As I drove back from Brooklyn with my friends, DJ colleagues, and orchestrators of the seminal Sundae party in Philly Dirty and Lee Jones, we were all taken aback by what we had just witnessed. A 73 year old Giorgio Moroder had taken us on a two-hour journey through the foundations of Disco!
That got me to thinking: who else played as big a role as his contemporaries? Cerrone? Certainly! But then another name came to me, in the form of a question I’ve heard asked before: “Whatever happened to Gino Soccio?”
Related: The Essential Gino Soccio Playlist
Like every person of note, we can triangulate most of the details of their career if you take enough time and have access to enough resources. However, for the first time with this column, our subject appears to be a current “man of mystery”. And if you put any credibility in the word of blogs and Disco sites, Gino Soccio also intentionally dropped out of the scene! Don’t say it: the genius that armed so many of us with the “big gun tunes” we needed to slay the dancefloor, the musician/singer/producer/arranger that still has even the youngest of the music heads digging for his vinyl, and the 58 year old who definitely could still be a leader in an otherwise saturated music landscape – Gino Soccio is AWOL?
I guess I’m a bit surprised. Seeing the Godfather Moroder collaborating with Daft Punk (it doesn’t matter if you like the songs) and going on tour DJing (I use the term very loosely) reinforced to me that age really is only a number, especially in our music world. My blog excavation enlightened and reminded me that greed, oversaturation, Disco backlash, and the “crayness” (I always wanted a tribute to Kanye in this column) of the times led many stars of the late ’70s and ’80s to become disillusioned at best, down right livid at worst. Romeo Void’s Debora Iyall put it well: “No matter how much you may love music, you still have to pay your bills somehow. If you can’t pay them playing music, then music will quickly become just a hobby.”
Back to our missing hero, Gino. He granted an interview within the last couple of years to a French language publication in Canada but apparently will not allow it to be published. The interviewer has shared that there are two basic issues: a bitterness that disco was tossed aside by so many record labels, and that things went askew with a project he was leading in support of indie music with the Canadian government. There are also blog threads which claim that Gino Soccio doesn’t even own instruments any more!
Well, let’s take a moment for some homage to this musical and disco icon. Often misidentified as an Italian artist, the lavishly mustachioed Soccio is indeed Italian but is a true French Canadian. Now allegedly living in Quebec, he was a musician from a young age, played piano and became enamored with Bach due to the incredible hooks that, as he put it, “stayed in your head”. Music became his social life through his teens as he filled his home studio with rented synths and keyboards. He also played drums, guitar, and arranged strings and horns!
Not until recently did I “get” the name of Gino’s first “band”, Kebekelektrik. Pronounce it like “Quebec Electric” and it is not only easier but you understand the significance. Initially just brought in for some keyboard work, he did most of the album. Its success, along with the reaction that Gino saw it produce in clubs, stimulated Soccio’s love affair with Disco. In an interview with Wresch Dawidjan back in ’78, Gino commented, “The reason I went over to Disco was that it seemed to be the only type of music where I could really be free. There are no limits to what you can do with disco.”
Work and success kept on with the session group Witch Queen and with production for fellow Canadian Karen Silver. It was now Gino’s time to shine. Warner/RFC Records and Disco business legend Ray Caviano signed Gino to have his first solo album, Outline, christen the new label. From there, Gino remained agile and morphed his sound as tastes fluctuated in the early ’80s. In fact, he continued to work the top of the charts even as Steve Dahl was burning records in Chicago! His popularity also expanded beyond the Disco divas as he took his music more mid-tempo while maintaining his innovative approach. He was one of the only Disco-specific artists with three or more Billboard-charted hits with their first two albums! One of my favorite music columnists and Warner/RFC associate, Vince Aletti (get his book Disco Files) reflected that the song “Dancer” was “a very successful record for us… and Gino had good follow-up.”
In 1982, Gino believed that he wasn’t the only one that could survive Disco Demolition Night. “Some artists [who were] initially short-changed by pigeonholing,” he believed, “could win recognition today if they had a second chance.” Unfortunately, many did not get that chance.
He dropped a couple more singles on the scene in the mid-’80s but by the end of the decade, Gino Soccio was again a producer and session musician. The last project he appeared to have done (remember, this is “mystery saga in progress”) was a cover of the French hit, “Une Belle Histoire”. Apparently, he quit and didn’t want to continue the album.
It appears however that we may have a “Soccio sighting”… or at least a “hearing”! “GinoSoccio1955” is a YouTube account with some unreleased demo tracks and commentary. If we are to believe it, Gino states that he is “making an effort to be more involved in this new technology.
“When I have some spare time I will be posting more songs and personal videos to confirm my identity as well as a website. [Signed] Gino Soccio.”
“Disco” today is probably as fondly remembered and wonderfully lauded as it has been in any period since its inception. So Mr. Soccio, if you happen to read this, please consider following the lead of Mr. Moroder and consider sharing your talent with all of us, once again!
Related: The Essential Gino Soccio Playlist