How I Became a Brazilian Disco Star

By Scott Nygaard

The music business can be such a silly and ludicrous thing that I’ve never understood why the staid word business is used to describe it. Music circus may be a more descriptive moniker. I’ve spent most of my adult life in some relation to the music circus, but I still could not have predicted that an album consisting of old-time and bluegrass versions of Bob Dylan songs would end up being part of a Brazilian-country-disco hit. Yes, go back and reread that last sentence; there are no errors in it.

The album in question—Tim O’Brien and the O’Boys, Red on Blonde—was released by Sugar Hill in 1996 and quickly became the O’Boys most successful recording. We held an album release party in Nashville that was attended by a couple of representatives from the Brazilian record label Paradoxx (an oddly appropriate name for what would follow). Soon afterward, they contacted Tim to ask if they could release Red on Blonde in Brazil with a few added cuts of some of Dylan’s more popular songs, and we eagerly agreed to the offer.

After a long period of silence from Paradoxx, we heard that they decided to make a dance remix of one of the songs, “Señor (Tales of Yankee Power).” This was rather hard to imagine, but Tim agreed not to pass judgment until he heard what they did to it. More time passed, and we forgot about it. Then one day a tape arrived at Sugar Hill containing a few cuts from an album entitled Country Dance with the aforementioned dance mix and the news that it was a big hit in dance clubs in Brazil.

The remix was so ridiculous that all we could do was laugh. The acoustic bass had been removed, and a hyperactive ’70s-era rhythm track of synthesized bass, drums, and keyboards had been added. The tempo had increased, though the pitch remained the same. The chorus repeated each time around, unlike the original, and the track faded out with the same guitar solo I’d played earlier in the song. A few months later we received the CD in the mail and discovered that they’d given an even more drastic treatment to our version of “Forever Young,” adding an intro that bore no resemblance to the original. I listened with a grin on my face until I noticed that a beat or two seemed to be missing from the middle of my guitar solo. Not in the rhythm section, just in the solo. So I ended my solo two beats before everyone else. The rest of the CD was filled with performances by such dubious country personalities as Guy Brook, Shanaia T., and Willie Idol.

In retrospect, I really should have seen this coming. Tim and Mollie O’Brien and the O’Boys had performed in Brazil a few years ago as part of a USIA-sponsored tour of South America. As fans of Brazilian music, we asked our hosts if there was any good music to be heard in town. One person kindly offered to take us around, and the first place she took us was, you guessed it, a disco.