Banbarra – Shack Up

20th April 2024 · 1970s, 1975, Disco, Funk, Music

Back in 1980 I discovered A Certain Ratio through this song. But until now I never knew it was a cover version – of a 1975 tune by Banbarra. In fact Banbarra’s entire discography consists of this solitary song, divided into two halves of 7-inch single.

There’s little more to it than a tough, aggressive drum break, a funky bassline and some gruff shouted vocals – plus, on the song’s second half, some squealy electric guitar. But once heard, you’ll remember it.

So who were Banbarra? Based in Washington D.C., they were essentially two men – co-writers Moe Daniels and Joe “Bunny” Carter – and some uncredited session musicians.

The duo built Shack Up from Carter’s lyrics and a Daniels instrumental, which had a different title at the time – Boogie on the Other Side of Town.m- and added John Cannon’s drum break and Steve Moody’s bassline in the studio.

The final piece in the jigsaw came when producers Kemp Massengill and Bill Tate cruelly – but fortuitously – replaced Carter as lead singer and brought in a Baltimore blues and soul vocalist called Wesley Aydlett instead.

The guitarist playing the squealy fuzz-rock licks on the mostly instrumental B-side is another session player called Lance Quinn; he also played the guitar on Gloria Gaynor’s Never Can Say Goodbye that same year and went on to co-produce three notable debut albums with Tony Bongiovi – Talking Heads: 77, Can’t Stand The Rezillos and the first by Bon Jovi.

Carter responded to his sacking as vocalist on his own song by quitting the band in protest and moving to Chicago where he became a respected community activist, while Daniels runs his own record label in Baltimore and performs as a jazz pianist.

As for Banbarra… well, that was it. They never saw a penny in royalties (blaming an “intermediary” for running off with the advance). But while it didn’t dent the charts, Shack Up was going down well in the clubs of LA while New Yorkers were taken with the harder groove and squealy guitar of Part 2.

And although the ‘band’ (who were never a band) disappeared without trace, hip hop producers soon discovered their solitary single and were quick to sample Cannon’s extended, slippery-on-the-one drum break and Moody’s grease-gun bassline.

It was also a club hit in the UK, prompting a Dundee band called Rokotto, to record a version on their self-titled debut album in 1978… which is where A Certain Ratio found it and gave it a revamp with Donald ‘DoJo’ Johnson’s drumming and Jeremy ‘Jez’ Kerr’s bass, plus their off-kilter two-man horn section.

If you’re a hip hop fan, you might spot samples on a wide range of tracks including Public Enemy’s Yo! Bum Rush the Show and NWA’s Fuck Tha Police and even our own Happy Mondays, on God’s Cop.

Others to borrow from Shack Up include Grandmaster Flash, Kurtis Blow, Fatboy Slim, Coldcut, The Avalanches, Stetasonic, Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, Gang Starr, Kool Keith and Salt-N-Pepa.