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Hear the earliest ever recordings from a proto-Chic on Robert Cotter’s Missing You

Written by on May 26, 2021

This is less a record than a fable of one. Missing You contains the only recordings (more talked about than heard, even by die-hards) from the players of the Big Apple Band, which would later become much better known as Chic.

Robert Cotter fronted this incarnation of the group, whose one album, Missing You, would be released on Tiger Lily. This label became infamous as more of a scam than even your average coke-addled 1970s record label. The label worked something like the plot of the movie The Producers: unknowns were put on records deliberately designed to fail in order to launder money and claim huge losses. Pop star Tommy James once wrote that there were not five but six mafia families in New York in the 1960s; the sixth family, he said, was the parent label of Tiger Lily.

It’s such a beautifully 1970s New York story to imagine that a fake label managed to get Chic into a studio but were too busy trying to hide their money to notice.

A few bands that appeared on Tiger Lily had real potential (some weren’t even told records was made from their demos, which in many cases had been sent to different labels altogether). But it’s such a beautifully 1970s New York story to imagine that a fake label managed to get Chic into a studio but were too busy trying to hide their money to notice. Since those sessions, Nile Rodgers alone is responsible for writing, producing or performing on records that have sold half a BILLION copies. It’s not often that a record label (however shady) gets a chance to make a half billion copy mistake.

It’s not known how many copies of Missing You were pressed, but whatever were manufactured were never distributed and the few copies handed to Cotter and the other band members were nearly the entire inventory until this WEWANTSOUNDS reissue released in April. The Big Apple Band only performed on a couple of tracks on Missing You, with the rest of the music by another group of Cotter’s friends and collaborators. This might be an issue for Chic Org completists (I don’t know any but they probably exist). However the whole album is a fascinating glimpse back at a time when R&B and rock were shifting into disco, but hadn’t yet reached that point of over-saturation when everything was turned into a disco mix and not all of them were bad but most of them were. Cotter, as a songwriter, could plant some sharp hooks. The title track “Missing You” has the groove and gleam of a lost R&B classic.

According to the liner notes by Love Injection’s Barbie Bertisch and Paul Raffaele, Cotter departed the group before the name was changed to Chic “due to the 1976 release of Walter Murphy’s ‘A Fifth of Beethoven,’ credited with the conflicting pseudonym ‘Walter Murphy and the Big Apple Band.’”

Even without being told the listener can probably ID the Big Apple Band tracks by ear. “Saturday” would later become a hit in its own right when Rogers & Edwards produced the only solo album by Norma Jean Wright and “Saturday” reached #15 on the US R&B charts. It was also later covered by East 57th St featuring Donna Allen, Dave Lee (as Joey Negro) featuring Taka Boom and 100% featuring Jennifer John, all of which charted in the UK. The other Big Apple Band track, “Love Rite,” feels unfinished but begins with Bernard Edwards’ signature bass throb before going into a thick groove evocative of The Doobie Brothers’ “Long Train Running.”

Robert Cotter: Missing You (WEWANTSOUNDS / April 2021 / CD / 12″ Vinyl / Digital)
1. Missing You (02:52)
2. Mary’s House (02:24)
3. Disco Blues (05:30)
4. Teddy Bear (02:37)
5. Love Rite (03:51)
6. Three Wise Men (03:03)
7. Uncle Sam (02:11)
8. Saturday (04:20)
9. God Bless The Soulfire People (03:07)
10. Come On With It (03:41)

⚪️ Disclosure Statement: This record was submitted as a promo by Forward Music.


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