This came on the radio the other day and reminded me that, for all its faults, disco had some memorable moments. This sci-fi-themed single was one.
It was the second and last time the French disco act had a UK Top Twenty hit, arriving in November 1979 some 18 months after their first, a ghastly disco version of Singin’ In The Rain.
This single, Spacer, came from their second and final album King Of The World, produced by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers of Chic in a busy year when the disco duo also helmed albums for Sister Sledge, Diana Ross and themselves.
I always assumed “Sheila B Devotion” was just the name of the singer but it turns out to be the name of an entire disco group: a name that varied during their brief career (1977-80) between that and Sheila and B. Devotion, Sheila and the Black Devotion and even S.B.Devotion.
Strangely, no sooner had Spacer become a hit all over Europe, selling five million copies, than Sheila (born Annie Chancel) returned to the solo career she had previously enjoyed.
In the 1960s and 1970s she had numerous hits in France as a so-called yé-yé singer (French bubblegum pop) with a girl-next-door image.
You really don’t want to go down that road but if you do, you can try her 1963 chart topper L’École Est Finie – no relation, sadly, of the Alice Cooper song – or Vous Les Copains, a cover version of Manfred Mann’s Do Wah Diddy Diddy.
In 1977, as punk and disco began to explode on both sides of the Atlantic, she completely changed her public image when she joined forces with three American back-up singers/dancers (Dany Mac Farlane, Freddy Stracham and Arthur Wilkins) called B. Devotion.
She updated her bubblegum repertoire by performing disco tracks sung in English, scoring an immediate hit with the anonymously-released Love Me Baby and its even more successful follow-up, a disco version of Singin’ in the Rain.
Sheila & B. Devotion scored several other Eurodisco hits including I Don’t Need A Doctor, Hôtel De La Plage, You Light My Fire and Seven Lonely Days – though none of them troubled the charts here. And none of them were as good as Chic’s extended mix of Spacer.