Disco Lab #32 (Halloween Edition): Ernie Bush – ‘Breakaway’ (1975)
For Halloween enthusiasts, there’s no shortage of songs about spooky, supernaturally empowered females. Last week we listened to “Witch Queen,” and earlier in the ’70s the Eagles’ “Witchy Woman” and Santana’s “Black Magic Woman” also presented the allures—and dangers—of these daughters of the night.
But not everyone was on board with these Wiccan sisters. Enter the mysterious Ernie Bush, the disco movement’s self-appointed Witchfinder General. In this, his only known recording, he cautions a magically-inclined woman to give up such risky baubles as “rings on your fingers / And those bones hanging from your neck.” (If I’m hearing it right, he also warns against her “purple slacks.” Sorry, Prince!) In the manner of a scary religious tract, he tells her to “stop fooling with the dead… or you’ll burn, burn in hell.”
For a guy who hates this devilish stuff, Ernie Bush sure likes singing about it. But who was he? Not a clue, though probably he was a British singer; the label credits this to the “Contempo Family of England.” It was arranged by Gerry Shury, who was a British composer and arranger of library music (used for commercials and such). Shury also arranged another spooky record <reviewed here recently>, CJ & Co’s “Devil’s Gun.”
The songwriter’s credits are interesting too. Dale Frashuer gave us the immortal football chant “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye,” and his collaborator Joe Renzetti became a soundtrack composer for such horror classics as Poltergeist III, Frankenhooker, Child’s Play, and Basket Case 2 & 3. (Renzetti won an Oscar for his rearrangement of rockabilly classics in The Buddy Holly Story, somewhat ghoulish in itself.)
The disco version presented here is a Part 1 / Part 2 style remix. After the vocal section, the track moves into a couple minutes of very tasty instrumental, featuring some vibraphone soloing. Elsewhere we hear a backwards guitar, a sound associated with psychedelic rock music hardly ever heard in disco. Ernie’s cautionary vocals return near the end to drive home his point. Though “Breakaway” was never released as a 12” single in the US, it came out in the UK as perhaps the first disco remix in that format. (Article continues after song…)
Alas, Ernie Bush’s witchfinder quest was unsuccessful; around the time this record came out, Stevie Nicks cut a song called “Rhiannon” with Fleetwood Mac. Released as a single in 1976, this tale of a legendary Welsh sorceress became a much bigger hit than Ernie’s very minor disco hit, and a new generation of witchy women was born. Bring on the purple slacks.
Previously on Disco Lab: (Halloween Edition): Witch Queen – ‘Witch Queen’ (1979)