The Americans had Gloria Gaynor, we had Tina Charles. And if there was going to be a play-off for the ultimate Queen of Disco, my money'd be on Tina as the best of them all.
She actually started making records back at the end of the 60s - she claims Elton John as a backing vocalist on an early single - but it wasn't until 5000 Volts released 'I'm On Fire' that she became famous. And even then it was an accident: Tina sang the record, but she wasn't officially the lead vocalist of the band, just a session-singer who happened to have a better voice than Luan Peters, the woman who mimed on TV. (Amongst her other session-work from this era, you can hear her on Cockney Rebel's 'Come Up And See Me'.) It wasn't an unusual arrangement, but the press found out, the Sun reported it under the predictable '5000 Volts Shocker' and suddenly Tina was famous.
Mind you, it didn't do her much good initially. She joined 5000 Volts for one more single and then floundered a little. A meeting with Lee Vanderbilt, however, introduced her to Biddu, who was looking for a female vocalist to augment his growing stable. The first fruits of their relationship was 'I Love To Love', an instant #1 and one of the classics of early British disco.
There followed a series of hits and at least three albums (there may have been more, but I've only got three), all of which kinda trod over the same ground but were consistently brilliant. The best of this stuff is now available on CD and it sounds as beautiful as ever. There's some of Gerry Shurey's best arrangements, there's some genuinely strong material from Biddu and Vanderbilt and, above all, there's Tina's wonderfully exuberant shout of a voice - she was fantastic, the best British r&b pop singer since Lulu.
After Shurey's untimely death, things fell apart a little and, despite records like 'Rolling', an attempt to cash-in on the roller-skating fad, there were no more hits to come. By this stage, anyway, Tina's career was being overshadowed by that of her partner (and former backing musician), Trevor Horn.
Happily, Tina's still working, benefiting from the reappraisal of the classic disco era, and over the last few years has been making new music, some of it in collaboration with Hi-NRG star Hazell Dean.
1976 I Love To Love (But My Baby Loves To Dance) (#1)
1976 Love Me Like A Lover (#31)
1976 Dance Little Lady Dance (#6)
1976 Dr Love (#4)
1977 Rendezvous (#27)
1977 Love Bug - Sweets For My Sweet (#26)
1978 I'll Go Where The Music Takes Me (#27)
Tina Charles hits big with 'I Love To Love'