wax Poetics

Gichy Dan

Gichy Dan’s Beachwood #9

Released 1979
record label RCA
Written by Greg Casseus

album cover for Gichy Dan's Beachwood 9
album cover for Gichy Dan's Beachwood 9

Someday the world will finally, finally wake up to the widescreen genius of the collected work of August Darnell in all its myriad forms. While much of it is available in used record bins worldwide for extremely affordable prices, all of it contains an absolute wealth of lessons in style and fun. Kid Creole and the Coconuts was the vehicle built to conquer the world in the ’80s, but it’s been Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band, the earlier band Darnell led in the ’70s with his brother Stony Browder, that has maintained consistent popularity over the ensuing decades due to a beloved 1976 debut album with much-sampled classics like “Cherchez La Femme,” “Sunshower,” and “I’ll Play the Fool.”

But whereas a followup Dr. Buzzard album several years later proved disappointing, another Darnell production in 1979 emerged, also on RCA, that proved a match for the classic Dr. Buzzard album: Gichy Dan’s Beachwood #9. Gichy Dan, real name Frank Passalaqua, was a Staten Island crooner with a smooth voice around whom Darnell built (that is, wrote and produced) a fantastic album with the same mix of funky Caribbean/pan-global grooves and nostalgic jazz-age hipster moves all rendered in a witty, literate, and highly melodic way.

It’s very much like Dr. Buzzard one step further, and well-informed New York DJs have long known to reach for tracks like “Laissez-Faire” and “You Can’t Keep a Good Man Down/So So Celina” at certain crucial moments to utterly surprise and delight the dancefloor. “On a Day Like Today” is the other best-known track here, being a firm favorite of more adventurous house DJs. The saga of scheduled and suddenly canceled reissues of this amazing album is a long one but at least it’s finally available for streaming complete with all relevant 12-inch remixes as bonus tracks, not to mention the addition of the 1981 club classic “Cowboys and Gangsters.”