GLORIA GAYNOR: Classic Soul 1974 Interview

Gloria Gaynor
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Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

 

Gloria Gaynor:  Her ‘Hello’ Is Her ‘Goodbye’

By David Nathan

In person interview, conducted in New York City, October 1974

After having some club success with “Honeybee,” Gloria Gaynor was just beginning to get her career in gear when David Nathan met her in midtown Manhattan as her disco version of the Jackson Five's “Never Can Say Goodbye” was rocketing up the charts!

THERE’S NO disputing the fact that Gloria Gaynor’s “Never Can Say Goodbye” is currently on of the fastest rising records on the charts in the States today. Having enjoyed a run of several consecutive weeks as the top disco record out of New York, it is now on the national pop charts and the R&B charts and shows every sign of breaking wide open. In Britain, Gloria is picking up considerable sales and national airplay, suggesting that she could well find herself with a chart entry in the UK too within a short space of  time.

When we spoke with Gloria a few weeks ago in New York (which is her home, although she hails from Newark, New Jersey), “Never Can Say Goodbye” was showing its first signs of making it big but Gloria (a self-confessed pessimist) said that she didn’t feel like she’d made it yet. “It’s so easy to have disappointments and let-downs in this business that I try not to be too excited when anything nice looks like it’s gonna happen. That way, when good things come about, I can appreciate them more. When the record has really gone all the way on the pop charts – then I’ll feel that I’ve gotten somewhere. Sure. It’s great to see it selling and of course, I’m very happy with all the interest that’s being show. And of course, having the record doing so well in discos – you know, that’s where it all started. It’s the same thing with my previous release. “Honeybee”. But that didn’t crossover ‘pop’ like this one’s doing.”

“Honeybee” was one of the biggest disco records in Britain when it was finally released early this year. Unfortunately, one of those classic cases of a fine record getting lost and losing a lot of its sales impact because of heavy import sales prior to this original release on CBS in the UK. But the story behind “Honeybee” is pretty interesting in itself. ‘Well, we cut it originally around December ’73. It had been written for me by the Steals Brothers in Philadelphia and we put it out through Columbia, with whom I was contracted. Unfortunately, at that time, the company were going through that big payola thing and that really affected how they were working the product. The result was that they never really got behind the record the way they should. We all felt it was a strong pop, commercial sound because I’m not the type of artist that sells straight R&B. The record did actually make the thirties on the soul charts but it didn’t make too much headway, pop-wise, which is where it should have happened. Anyway, everyone was pretty disgusted with the way “Honeybee” just got left around, so my manager, Jay Ellis, just bought the tapes from CBS. When we finally got them, we sold them to MGM and they put it out.”

Again, Gloria feels that the company didn’t get as fully behind the record as they should and the time lag between CBS withdrawing the single and MGM putting it out again killed a whole lot of potential sales. But whatever MGM lost on that one, they made up on Gloria’s updating of the Jackson Five hit. “Although I haven’t been a chart name, I’ve been working solidly playing clubs up and down the East Coast for nearly two years now and one of the tunes we’ve always done is “Never Can Say Goodbye”. So, when it came time to do another session for MGM, I suggested we try it out – with a different tempo from the original version. My manager dug what we wanted to do – so that’s how we cut it. No, I wasn’t worried about doing a song that was previously well known because my version is different. And, the song is nearly five years old now – so it’s not as if it’s brand new anymore.”

Gloria’s initial into the entertainment came back in 1965 when she worked “for about two months!” and although she wanted to get back into it, she found the going tough and abandoned the whole idea until 1971. “A neighbour had heard me singing and one day, we were at this club and he suggested to the owner that I should try working here. Well, I jumped at the chance because I really wanted to get back. My manager came across me a few months after that and like I say, I’ve been working ever since. We travel with a five-piece band – we may add some girl backing singers later – and we’ve played supper clubs, discos, everything. What I try to do is work out different routines for the different venues.”

The next step in the Gaynor career is an album for MGM and Gloria reports that it’s all but complete. “We’ve got more than enough tracks down for the album but we don’t want to do it until we’ve had one or two more singles that really happen. It so often happens that an artist rushes in to do an album with only one real hit behind them – and the album just never really makes it. Oh, we’ve already got a follow-up to “Never Can Say Goodbye” recorded and it’s another oldie. But I don’t wanna a say what yet, in case anyone else goes in and does it! We all think it’s stronger than “Goodbye”. Naturally, I hope so and that this one will be the one. But I’m determined to make sure I build my career because I don’t want to be a golden oldie before my time!”

One glance at the charming Miss Gaynor will assure one and all that there’s no chance of that and if she continues to make first class records of the calibre of “Never Can Say Goodbye”, there’s no doubt that this is just the beginning for her.

 

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