Mates’ Crates: Delegation – Heartache No. 9

Mates’ Crates, a series headed up by our friend Andrei Sandu, dives into the tales behind records and digs deeper into our connections to music. Back to my disco roots this time with a classic by Delegation. 

Label: Mercury | Year: 1980 | Discogs: Delegation – Delegation

This may have been the song that got me into disco all those years ago, so I was delighted to find it on the shelf at Dig Vinyl on Melt My Heart’s trip up to Liverpool in February.

Having been drawn to electronic music by Romanian radio stations playing a mix of Europop and tech house, one of the DJs I found myself listening to was Richard Dinsdale (who has since relaunched himself as Weiss). Of all places, the “Back to Studio 54” segments halfway though his mixes were my first foray into disco. And of all my finds there, Delegation’s “Heartache No.9” stands out.

It was only this month – twelve years later – that I learned Delegation were British. Formed in Birmingham in 1976, their career was launched by highly underrated songwriter Ken Gold, who wrote for the likes of Aretha Franklin, Billy Ocean and The Real Thing.

Much like Gold himself, the band enjoyed more success in the US than in the UK, with several singles including “Oh Honey” entering Billboard’s R&B chart. It has since been sampled over a hundred times, most notably on Dizzee Rascal’s “Chillin’ Wiv Da Man Dem“!

Falsetto lead singer Len Coley left the band shortly after “Oh Honey” was released, and the band’s advert in Melody Maker Magazine was answered by Bruce Dunbar, who was visiting from the US at the time. It is Dunbar’s voice you hear on “Heartache No.9” and “You And I“, from the band’s second album, released in 1979. The band continued to perform until the end of the eighties but didn’t score any more hits. Members started to leave, though as of 2020 Rick Bailey was still performing as Delegation.

Having now spent more than a decade digging as deep as I can into disco from all around the world, I’d be lying if I said I still count “Heartache No.9” amongst my favourite records. But back then something about it – more so than all other the disco I’d heard – made me pause and look again. From that came funk, soul, jazz and so much more.

For that I owe this band a lot.