For some it’s “Blue Monday” – New Order. For others it’s “I Feel Love” – Donna Summer. Everyone has their favourite, the one, the ultimate club track for life that will never lose its magic no matter what.
For me that track happens to be “Music Sounds Better With You” – Stardust.
Here’s a record that landed upon this planet like a nuclear bomb. Its impact has been seen through countless imitators, but no one, NO ONE, has even come close to replicating the sound created by members Thomas Bangalter, Alan Braxe, and vocalist Benjamin Diamond.
I clearly remember the weekend it descended on Toronto. I was watching the Electric Circus (this should bring back some good/bad memories for fans of dance music in Toronto) broadcast live from Canada’s Wonderland and the guest DJ for the show was none other than Chicago/Toronto house legend DJ Sneak, whose strong ties to Bangalter and the whole Daft Punk crew came through loud and clear during his set. He simply played one record for his entire time on air: Music Sounds Better With You.
I knew the record was something truly unique and special as soon as I heard it. The formula was simple enough: a pounding 4-4 kick drum, a disco loop and a very catchy vocal hook. I won’t lie, I LOVE DISCO HOUSE and the fact that this was the only record Sneak played for his live set told me this was something I’d better add to my collection in a hurry. Never mind the fact that I heard it AGAIN that night on the radio while moving my mom’s car.
The next day, I promptly made my way down to Toronto DJ institution Play De Record not even knowing the proper title of the track nor the artist. Clearly, Eugene Tam and crew had been tipped off about this one(no surprises there) as a batch of 12″ vinyls bearing the iconic Roulé label and the simple title “Music Sounds Better With You” – Stardust were displayed very prominently upon my arrival. As I was examining this somewhat vague single-sided pressing, the remaining copies were scooped up and paid for by about 6 other DJs who clearly had had a similar experience to mine. I have never seen anything like that at any record store since, so I promptly paid for mine (the $14.99 import price being well worth it) and headed home to give this tune a proper spin on my home system.
My 12″ copy is now so worn from beating the hell out of it over a period of many years that you can hear the wear from cuing when you first put it on. But back then, the first thing that hit me was the absolute THROB of a bassline that Bangalter and Braxe laid overtop of the sample (I’ll get to that in a minute) and how the arrangement was so simple, yet so very, very effective. You could sing it, it was easy to groove to and Ben Diamond’s vocal hook stayed in my head for the rest of the weekend. I spent that time mixing it into essentially every other house tune I had at the time, and MSBWY stuck out like a sore thumb for just how incredibly GOOD it was.
How the record came into being is a unique story unto itself. The song was conceived in Rex Club, Paris, where the trio were playing a live set. If anyone out there has audio or video footage of this landmark event, please let me know! Bangalter and Braxe created the instrumental, which Diamond instinctively sang the title words over. The next day they laid down the track in the studio, adding the sample of Chaka Khan’s “Fate”(explained in the video above). The group then wisely handed mastering duties over to Nilesh “Nilz” Patel at the Exchange in London. RIP, our friend in house music.
The demand for the single, only available on 12″ initially, was so great that there were literally people lined up at the ferry docks in England waiting with cash in hand to buy copies as soon as they arrived from France. The tune would eventually sell over 1 MILLION COPIES ON VINYL (let’s see that happen today) and let’s not forget the success it had with the CD single version (first disc in my CD wallet, every time). I even went out and tracked down the Chaka Khan album the sample came from, What’cha Gonna Do For Me. Great album, BTW.
The single spawned a host of imitators who essentially copied Stardust’s formula of house groove+disco sample+vocals(live or sampled). Phats & Small had a hit with “Turn Around” as did Armand Van Helden feat. Duane Harden with “U Don’t Know Me”. NOTHING, however, has ever come close to the magic of the original. Countless bootlegs have surfaced, my favourite being the mash-up with Madonna’s “Holiday” by the Stuntmasters (played out many times by Bangalter himself), but the original, I’ve discovered, can work on so many levels with just about any kind of crowd that there really isn’t a reason not to play it to this day.
So whatever happened to Stardust? Thomas Bangalter carried on his ingenious production methods with Daft Punk after turning down a reported $3 million deal to deliver a full Stardust album, stating he couldn’t possibly top MSBWY. Alan Braxe came into his own as a producer and formed a successful collaboration with fellow Frenchman Fred Falke to deliver some of the best original productions and remixes that truly helped define the “French Touch” sound. Benjamin Diamond release a solo album, Strange Attitude and was briefly a member of the short-live group We In Music.
What are your thoughts on this epic tune? Please post your thoughts and comments below and let’s hear what you have to say about this timeless piece of house music.