Bobby 'O', one of the true founders and pioneers of traditional HiNRG. He gave us way too many dynamic and classic HiNRG hits from the 80's to mention. Some that we all remember would be: "Take A Chance On Me" - Waterfront Home, "Danger" - The Flirts, "Native Love" - Divine, "Shoot Your Shot" - Divine, and "West End Girls" - The Pet Shop Boys. That was the 80's, now this is the late 90's. Bobby Orlando is back in action with his new HiNRG label Reputation Records. With teasing slogans like "The War for Disco Truth" and "It's all a part of the Great Plan", we're sure to see Reputation give the HiNRG dance world a run for it's money. Bobby was a joy to talk with, and he certainly has lots to say about HiNRG, life, and the music industry in general. Streetsound caught up with Bobby Orlando via the telephone at Reputation Records in New York City. (by Troy Matthews)
Troy: I must tell you Bobby, it's truly an honor to be talking with you, seeing that you are one of the true pioneers of HiNRG dance music worldwide.
Bobby O: Well, if's my privilege to do it, I think your magazine and your website is fantastic. It's a true salute to the power and glory of HiNRG.
Troy: We're trying our best! So tell me a bit about how your day has been so far at Reputation Records.
Bobby O: We´ve been getting a lot of phone calls today about our new release by Chicks Inc., I don't know if you got your copy yet or not, but if you haven’t gotten it yet you should soon. There was a really nice review in last week's Billboard Magazine, it was a pick hit and it's really getting a tremendous response. It's called "So Many Males, So Few Men”, and the theme that laments there are so many males in the world but very few men, in the old-fashioned traditional sense. The girl is lamenting that she can't find a good man, but she's meeting a lot of males. It´s a really cool song, great HiNRG track, it's 136bpm, we're getting a lot of strong feedback on that... as we have been getting from most our stuff from Reputation that is in the strong, higher BPM range.
Troy: It's always good to hear a HiNRG track with good vocals and a great story.
Bobby O: Exactly, I'm a song man from the old days. HiNRG is a medium of music which is so intricate, the arrangements are almost classical in a sense, they're exotic When you couple that with a strong lyric it just serves to illustrate the musical nature of HiNRG that some of the other forms of dance music can't even come close to. Like certain forms of techno where the concentration is on production value rather than on musical intricacies and lyrical content.
Troy: And also about reeling good!
Bobby O: Exactly! The whole purpose of HiNRG is not only to feel good and positive, because that's the kind of music it is, but also it celebrates life, it celebrates existing, if celebrates the wonder of getting up in the morning and having a cup of coffee! That's how tremendous it is. HiNRG not only celebrates that, but it embellishes that.
Troy: It personifies it, basically.
Bobby O: Exactly, it's also a culture, a lifestyle, a state of mind, a passion, it is the passion to live and to live well in the sense that everyone is happy, and everyone is doing positive, good, strong things.
Troy: You should write a book, I´d buy it!
Bobby O: [laughter] You know, througout my career, I´ve had lots of hits by God´s grace. I’ve been able to work with really good artists who have really fulfilled my musical talents. Some hits I’ve had throughout the years the Pet Shop Boys, The Flirts and so forth, they were not necessarly HiNRG. A lot of it was in the 120bpm range but the music I did throughout my career that really always struck a VERY powerful chord in me were the ones that were more HiNRG because they were happy and I knew that ____ e I was associated with that with the records, the artists, the singers, they were also very happy, HiNRG type people. I'm a cyclist, I ride 40 miles every day, to be a cyclist peddling 40 miles away, you can only imagine the amount of endorphins build. You know, you see a hill coming, you shift into gear and go. That's all part of the HiNRG mind set which is one of focus, positive, and happiness.
Troy: Perfectly said. With me, I workout five days a week, pushing weights and stuff. I'm addicted to it because if feels so good. Then on the way home, I listen to HiNRG on my walkman, if's such a great feeling!
Bobby O: Beautiful! It shows and indicates that the HiNRG mind set is not just musical, but also physical and mental. What you just said shows that HiNRG transcends just music, it's a brotherhood, kind of a ... the word "family", it's kind of wishy-washy but I'll use it because that's what it is. People who are true HiNRG-ites like ourselves, I am convinced that it's the kind of thing that you will know when one of them is in trouble and will be there. Likewise, when we're feeling well, we rejoice when we're around us, rather than some of the alternate forms of dance music in terms of a mind set where people are negative and think of destruction whereas the HiNRG person couldn't even contemplate that type of thinking.
Troy: How did you select the name "Reputation" for your new dance label?
Bobby O: We had a few different names to choose from originally, Reputation was not one of the first. We picked ten names and Reputation was maybe number eight on the list. We were going down the list, I asked my friends what they thought of this or that... the thing that I wanted to do with Reputation was I wanted this company to not be specifically based upon the success I had in the past. I didn't want people to think I was trying to trade on my past successes, so I didn't want it ever mentioned that I was affiliated with the company. You know, the early ads and press releases we did never indicated it '"as a Bobby Orlando label. I wanted to cast out there the idea that this is someone coming in who has at one time been in the business before, who has been a part of the HiNRG culture because Reputation is strictly a HiNRG label. So the name Reputation is a name I came up with.
If worked as a good name, it worked that nobody would know it was me, and finally what made me decide to use that name is from one of my favorite songs I wrote in the past callced "Reputation" from the Bobby O album called "Freedom In the Unfree World", it was never particularly a hit as far as a single or anything goes, but it was a very strong track that touched on the HiNRG feeling that I talked about.
