1980 + 1981: Ai No Corrida

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Music videos from about the late '70s to the early '80s fascinate me. They are demented and sad, and look like seedy snuff films where if you watch at least five minutes of them you will have a curse put upon you till 2037 or something. Considered me damned as nothing prepared me for the visual mind bend of Chaz Jankel's 1980 single "Ai No Corrida". It's a Night Gallery episode on acid or a fever dream after eating bad Taco Bell. A scary plastic faced man. Lots of tulle. Explosions. A lady coming out of nowhere to play the trumpet --- it's screwed up low budgetry to the 10th power and it's marvelous.

Still "Ai No Corrida" is an amazing song. A-mazing. Zany, funky, infectious, and gives a complete middle finger to the 'Disco Sucks' age by turning the genre on its ear for the 1980s. But I know what you're thinking, who is this White guy and why is he singing Quincy Jones' "Ai No Corrida", right? Well, Jones' version is actually a cover of Jankel's debut single. Jankel began his career in the British rock outfit, The Blockheads, but when he left the group his interest in mixing funk elements into rock led him to forge a solo career where he could flex those ideas onto an experimental self-titled debut that was released in 1980. "Ai No Corrida" was the first single off of that record, and it bubbled under the radar, till Jones politely snatched the song for his hit 1981 record, The Dude, and brought it to prominence.

It's kind of a shame that Jankel barely gets the credit for his own song as Jones' sharper and more spruced up version (which features vocals from Patti Austin) went on to become an R&B top 10 hit as well as scored him a Grammy for Best Instrumental Arrangement (I still think it's crappy people can get Grammys for covering other people songs...). Though I like both versions, Jankel's original piece, on the other hand, is about eight prime minutes of extensive groove. He's not the greatest singer, but he makes up for that by crafting a multi-layered dancefloor epic that feels like disco, but is darker in tone, and from the sound of its complexity, it's really no surprise why a legendary composer like Jones wanted to get his hands on it.

So what does "Ai No Corrida" actually mean? I love the Internet because I've wondered this for years growing up on Quincy Jones' version and thought they were saying a dirty come-on in some made-up language this side of Ubbi dubbi. "Ai No Corrida" actually translates from Spanish to the "the bullfight of love" and is the original title of the much-banned erotic French-Japanese art film, In The Realm of the Senses which revolves around a storyline about a scorned woman who cuts off and keeps in her pocket her lover's, um, "stuff", goes a little insane, and later comes out of prison a feminist icon. Groove on.


  1. im stunned that this wasn't a quincy original.... he didn't even do much to it! I hope he made money off quincy. this is one of my fave quincy jones songs... sorry Chaz Jankels

    1. I was stunned too when I first stumbled on this fact. Jones' is like a carbon copy, just shorter...which was a wee bit disappointing to me, but eh, what can you do? I too hope Jankel got money for it, lots of good money for it, lol, because it's gotta suck that someone else gets a huge hit AND a Grammy from something you composed.


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