Music: Revisiting the Bops of The Three Degrees

The Three Degrees were a staple of the British pop charts from the 1970s onwards, yet in our opinion, do not always receive the praise that they deserve. We had the pleasure of seeing the ladies (now Helen Scott, Valerie Holiday and Freddie Pool) in Edinburgh as part of their UK tour and getting the chance to revisit some of their classics.

The American vocal group originated from Philadelphia under the line-up of Fayette Pinkney, Linda Turner and Shirley Porter. As the group have evolved over the years the line-up has rotated with Janet Harmon, Sundray Tucker, Sonia Goring, Miquel Brown, Vera Brown, Rhea Harris, Victoria Wallace, Cynthia Garrison and Sheila Ferguson all serving stints in the group for varying lengths of time.

The currently line-up of Scott, Holiday and Pool work seamlessly together and may as well be the original line-up given the slickness of their act and the gorgeous vocals they produce. So let’s take a stroll down memory lane or for those unfamiliar, have a new induction to the many bops of The Three Degrees.

Dirty Ol’ Man (1973)
UK Chart: –

This sultry disco anthem takes on the sadly never-ending practice of dirty old men praying on youthful beauties. Surprisingly progressive in its attack on old pervs, Dirty Ol’ Man’s message is still one that is relevant for the 2019 audiences.

The Year of Decision (1974)
UK Charts: #13

Another disco-flavoured midtempo, The Year of Decision is an uplifting pop number that blends together the wholesome three-piece’s warm vocals.

TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia) (1974)
UK Charts: #22

If this is how Philadelphia sounds then we want to go. This vocal trio delivered an upbeat Philly soul disco number that boasts brassy instrumentation and a classic feel. No surprises that this reached #1 in the US Billboard Charts.

Get Your Love Back (1974)
UK Charts: #34

Another firm favourite for 3D fans is the Sheila Ferguson fronted Get Your Love Back – another belting disco-pop number that soars thanks to the shimmering delights of its chorus.

When Will I See You Again (1974)
UK Charts: #1

The band’s biggest UK hit reached the top spot in our charts and narrowly missed out on being the trio’s second US number one by one spot. This production from Gamble and Huff (the premier producers of Philly Soul) and is one of the only songs where every line is a question – or an ‘Ooooooooh aaaaaaaaaaah precious moments.’

Givin’ Up, Givin’ In (1978)
UK Charts: #12

Moving later in the 1970s, the girls moved onto a more contemporary dance sound on a number of Giorgio Moroder productions on album, New Dimensions. Givin’ Up, Givin’ In is a blistering synth-laden anthem that takes the soulful vocals of the trio and pairs them with high-octane dance production.

Woman In Love (1979)
UK Charts: #3

Another New Dimensions track, and perhaps the most old fashioned on the album – but a classic nonetheless. This gentle ballad was a hit with the UK public, charting at #3.

The Runner (1979)
UK Charts: #10

Moving away from the soulful slow tempo Woman In Love, The Runner gets things squarely back to the dancefloor in tremendous fashion. With cowbell, blasting synths and soaring vocals, The Runner is an out and out bop.

Jump the Gun (1979)
UK Chart: #48

The trio reteamed with Giorgio Moroder for New Dimensions’ follow-up, 3D, featuring single Jump the Gun. Whilst the album never found the same success as its predecessor, Jump the Gun, is a tremendous disco track with echoes of Donna Summer’s Hot Stuff about it.

Liar (1983)
UK Charts: #97

The ladies’ first entry into the UK charts in the eighties was standalone single, Liar. Whilst it didn’t exactly set the charts aflame, Liar is an underrated gem with rippling synths and deliciously camp costuming and choreography from the our three favourites. This also saw Sheila Ferguson take on writing and co-production duties.

The Heaven I Need (1985)
UK Charts: #42

The ladies edged further up the charts with mid-eighties single The Heaven I Need which saw them team-up with up and coming production house Stock Aitken and Waterman. The track wasn’t the hit it deserved to be, but fans regard this as a 3D classic.

This is the House (1985)
UK Charts: –

Another track involving Peter Waterman was This is the House. Blending R&B with the traditional SAW sound produces a curious mix that stands as one of the group’s most interesting compositions. This is the House is an underrated treat that makes us wish we got a full Three Degrees SAW album.

Tie U Up (1989)
UK Charts: –

One of the singles from the ladies’ …And Holding album from 1989 was Tie U Up, whilst this didn’t pester the UK charts it did pair The Three Degrees with Jam & Lewis inspired production.

Holding Back (2010)
UK Charts –

Before releasing their most recent studio album (2016’s Strategy – Our Tribute To Philadelphia), the ladies returned to the dance sound that met them with much success. Holding Back was the result, and was remixed numerous times including one by Klubkidz below. Pairing the 3D ladies warm vocals with slick dance production resulted in a modern 3D classic.