Back when landlines ruled the world of interpersonal communication and caller ID was a mere twinkle in Ma Bell’s eye, certain phone calls were stone-cold bummers to receive. If a friend took a “personal and professional dynamic growth” course, for example, an adrenaline-fueled scripted monologue about living their truth could be on the other end of the horn, and I dreaded picking up those jingles.
Conversely, my favorite feverish call to receive is one from a fellow vinyl enthusiast saying, “We need to talk about [insert album here]. Call me ASAP!” If emergency-call breakthroughs were a service that phone companies still offered, I believe this type of pressing outreach would merit the use of such special telephonic interruptions.
If needed, advice on navigating these conversations is found below, illustrated with sample dialogue taken from an actual transcript of a recent Head Talk (that’s the nerd version of a TED Talk, naturally) about the 1980 boogie delight Slippin’ and Dippin’ by funky female trio Coffee.
Warm up with word association/fantasy football style games. Create lineups for fake tours or Verzuz matchups. “Coffee should totally go on tour with Creme de Cocoa, Sweet Cream, and Hot Chocolate!” (Allot time for guffawing.)
Get inevitable puns out of the way early. “Damn this LP is piping hot.” “These girls sure were on their grind!” “I gotta percolate on this more,” and “Get a load of the ladies’ mugs on the cover.”
Roll call/Hey ladies! Go over names of group members to honor their artistry as these credits are frequently and sadly omitted on albums of female groups put together or svengali-ed by big-name male honchos.
Elaine Sims (“No relation to Joyce I presume.”), Gwen Hester (“Ah! Another gal to add to the list of funky Gwens like McCrae and Guthrie.”), Dee Dee Bryant (“Not to be confused with Dee Dees Bridgewater, Warwick, or Sharp Gamble.”).
Geographic contextualization is fun! “Yo, these girls graduated from the same Chicago high school as Minnie Riperton and Geraldine Hunt!”
Production deduction is always pertinent. Lesser-known but brilliant Chi-town heavyweights are behind the album: Slippin’ and Dippin’ was produced by Ricardo Williams (founder of Aquarius and Zodiac Record labels) and Clarence Johnson—also an alum of Minnie and Geraldine’s Hyde Park High School and a founding member of Chi-Lites—(“Oh dip, I just realized the ‘Chi’ in Chi-Lites refers to Chicago!”) and arranged by Maurice “Matavani” Commander. Research shows Commander was originally signed to Curtom Records as a writer and later composed with and produced twin singers named Jerline and Sherline who also recorded as Royal Flush (giggling may ensue over this toilet-related moniker).
Lead thee unto label gossip. Open a deep-dive investigation into why this very Chicago group with local stars behind them would release an LP on New York’s De-Lite Records. Notable related fact revealed through liner notes close read: Coffee sang backup vocals on De-Lite anchor act Kool and the Gang’s best-selling 1980 album Celebrate.
Lyric subtext vocabulary dispute may arise. Stand your ground both philosophically and verbally. Differing interpretations arise about the somewhat icky croon tune “Mom and Dad 1980” (written by Johnson and originally recorded by Lovelites in 1969) and what naughty-girl secrets are being kept from parentals in the storyline. This is followed by amped-up discourse over whether “zodaical” is a real word, as one debater describes the song “Can You Get to This” as having glorious “zodaical shouts.” Hey Capricorn!
Hot pick showdown. Debate over personal selections of standout songs should get heated in direct proportion to album’s hotness. “Holy cannoli, heartbreak heater ‘A Promise’ is the serious burner for me! Ugh, the angst, pain, and heartbreak is serious dramatic awesomeness. I can’t even!” “Come on now! ‘Casanova’ is the total classic here.” “But yo! What about the spaced-out hypnotic seven-plus minutes of ‘I Wanna Be with You?’ Love that so hard!” Extended time to make fun of one another’s top tunes is encouraged.
Nerd rivalry wrap-up should leave the door open for further future repartée. “You don’t have their sophomore follow-up album from 1981, Second Cup? Oh my god you never even saw the insane gold lamé warm-up suits they wear on cover? Pshaw, and you call yourself a fan!”