“On New Year’s Eve, 1977, we were invited to meet with Sergio Miramontes at Studio 54. She wanted to interview us about recording her next album. At that time, our music was fairly popular — ‘Dance, Dance, Dance’ was a big hit and ‘Everybody Dance’, although more underground, was doing very well, too — but Grace Jones didn’t leave our name at the door and the doorman wouldn’t let us in.
Studio 54 was that kind of place. Our music might be playing inside, but the place was packed for New Year’s Eve and this was early in our career. Anyway, my apartment happened to be one block away, so Bernard and I went there to sort of quell our sorrows. We grabbed a couple of bottles of champagne from the corner liquor store and then went back to my place, plugged in our instruments and started jamming.
“And since we were feeling bad, we played music to make us feel good. We started jamming on the now-famous riff — Bernard and I were particularly good at making up riffs and jamming together. We were really into jamming and we’d often start writing songs that way, sometimes drawing on ideas that were floating around. In this case, however, the riff was super, super simple, so it didn’t have to be pre-planned. It’s not like I’d been saving it. It was just something that happened. I had always liked the Cream song “Sunshine of Your Love”, and I wanted to do a sort of riff song for Chic, although not a complete linear riff — that wouldn’t be like Chic — so I incorporated a little linear lick and we started singing, ‘fuck off!’ ‘Aaaaahh, fuck off!’
“We were so fucked off at what had happened. I mean, it was Studio 54, it was New Year’s Eve, it was Grace Jones, and we were wearing the most expensive outfits that we had — back then, in the late ’70s, our suits must have cost us a couple of thousand bucks each, and our really fancy shoes had got soaked trudging through the snow. So ‘Fuck Off’ was a protest song, and we actually thought it was pretty good — ‘Aaaaahh, fuck off!’ It had a vibe. I was thinking ‘This could be the anthem of everybody who gets cut off on the street by a cab driver or any kids who want to say this to their parents.’ You know, ‘Hey, I wasn’t saying it, man! I was just playing the record.’ “We really had pretty big designs on completing the song as ‘Fuck Off’.
You’ve got to remember, we didn’t think of that prior to sitting down and playing. Once we did sit down and play and started singing that hook, it sounded good; just as good as ‘freak out’. In fact, had we not come up with ‘fuck off’ we would never have written ‘Freak Out’ and some other song would have been our big hit record. We were screaming it: ‘Aaaaahh, fuck off!’ Bernard and I usually wrote the hook of a song first, and then once we felt we had a chorus that would pay off, the rest of the song would follow. So, that night we actually converted ‘fuck off’ to ‘freak out’. That was part of the process that first night. First, we changed it from ‘fuck off’ to ‘freak off’, and that was pretty hideous. We were singing it and just stumbling over ‘freak off’, because it was so lame by comparison.
Then, all of a sudden it just hit me. For one second the light bulb went on and I sang ‘Aaaaahh, freak out!'”
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