An ex-girlfriend of mine insisted this song was not disco. And she would not budge from her logic: She did not like disco. She liked this song. Therefore this song could not be disco. Of course, her argument was somewhat tongue in cheek (as well as a textbook case of the logical fallacy of affirming the consequent), but it is a good example of the contortions many of us will sometimes go through while attempting to impose a logic on the inconsistencies of our own personal taste.

In a bit of synchronicity, I recently learned a weird bit of trivia (from the book mentioned below). Cosey Fanni Tutti, then-member of the industrial band Throbbing Gristle, appears in the original video for Sylvester’s classic (I think she is the longer haired dancer in the red top and shorts), filmed in a British dance club:

Had this been well known at the time, it would have caused serious cognitive dissonance. But TG always sought to cause dissonance, not only in society, but also among their fans. In his fascinating entry in the 33 1/3 seriesDrew Daniel details how their album 20 Jazz Funk Greats stymied expectations. Just as a crop of new “industrial” bands popped up to adopt (and exaggerate, sometimes to the point of unintentional parody) elements of TG’s early music, the pioneers shifted tactics. Their third album even offered the band’s own distinctive take on disco in “Hot on the Heels of Love”:

Disco also featured heavily in Cosey’s set list when she worked as a stripper. “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” was one of her “topless dance tracks.” However, when she wore her PVC (vinyl to us Americans) outfit, she played Pere Ubu and Captain Beefheart. I find it hard to imagine either artist being played in a strip club, but I guess the customers probably weren’t paying much attention to the music. The Jack Nitzsche-written, Captain Beefheart-performed track, “Hard Workin’ Man,” kind of mixes industrial and hard blues, as fits its role in the Blue Collar soundtrack.

At the time, I sought out the 45 of that song so I could slow it down to 33 and render it fully industrial.

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