CULT CLASSIC: HOT PEPPER-SPANGLISH MOVEMENT.
Cult Classic: Hot Pepper-Spanglish Movement.
By 1977, it looked as if the disco bubble would never burst as it provided the soundtrack to danceflooors in Britain, Europe and North America. DJs and dancers had been won over by disco which had grown in popularity over the previous few years. Initially, disco was an underground movement that eventually moved into the mainstream. However, in late-1977 disco’s popularity exploded.
The first hint of what was about to happen was when the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack was released a month earlier and on November the ‘15th’ 1977. It featured a disco-lite soundtrack that included Bee Gees, Yvonne Elliman, Kool and The Gang and The Trammps that eventually sold sixteen million copies in America alone.
Just a month later, the Robert Stigwood produced movie Saturday Night Fever was released on December the ’14th’ 1977. The film that cost just $3.5 million to make grossed $237.1 million in America, and played a huge part in introducing disco to an even wider audience.
They were a captive audience for the myriad of disco singles that were released during the first few months of 1978. Week after week, the charts were full of disco singles which were selling in vast quantities. Disco was proving profitable for some record companies, but other record companies were late to the party.
When they saw the success that other labels were enjoying, they wanted to add disco artists and groups to their roster. Some labels started signing anything that was vaguely disco related, while other labels gave artists and groups on their roster a disco makeover. Meanwhile,artists whose career had stalled were jumping on the disco bandwagon, hoping to kickstart their career. Even some television and movie stars were jumping on the disco bandwagon in an attempt to give their profile a much-needed boost. Soon, though, the quality of music was starting to suffer.
Ironically, in their quest for short-term gain, many A&R executives at major labels were overlooking some talented producers who were producing groundbreaking disco singles and albums in America, Canada and Mexico. This included the man many within the Mexican music referred to as Tilico, who had just masterminded the new project by Hot Pepper, Spanglish Movement who was released as a private press in 1978. Sadly, this innovative cosmic disco cult classic passed A&R executives and record buyers by when it was released. That was a great shame and Tilico and Hot Pepper a case of what might have been.
Tilico was born Jose de Jesus Munoz Lopez in Compostela, in the Mexican state of Nayarit, on the ‘28th’ of October 1936. When he was growing up, Tilico discovered music and started playing the drums. Little did anyone realise that he would go on to play an important part on modern Mexican music.
This included working with some of the top Mexican conductors and producers, including Chucho Ferrer, Mario Patrón, Nacho Méndez and Raúl Lavista. Many of the recordings Tilico played on, were recorded at Estudios Churubusco. That was where Tilico played on recordings by Jose Jose, Juan Gabriel, Jose Luis Gabriel, Lanny Hall, Perez Prado and Perry Como. They’re just a few of the artists Tilico accompanied whilst working as a session musician.
He was also the official drummer for the OFI International Festival and backed Carl Tjader, Paul Mauriat and Ray Conniff when they played live. Tilico also worked with Jorge Neri when he worked with the Teatro de los Insurgentes when they performed a variety of plays and musicals, including Cabaret and Una Eva y Dos Patanes. This was all good experience for Tilico who was a well known face on the Mexican music scene.
Especially when Tilico started writing songs. Soon, they were being recorded by the likes of Alberto Vazquez, Carlos Campos, Carmen Del Valle, Jose Jose, Los Dandys, Perez Prado and Sophy. With the great and good of Mexican music recording Tilico’s songs, his career as a songwriter was blossoming by 1977.
Buoyed by the success of his newfound success as a songwriter, and the popularity of disco, Tilico decided to embark upon a new project in 1977. He would write, record and produce Hot Pepper’s disco album Spanglish Movement.
For Spanglish Movement, Tilico wrote the lyrics and music to four lengthy tracks Deja Que El Mundo Sea Feliz Otra Vez (Let The World Be Happy Again), Camino Equivocado (Wrong Way), No Me Presiones (Don’t Push Me) and Cancion Ritual (Ritual Song). These songs were recorded by some of the top Mexican session musicians and vocalists, which included Tilico’s wife.
