wax Poetics

Opus Seven


Released 1979
record label Source Records
Written by Jon Kirby

Opus Seven "Bussle"
Opus Seven "Bussle"

Like most semi-industrious Southern towns, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, was, in musical terms, doing its thing in the 1970s. Aside from hosting the usual slew of national acts, Winston-Salem was home to nationally recognized artists like the Blenders, the Eliminators, and Odyssey Five. But Opus Seven, previously the Superiors Band, had stuck it out the longest. After a series of popular local releases through the early ’70s, Opus Seven used their own money to record a collection of songs with hopes of gaining major-label attention. Meanwhile, in New York City, MCA was entrusting their vice president of marketing, Logan Westbrooks, with a large sum of money to start a subsidiary, which would come to be known as Source Records. After striking gold with his first release, “Bustin’ Loose” by Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers, he would follow suit with “Bussle,” the first single by Carolina phenoms Opus Seven.

Recorded at Apogee Studios in Atlanta, Georgia, Opus Seven took a shine to disco, because, as front man Sam Hamlin Jr. explains, “that’s what was going on at the time.” Regardless, “Bussle” is a four-on-the-floor disco delicacy—chonky horns careen around the voluptuous curves of this dance-floor fable, with the astrological consciousness of Earth, Wind and Fire but the roller-skating prowess of the Crown Heights Affair. Electronics are totally absent from this recording, apart from a series of synth incisions made during breaks in the harmonized chorus. Hand drums and tambourine are played with mechanical precision. Plus, it’s a song about dancing, and I think that’s something we can all get behind.

Opus Seven was enjoying its fair share of success, playing East Winston haunts like the Dungeon and the Stag, and also touring with the likes of Kool and the Gang, the Commodores, and Confunkshun. But the gas crisis of 1979 changed everything. Like the nation’s depleted gas pumps, performance opportunities also dried up. Clubs, suffering a drop in attendance, began hiring DJs for a fraction of what bands were charging. The final straw would occur after a New Year’s Eve show in Columbia, South Carolina, when Opus Seven’s trailer would jackknife, leaving the members unharmed but strewing their equipment all over the highway. Songs like “Bussle,” however, have managed to withstand the test of time, equipment spills and gas shortages be damned.