Chic’s Nile Rodgers has been in the news more than usual lately, due to his work on Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories – most notably that album’s lead single ‘Get Lucky’.
His work with Daft Punk, however, is just one more twist in a career that’s revelled in surprising collaborations and often overlooked work both on guitar and in the producer’s chair. Rodgers’ work with Diana Ross, David Bowie and yes, Daft Punk is well-known; over the next 11 pages, we highlight some of his less well-documented moments, including collaborations with Britney Spears, forgotten side projects and his stint running a video game music production company. We’re guessing even Nile’s forgotten that some of these happened.
Use your keyboard’s arrow keys or hit the prev / next arrows on your screen to turn pages (page 1/12)
(from Mister Heartbreak, 1984)
The follow-up to Big Science continued that album’s interest in monolithic art pop, but added extra colour and quirk. Mister Heartbreak boasts a slew of other blue-chip guest spots: guitar work from King Crimson’s Adrian Belew, inimitable contributions from Bill Laswell, and, as per Anderson’s 1981 sort-of-debut You’re The Guy I Want To Share My Money With, a repeat appearances from Beat figurehead William Burroughs. Rodgers gets the call on ‘Excellent Birds’, appearing alongside a straight-outta-Genesis Peter Gabriel, and the result is a mutant piece of electro-pop, and one in which Rodgers’ quicksilver flourishes feel queasy rather than funky. The Anderson/Rodgers connection would continue: our man from NYC appears on Anderson’s 1986 Home Of The Brave OST.
Use your keyboard’s arrow keys or hit the prev / next arrows on your screen to turn pages (page 2/12)
(from Notorious, 1986)
From that opening cry to that ridiculous “don’t monkey with my business” line, everything about ‘Notorious’ is solid gold – Rodgers features on both guitar and production.
Use your keyboard’s arrow keys or hit the prev / next arrows on your screen to turn pages (page 3/12)
(from K-9 Posse, 1988)
For all of Rodgers’ centrality to disco, the bulk of his post-Chic work saw Rodgers operating at a remove from the music black America: as hip-hop was springing ito action, Rodgers was busy clubbing up with Jeff Beck, Bryan Ferry and Duran Duran. His occasional excursions into rap are, however, oddly rewarding, as demonstrated by his work with no-hit wonders (and Eddie Murphy relatives) K-9 Posse. The New Jersey duo’s self-titled debut album – released in the same year as It Takes A Nation Of Millions…, Straight Outta Compton and Straight Out The Jungle, let’s not forget – has been almost entirely forgotten by history, but the pair enjoyed some modest success with singles like ‘Ain’t Nothin To It’ and ‘This Beat Is Military’. ‘Somebody’s Brother’ sees Rodgers stepping behind the boards (presumably at the behest of jittery label Arista), and the results are strong, carried by an ersatz horn section and given some extra pep by Rodgers’ familiar fretplay.
Use your keyboard’s arrow keys or hit the prev / next arrows on your screen to turn pages (page 4/12)
(from Gremlins OST, 1984)
Rodgers! Gabriel! Gremlins! Sure, there’s an element of Thriller on a budget to ‘Out Out’, but it doesn’t stop it being fantastic, and in the weirdest possible way – check the pitch-shifting, the manipulated squeals and Gabriel’s distorted vocal.
Use your keyboard’s arrow keys or hit the prev / next arrows on your screen to turn pages (page 5/12)
‘Dancing For Mental Health’
(From Dancing For Mental Health, 1983)
Another one to file alongside Rodgers’ mid-1980s Laurie Anderson team-ups. Will Powers is the musical alter ego of celebrity photographer Lynn Goldsmith, and the behind satirical motivational CD Dancing For Mental Health. As wheezes go, it’s an expensive one: Sting, Todd Rundgen, Carly Simon and Steve Winwood all contribute instrumentation, with Goldsmith giving gnomic advice through a vocoder over the top. It’s so 1980s it hurts, but, punishingly quirky as it sounds on paper, Dancing For Mental Health manages to be both funny and funky, Check the deeply odd Rodgers-assisted title track – a yuppified precursor to Baz Luhrmann’s blathering self-help hit ‘Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)’.
Use your keyboard’s arrow keys or hit the prev / next arrows on your screen to turn pages (page 6/12)
BIG MAN ON CAMPUS
‘Play That Funk’
Who knows how the peasant’s Beastie Boys managed to hook up with Rodgers, but their solitary single offers another neat example of Nile going Wild Style. Based around a mangled lick from ‘Play That Funky Music White Boy’, there’s a fun Art Of Noise vibe at work – all thudding drums, clunky scratching and stuttering 808 programming. It’s a mess, but, considered in contrast to much of Rodgers’ vacuum-packed 1980s work, it’s as cheery as Rdogers’ Cheshire Cat grin.
Use your keyboard’s arrow keys or hit the prev / next arrows on your screen to turn pages (page 7/12)
(from One Down, 1982)
Bill Laswell was possibly the 1980s’ great arch-networker, working with everyone from Fred Frith to Sly And Robbie to Yoko Ono, so it’s not a surprise that his and Rodgers’ paths intersected before too long. Material was one of Laswell’s most consistent aliases: Laswell and partner Michael Beinhorn churned out 10+ LPs under the name, and produced for the likes of Herbie Hancock and Afrika Bambaataa. ‘Come Down’, taken from debut LP One Down for Celluloid, bears the twitchy hand of Rodgers: Chic-style disco with some skewiff Laswell touches is the order of the day.
Use your keyboard’s arrow keys or hit the prev / next arrows on your screen to turn pages (page 8/12)
(from Out Loud, 1987)
In the late ’80s, Nile formed a short-lived experimental band called Outloud, which featured both Felicia Collins and French producer, musician and composer Philippe Saisse. The precursor to ‘Get Lucky’? Almost definitely not.
Use your keyboard’s arrow keys or hit the prev / next arrows on your screen to turn pages (page 9/12)
THE DANDY WARHOLS
‘I Am a Scientist’
(from Welcome to the Monkey House, 2003)
It’s odd to think of it this way, but Welcome to the Monkey House might have been The Dandy Warhols’ own Random Access in terms of its collaborators: as well as Rodgers, who contributed rhythm guitar to this single, Duran Duran’s Simon LeBon provides backing vocals on ‘Plan A’, and on-off Bowie producer Tony Visconti features on several tracks. There’s even an appearance from actor Parker Posey on mandolin.
Use your keyboard’s arrow keys or hit the prev / next arrows on your screen to turn pages (page 10/12)
(from Britney, 2001)
Released in that period where Britney and Christina were trying to reclaim the arse-crack from tubby builders, but before Juicy Couture became a thing and ruined it for everybody [see above], ‘Anticipating’ is far from a classic, but the image of Rodgers and Spears messing around in a studio together is too heart-warming to resist. The fact that it never got a proper video is a missed opportunity for that reason alone.
Use your keyboard’s arrow keys or hit the prev / next arrows on your screen to turn pages (page 11/12)
MARTIN O’DONNELL & MICHAEL SALVATORI
Halo 2 OST
(Sumthing Else Music Works, 2004 / 2006)
Rodgers link to video games runs pretty deep: his company Sumthing Else Music Works provided the soundtrack to several games, including Gears of War and Resident Evil 5, but Halo 2 – eventually released across two albums – was the firm’s biggest. Rodgers produced both versions, and even recruited Steve Vai to contribute guitar; the soundtrack has been performed live on several occasions since.
Use your keyboard’s arrow keys or hit the prev / next arrows on your screen to turn pages (page 12/12)