wax Poetics

V.I.P. Connection

“West Coast Drive”

Released 1975
record label Able
Written by Andrew Mason

West Coast Drive

    Like most VIPs, the band responsible for this single is somewhat concealed—not behind sunglasses, but by an almost detail-less label. For dedicated vinyl paparazzis, however, a close examination will reveal who’s behind the tinted shades. The clue is found in the writing credit: Arpadys.

    The odd word first surfaced on a 1973 French novelty record by the Peppers, and seems to have initially been a pen name for drummer Pierre-Alain Dahan and keyboardist Mathias Camison, who made up the core of the group. The two were key session musicians in the French scene, backing up pop stars like Nino Ferrer, while churning out countless hours of instrumental music intended for movie and television use. Telemusic was the label founded to administer these background sounds, and, by the mid-’70s, it had coalesced around the talents of Dahan and an assortment of musicians who would, under their own names and a handful of pseudonyms, release some of the most rhythmically progressive and unabashedly funky music to come from the hexagonal nation. (Fans of the arcane avenue of industrial audio will be familiar with Telemusic’s Rhythmiques, a stunning source of angular funk)

    Throughout the ’70s, Dahan and Camison seemed to inevitably balance their fluffier pop sessions with heavy groove-oriented releases, sometimes combining yin-yang-like on the same piece of vinyl. A good example is Camison’s single “OK Chicago,” a minor pop sensation in Europe, which was backed by “Yellow Train,” an atmospheric track that David Mancuso immediately picked up on at the Loft. Similarly, V.I.P. Connection’s only release backed a bright up-tempo vocal with “West Coast Drive,” a chugging, wordless groove with a dark electric piano solo.

    The dichotomy continued as Dahan found great success in 1977 with the group Voyage, whose “From East to West” reverberated in discos worldwide. The same year saw Telemusic release a magnificently funky instrumental disco session led by Dahan, entitled Arpadys.

    VIPs don’t hang out too much on the west coast of France, preferring the south—the weather’s nicer. Dahan and Co. might’ve never left the studio long enough for a trip to California, but with this laid-back track they created the perfect Pacific Coast Highway, top-down accompaniment.