Troy: So the word Reputation is very you, but to the general public, they don't know it's you.
Bobby O: Right, I didn't want to say, remember me, I did this, I did that ...I really wanted Reputation to be a growth of HiNRG. A lot of people who work at Reputation right now are totally aware of what I've done in the past. I've very fortunate and blessed to have people who have followed my career over the years, and to them if was a great surprise to see I was behind this label. But my main drive was to make sure that whoever heard our product, they would either love it, or they would hate it. That happens all the time with HiNRG, because nobody says they
just "like" a record, they say either they love if, or they hate it. That's fine. because that pretty much sums up society, it sums up the way wrong forces work in the world. You know. people hate certain people without a cause, without reason (we shouldn't even hate FOR a reason), but there are people hating in this world, despising in this world, who 'don't give a reason when people don't understand them. Have you spoken to your friends, who either love HiNRG or hate it?
Troy: Yes, it's true - they either love it or they hate it.
Bobby O: You wonder why, and I think a lot of that has to due with the fact that only people who are truly positive in nature and full of energy to begin with are going to he attracted to HiNRG.
Troy: When you listen to the dance music stations and read the magazines, what do you think so far of HiNRG in the 90's?
Bobby O: I think HiNRG in the 90's has the potential to be the largest Pop renaissance that the music industry has ever seen, which the music industry desperately needs. It's no secret in the corporate world that music sales and CD sales are down dramatically. In the US there are a record number of retailers who've gone bankrupt. I don't believe this is because of changing demographics, it may have a little to do with it, but a lot of if has to do with the inundation of really, really, really poor unhappy music that doesn't drive the consumer to the store. It isn't
even the music itself, but the industry as well. I mean, there was a time when there were pop cultures and pop icons, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, who do we have today? We don't see that anymore because more of the effort and focus in the music industry is on the company, and the company's executives, not so much on the artists or upon the music. I think that HiNRG music represents the kind of nature that attracts the common person. You go down the street, go to your 35 year old neighbour who knows nothing about music or anything, who's just a hard working person, or whatever. You give them a HiNRG song and say "listen to this record”, I guarantee you they wilt flip over it.
Troy: Interesting you say that, my mother is in her early 50's, and recently I brought her a tape with Modern Talking and Fancy on it from the 80's. She loved it!! She had never heard that stuff before.
Bobby O: She loved if! Interesting, and intriguing, because you could do the same thing with a 10 year old kid, and get the same reaction. You'll see the kid jumping and smiling. Then, if you turn around and play something that would be more club level or more serious, they'll kindly say, "oh ya, that's nice, that's interesting". HiNRG has the potential to become a tremendous, tremendous force in the pop music culture. Of course, trying to convince the record companies that would take an act of goliath. I think that, looking forward, those companies that are really focussing on HiNRG who can use a good form so that people are interested in hearing what their songs have to say, a-la the 50's and 60's, and package the music with attractive artists, artists pleasing to the sight, that are dynamic and fashionable, I think HiNRG could become tremendously strong in the pop sense, in the culture sense. It's the kind of music where you can celebrate life rather than celebrate death.
Troy: Out of interest, what's your favorite song on the radio now'?
Bobby O: I would have to say "Touch" by France Joli.
Troy: Excellent choice, being that I'm Canadian!
Bobby O: The song also has such a tremendous producer and I think France Joli is a wonderful person, she's got a great voice, and it's good to see her back.
Troy: I think it's going to charge up the charts really fast in the States.
Bobby O: Oh yeah, I think so.
Troy: There was a period between '90 and '94 when we didn't hear much HiNRG around in the mainstream at all. What was the cause of that in your opinion?
Bobby O: I believe that without a doubt, the period between 1987 to 1995 even, HiNRG was pretty much squelched, also "disco". I believe the reason is because there are powerful forces in society that were trying to unite the actions of what was happening in our culture to the Aids crisis and Aids problems during that time. I believe that was a form of prejudice, and I'll even say cold heartedness that made a segment of society - perhaps the power brokers of certain cultures - to say that they weren't going to give you good, up HiNRG, pop music. What they
gave you was the sad, depressing, draconian dance music which focussed on death. You know, lyrics that were intended to create a mood of darkness, very negative. In my opinion, that was done to try to push out the HiNRG/pop culture. And I think that what happened around 1995 is that people were saying, hey, we've got to go on, we are going to celebrate life, good times, and doing wonderful work. It's not surprising that the first line of that was the old stuff, the "old school", stuff from the 80's, the comeback of Gloria Gaynor. France Joli, the Village People, and I might add, the old mixes of songs. I think this is a very positive time, people are looking to enjoy life again, the whole club culture was about people meeting each other and having a good time. I don't think that socialization is taking place in, you know, the dark "acid" clubs, where ihe attitude is "I'm in charge" - whereas the disco culture is more of a family, communal setting.
Troy: Obviously the momentum for HiNRG right now worldwide is snowballing I guess you're a VERY happy man these days!!
Bobby O: It's really fabulous to see HiRNG snowballing and coming back again. I don't think it's come back full force yet, it's still on somewhat of an intellectual level, which is great but it's really going to hit paydirt when you hear someone like your neighbour across the hall or street who knows nothing about music say "wow, disco is making a comeback". When you hear that, that means it's reaching the general culture. Music is the combining force that makes people unite. If you take a bunch of enemies and put them in a room together where HiNRG is being played, they'll start dancing together. What we need more of in the world right now is togetherness and openness and we have to overcome those powers that are trying to do the opposite of that. God has blessed us with musical talents and streaks, and we have to use this music as our weapons of warfare - what we call in this organization "The War for Disco Truth" - we want to go to war against the world, and use our music as our force, and we believe HiNRG will be the striking force in that war.
