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Wednesday, 26 December, 2001, 08:47 GMT
Mud on the dance floor
Rob Davis
Davis kept Posh Spice off the top twice - by chance, he says
Rob Davis, once the guitarist with Tiger Feet-clad 70s band Mud, is now a highly successful songwriter, discovers BBC News Online's Alex Webb.

Successful comebacks are not that common in pop music. To jump a couple of pop generations and come back in a different genre is almost unheard of.


Would I have known in the 70s it would be like this? No way

Rob Davis
But Rob Davis has done just that - and written two of the UK's biggest dance anthems in the process, Spiller's Groovejet (If This Ain't Love) and Kylie Minogue's Can't Get You Out Of My Head.

Few of the record-buyers who put them at the top of the charts would have been born when Davis first hit the big time, as guitarist with 1970s glam-rockers Mud.

Rob Davis told BBC News Online how he approaches writing a dance smash.

"I might have a little chorus, maybe from sitting down with the guitar, and I'm thinking I can adapt it to a dance thing.

"Or - especially if I'm co-writing - I'll set up some grooves and maybe some chord changes.

"Most people like very simple chord changes for dance, so you might set up a simple bass line and then get a vocal and add other parts later."

Sophie Ellis-Bextor
Ellis-Bextor: the voice of Spiller's smash hit
Can't Get You Out Of My Head was co-written with Cathy Dennis - a challenging partner, says Davis.

"If I'm writing with someone like Cathy, she's very musical, so she wouldn't like a dance track to be all set up - she'd like to be able to change a chord here and there."

The smash hit for Kylie kept Posh Spice out of the top spot - just as Groovejet (If This Ain't Love) did in 2000.

Davis laughs at the suggestion he has something against the former Spice Girl: "I've nothing against Posh, it's just coincidence.

"I've got no control over release dates - and who knows what a record's going to do before release?"

Rob Davis (Photo: Songlink International)
Davis: "Lyrics are very important"
Becoming a hot dance producer and writer has been a long journey for Davis, whose musical heroes were guitarists like Jimi Hendrix, Larry Carlton and 10cc's Eric Stewart.

"Would I have known in the 70s it would be like this? No way," he admits.

"I think in the 70s dance was a mile off, but even in the mid-to-late 70s I was always into black music like the Isley Brothers, and jazz-rock things like Steely Dan.

'Melody'

"But I met Paul Oakenfold in about 1988 and he said to me, 'I know exactly where music is going to go, the house thing is going to be big' - and he started playing me all these things.

"I thought I quite liked it, but it needed a bit more melody.

"Then I saw an opening, to write top lines, melody lines to it, and get more vocals into the club tunes.

"Because I got that from the Mud days - I knew about vocal harmonies and the Beach Boys vibe, and I knew how to adapt that vibe to club music."

It was with DJ Paul Oakenfold that Davis first made an impression on the dance scene, co-writing the dance hit Jibaro for Electra in 1988.

'Left of centre'

Since then Davis's songs and productions have been released by Fragma, Grace, Movement 98 and Coco.

Does he try to get the lyrics to tell a story, or just to feel right?

"I try to get a bit of both, if I can - it's good to have a little meaning in there.

Mud
Davis (left) in Mud: A series of 70s hits
"But with some really famous people, the production is so mega that it drives a really average song through, that's the way it is nowadays.

"I try to start with something that's strong - and it's hard for a writer, you love something because it's your latest thing and you have to get out of that mode and think A&R, think: Is this original, is this going to stand up out there?"

This notion of quality control may be the reason why artists are still queuing up to record his songs.

"There's a rumour of Sophie Ellis-Bextor doing a tune that I did in Stockholm with the Merlin team, who work with Samantha Mumba and others - apparently her A&R team really loves that.

"And I'm doing something with Atomic Kitten, which is like an Anastacia-type vocal."

Relaxation

Davis still stays in touch with the bandmates from Mud, with whom he played for more than a decade from 1968.

The exception is lead singer Les Grey, who lives in Portugal and is very ill.

Davis finds relaxation time rarer now, but he says picking up the guitar is still important.

"I still gig - work's getting a bit mad now, and I think that after this Christmas I'm going to stop, but I still do little pub gigs down in Surrey, where I live."

"I love a Sunday morning pub blues jam, all off the cuff - absolutely brilliant."

See also:

22 Oct 01 | Music
Double chart triumph for Kylie
20 Aug 00 | Entertainment
Posh suffers chart failure
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