Funky Town (S Greenburg) – Pseudo Echo 1986
Pseudo Echo were two high school mates, Brian Canham and Pierre Gigliotti, who were inspired by the New Wave/New Romantic music of such UK groups as Ultravox, Spandeau Ballet, Human League and Duran Duran. Canham (vocals, guitar, keyboard) and Gigliotti (synthesizer/bass/vocals) added Tony Lugton (synthesizer/vocals) to become the original trio that was Pseudo Echo, named after a sound effect setting on their keyboards. They favoured synthesisers, keytars, and a drum machine, but recruited a drummer in Anthony Argiro in 1983, Lugton was replaced by James Leigh on keyboards and Argiro was replaced by James brother Vince Leigh on the skins in 1985.
They were stylishly-dressed and perfectly coiffured, renowned for their large harem pants belted high on the hip, puffy sleeves, mascaraed eyes, and blow-waved hairstyles, they were riding the New Romantic wave of popularity and they looked the part.
When Pseudo Echo went into the recording studio in 1986 they were one of the hottest live acts in the country, with five top 20 self-penned hits to their credit, including three top ten songs – Listening (#4 in ’83), Don’t Go (#4 in ’84) and Love an Adventure (#6 in ’86), so it was surprising when they opted to cover a disco hit from 1980 written by Steven Greenburg, who with session vocalist Cynthia Johnson, were the founders of the US group Lipps Inc.
The Lipps Inc. version of Funky Town featured disco guitar riffs, electro beats and catchy vocal hooks, it was recorded at the Sound 80 studios in Minneappolis (USA). The lyrics “Gotta move to a town that’s right for me “, reflected the frustration that Greenburg felt about living in MInneappolis, a place where very little black music was played on the radio and life for him there was generally bland and uninspiring. For Greenburg, New York City was his “Funkytown”.
Funky Town was a huge international hit for Lipps Inc, #1 in twenty-eight countries, which remained the record for multiple #1 locations internationally until 25 years later when Madonna released Hung Up which charted #1 in 41 countries, the original record sold over two million copies.
The song proved to be a one-hit wonder for Lipps Inc who never charted again. Pseudo Echo were taking a chance on recording a song which was so recognizable and had already been a huge hit only six years before, but their cover version was quite different, it rocked, synthesisers were eschewed for a gutsier rock sound which resonated with fans.
The synth-infused disco sound was replaced by driving guitars and percussion while the catchy vocal hooks remained, augmented by a ringing guitar solo at the bridge, it sold over 1 million copies worldwide.
It was an inspired cover version, charting #1 in Australia, NZ, Canada and was a top 10 hit in USA, UK, Sweden, South Africa and top 20 in four other European countries.
Funky Town was to be the last major chart success for Pseudo Echo, four years later they would disband but later reform in the new millennium to play the heritage rock circuit.