Troy: You know, I think President Clinton needs you!
Bobby O: [laughter] It's just amazing to me Troy that people don't seem to understand how important music really is. It's interesting, it takes 10.000 more facial muscles to produce a frown than to produce a smile. A smile is HiNRG and a frown is House music. The key is to smile, it's our civic duty to produce music that will help people fo feel better and be happy.
Troy: That's why I'm doing what I'm doing, my only goal is to promote HiNRG around North America and the world for that matter.
Bobby O: It's a beautiful thing what you're doing, it amazes me how guys like yourself are so committed to HiNRG, even in the dark days when people said nothing about HiNRG, you guys were at the forefront still trying to push it. You are truly one of the great freedom fighters in this war, and you will see as time progresses that your name will become synonymous with the great victory that will be accomplished in HiNRG and the music industry as it grows info a much better period that we're seeing now.
Troy: It's interesting you say that. My friend Jason Davis who is another HiNRG reviewer for Streetsound Online and myself... let's go back five years ... we're walking up Yonge Street in downtown Toronto - the main "drag" – and out of stores all we hear being played is terribly dark, depressing, unmelodic House, Techno, Trance music. Today when we take that same walk, ALL we hear is up, happy, bouncy HiNRG and Euro! We never thought we'd see the day that was to happen.
Bobby O: Yes, Jason is a great guy, I've had the pleasure to talk with him several times already. You and Jason have over the past few years I'm sure, kept pushing and pushing for HiNRG. and now you can take some credit for what's happening! /must say it's a blessing to have people like yourselves out there crusading for HiNRG.
Troy: Is there any possibility of you taking a stab at remaking "Take A Chance On Me", one of the best tracks you ever wrote?
Bobby O: Thank you so much, yes, "Take A Chance On me" was one of my favorites as well, by Waferfront Home. It really is a good. strong record which we definitely could do a remix of,
I think it would be great to do. Actually, we have a new project underway - a new album by The Flirts, the project is going really well so far. and we're expecting a release by the spring or summer of '97.
Troy: Excellent! Speaking of remaking your songs, people are STILL doing it with your past hits. Can you recall who did the latest remake?
Bobby O: Thank you for mentioning that, it's always such a pat on the back when you have other people covering songs I wrote. The one artist which really sticks out in my mind is Jon of the Pleased Wimmin - with EastWest UK – who remade "Passion". He has a really good handle on the sound, it's kind of HiNRG but a lower style of HiNRG, you know. the negativity isn't there, it's still happy, it's a compliment and very flattering when people remake my past songs.
When other artists remake my songs today, it gives a chance for the younger crowd to hear the song, probably for the first time.
Troy: Just a little plug here for another group I've interviewed – Capital Sound. They remade your big hit "Desire" in 1994.
Bobby O: Ahh, yes! Really tremendous! That's another one that sticks out in my mind. and I'm glad you mentioned it.They put a hole new “sheen” on my painting, they added other elements to it and it’s even more vibrant in their version.
Troy: I also find it interesting that when I hear these remakes of your earlier songs, the artists remaking them don't stray too far from the original sound of the song. To me that indicates the strength of the original track to begin with, and is a compliment to the writer. Basically, these artists a re just updating the song with the latest technology and of course, their interpretation of the track. It’s a big pat on the back.
Bobby O: You're right, it's true. and I appreciate you saving that. It is a pat on the back. It's nice to know that I was a part of musical history, and still doing so at Reputation Records. It's good to know that good people have basically enjoyed something that I've put my hands to, and it's really flattering to say the least.
Troy: Okay, now that I've mentioned the 80's ... you know people reading this are going to want me to ask you questions about that era in dance music ... overall, what was best about HiNRG at that time?
Bobby O: In the 80's, HiNRG was a word that we didn't even coin. It happened when people like Divine and the Pet Shop Boys came around, the good thing about that period rather than today - which I kind of like better - is that the music was accidental in some respect. For example, we'd sit down and say, okay, use this type of bassline that goes like this ... [makes the sound of the traditional rolling bassline]... people said, "oh this feels good", they were good accidents to happen, which we just stumbled upon.
Troy: So you were one of the few people, like someone else you know - Giorgio Moroder - who discovered the rolling bassline?
Bobby O: [laughter] You just put me in a league with a great master. I'm truly flattered, that's a tremendous compliment. Yeah, we wanted to use that because if looks good. feels good, and from a musical perspective, it's almost classical in the sense that it's a traditional, quality thing. You can use it with various syncopations in the different octave ranges to create rhythm and melody. This is why HiNRG as a musical form is so superior. One might say that classical music is superior to polka .. however I do like polka ... in the pure intrinsic sense, HiNRG is much more complicated and intricate. That's why all the great artists and musicians should stand up and say "HiNRG is what it's all about, and everything else is just a sample". The octave ranges are so powerful and create such emotion. As human beings, when you hear the bass coming out and hitting you in the chest like that, there is nothing on the planet that can stop that force. It’s infections, it#s got that warming effect on your whole being ... that's the power of HiNRG.
Troy: How long did your previous label - "O Records" exist for?
Bobby O: O was around for about a decade. We were constantly putting out product in those years. That was uncommon because in those days we didn't have the computer technology which record companies and producers have today. I didn't have any sequencers to use back then, most of the stuff I played live ... some of it was performed on analog sequencers, but nothing close to the technology today. There was no way to record a track into a computer. When you recorded in those days you recorded onto tape, the technology didn't come until much,
much later. The recording process back then was very crude and primitive.
