How a 1981 hit for Chaka Khan powered Stardust’s Music Sounds Better With You… [July 1998]
Stardust’s Music Sounds Better With You was released on this day (20 July) in 1998, and became one of the most infectious hits of that summer (and, let’s be honest, any summer since).
It would go on to be the French house collective’s – comprised of Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter, Alan Braxe, and vocalist Benjamin Diamond – only release, but the iconic, Michael Gondry-directed video, heavily filtered vocals and pounding beats, means that it remains arguably the high water mark for the ‘French touch’ movement.
The track would be nothing, however, if it weren’t for the ridiculously catchy guitar lick it is built around, taken from disco queen Chaka Khan’s 1981 track Fate, from the album What Cha’ Gonna Do for Me.
What Cha’ Gonna Do for Me was Khan’s third album, three years on from the breakthrough debut Chaka (which featured I’m Every Woman as its powerful opener).
The album features collaborations from jazz legend Dizzy Gillespie, keyboard wizard Herbie Hancock, and some of the best session musicians in the business, including Japan-born Hiram Bullock, who provided the iconic guitar hook on Fate.
Renowned as one of the industry’s leading jazz-funk guitarists, Bullock loaned his guitar talents to artists such as Steely Dan (on Gaucho), Paul Simon (on One Trick Pony), Billy Joel (for The Stranger), as well as Sting (on a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s Little Wing).
He also released a number of albums under his own name – including 1986’s excellent From All Sides – and would go on to be a key member of the house band on David Letterman’s Late Night show. Check out his serious skills in the video below.
Bullock died in July 2008, almost exactly ten years on from the release of Music Sounds Better With You.
“I think he was the greatest guitar player ever, with the exception perhaps of Jimi Hendrix,” Late Night’s Paul Shaffer told the New York Times at the time of his passing. “Nobody was ever better.”
The world of house music owes him a debt of gratitude as well.
As author Ryan Alexander Diduck told FACT Magazine last year, “Structurally speaking, ‘Music Sounds Better With You’ broke markedly with dance music conventions of the day. There were no bombastic build-ups, no mammoth breakdowns. No drop. Rather, the ‘Fate’ sample could theoretically loop on happily forever, extending a state of ‘hyper-stasis’.”
Happy birthday, Music Sounds Better With You!