One of the great early 80s synth-funk-dance hits was created by the tour keyboard player and road manager for the R&B band Kleeer. (Who?) That’s right, Kleeer. They had some R&B hits from about 1979-1985, then broke up. This story takes place around 1982.
David Frank (the keyboardist) and Mic Murphy (the road manager) got together to make music in a duo called The System. Frank was a classically trained pianist who fell in love with synthesizers when he first heard an ARP Odyssey synthesizer. He loved how it sounded so much that he borrowed some money from his father to buy one the day after he first heard one. He then amassed almost every electronic keyboard, drum machine and sequencer he could get his hands on. He moved to New York to become a session musician and was called in to create a dance track for Mirage Records, a subsidiary at the time of venerable label Atlantic Records. He initially wanted to use Madonna (pre-stardom) to sing on the song, but ended up teaming up with Murphy (who he knew from working with Kleeer). The song they created “In Times Of Passion,” became a radio and club hit.
The success of that song intrigued the label to give them an advance for a full length album project. Included in that debut album by the duo was the song “You Are In My System.” It is one of the most iconic songs in The System’s discography, and it is today’s Funky Friday song.
The System’s song became a top ten R&B hit early in 1983. The duo would go on to have four more top ten R&B hits, including their biggest hit, “Don’t Disturb This Groove” from 1987. That song would go to #1 on the R&B chart, and would also be a top 5 pop hit. By 1990, The System’s hits would be done. Frank would go on to become an in-demand session musician, writer and producer, working with Phil Collins (“Sussudio”), Steve Winwood (“Higher Love”), and Christina Aguilera (“Genie In A Bottle”), among many others. Murphy had a brief solo career after the group broke up, charting one hit in the early 90s.
As for today’s song, the story goes that singer Robert Palmer (“Addicted To Love”) heard The System’s song playing in a nightclub in France and decided that he wanted to record a version of it. Later in 1983, he did just that, to the point of even recruiting Frank to play on it. You can hear the similarities to the original in Palmer’s version, which leads me to believe that the story that Frank played on it is true. Palmer’s version became a top ten dance track, doing better than the original on the Billboard dance chart. It was also a sizable hit on the Top Mainstream Rock Tracks chart as well, making the top 40.
I’ll always go with the original as the better version, but Palmer’s is certainly no slouch; with the original’s keyboardist and Palmer’s cool vocal, it sounds plenty good in its own right. Either way, a good song is a good song. Enjoy “You Are In My System” no matter which version you like, and I hope you have a great Friday and weekend! As always, thanks for reading and listening.