“Don’t Disturb This Groove” by The System is another one of the defining tunes of 1987 in my book. The mellow but strong synthesized groove and clever title hook seemed to serve as a soundtrack to many of our long drives and excursions for about three years after it was released. And like the unhurried synth groove concocted by group members David Frank and Mic Murphy, the song took a long time to build up to the summit of the charts, seeing a release in January of ’87, hitting the top of the R&B charts in May, and making it all the way up to #4 pop by July. It seems that as the temperature warmed up, the appeal of the mellow yet potent synthesizer track became more and more irresistible. And in the end, the song became the biggest hit for one of the defining musical entities of the ’80s, in influence if not massive sales. Keyboardist David Frank was a key figure in ’80s R&B synth programming, besides his own records, contributing to records by groups like Kleer, Chaka Khan, and Phil Collins. It has also been expressed by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis that The System’s records were very influential on their own technological jams. “Don’t Disturb This Groove” stands out as a highly synthesized song that grooves in as human a manner as possible.
The song begins by musically setting up the groove that the title tells us not to interrupt! A highly melodic yet grooving digital Clavinet part gets it going over a big fat drum machine part. The bass line of the piece was always very interesting to me, large intervals played in an almost robotic, machine making calculations manner, on a fat analog synth patch while moving through the tune’s pretty chord changes. Funky muted guitars add to the groove as digitally synthesized bell tones play lazy arpeggios on top of the track. The track begins with a long interlude of music as singer Mic Murphy ad libs just a little, “I’m in heaven.”
Murphy asks his girl to excuse him for a moment, he’s “In another world.” He goes on to describe an idyllic romantic situation, saying “With Venus/and with Cupid/the picture’s very clear.” The song then hits a break for him to sing, “Hang a sign up on the door/it says don’t disturb this groove.” At which the synthesizer bass groove gets more active, agitated, aggressive and in a word, funky! A Female voice comes in to sing with Murphy on the active chorus section, which ends rather shortly and unusually, putting all the momentum back into another verse.
“Don’t Disturb This Groove” is a song that personally makes me feel as good as any other good piece of music I can think of. It’s unique, slow crawling , deep and funky synthesized soundscape, matching depth with airiness, seemed to serve as a near perfect aural metaphor for some of the best days and feelings of my youth. But this song is by no means limited to those days, because it took until I became an adult to truly experience the feeling expressed in the record! Which when you add it all up, makes this record one that stays in heavy rotation on my charts!