Sally Shapiro’s Secret Disco
The tale of Sally Shapiro reads a little like a script to an episode of The Office. The act’s two central figures — Johan Agebjorn and "Sally Shapiro,” whose real identity is unknown — even tell it in awkward deadpan, a habit of their reticent Swedish accents. "We met each other working at the same office, doing administrative work… for an organisation,” admits producer/songwriter Agebjorn. "We got to know each other but we didn’t speak about music. It took several years to discover that we had the same musical tastes.” The titular singer adds: "It started when we were singing Christmas carols together, and Johan said, ‘Oh, you have an Italo disco voice.’”
It’s easy to picture the socially inelegant Michael Scott cajoling mousy Pam Beesley into a similar project, considering the Euro-centric subgenre’s history, which is as obscure as it is considered cheesy. But with Disco Romance, the duo’s debut, Sally Shapiro has become an underground hit, sending hipsters and DJs, clubbers and collectors in search of the forgotten retro-futuristic, synth-heavy sound forged by electronic pioneer Giorgio Moroder.
Agebjorn’s swirling synths, bubbling pulses and wind-swept fills provide the perfect foundation for Shapiro’s apathetic vocal tenderness. Often viewed as a svengali partnership, that’s exactly what the pair were looking for: to follow the trend popularised in the ’80s by Eurobeat producers Stock Aiken Waterman and past Italo disco acts. "I chose [the name] Sally Shapiro because we were inspired by artists like Valerie Dore and Katy Gray, who also had a team of producers and writers behind them using the name of a singer as the title for the project,” explains Agebjorn. "We wanted to make it as authentic as possible in the ’80s disco tradition.”
As for that identity, Shapiro herself clarifies her secrecy is both a part of the game and also irrelevant. "[My real name] has nothing to do with pop music. It’s like how it was in the ’80s, it’s nothing special.” Unlike the music, that is.
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