Hi-Tension – Hi-Tension

6th December 2022 · 1970s, 1978, Disco, Funk, Music

London collective Hi-Tension flew the flag for the disco offshoot of Brit-funk with their self-titled hit single. I have to confess the song – and entire genre – passed me by completely at the time.

When Hi-Tension invented Brit-funk in 1978 I was more interested in the many-splendoured thing of post-punk and had no time for jolly funkateers.

I would probably have dismissed this lot as some sort of home-grown disco offshoot – and I suppose it is – because I would not have been found dancing in a disco if my life depended on it.

What did I know? Band leader David Joseph once said he saw Hi-Tension as a funk group playing with the aggression of a New Wave band.

Watching this exuberant Top of the Pops appearance, I’m not quite getting that but its infectious groove is irresistible, driven by that insistent sax riff that eventually takes flight in a solo.

Upon reflection, I probably assumed they were an American disco outfit, principally because of their obvious stylistic similarity to Earth, Wind & Fire, so the ‘home-grown’ element never crossed my mind.

Investigating further, I find that the group began life in 1971 as Hott Waxx, formed in Willesden Green by two sets of brothers – the Philips boys (Paul and Lloyd) and the Josephs (David and Ken).

With David Joseph as lead vocalist, songwriter and keyboard player, they had up to nine musicians in various line-ups, one of them featuring future Galaxy member Phil Fearon, including two drummers and two saxophonists.

By 1978 they had changed their name to Hi-Tension (with a hyphen) and an improvised jam they recorded reached Chris Blackwell at Island Records, who put it out as a limited edition single, using the band name as the title.

Later in the year they had an even bigger hit, reaching No.8 with the equally infectious British Hustle, and in the early 1980s their ever-evolving line-up briefly included Courtney Pine on sax.