ESG were originally a group of four teenage sisters, Renee, Valerie, Marie and Deborah Scroggins and their friend, Tito Libran, who were encouraged to form a band by Ma Scroggins in order to keep her girls off the streets, and out of the gangs, of their native Brooklyn.
They formed at about the time that the original Punk bands were fast retreating over the (critical but perhaps not public) horizon and Post-Punk and Punk-Funk in the form of British groups such as Gang Of Four, Public Image Limited, the Post-Punk version of The Slits, The Pop Group and A Certain Ratio were arriving to take their place.
From the very start ESG were able to create songs that were both infectiously danceable and could hold their own in the more serious and intellectually demanding world of the Post-Punkers.
So it was always likely that they would eventually create a big enough stir to land a recording contract. But no one, including the girls, could have predicted that the Brooklyn band’s vinyl debut would emerge on Manchester’s Factory Records, alongside such distinctly British pioneers as Joy Division, A Certain Ratio and…er…John Dowie.
Then again, nothing, absolutely nothing, in the sister’s long recording career was predictable or even vaguely straightforward.
They emerged on Factory because in 1980, Factory head, Tony Wilson, had organised an American tour for several of his label bands, including A Certain Ratio, and had booked - or, more likely, been given - ESG as a support act. In the event, he was so impressed that he flew the sisters - and Tito - back to Manchester and had them record three tracks with in-house producer - and general mixing desk genius - Martin Hannett, in studio downtime at the end of an A Certain Ratio session.
The resulting three tracks, ‘Moody’, ‘UFO’ and single A-side, ‘You’re No Good’ were a revelation.
Everyone seems willing to pay lip service to the idea that Factory Records’ early output from its roster of British bands influenced in some way practically everything that moved or sounded even vaguely interesting in the 80s and 90s.
But actually, when you scratch the surface a little, the sound that the American Scroggins sisters - and Tito - created on Factory, with the help of Hannett, had more genuine influence on every important dance music genre that emerged in the 80s - from Post-Funk to house to hip hop - than the entire output of all the other more-famous-and-thought-to-be-influential-at-the-time early Factory bands. Except, perhaps, New Order.
Not bad for 30 minutes work, squeezed onto spare recording tape at the end of another band’s day in the studio. And when I say squeezed, I mean squeezed - ‘UFO’, which was subsequently sampled by most of Hip Hop’s royalty including LL Cool J, Public Enemy and Wu-Tang Clan, was captured on the last 3 minutes of spare tape when Hannett asked if they had any ‘short ones’.
‘You’re No Good’ is created entirely out of spaced-out drum and bass patterns with Renee’s vocals - and the other sisters’ screams and yelps - laid on top. And somehow it manages to bridge the gap between The Supremes and ‘Metal Box’-era Public Image Limited and sound like that’s the most natural thing you could possibly imagine.
And exactly 30 years after it was recorded, it is still one of the freshest dance tracks around, still sounding as ahead of the pack now as it did back then, in 1981.
Available on several compilations but the most comprehensive and essential is the double CD set, ‘Dance To The Best Of ESG’: Amazon