Troy: But it must have been a lot of fun!
Bobby O: Oh yeah, in those days, in order for you to be a producer, you had to be a musician. Today, the producers come in from a technological perspective, not an analytical perspective or analog perspective. This is what make some of the new music sound different, not worse or better, but different, than some of the older records. For example, the France Joli song "Come To Me" has somewhat of a surreal effect to it, and that's because it's not perfectly in time, it's slightly off because human beings are playing it. The computerized technology sounds so perfect because computers are playing it, again, not that it's worse, not that it's better, it's just different. With O Records, when the new technology came around, our records had pretty much run their course and if was time to move on.
Troy: What was the first commercial project which O Records undertook and who was the artist?
Bobby O: The first release was by Barbie and the Kens a song called "Just A Gigolo". Along with that was a song called "Change of Life" by the I Spys, both of those records were our first two charted on Billboard's dance charts in ‘79 or '80 I guess it was. Back then, to be an independent record company was really something, everything was the old way of doing business which would be impossible toda. In those days it required much more effort to being a record company than today - there are so many around tnese days. The family type feeling that existed years ago doesn't seem to exist today, it's much more corporate now. BUT, now that HiNRG is back, we’re going to change all that!
Troy: Tell me a little bit about one of the 80’s most visible, colourful and outspoken HiNRG icons...you know who I´m reffering to...
Bobby O: Divine was the greatest. His name was Harris Milsted, a very nice guy. I worked with him for a period of about two years, then he went on to work with Pete Waterman. We did one and a half to two albums with him, of course songs like "Native Love'. "Shoot Your Snot'', both of them very successful. We would play off each other quite a lot. working with him was a real blessing, and I'm glad that we did get a chance to work together. He travelled quite a bit. on the road, he did LOTS of club dates, but he and I were fine together- it was his manager.
His manager and I had kind of a falling out. He was a nice guy, but we just didn't see eye to eye on a few things. There was a lot of miscommunication and misunderstanding. Since then we've had a chance to make amends to each other, to iron out the personal stuff ,everything has worked out well from that point on. But also, Divine's parents are beautiful people, they live in Florida and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting them.
Troy: As I look back to that time when Divine was really big, I kind of think that people today like RuPaul owe you a pat on the back.
Bobby O: Oh ya, when I see people doing stuff like RuPaul today, I kind of chuckle a bit. I was the first, there's no question about it. Divine was more 'in your face', a bit more sleazy but in a fun way. The song "Jungle Jezebel", that particular track, those words really sum of the hilarity that went along with Divine.
Troy: Okay, so Bobby ... when you were very young, where did you get your musical training?
Bobby O: I started playing guitar, taught myself how to play keyboards, by the time I was in my early teens, I played in a band. Of course it was a rock band in those days, you know, hair down to your waist, platform shoe's, the glitter rock period. We used to play a lot, high schools, it was a local rock band. We developed a really good following of fans. Then, as I got a bit older I got a job as a recording engineer, that developed and developed, then I produced a song on Midsong Records called "Dancin" by Todd Forester in 1977. If you could hear a copy of it
you'd notice the galloping bass in it.
Troy: Well that's also when "I Feel Love" came out by Donna Summer / Giorgio Moroder.
Bobby O: Exactly, that song became a club hit here in New York, they would play it all the time. From there I went onto produce at Vanguard Records, then in ‘79 i started O Records.
Troy: Are there any groups or performers who influenced you to write and produce HiNRG music?
Bobby O: Well, with HiNRG if's hard to pinpoint, but there are commonalities with artists I enjoyed like T. Rex, Alice Cooper - but then what does Alice Cooper have to do with HiNRG? What does David Bowie have to do with HiNRG? I think it has a lot to do with those artists emphasized the glitter rock period, the glamour that would soon become Disco and HiNRG. It was fashionable and glamorous, also it was good music, it didn't bring you down but made you happy. That music' was all about life and liberty. Those particular artists weren't HiNRG at all or even people like Roxy Music or even ABBA! ABBA wasn’t HiNRG but everyone celebrates ABBA as HiNRG.
Troy: They were the 'grandfathers' of HiNRG in my opinion.
Bobby O: Yeah, if you think about it, and listen to the music, it is as close to what HiNRG is today. At the time they didn’t call it HiNRG they just called it ABBA.
Troy: Look at Almighty Records in the UK, they’re remaking all of ABBA ‘s hits into HiNRG versions.
Bobby O: Exactly! I remember back in ‘75 I was in high school and there was a show on called the David Suskind show. It was a local show in New York and it way great. On his show he did a special once, the guests were Jayne County, Lily Tomlin, Sylvester, Divine, and someone called Hibiscus. David remarked that they were so kind and so nice yet locking so wild and flamboyant. People in the audience were heckling or laughing, but nobody was getting bitter or blown away by it. And Suskind was a very conservative guy at the end of the show he said
He really found those guests terrific. Those guests were kind of preparing everyone for the future of the club circuit, where people were to become more flamboyant and beautiful.
Troy: Okay - now let's play a little game . word association. I´m going to throw out names of random HiNRG bands, artists, or other producers and I’d like to hear the first thoughts that come off the top of your head.
Bobby O: Okay
Troy: Dead or Alive
Bobby O: Exciting!
Troy: Giorgio Moroder
Bobby O: Brilliant
Troy: Pete Waterman
Bobby O: Significant
Bobby O: Intelligent
Troy: I agree - to take an aside for a second, what did you think of his cover of "Shoot your Shot from 1986?
