Off White

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Off White
James White and the Blacks - Off White.jpg
Studio album by James White and the Blacks
Released 1979
Recorded September–December 1978
Genre No wave, jazz, punk, post-disco
Length 42:06
Label ZE
Producer James Chance
James White and the Blacks chronology
(as Contortions)
Off White
James White & the Blacks
(1980)James White & the Blacks1980

Off White is a 1979 album by American no wave band James White and the Blacks.


In late 1978, ZE Records co-founder Michael Zilkha approached James Chance and offered Chance $10,000 to record a disco album.[1] Zilkha gave little direction and asked the band for its own take on the genre.[2] Anya Phillips, Chance's manager and girlfriend, came up with the idea to rename James Chance and the Contortions to James White and the Blacks for the album.[1] An alternate name, James White and His Blacks, was rejected by Zilkha. Phillips and the band put together outfits resembling 1960s soul singers.[3]

Chance said that he was interested in the monotonous sound of disco music because it "doesn't have beginnings and ends".[4] His persona is an homage to soul and funk musician James Brown.[5] Chance was also intrigued by the shock value of a punk group embracing disco.[6] He received disco records for free and passed time listening to a record for several seconds before throwing it out a window.[7] Chance wrote a piece for the first issue of East Village Eye, praising disco and denouncing "outdated, cornball 'new/no wave' drivel".[6][8]

Off White includes contributions from Lydia Lunch, Robert Quine, and Vivienne Dick.[9] The band spend most of its budget recording the album's first side and used instrumentals for the second side.[10] The album often discusses racial issues, and most of its titles are references to race.[11] Some responded to the Off White with accusations of racism.[12] Chance later responded, "I was the one that brought black music onto the whole punk scene, and I took a lot of shit for it…I was just playing with my whole image of a white person doing black music."[13]

James White and the Blacks promoted the album with a February 1979 performance at Club 57 in the East Village, Manhattan.[12] ZE rented Irving Plaza for the album's launch party, where the band lip synced its songs. The band's live performances included two teenage dancers called the Disco Lolitas.[3]

The band released "Contort Yourself" as a 12" vinyl single.[9] The song originally appeared on Buy, and the group re-recorded it with a disco beat. Chance observed that the tempo was too fast to be played in discos, so ZE labelmate August Darnell created a remix of it. Darnell used a slower tempo and wrote a new guitar part.[14] James White and the Blacks' version of "Contort Yourself" was later included in ZE's 1981 Mutant Disco compilation,[15] its 2003 NY No Wave compilation,[16] Strut Records' 2008 Disco Not Disco 3,[17] and ZE's 2009 compilation for its 30th anniversary.[18]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[19]
Robert Christgau B-[20]

Upon the album's release, Billboard magazine said that it "commands attention" and described the music as "savage, uncompromising, sometimes dissonant, but always interesting".[5] Robert Christgau described it as "pretty good to dance to" but added that "like so much disco music it gets tedious over a whole side."[20] AllMusic characterized Off White as "an acquired taste" containing "some of the most challenging, intriguing music to emerge from the post-punk era."[19] The Guardian included Off White in its list of "1000 albums to hear before you die".[21]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by James White unless otherwise noted.

Side One
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Contort Yourself" (produced by August Darnell)   6:15
2. "Stained Sheets" Chance, Lydia Lunch 5:51
3. "(Tropical) Heat Wave" Irving Berlin 3:55
4. "Almost Black, pt. 1" Chance, Kristian Hoffman 3:17
Side Two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "White Savages" Chance, Hoffman 4:52
2. "Off Black"   6:29
3. "Almost Black, pt. 2" Chance, Hoffman 3:59
4. "White Devil"   4:36
5. "Bleached Black"   2:52


Additional personnel[edit]


  1. ^ a b Masters 92.
  2. ^ Howe, Zoë (July 7, 2010). "Bow To The Devilish Prince: James Chance Interviewed". The Quietus. Retrieved November 22, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b Reynolds 155.
  4. ^ Silverton, Pete (February 17, 1979). "No New York". Sounds. 
  5. ^ a b "James White & the Blacks – Off White". Billboard: 66. November 24, 1979. 
  6. ^ a b Reynolds 154.
  7. ^ Moore and Coley 95.
  8. ^ Smith, Duncan; Chance, James; Phillips, Anya (May 1979). "White & Co. Move Uptown" (PDF). East Village Eye. 1 (1): 8. Retrieved November 22, 2014. 
  9. ^ a b Masters 93.
  10. ^ Moore and Coley 98.
  11. ^ Young 40.
  12. ^ a b Masters 94.
  13. ^ Mamone, Jordan N. (March 18, 2003). "Wasteland Survivor: James Chance keeps making it, any way he can.". New York Press. Retrieved November 22, 2014. 
  14. ^ Kitching, Sean (November 3, 2014). "Designed To Kill: James Chance & Melt Yourself Down's Pete Wareham". The Quietus. Retrieved November 22, 2014. 
  15. ^ Linhardt, Alex (December 7, 2003). "Various Artists: Mutant Disco". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved November 22, 2014. 
  16. ^ Harvell, Jess (October 9, 2006). "Mutants on the Bounty". Seattle Weekly. Retrieved November 22, 2014. 
  17. ^ Kellman, Andy. "Disco Not Disco: Post Punk, Electro & Leftfield Disco Classics, Vol. 3 - Various Artists". AllMusic. Retrieved November 22, 2014. 
  18. ^ Powell, Mike (August 14, 2009). "Various Artists: Ze 30: Ze Records Story 1979-2009". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved November 22, 2014. 
  19. ^ a b Valdivia, Victor W. Off White at AllMusic. Retrieved January 30, 2012.
  20. ^ a b Christgau, Robert. "CG: James White and the Blacks". Retrieved November 22, 2014. 
  21. ^ "1000 albums to hear before you die". The Guardian. November 22, 2007. Retrieved November 22, 2014. 


External links[edit]