I’ve been thinking recently about Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson’s oft-repeated assertion that Epic Records wasn’t enthused about the choice of Quincy as producer for Off The Wall, stating that he was “too jazzy”. I can’t verify whether that (or a variation of it) was said or not said, obviously. I wasn’t there, Michael is no longer with us, and besides; he and Quincy have shown…let’s say…a knack for telling tall tales in the past.
At any rate, the years preceding Off The Wall found Quincy doing a very successful job as producer for The Brothers Johnson as well as steering his own ship; 1978’s “Stuff Like That” was a number one record. BUT, Michael came along and things went into overdrive; Quincy and his team of writers and musicians became even busier, answering the calls to work with Rufus and jazz guitarist George Benson. These were well-established acts that didn’t necessarily need the assist, but they got a lift from it anyway. “Give Me The Night” topped the soul charts (George’s first!) and hit the top five on the pop list, adding a notch in George’s already hit-studded musical belt.
Q’s musical essence is all over the track. Patti Austin’s background arrangements almost steal the show from George, and Rod Temperton’s nightlife-celebrating lyrics are in full effect. However, George manages to keep his flavor present, with his recognizable guitar licks and scat singing darting in and out of the mix.
While I don’t think George ever gave off a “hip” vibe beyond his jazz days, “Give Me the Night” successfully merged modern dance-centric R&B with his (and Quincy’s) jazz chops; giving George (in my opinion) his best song ever and giving music fans yet another song to roller skate to in the early ’80s-a peak era for skating tunes. Watch the video and you’ll see George himself indulging in a little spin!