Bobby O: I loved it... like anyone who covers my stuff I'm always flattered. I love to hear that third opinion, that third view. The production also shows what the producer’s personality is.
Troy: He did change his name to Ringo for that release, but he managed to keep the same energy that the original did.
Bobby O: He's a very talented guy, and he's not a newcomer he's been around for a while. He's very gifted and it’s good to see that teh music he’s making today is still just as good as he was doing [in the80’s]. He is very intelligent the way he does his work, he strategically picks and chooses the best pieces to use then just explodes them up, he’s VERY good.
Troy: Nicely said, he's actually my favorite. Okay. now, Culture Beat.
Bobby O: Ah, Culture Beat... I'll put that in two words, extremely exciting. Much more modern, and much more definitive than the other groups now, because they kind of had the benefit of hindsight. They took the best elements of each person .. the forefathers of HiNRG... and expanded upon it to where they can really dramatically 'bring it home
Troy: True. Now last, but definitely not least... ABBA
Bobby O: Phenomenal ABBA, if you look at their original recordings and listen to them closely, they all have the sensibility of perfection. They REALLY used lots and lots of vocals. If you look at the original multi-tracks of ABBA's recordings, you'll probably find 20 tracks of just vocals, and maybe eight tracks of music. The harmonies and melodies that we’ve come to love came from the vocals And I think that of course Agneta was kind of a...
Bobby O: Also, one of the great things about her and the other one. Frida, is that they disappeared. There is a lot of power to disappearing, her disappearing really supports the 'cult' status which the group enioys. But, I speculate that they had no idea what they were doing at the time. They knew they were making really good pop records, but never ever realizing that 20 or 25 years later, they would be a cultural icon That fact signifies how strong the HiNRG movement will be again once it gets into full swing.
Troy: Do you thing there are any groups around today who might have the same impact 20 years from now as ABBA is enjoying?
Bobby O: Great question, that's a really good question. My answer to that would be no. The reason I say no is because the music industry today is no longer artist centred. The music industry today is more executive centred, or corporate centred. Therefore, as the Sony's, the MCA's, and the Seagram's tend to own the whole music industry the focus is going to be on the corporateness of those entities rather than the 'boutiqueness' of the old record -labels. One of the largest artists in the world right now is Mariah Carey, and as good as she is and as talented as she is. I don't see her in the same genre as ABBA, at least not in the cultural level. So it's hard forme to really nail down Also, I think that the technology today makes people less susceptible to achieving cult status.
Troy: Because technology today makes it really easy for the common guy on the street to pick up a computer and synthesizer and make music.
Bobby O: Absolutely correct. And, I might say that one of the great prophets of HiNRG was a fellow by the name of Trevor Horn. He said. "Video Killed the Radio Star", in 1982 by the Buggles Prophetic! The whole theme of that song was that'as video is now coming, there won't be any need for the radio star anymore, and that’s why I believe with this new technology, video has killed the radio star. But that doesn't mean we can't create video stars, and the HiNRG theme and format will be able to support that. As I indicated earlier, the good music, good lyrics, the good artistic personality to front them all, I think the power of HiNRG wilt really be able to augment that statement. My generation has already had their icons, the ABBA's, the Divine's, the question is not the current generation because I think they're shot. But the question will be with the next batch of kids getting older now, the 8 years olds, where are they going to be in 10 years? What will things like the Internet technology, and DVD do to these kids? When we determine what that is.. and nobody really knows yet but I have a feeling of what it might be, then what will happen is we'll be able to determine to what extent the pop culture will be able to take over and if HiNRG will be that medium, which I believe it will
Troy: What are your long term plans for Reputation Records?
Bobby O: Short, medium, and long terms plans is to keep pumping out HiNRG music. We want to focus more on zeroing in on our artists' identities, that's '97's big goal. We want to actively and effectively get involved in the DVD market when it comes up, which we expect to see in a year. I think DVD will change everything, DVD as you probably know is Digital Video Disk and in my vision it will replace the CD in time. it will certainly become the defacto form of entertainment in the future, along with the Internet. I think those two areas are going to provide tremendous opportunities for independent record companies to create that 'boutiqueness' that has been missing for the past 10 years. So therefore, "great" record companies will have to become great multimedia companies, there will be a much stronger emphasis on video and filming techniques along with audio techniques. I think we have to really push that technology as an independent record company, push it to the limit so that we can be part of the film medium, which is part of the DVD revolution that I believe is coming soon like the Internet revolution which is already here.
Troy: Interesting you say that... a while back you worked with the Pet Shop Boys on the song "West End Girls", back then they were very progressive and used their technology well. Now, with the release of their latest CD "Bilingual", they also have incorporated DVD technology on the disc. Here they are 13 years later, being progressive again, still pushing the limits of technology.
Bobby O: Yes, well Neil and Chris are brilliant guys, and not to pat myself on the back, but they learned from the pro. Music was the breeding ground for us, that's how we met, but we’ve also developed strong personal friendships since then. When the Pet Shop Boys and I were working together, 90% of that time was us pontificating about life, then the other 10% was making the music. But it all came out in the music, and this is why over the years our relationship has remained so topical and intense. The new album is incredibly brilliant, andyou’re right, their use of DVD technology is very good. I think the only mistake that Neil and Chris have made, and I've told them this, tI believe that there was great power and ambiguity of the Pet Shop Boys when they were working with us.Tremendous power in that ambiguity. Somehow, when that ambiguity was removed it somehow lost some of it's power, and only to the extent that I don't think Neil and Chris have the personality to present that without the ambiguity. It was alt part of the Pet Shop Boy's mystic. "West End Girls" was very ambiguous, what was that all about? And "It's A Sin" one of the greatest pop songs of all time,. the lyrics in that song really touched really important nerves. I remember when we were doing that. I had done the original, It said "guys we've got to sound like guilty Catholics". In fact, the original name of the Pet Shop Boys was going to be the Altar Boys, but we changed our minds at the last minute. Their music is very intelligent, which is something they both are, very intelligent. The fact that they are now using that DVD technology shows how savvy they are, and at the same time, maintaining their artisitic integrity.
