Shirley & Company – Shame, Shame, Shame

4th October 2021 · 1970s, 1975, Disco, Music

Here’s another stone cold disco classic from 1975, written and produced by the legendary Sylvia Robinson.

It’s got all the disco hallmarks – the incessantly tribal 4/4 beat, the ticking of the hi-hat between the kick drum beats and the sonorous bassline to make you shake your booty – except for an orchestral backing.

But that’s fine because it’s got a garage feel, due to the raw vocals and a rhythm modelled on that famous Bo Diddley beat. It would not have sounded right drowning in a lush arrangement.

It’s all about the tough and screaming vocals. The woman in the turquoise velour jumpsuit is blues shouter Shirley Goodman, another ’50s survivor who recorded the classic Let The Good Times Roll as one half of Shirley & Lee, aka “The Sweethearts Of The Blues,” back in 1956.

Although they split up back in 1963, she came sharply back into focus when that song was used in a memorable sequence of the movie Dirty Dancing.

The bearded Benny-from-Abba lookalike with the purple satin shirt and the medallion nestling in his forest of chest hair, adding his unhinged moans and groans to the mix, is Jesus Alvarez.

A Cuban-American singer-songwriter who had recently joined Robinson’s label, Vibration Records, this was the high point of his career and he is now, aptly enough, a pastor.

The song was supposedly inspired by the downfall of Richard Nixon and is apparently the tune that inspired Jagger & Richards to write Hot Stuff for The Rolling Stones – which makes sense since she was one of the backing vocalists on the Stones’ album Exile On Main Street.

Sylvia Robinson had her first hit a year after Shirley, back in 1957, with the brilliant Love Is Strange, as one half of R’n’B duo Mickey & Sylvia.

In 1973 she had had her own solo hit Pillow Talk (as “Sylvia”) and five years later she would kickstart hip hop by releasing Rappers Delight, after signing the Sugarhill Gang to her recently formed Vibration Records.

Sylvia had already written Shame, Shame, Shame, and recorded the instrumental backing track with her studio band before tracking down Shirley Goodman – long retired from music and working in the offices of Playboy – to sing it.

In the meantime Donnie Elbert, one of that studio band, cheekily sneaked off to England and recorded a shamefully similar song called You’re Gonna Cry When I’m Gone.

Instead of weeping – or suing him for plagiarism – Robinson bought out his mastertape before hiring Shirley and Jesus to add their vocals to the tune, which reached no.6 for “Shirley & Company” – another in the long list of one-hit wonders from the ’70s.