Sheila: the true story of the song “Spacer”, its disco turn

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In 60 years of career, Sheila has never ceased to reinvent herself throughout her artistic career. The 77-year-old artist with 70 million records sold worldwide has been able to cross eras and musical styles to stay in touch with your audience. While the documentary Sheila, tous ces vies will be broadcast this Friday, January 6 on France 3, Planet has decided to tell you the little-known story of one of its biggest hits, Spacer, released in October 1979. This audacious title very dance and disco will confirm his entry into dance clubs and allow him to launch his international career. A title that marks a real turning point in the career of the singer of The school is over and breaks with everything that she had made her success.

As Fabien Lecoeuvre, specialist and historian of French song, tells us, to achieve this disco success, everything actually starts with another song released at the end of the 70s. Sheila indeed released the title Love me baby, first title disco of his career, in 1977. A song which will not be revealed to the public under his name, but under the pseudonym of “S.B.Devotion” “to be able to cross the door of the clubs”. According to the author of 1,001 Secret Song Histories, “if anyone said this was Sheila’s new record, it was has-been”. At that time, “clubs would never have played a Sheila record”.

Claude Carrère, producer of the interpreter of the Three Kings, therefore had the idea of ​​releasing this title Love me baby, originally called Noah’s Ark, to “relaunch Sheila’s career”. “It finally takes a month and a half to reveal that it is a title of Sheila because everyone was buying the ‘S.B.Devotion’. In reality, it is the television programmers who inquire with Carrère records for find out if they could receive the group that sang ‘Love me baby’. Carrère therefore reveals at this time that it is Sheila but maintains that it is a collaboration with the imaginary group S.B Devotion”, details Fabien Lecoeuvre. Now, nightclubs have opened their doors to the artist.

“Love me baby opened the doors to him internationally, at least in Europe, before the success of Spacer three years later in 1980”, insists the specialist in French song. Sheila will then record a cover of Singin’ in the Rain, the world-famous song by Gene Kelly, to “stay in an English and disco repertoire above all”. “It started selling in 11 European countries and then they went international with the Chic group,” says Fabien Lecoeuvre. After having seen Sheila sing in all the European capitals under the name of B.Devotion, Claude Carrère then asked the group, led by Nile Rodgers and very fashionable at the time thanks to their hit Le Freak, to produce a song for Sheila under her real name: this will be the title Spacer.

Sheila remains very proud of this title more than 20 years after its release. In 2020, she wanted to pay tribute to Chic, the New York duo made up of guitarist Nile Rodgers and bassist Bernard Edwards, who composed and produced this album. “I am proud to have been a production of the Chic Organization, before Madonna, Bowie, Diana Ross”, she confided at the time to the daily Le Parisien. “My luck is that he [Nile Rodgers, ndlr] had no preconceptions. He only knew disco from me, not quilts and yé-yé. He wanted me to un-sing. When he sent me Spacer to work on it, the voice was very deep. I thought: ‘Miince, he got the key wrong’. He replied: ‘No, I hate it when you sing in the treble. He proved to me that I was capable of singing with anyone” remembered the artist.

Fabien Lecoeuvre

Sheila was a chart-topper between 1963 and 1983, but then went through many soft spots and hardships in her career, including being swept aside by artists such as Je te donne’s iconic Goldman in the 1980s. 80. Despite everything, “she has this form of intelligence to attack the scene” and to remain present in the media despite the absence of hits. “She was never has-been, but was one of the vintage artists and always knew how to be there, especially by surfing on television shows”, concludes the specialist in French song.