Troy: And, being true to their fans
Bobby O: Exactly, that's where they've been able to walk that tightrope.
Troy: Best of luck to you Bobby! It was a joy talking with you and on a personal note I thank you for everything you've done for HiNRG worldwide, and continue to do!
Bobby O: I thank you so much for the opportunity to speak with you, you're a terrific guy. I thank you so much for giving Reputation Records the opportunity to show our views on HiNRG, we're very passionate about it. We really feel it's a calling, not a career move, but a calling - you understand what I mean by that because you're a part of it as well. We're looking forward seeing this on the web, and wherever else it might be.
Interview by Troy Matthews for Streetsound (11/96)
The story of O
Since the early eighties the small American label, O Records, has had vast commercial success with its superlative blending of New York Disco and Euro pop. With Hi-Energy on the verge of a second coming, its egocentric owner remains the self-styled master of classic techno trash. I am still the greatest, says Bobby Orlando.
Text: Kimberley Leston (Sadly no longer with us - She died in February 1995)
1976 - MIDTOWN MANHATTEN. A man and a boy are walking Broadway. The man - slacks, silky , neck, leather coat - gestures to a seed . Bets are taken and the kid drops to the floor does push-ups on one finger without breaking a sweat, without even taking out his gum. He flexes his stocky Italian boots little as they leave. Small time amateur boxer, easy money.
But the son of a schoolteacher from middle class New York surburb of Westchester doesn’t want to be a boxer forever. He wouldn’t like his pretty face spoiled, of course, but at 18 years old Bobby Orlando has already turned down a scholarship to a classical music school and can blow away Johnny Thunders, guitarist with his favourite group of three years earlier, The New York Dolls. He’s been in a couple of teenage glitter rock bands and he doesn’t listen to Alice Cooper any more. Now disco is his obsession and he wants to make records.
Three years later, his third attempt at production is a dance chart hit. He writes the now-definitive Hi-Energy anthem "Desire" for a girl he met in a restaurant. Taken with the pushy little guy who’d rather go without a watch until he can afford a Rolex, the young Roni Griffith signs the 50/50 contract written on a napkin, has an affair with the producer and a massive European success with the song.
In 1980 he pays off the loan shark who "financed" the session and sets up his own label at a time when classic Seventies disco was considered laid to rest with Chic’s "Good Times" but before the all-synthesized techno beat of Hi-Energy hit the peak it was to reach in 1983.
With an enormous catalogue of releases lauched by The Flirts "Passion" and Divine’s "Native Love" and working alongside mixers who have come up through the network of New York clubs - John "Jellybean" Benitez, Kiss FM’s Shep Pettibone - O Recods has had 17 gold and five platinum smashes in America and Europe in its seven years. "Shoot your shot", the B-side of Divine’s second single "Jungle Jezebel", went gold so quickly in the Benelux countries that it was re-released as an A side within a month. For a small record company with a low profile, that’s a high profile of hit records.
THE SUITE OF ROOMS - reception, O Office and musty box of a studio - isn’t much bigger than the bar where Bobby O, as he is known, made his first fistful of dollars, overlooking the same stretch of Broadway. The lights and the milky grey brick and the steam from the subway and the Chinese fast food shop fill the eleventh floor with the seamy aroma that turns all of New York into a permanent mini-cab office. Boom, boom, hup hup hup: Farley Funkin‘ Keith is mixing in the musty box. Bobby O still wants to make records. This year he’s planning on 30 a month.
Boxing is kind of like records, he says "in that they are both sleazy businesses. In boxing you deal with sleazy characters but they have a certain charm to them. Most people in the record business aren’t as charming, so going from one to the other was a relatively simple thing for me. The only difference is that with records you take the aggression you would normallly use beating the hell out of a guy by punching beats. It’s the same punch, the same drive.
Calling his lawyer on the carphone while sparring with the Westchester citybound traffic in a red mercedes is fun. It’s a good start to the drama of the day. Dramas that are a mixture of rescoration comedy and lurid Vegas camp. The rake arrives at the cabaret early in jeans and a laundred sweatshirt, Tex Avery quiff perfect. He just finalised the deal on the penthouse down the street. Let’s face it, real estate is all that counts.
"I failed as a hippy because I was too much of a capitalist." Says Bobby O, swivelling in his chair to view the mirrored building that is now partly his. "I mean I had a chequebook, no hippy ever had a chequebook, so I was a total failure. But glitter rock, oh I was a real glitter boy. I had very long hair - you just wouldn’t believe. I was very pretty, exceedingly like real very pretty. And with glitter rock you didn’t have to take drugs and it was OK to be a captialist. I mean platform shoes are expensive, right?". He didn’t have the balls to wear make-up but the romance with the high champ has yet to end. New York Dolls, Divine, same difference. The fast talking, intensivly macho exhibitionist is also a voyeur. A homophobe who once pulled out of buying an apartment after discovering that the previous owner was gay, he has built a career on making music for a predominantly gay audience.
