In late 1978, ZE Records co-founder Michael Zilkha approached James Chance and offered Chance $10,000 to record a disco album. Zilkha gave little direction and asked the band for its own take on the genre. Anya Phillips, Chance's manager and girlfriend, came up with the idea to rename James Chance and the Contortions to James White and the Blacks for the album. An alternate name, James White and His Blacks, was rejected by Zilkha. Phillips and the band put together outfits resembling 1960s soul singers.