Since their inception, ESG has affected post-punk, no wave, dance-punk, hip-hop, and various styles of dance music such as house. They fell in with the late '70s and early '80s NYC no wave and post-punk scene, they had their music sampled countless times, and they became a playlist staple at '70s and early '80s dance clubs like the Paradise Garage and the Music Box.
ESG (Emerald, Sapphire and Gold) formed in 1978 in the South Bronx. The band originally consisted of the four Scroggins sisters -- Deborah (bass, vocals), Marie (congas, vocals), Renee (vocals, guitar), and Valerie (drums); although line-up changes have happened many times since their formation, including bandmembers who were neighbors, daughters of original members, and even male band members.
The Scroggins mother bought the band's instruments when they were still teenagers to keep them supposedly busy and away from trouble. They had to teach themselves their instruments, but it wasn't long before they started playing shows and clubs. Soon, Ed Bahlman, the owner of 99 Records (a record shop and a label that included Y Pants, Liquid Liquid, Bush Tetras, and Konk on its roster), was impressed enough to take them under his wing as a manager and producer. Consequentially, ESG and their music fell in with the no wave and post-punk scene of New York City thereafter, even though their music was neither abrasive in anyway or art conscious -- but the group's sparse, heavily rhythmic, and unpolished sound fit right into the New York scene in which Bahlman's label was a significant factor. Bahlman booked them successfully at punk clubs and they were a hit in the underground NYC scene.
After a few singles and EPs in the late '70s and early '80s the band hooked up with Factory Records producer Martin Hannett while he was in the area recording A Certain Ratio's first album, "To Each" in 1981. The 6 song ESG 12" EP on 99 Records from the same year features a particularly unique and widely sampled track, UFO, using Hannett's fondness for reverb, flangers and feedback to make a song that was so unusual it has been very widely sampled, along with other tracks from that record. That EP is a rarity on vinyl that is highly prized by DJs and copies typically sell on Ebay for about $50 with only a dozen or so copies surfacing there in recent years.
Their first full-length LP came with 1983's Come Away with ESG. Unfortunately, their record label had to soon close because of Bahlman's legal battle with Sugarhill over Grandmaster Flash's sampling of Liquid Liquid's "Optimo" caused him financial and mental stress, with Sugarhill's fall into receivership -- and inability to award 99 Records their due settlement -- acting as the final straw. With the closing of 99 Records, ESG disbanded shortly thereafter (1984), but re-formed in the early '90s, heralding their comeback with a self-titled 1991 compilation of previously released material.
In the years since their original formation, the group's work had become popular among hip-hop artists searching for samples, with such acts as TLC, Wu-Tang Clan, Beastie Boys, Big Daddy Kane, Gang Starr, Tricky, Jay Dee (J-Dilla) on his Donuts album, and indie rockers like Unrest and Liars. The group addressed this issue on the 1992 12" EP Sample Credits Don't Pay Our Bills. The album, ESG Live!, was release in 1995 and featured both old and new material.
The band played what was to be their final show on Friday, September 21, 2007 at Chicago's Abbey Pub, during the Estrojam festival. But the band announced that they reformed in 2008 to play their first returning show at NYC's Santos House Party on September 13, 2008. They also claimed that both more shows and new music will emerge in the future.
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