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ESG: A Funk Breakout

Freezing outside. Quick trip to our local. Quick smoke. Back to my mate’s place. They’d gotten their turntables out, records piled neatly in veg crates underneath their unsteady tables, empty beer cans piling equally as high on the floor.

I was out of it. Completely fucking out of it. Handing out straights like I was minted, prancing around like a twat and taking about 3 toilet breaks every 5 minutes.

It just happened to hit me while I was dancing in a small house packed with uni students. Sweat beads running down my face like a fucking torrential rainstorm.

“Dance, yeaaaaaaah”

It was like everything had just gone back to normal and I was being cuddled by my mum. I felt great. I think ESG has only stuck with me so well this whole time because I was introduced to them on a come-up.

ESG are an American band formed in the South Bronx in 1978. The band originally consisted of the Scroggins sisters, their name standing for Emerald, Sapphire - after the birthstones of Valerie and Renee Scroggins - and Gold, referring to the record certification which they were hoping to nab.

They were under Ed Bahlman’s unofficial management for a period of time, and signed to Factory Records after a performance at Hurrah, Manhattan. Tony Wilson brought them back to Manchester where they recorded their first debut LP, “Come Away with ESG” with Martin Hannett. The rest is history.

What interests me most about the band is their work ethic. They rehearsed endlessly when they first formed, learning songs by Chaka Khan, the Rolling Stones, and taking musical cues from TV shows like Soul!, but went on to play New York punk clubs.

It’s irrational. It doesn’t add up, it doesn’t make sense how this crazy simple, dance funk band could go on to open for Public Image LTD. or Liquid Liquid. It doesn’t make sense that their song “UFO” was sampled a billion times by various hip hop producers. And it absolutely doesn’t make sense that almost 40 years later, a pack of drunk uni students are still playing their tunes through a decent set of hifi speakers.

In September 2017, ESG released “What More Can You Take” which was announced to be their final studio album. And that’s where it ends. There’ll probably be a million more UFO samples down the line. And there’s bound to be more funk-punk-dance bands out there. But luckily for the Scroggins sisters, there’ll never again be a sound that could capture exactly what ESG had in the 80s and 90s.

Check out our “The Beat” playlist to listen to ESG and similar bands.


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