Disco fans who remember the halcyon days of the early 1980s would instantly recognise the call to arms of one of the era’s biggest hits. Kool & the Gang‘s lead singer James “J.T.” Taylor asked succinctly: “How you gonna do it if you really don’t want to dance, by standing on the wall?”
The song, of course, was ‘Get Down On It,’ one of many soulful dance tunes that helped give the New Jersey outfit a brilliant run of singles successes — especially in the UK, where they had now forged a close relationship with fans of their slick style. So much so, in fact, that the new song was rush-released there as the second single from their new Something Special album, even with the first, ‘Steppin’ Out,’ still popular. It would be two months before ‘Get Down On It’ would show on the Billboard Hot 100.
Kool & the Gang were on a run that had given them four top 20 British singles in just over a year and six top 30s in just over two. That sequence included two more of their biggest signature tracks in ‘Ladies Night’ and ‘Celebration.’ Now came ‘Get Down On It,’ which entered the UK bestsellers on the last chart of 1981, dated 26 December, and went on to be the group’s biggest hit to date there, peaking at No. 3.
The song carried a collective writing credit for the whole band and their producer, Brazilian Eumir Deodato. Like ‘Celebration,’ it won silver certification in the UK and also became a top ten hit in Holland, Belgium and then in America. It went to No. 1 on South Africa’s Springbok Radio.
British audiences may have been slow to pick up on Kool and the Gang, whose early US hits made no headway there. But the group’s love affair with the UK has now lasted more than 40 years, and burned brightly throughout the 1980s, with 11 more chart entries there until 1987, four of them top ten favourites: ‘Ooh La La La (Let’s Go Dancin’), the double-sided ‘Joanna’/’Tonight,’ ‘(When You Say You Love Somebody) In The Heart’ and ‘Cherish.’
Something Special can be bought here.