Bobby O’s history of working relationships reads like a Bel Air alimony lawyers’s casebook. One of his most successful associations ended understandably abruptly when he claimed he could "cure" the artist of his homosexuality, but men continue to be mesmerized by the electric vitality of this irresistible, impossible character. Women, too, are oddly tantalized by a man fixes his dark eyes to theirs over dinner, tells them just how he likes to make love, and what a great lover he is, and then kisses them goodnight on the cheek only to call at midnight to ask if they are naked.
The technical skill involved in such heavyweight flirting requires not only a core of pure narcissim but an ability to use the power of sexuality without feeling the surge of any real lust.
His most enduring partnership has been with The Flirts, a sort female Menudo, the three girl line-up changes with almost every release and on the new, their second album, "Questions Of The Heart" - a deliciously crass concoction of Euro pop, Janet Jackson and Sixties girl groups - they’re looking, frankly, a little old. The models won’t mind if they‘re dropped; the group exists only as an LP sleeve. Apart from a brace of session singers, Bobby O is The Flirts. Songs about sex, not lust. Sex on the phone, sex on the mind, everything but the real kind.
The single , "All You Ever Think About Is (Sex)", is classic Bobby O in mood coquettishly provocative record that with the pressing problem of an over ardent admirer, but essentially anti-sex combination of the two elements that his overloaded imagtionation. "I love , don't you?" he says, quoting from his lyrics " Young virgins become restless nymphomaniacs, virtue become vice". It’s , isn’t it?" In 1983 he releases "I’m In Love With A Married Man". Infidelity is an to him. "A lot of people fall in love with a married men, so what do they do? It’s a problem. My concern is that even if you manage, in an earthly sense, to break up the marriage all you‘ve really succeeded in doing is to dig a deeper hole into hell. The punishment may not come from here; it could be on the other side of grave. You know what I’m saying?" This is not someone however who lists God discreetly amongst the records sleeve credits.
At O records, discretion is a sin second only to losing a lawsuit. "I regard each record I make as worthless and useless just like anybody else’s" says Bobby O with some venom. "Anybody who thinks that their music is something special is worshipping a false doctrine. There is nothing that any artist can say that is really of any importance because anything other than God’s word is laced with the evil and has to regarded as sin tainted." There’s nothing more serious than showbiz, but this is a new twist to the script. Four years ago Bobby O was going about his business with only himself to answer to. Even though he claims to have been "heavily into the Bible", from which he quotes at length, the potential greatness of a partnership with God had yet to occur to him.
Lunch at the Applejack Diner was a simple affair involving omelettes and conversation as down to earth as is possible for someone whose feet have never made actual contact with the groud. At the self-consciously upmarket Cafe 57, however, where every waitress has an Equity card and the mink coats are so new they’re still twitching, Bobby O speaks of little but the Lord. Sometimes being born once just isn‘t enough.
"I'm a sinner and a scumbag. I know it," he confesses. "but that's where salvation comes in. My real citizenship is in heaven, I'm just an ambassador right now. The Bible clearly states 'be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth' and that's what I do, I'm being fruitful, I'm multilplying - I put out more records than anybody in the world, there's nobody puts out more records than me. If a producer has the ability to put out that many records and he doesn't then he is disobeying God's command."
Like a Where Eagles Dare of the music industry, Bobby O plays out his boy's own battle with monolithic major record companies cast as the bad guys who pay the price in heaven. "If you're going to win a war you have to hit with a lot of bullets, " runs the logic. "For me making records is a weapon. Sometimes the bullets connect and sometimes they don't. My goal is to pummel CBS and others like them, not having a huge hit records but having a lot of bullets out there. The only difference is that they have Michael Jackson and I have The Flirts." The fact that "Questions Of The Heart" is releasd through Epic is due, according to him, to a contract signed in the rushness of his youth. But humouring the enimy is one way to win a war and when O records relinquished the Pet Shop Boys to EMI in 1985 he struck a points deal on their subsequent releases that has made him a millionaire.
When Bobby O says he would rather put out 200 records that sell 5000 copies each than one record that sells a million he speaks the gospel truth. And considering the amount of small labels either bankrupted or forced into deals with large companies because of the distribution pressures of a major hit record, there is undoubted method to his madness. By continuing to have steady flow of minor successes in American and European dance charts with acts barely known outside the area, like the Boyd Brothers or Nancy Dean, Bobby O will surely achieve his ambition of becoming the Ronald McDonald of the music industry. "You know," he says with typical zeal. "'Over a billion served'."
IT'S GETTING LATE. Bobby O is ready for the drive to the suburbs. Maybe he'll look in at his new penthouse, maybe he'll stop by the row of brownstones he's having converted to apartments. Paul Mineo, one of his country's countless cousins of Sal and the hustler of Bobby O's boxing days, is still here. Last night he slept on the couch in the O office, now he's sitting at the small table set aside for him eating burger and fries. One thing Bobby O learnt when he was a fighter. Never mix protein and starch.
Article from The Face 1987
Bobby Orlando (* 1958), also known as Bobby O, is a disco dance music artist and record producer who was most successful in the early-mid 1980s.
The son of a suburban New York schoolteacher, Bobby declined a classical music scholarship to pursue his then current musical interest, glitter rock.   In the late 1970s, his professional interests turned to disco, as he worked on albums by Todd Foster, in 1977, and Lyn Todd, in 1980. Shortly thereafter, he established his own record label, "O" Records.
