Friday, October 25, 2019

Burn, baby, burn ... Disco Inferno!

One of the great things about collecting budget cover versions is the way collectors are willing to generously share their new finds, and last week, I was pleased to hear from John MackMersh, who'd come across a cassette on the little-known VFM label.

The tape in question is Disco Inferno, a nine-track assemblage of disco-style hits, which was issued in 1978. John sent over some scans, and very kindly also donated the cassette itself, so it is now safely in my all-too-little VFM collection.

Here are some images:

What a great item! I particularly love the '70s-style image on the front, complete with the roundel stating, "Special Price 99 Pence". VFM = Value For Money, so they lived up to their name.

Now, I did wonder about the tape: was this a newly-recorded disco-type album, or was it a collection assembled from earlier VFM releases? I was intrigued that there were only nine tracks, making me think of some sort of long musical sequence - those familiar with 'Stars on 45' will know what I mean.

John though stated these were standard cover versions, and when I got to listen to the cassette, I was able to confirm their origins. Luckily, one of my other VFM cassettes contained the track, 'Black Is Black', also included here - and a comparison revealed they are the same versions. So, this is a VFM compilation album.

This is the track listing:
  1. Black Is Black   [from Hit Parade '77 Vol. 6]
  2. The Shuffle   [from Hit Parade '77 Vol. 2]
  3. Sunny   [from Hit Parade '77 Vol. 1]
  4. Ma Baker   [from Hit Parade '77 Vol. 4]
  5. Disco Inferno   [from Hit Parade '77 Vol. 4]
  6. Red Light Spells Danger   [from Hit Parade '77 Vol. 1]
  7. Too Hot To Handle   [from Hit Parade '77 Vol. 3]
  8. Good Morning Judge   [from Hit Parade '77 Vol. 3]
  9. Ain't Gonna Bump No More 
Given our previous efforts to compile a VFM discography, we have been able to identify the source album for eight of the nine selections, the odd one out being the final track. They are all from the previous year's Hit Parade '77 set, bar this one oddity.

It's curious that only nine tracks were included from a pool of perhaps 60 or 70 titles at VFM's disposal. There's no sign on the cassette itself that this was conceived as a 'volume 1' (which might explain other tracks being held off for a 'volume 2'), so Value For Money, yes, but a hint of short-changing, perhaps? The total running time (based on the speed of my cassette deck) is less than 17 minutes per side.

I bet you'd like to hear it? I don't usually upload sound files, since most of these cover versions were put out by small independent labels, some of whom are still exploiting them commercially. I would not want to undermine them by giving away copies, but in the case of VFM I know of no evidence they have been trading in any guise for the last 30-odd years.

So, for those au-fait with downloading files, here is a digital copy of the album. It's in MP3 for convenience, and bears all the hallmarks you'd expect from an old tape - so don't expect clean, crisp hi-fi.

Download link

To be fair, it's all the better for its imperfections. Step into your Tardis, rematerialise in 1978, and enjoy the experience, while picturing two little cog wheels going round inside a Hitachi radio-cassette. It's better than you may remember!

Thanks again to John for the cassette.

1 comment:

  1. I think the version of 'Disco Inferno' is the same recording as the Stereo Gold Award LP 'Music From Saturday Night Fever' by The Discos - I don't recognise any others.

    For what it's worth, VFM appears to have moved into producing cassettes exclusively for the children's market by the 1990s. They appear to be linked to a company called Songs For Children LTD, which is still going.