Although Tilico had decided to play drums and percussion on Spanglish Movement, he was also taking charge of production. He let his imagination run riot during four lengthy tracks which were punctuated by everything from funky and fuzzy guitars to stabs of Latin horns, spacey synths, thunderous drums, congas and myriad of percussion. There provided the backdrop for the soulful male and female vocals on an album that married elements of Afrobeat, disco, funk, Latin, proto-boogie and soul. Spanglish Movement was disco with a difference.
Spanglish Movement was a groundbreaking album of funky cosmic disco that oozed quality. That was apparent from the opening bars of Deja Que El Mundo Sea Feliz Otra Vez (Let The World Be Happy Again) which opens the album. It sounds as if The Salsoul Orchestra have been transported to Mexico and Vince Montana Jr is taking charge of production on this soulful and memorable fusion of disco, funk and proto-boogie.
Camino Equivocado (Wrong Way) explodes into life, and initially, sounds as if it belongs on a Blaxploitation soundtrack. That is until Hot Pepper head in the direction of proto-boogie, while blazing horns punctuate the funky, cosmic disco arrangement. There’s even a Spanish guitar solo and soulful cooing vocals during this club classic that sounds as good today as it did in 1978.
No Me Presiones (Don’t Push Me) is another fusion of cosmic disco, funk and proto-boogie where a sassy vocal, synths, stabs of horns and handclaps play their in the sound and success of the track.
The funky and soulful comic disco of Canción Ritual (Ritual Wrong) incorporates elements of African, Latin and proto-boogie to create a timeless track. This closes Spanglish Movement on a dancefloor friendly high.
Spanglish Movement was very different and much more innovative album than much of the formulaic and third-rate disco that was being released in America and Britain in 1978. Back then, many artists were jumping on the disco bandwagon in the hope of kickstarting or launching their career. Meanwhile, Tilico was preparing to release Hot Pepper’s debut album Spanglish Movement.
Rather than shop the album to some of the bigger Mexican labels, or the major labels in America, Tilico decided to release Spanglish Movement as a private press. He approached the Discos label which was a relatively small label, who agreed to release the album later in 1978 as a private press.
Only a relative small number of Hot Pepper’s debut album Spanglish Movement were released by Discos 1978. Just like many small labels who released private presses, Discos neither had the budget, nor the expertise to promote Spanglish Movement. If they had, maybe a bigger label would’ve heard Spanglish Movement and offered to license what was a groundbreaking, genre-melting album of funky cosmic disco. Sadly, Spanglish Movement failed to find the wider audience it deserved when it was released in 1978.
Just a year later, the disco bubble burst in spectacular style on the ‘12th’ of July 1979. Disco had gone from her to zero in the space of two years, and was now a musical pariah. Record companies dropped disco artists, and DJs started looking for new music to play in clubs in Britain and America.
Some DJs started spinning boogie which became flavour of the month in the post-disco era. Boogie rubbed shoulders with Italo disco, funk and New York sound as some DJs started playing much more eclectic sets. They dug deeper for floorfillers, and some launched onto the Hot Pepper single Deja Que El Mundo Sea Feliz Otra Vez. However, other DJs who had belatedly come across a copy of Spanglish Movement took to spinning Ritual Song, which became an underground classic. Somewhat belatedly, Hot Pepper’s debut album Spanglish Movement was starting to find an audience.
Since then, Spanglish Movement has become a cult classic. The only problem was that original copies of the album were becoming almost impossible to find. Anyone who is lucky enough to find a copy or will discover the delights of Hot Pepper’s carefully crafted groundbreaking and genre-melting album Spanglish Movement.
It was masterminded by drummer, producer and songwriter Tilico, and with the help of some of Mexico’s top session musicians, fused cosmic disco, electronica, funk, proto-boogie and soul on what was Hot Pepper’s one and only album Spanglish Movement. However, what an album Spanglish Movement was. Hot Pepper’s 1978 debut album Spanglish Movement is an oft-overlooked funky cosmic disco cult classic, that features four floorfillers including the underground club classic Ritual Song.
Cult Classic: Hot Pepper-Spanglish Movement.