Super selections & wonderful words by Balearic Mike.
This is a deep disco holy-grail which I’ve been playing a lot again recently. It was famously the first ever release from the now legendary New York disco label West End Records, and amongst the very first batch of commercially available 12” singles, dating as it does from 1976.
Sessomatto had fallen off most people’s radar by the mid-90s, but then a few things occurred which brought it back into the disco-loving community’s consciousness again. First up, producer Dave Lee started releasing records under the alias ‘Sessomatto’, then those cheeky chaps The Idjut Boys released an edit of the track, titled Mad Sex, on their imprint, Noid Recordings. Lastly J. Saul Kane curated his B Beat Classic compilation, featuring the B+ track of the same name – and early a hip hop track with a heavily vocoder vocal which uses the Sessomatto break.
I wrote a piece about the B+ record last year, which led me to digging the original Sessomatto out. This meant that when I was asked to DJ again recently at the birthday party of our friendly pub landlord Nick, this track was definitely getting dropped. The track is quite unusual and doesn’t really sound like anything else in the West End catalogue… and that has something to do with the fact it didn’t start life as a disco record. Mel Cheren and Ed Kushins had been working at a label called Scepter Records, and Mel had been behind the hugely successful “Disco Gold” compilations which had brought total classics, like the Tom Moulton Mix of Patti Jo’s Make Me Believe In You into the world. Sceptre’s owner, Florence Greenberg, had become ill and had moved to California for her health. Living 3,000 miles away, she was losing interest in the business, and in July 1976 announced that she was shutting down the label. A year earlier Ed had mentioned that he suspected this might be on the horizon. Now it was definite, he asked Mel to become his partner in a new label, catering specifically for this new disco audience, which was becoming huge. Ed would look after the business side of things, and Mel, immersed as he was in the New York underground disco scene, would find the records. Mel really was deeply connected to what was happening. He was friends with everyone, from David Mancuso, to rising new star Larry Levan. In fact, it was Mel’s ex-lover, Michael Brody, who was championing Levan, first at Reade Street, and now, just as Mel was starting up West End, Brody was working frantically to open his next club, which would eventually become one of the most famous in the world. The Paradise Garage. Against this background Mel was looking for material to release, when he got a call from music publisher Joe Auslander, who had an album from Italy that he thought had the potential to become a disco hit. The record was the soundtrack to an Italian sex comedy called “Sesso Matto”, or “Sex Mad”, which had been renamed “How Funny Can Sex Be?” for the international market. The soundtrack was composed by legendary Italian soundtrack composer and conductor Armando Trovaioli.
In its original form the track is 3 ½ minutes of funky percussion, breathy giggles, sexy orgasmic moaning, and a massively catchy brass riff, which sounds like a cross between an Italian Library Music masterpiece, and the theme from The Benny Hill Show. Quite appropriate really, as the film was along the lines of a Carry On film, although as it was Italian, it was probably a bit sexier.
Mel instantly heard the potential, but new the track would need remixing for the disco audience, and he decided on a friend from Boston, the up-and-coming DJ Jimmy Stuard, who was currently making a huge reputation for himself behind the decks at 12 West.
Stuard jumped at the chance to get in the studio and create his first disco mix, and the results were quite spectacular. The 3-minute oddity becomes a 10-minute epic, as the drums and percussion are stretched out into long sparse passages, drenched in delay and dub effects. The bass-line is turned up to 11, while the orgasmic moans are turned down quite a few notches, and the big brassy riff is also given some nice dubby effects, including some created by dragging the tape backwards over the tape heads, which sounds like scratching. The whole thing is a masterpiece of funky, percussion heavy, and quite Balearic disco music. A huge career obviously beckoned for the incredibly talented Stuard, but it would never happen for him. Jim Stuard was one of the 9 victims of the Everard Bathhouse fire in May 1977, and this would remain his only disco mix.
While Sessomatto introduced the new West End Records label to the world, the record also had another lease of life uptown in The Bronx. As the fledgling hip hop scene was emerging, DJs loved spinning the long percussion heavy passages of the track for the B-Boys to dance to, and MCs loved rapping over the top of these beats. This is what led to the release B+’s B-Beat Classic. Fittingly the record Bob’s label bears the message: “In Memory of Jim Stuard.”
The 12” mix of Sessomatto is incredible, and was once incredibly hard to come by. I think I managed to prise my copy from the collection of John McCready, once he’d decided that now he had all the good disco records he would start collecting something else. The 7” I got from the excellent Beatin’ Rhythm record shop that used to be on Tib Street in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. It wasn’t very expensive at all, but there seems to be a mania for 7” pressings of records these days, and it now seems to be worth more than the 12”! It’s a nice edit of the Jim Stuard mix, with a weird Moog funk track from the soundtrack LP called Kinky Peanuts on the flip – which is actually quite good.
Then in 2001 the track was finally given an official reissue, so I picked that up as well. It has The Idjut Boys’ Mad Sex version on it, and another bonus mix from them, both of which are great. I tend to always play Jimmy’s mix though, so I’m going to be donating the reissue to a good home (clue, he makes delicious beer, and he runs a lovely pub!). Balearic Wife is pleased that a record is actually LEAVING the house for a change
(Sessomatto is also a favourite of Nancy Noise, I remember her spinning it a Leeds Outlaws Yacht Club, which makes a bona fide Balearic Beat in my book – Rob)
For more from Balearic Mike you can find him on both Facebook and Instagram – @balearicmike.
Mike has a Mixcloud page packed with magnificent, magical, music, and you can catch him live on 1BTN, from 12 noon until 2 (UK time) every 1st and 3rd Friday.
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