Bobby “O” Orlando (aka Bobby O) is a highly prolific music producer, songwriter, musician and record label impresario. During the 1980’s he produced, composed and played on hundreds of music productions that he released under a myriad of record labels including: “O” Records, Bobcat Records, Memo Records, Telefon Records, MenoVision Records, Beach Records, Plastic Records, Eurobeat Records, Obscure Records, Beat Box Records, Riovista Records, Intelligent Records, Basic Records, Knowledge Records and others. In the late ‘80’s at the peak of his success, the “one-man-band” suddenly and inexplicably halted his extensive production output.
Orlando is credited as one of the founding fathers of euro/pop dance music. His productions are easily identifiable by their dense synthesizers, rolling bass lines, and resounding percussion. Orlando tracks showcase him playing multiple instruments including keyboards, guitars, drums, percussion and saxophone. The ringing cowbell percussion lines and robotic sequencers heard in “She has a Way”, “The Best Part of Breakin’ Up”, “Desire”, and “Native Love (Step by Step)” define the electrifying sound he pioneered.
As a solo artist Orlando scored hits with tracks “She Has a Way”, “A Man Like Me” and “I’m So Hot for You”. He created his project concept The Flirts to further front his performances. With its ever revolving roster of female session singers and models, Orlando churned out international hits “Passion,” “JukeBox (Don’t put another Dime)” and “Helpless” that featured Orlando as the sole musician. His legendary association with underground film star Divine resulted in classic club anthems “Native Love” (featuring Orlando’s voice in the chorus), “Love Reaction”, “Jungle Jezebel” and “Shoot your Shot”. He also is famed for founding The Fast, later to be known as Man 2 Man.
When Neil Tennant, then editor of Smash Hits, but also founder of the Pet Shop Boys, was sent to interview the Police (band) in 1983 in New York, he sought out Orlando. Both Tennant and fellow Pet Shop Boy Chris Lowe were impressed by Orlando’s sound and production, “Passion” by The Flirts, being a particular favourite. The Pet Shop Boys would later record and release records with Orlando producing, including the original ‘West End Girls’.The band were later bought out of the contract with Orlando by EMI records, with Orlando receiving a figure believed to be $1 million. The Pet Shop Boys later recorded a Orlando classic “Try It (I’m in love with a married man)” on Disco 3.
His music was used in Felix da Housecat’s hit single “Silver Screen Shower Scene” in 2001 and “Da Hype” by Junior Jack in 2004. Orlando’s music appears in numerous motion pictures including: A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge, Wigstock: The Movie, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and Valley Girl.
Orlando produced and penned numerous hits that spanned multiple genres in mostly self created “groups”, often just consisting of Orlando himself. His productions were released as: Teen Rock, The Beat Box Boys, Hotline, Banana Republic, Oh Romeo, The New York Models, Hippies with Haircuts, SpoogeBoy, Girly, Barbie & the Kens, Wow, 1 plus 1, The He Man Band, The Boyd Brothers, Nancy Dean, Ian Darby with Ya Ya, Cha Cha featuring Don Diego, Yukihoro Takanawa, This is House, Joy Toy, Dressed to Kill, Band of South, Dynasty featuring Dexter D, Darlene Down, The Fem-Spies, Gangsters of House, Girls Have Fun, Zwei Maenner, Something Anything, Gomez Presley, Gringo Lopez, Patty Phillipe, Malibu, Lilly & the Pink, Miss Tammi Dee, New Breed, Mc Fritz and the P-Rockers (probably the rarest of all tracks released), Charlene Davis, Claus V, Ronnie Goes to Liverpool, The Bang Gang, Bubba and The Jack Attack, Fascination, Free Enterprise, Sandra Ford, Future Generation, Citrus, The College Boys, Condo, The Bigalows, Free Expression, Lola, Lifestyle, I Spies, Johny Bankcheck, Latin 1, Kinski Music, Gina Desire, and Beachfront, and others. He also produced numerous tracks under various group names with a jazz style departure to his sound.
Orlando’s songs frequently deal with philosophical themes such as “Try It (I’m in love with a married man)” which was given a contemporary twist when it was rerecorded by the Pet Shop Boys in 2003. Many of Orlando’s lyrics describe unrequited love, private despair, personal angst and a truth-seeking perspective. Orlando frequently etched philosophical maxims into vinyl records featuring his songs; these adages being literally cut into the grooves near the “lead out” and “lock grooves” of the vinyl. Many of these are rare and are now collector items.
In the late 1980’s Orlando wrote the book “Darwin Destroyed” which endeavored to refute Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. The book was written long before the now-popular Intelligent Design movement emerged. The book did not contain any reference to music.
Orlando’s musical influence on many present day artists is vast and the sound he created routinely surfaces on Euro, techno, Italo-disco, electro and Hi-NRG releases throughout the world. He has a large international following and is often cited by music historians for his immeasurable contribution to dance music.
He is famous for writing and producing numerous Hi-NRG and disco anthems with artists such as Divine ("Shoot Your Shot", "Native Love"), The Flirts ("Passion", "Danger", "Don't Put Another Dime In the Jukebox", "You and Me") and Roni Griffith ("Best Part Of Breaking Up"), among others, all of which were released on "O" Records. He also worked with the Pet Shop Boys early in their career, co-writing with them and producing the original version of "West End Girls" in 1984. His biggest solo hit, She Has A Way, was released in 1982.
Although he went quiet for much the 1990s and 2000s, he still remains busy and is still active in the dance music world. Orlando’s most recent production is the 2005 release “Outside the Inside” which contains the Billboard chart topping, internet radio hit Sorrow.
© November 1996 Troy Matthews (streetsound.com)