The Gap Band truly put the pedal to the metal on their fifth album.
Daryl Easlea 2011
Although now principally remembered for their party anthem I Don’t Believe You Want to Get Up and Dance – known by its colloquial title Oops Upside Your Head – The Gap Band were a marvellous addition to the US 70s funk scene. Originating from Tulsa, the brothers Wilson – Charlie, Ronnie and Robert – were raised in the church and were made to learn music from an early age. Their early outfit, the Greenwood, Archer and Pine Street Band soon abbreviated its name to the more straightforward Gap Band, and their multi-instrumental approach made them one of the most exciting groups of the era.
Signing to Mercury in 1979, and working with long-time mentor Lonnie Simmons, The Gap Band III (actually their fifth album) was their most complete offering to date, bringing together their strident funk, party jams and sensual ballads.
Their US R&B number one single Burn Rubber on Me (Why You Wanna Hurt Me) arrives amid the screech of tyres. High and mighty, it is probably the single greatest Gap Band song, with its dirty synth bass – played by Cavin Yarbrough of Yarbrough and Peoples’ fame – and climatic hand-claps. It features the ultimate example of Charlie Wilson’s deep, mannered funk vocal style.
If Oops had established a template for them, then Humpin’ and the improbably titled Gash Gash Gash found them mining this seam even further, with loose raps over squelchy party anthems, complete with Charlie’s trademark chuckle. When I Look in Your Eyes is similar to Earth, Wind & Fire of the era, while Yearning for Your Love emphases the sweet ballad side of the group. An almost otherworldly listen, it manages simultaneously to be tremendously mellow yet somehow slightly unsettling.
By 1980 The Gap Band were much in demand – for example, Charlie and Robert provided backing vocals for Stevie Wonder’s I Ain’t Gonna Stand for It that year. Their good-time, propulsive groove commercialised P-Funk and paved the way for the later commercial period of acts such as Cameo. It was also a key influence on later New Jack Swing artists. If you want to go beyond the hits, The Gap Band III is the best place to start.