A dozen years ago this week, spring break was turning Daytona Beach, Florida, into a massive, drunken collegiate orgy with a beachfront address, pretty much the same way it’s doing now. But one thing that’s different each year is the music, and in 1991 the hottest pop act to hit the sunny shore was C+C Music Factory.
Freedom Williams and Zelma Davis may have been the most visible players in the dance outfit, but the real stars of the group were Factory foremen David Cole and Robert Clivilles — two NYC DJs who got their start doing dance mixes for Natalie Cole and Janet Jackson. In constructing a Music Factory modeled after the U.K.’s Soul II Soul, Cole + Clivilles scored a top 10 album, 1990′s Gonna Make You Sweat, and three hit singles: “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now),” “Here We Go, Let’s Rock & Roll” and “Things That Make You Go Hmmmm …”
But the Music Factory was about more than just making people sweat. It was also meant to serve as a launching pad for new performers like Brooklyn rapper Williams, who two years earlier had been working as an assistant engineer for Clivilles and Cole.
“Well, David used to always tell me I had a deep voice. … ‘Yo, you know you got a deep voice. You rap?’ But you never come out and be cocky — ‘Hey, I’m a rapper. I’m a this, I’m a that.’ My whole intention, I make no mistake about it, was to become a rap artist.”
But while C+C were doing wonders for Williams, former Weather Girls singer Martha Wash was feeling left out to dry. Though her vocals were prominently featured on “Gonna Make You Sweat,” the video focused on the younger, more svelte Davis. Wash sued, claiming she wasn’t properly credited or compensated for her contributions, and the matter was settled out of court. The ordeal left Davis feeling the need to prove that she was more than just a pretty face.
“I see people looking at me [during shows] so they can tell if I’m singing or not, and it just makes me work more,” she said. “Before [performances] now, I go on and I sing a little thing to make them know I’m singing. I’m not to bothered with it, ’cause if I couldn’t sing I wouldn’t be in this project.”
One band not likely to be found getting sand in its amps at spring break is Sonic Youth, who 12 years ago were on tour with Neil Young. The experimental New Yorkers had been making noise for a decade, but many of Young’s fans were unfamiliar with the Goo rockers’ alternate tunings and feedback symphonies.
“Playing in front of like 20,000 people who don’t know who you are, for the most part they think you’re really just, like, you’re in the wrong place, and they just want you off the stage,” guitarist Thurston Moore said.
“We’re playing to this audience that has no idea where we’re coming from,” guitarist Lee Ranaldo added. “Even after we’re done they have no idea where we’re coming from.”
They wouldn’t be enduring the blank stares if it weren’t for the chance to work with Young.
“We’re longtime fans of his,” Ranaldo said, “and it was basically the opportunity to meet him that made us … well, if we’re on the tour for two months we’ll probably get to talk to him a little bit.”
Meanwhile, back in Sonic Youth’s hometown, Sting was staging one of his rainforest benefits 12 years ago this week. The Carnegie Hall shindig featured Elton John, legendary Brazilian singer Caetano Veloso and Carlos Jobim, known for the ’60s bossa nova hit “The Girl From Ipanema.”
“Our job really is … to draw attention to things, and we’re not politicians,” Sting explained. “We can’t make executive decisions about what happens, but we can draw the attention of the media to certain things.”
“The whole thing about the human race is … we can’t be self-centered on own our lives,” John said. “This is important. It’s not only important to the people [in Brazil,] it’s important for [the world's] attention to be brought to this.”
Sting’s benefit raised more than $250,000, not counting the royalty fees incurred when Puffy “sampled” the ceremony.
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