Specialising in percussive post-punk disco, Liquid Liquid emerged in the crazily creative New York of ESG, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Afrika Bambaata, Amos Poe, Jim Jarmusch and Lydia Lunch.

Signed to independent 99 Records, they’re best known for their 1983 12″ EP Optimo, the title track of which would go on to give both a Sunday club night in Glasgow’s Sub Club and the DJ duo behind the night their names. But much as I love that ‘samba punk’ track, my favourite song on the EP is Cavern and here it is:

Don’t you just love Richard McGuire’s two-note bassline?

Grandmaster Melle Mel certainly did. The writing credit for his track White Lines (Don’t Do It) was assigned to him together with Sugar Hill Records co-owner Sylvia Robinson.

99’s head honcho Ed Bahlman thought this crossed the line (white or otherwise) and took legal action. A court battle ensued. Not the only one to involve Sugar Hill. In one of the most blatant musical thefts of the era, The Sugarhill Gang had nicked the instrumental introduction of Chic’s Good Times, composed by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers for Rapper’s Delight. Edwards and Rodgers launched a copyright infringement lawsuit, and there was only going to be one winner there.

Not quite such good times for The Sugarhill Gang – who also copied sections of their rhymes from other rappers like MC Grandmaster Caz and took the beginning of their track from British disco act Love De-Luxe’s Here Comes That Sound Again.

How did the Liquid Liquid case go? As Terry Tolkin, a 99 Records employee, put it on his YouTube channel: ‘After a furious two year precedent setting legal war, we won a quarter of a million dollar judgement.’

Unfortunately, this is one of those good news, bad news scenarios. Here’s the bad news. ‘Two weeks later Sugarhill Records declared bankruptcy and never paid 99 a single penny.’

Sadly, the case bankrupted 99 too and soon a disillusioned Liquid Liquid disbanded, albeit they later reunited after a lengthy absence – two highlights being performing with the Optimo deejays in 2008 at London’s Barbican and opening up for LCD Soundsystem at that act’s ‘farewell’ show at Madison Square Garden in 2011.

Before the reunion, a silver lining of sorts had emerged via the Worst Album Ever Made according to Q magazine – Thank You, a 1995 Duran Duran covers collection (I should point out the Q named it worst ever album in 2006, before Mumford & Sons, Ed Sheeran and Gerry Cinnamon had yet embarked on their recording careers). Thank You included a version of White Lines, which, no thank you, I never want to hear but at least this resulted in Liquid Liquid finally receiving some well-deserved royalty payments for their songwriting.

So what do I think of White Lines? The Grandmaster & Melle Mel* ‘original’ that is?

Firstly, I’m no fan of being preached to by musicians, especially by ones who were allegedly hoovering up a not inconsiderable amount of ching up their own noses while the track was being recorded.

But hey, I utterly love the urgency they inject into the song and I am fond of a bit of rang dang diggedy dang di-dang. It’s a fantastic listen, addictive even.

For more on Liquid Liquid click here.

*If you’re wondering about the Grandmaster Flash & Melle Mel billing on the single’s sleeve, that was a Sugar Hill ploy to sell more records by giving the impression of Flash involvement as he was already a name after The Message, a top ten single in Britain and NME’s Track of the Year in 1982. He had nothing to do with this song, though. Call me sceptical but I’m beginning to think the label was about as trustworthy as the guy who called me last week about my Amazon package even though I refuse to use Amazon.