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By Johnny Angel

Le Freak Bites the Dust:
Chic had style. Chic had groove. Chic had spirit. Chic is dead. Long live Chic!

Bernard Edwards is dead. That might not mean much or anything to you, but it hit me like an Uzi round 'twixt the sinuses. The former bassist of the disco combo Chic, he was, and he died in a Tokyo hotel room of pneumonia. He was 43. Hit me, cuz I read the news atop a Stairmaster in New York City, the overhead speakers boom-booming out the '90s take on the magnificent groove Edwards and fellow Chic-er Nile Rodgers created way back in the day.

It's been only 17 years since the amazing one-two punch of "Good Times" and "Le Freak" were chart-toppers, but I can tell you that as a leather-clad punker, I was a little lonely in my admiration of "Nard and Nile," and I can't even hear the evolutionary process when I'm subjected to the cold, generally unbearable nature of '90s dance music.

Chic had a style. Chic had a sound. Chic had concept, stance, humor, rhythm, energy, songs, beat, you name it. But the gym soundtrack that occupies 90 minutes out of Johnny's day tends to have none of that, merely one-riff repetition ad infinitum with a slick layer of mundane samplery tossed on top. This tedium is proof that human music is best made by humans themselves--skin on strings, sticks on traps, and never, never fingers on knobs.

Compare Chic's tensile, elastic snap to whatever techno atrocity laces your aching cochlea and I can't imagine anyone saying that he or she gets more bounce to the ounce outta some mechanical nightmare goose-stepping soundtrack than the cool-thing pulse of NYC's finest. Only a skull fulla MDMA truly appreciates the horrible bastard children of Eno/Kraftwerk/New Order doing the do. Slap Chic's Greatest Hits on the player, and everybody ages 9 to 90 will be rockin' the house wherever, whoever, whenever. I rest my case.

After reading Nard's obit, I wayback-machined to 1979. I remember sitting in my band's rehearsal space, regaling my pals with one of the few prognostications I ever made that was on the money. "This new dance shit isn't disco," said I of Chic and the B-52's and the Contortions. "Punk-rock is gonna merge with this and there's gonna be a brand new thing. Let's drop this sub-Ramone clone posture and get on the good foot. I think it's coming on strong."

My bandmates looked at me as if I'd grown a penis outta my forehead and just laughed it off.

Nard, if you can hear me, I hope you're smiling at this story. You made a bleak period in my life full of joy. Freak out.

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From the July 18-24, 1996 issue of Metro Santa Cruz

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