Disco Discharge - Gay Disco & Hi Nrg
Please note, territorial restrictions may apply to this product.
Disco Discharge is a brand new series from Harmless. Covering 4 themes – Classic Disco, Disco Ladies, Euro Disco and Gay Disco & HI NRG.
The fourth instalment is Gay Disco & Hi NRG. Disco exploded out of the Gay clubs of the world in the 70’s. Whilst the Disco sucks campaign killed the vibe for the majority the Gay scene refused to give it up. The beats got faster and the drugs got harder as they partied into the 80’s. All tracks at least 12” long!
Sleeve notes by Alan Jones author of ‘Saturday Night Forever: The Story Of Disco’.
|| ||Disco Kicks (Remix) 8.38|
The Boys Town Gang
|| ||It’s A War 6.55|
|| ||I’m A Man ( Full Length Album Version) 17.39|
|| ||Make It On My Own ( Ben Liebrand Remix) 6.27|
|| ||Color My Love 7.42|
|| ||S.O.S. Fire In The Sky 6.48|
|| ||Love Trap 8.59|
|| ||Don’t Pretend To Know 7.22|
|| ||Losing My Mind 7.04|
|| ||American Love 6.43|
|| ||I’m A Model 6.08|
|| ||Passion (Remix) 9.03|
|| ||Crusin’The Streets (Crusin’, Rejected, The Pick Up, Busted, Reprise) 13.12|
The Boys Town Gang
|| ||Hey Hey Guy 7.37|
|| ||Feel It 7.38|
|| ||Saving Myself 6.54|
|| ||Gloria 4.52|
|| ||Savin’Myself (For The One That I Love) 6.18|
|| ||Take Off 10.14|
The Harmless label has been issuing quality dance and funk compilations since 1995, and its new Disco Discharge compilations are among its best yet. It is a simple idea, with each themed set comprising two CDs packed with 12-inch and long album versions of club classics. Classic Disco is a good starting point, concentrating on better-known hits such as Johnny Mathis’ Gone Gone Gone, Esther Phillips’ hustling What A Difference A Day Makes and Don Ray’s exuberant Gotta Have Lovin’. The Gay Disco & Hi NRG set is not for the faint-hearted, with some very long mixes being the order of the day – Kano’s cover of Spencer Davis’ I’m A Man takes more than 17 minutes to unfold. Euro Disco includes the fabulous Silver Convention, Giorgio Moroder, the super-sophisticated Change and Fun Fun, while Disco Ladies is home to Sheila B Devotion, Sister Sledge, A Taste Of Honey and Melba Moore.
Disco came at us in a myriad styles and shades back in the day and these expansive, lovingly compiled and considered double-disc collections celebrate the fact. Subtitled: Classic Disco, Disco Ladies, Euro Disco and Gay Disco and Hi-NRG all filled with original 12in versions that saves you searching endlessly through eBay for the vinyl pressings. Lovely artwork and Alan Jones penned sleeve notes to boot.
We're very excited at The Ghetto Disco HQ to bring you this post on the new Harmless Records "Disco Discharge" releases...
These compilations are an amazing addition to any serious Disco fans existing collection or they are an ideal starting point for those who have just discovered the wonderful, metronomic world of Disco music.
You just have to look at the tracklistings for all 4 volumes & it becomes apparent that a lot of the compilers (Brightonian disco devotee MrPinks & Alan Jones the co - author of the best selling book 'Saturday Night Forever: The Story Of Disco') time, effort, knowledge & passion has gone into this project.
WOW. I think it's safe to say that every possible Disco base is touched on on these comps, and there is some amazing music contained on these discs!!
According to the press release - "The whole spectrum of disco is covered here- from classic, soulful philly sounds and diva vocals to italo, space, cosmic and amyl nitrate-laced disco"
Another wonderful facet of this release is the fact that all tracks contained are the original 12" mixes & a lot of them have been reproduced from the original master tapes & put onto CD for the first time ever for this release!! It really doesn't get any better than that!!
Oh, and the albums were released on the 28th September... What are you waiting for??
Labels like Strut have set a high benchmark for disco repackaging projects, presenting classics and highly-sought obscurities with the knowledge and passion which not only keeps this music afloat but is seeing it grow in popularity, especially as the recession bites and some escapism is necessary. Disco Discharge is a new series started by Brighton's MrPinks aiming to chronicle the various strains of disco with enough nuggets for long-time devotees and attractions for the curious, insisting on using the full 12-inch mixes, with annotation by Alan Jones, author of Saturday Night Forever: The Story Of Disco. Considering this music is all labelled Disco, the different musical styles pulsing through these eight CDs outnumber the beams on a mirror-ball. Classic Disco alone veers from Cheryl Lynn's anthemia 'Got To Be Real' to IdrisMuhammed's transcendental 'Could Heaven Ever Be Like This', in between nodding at Dr Buzzard, Rose Royce [the funky space odyssey of 'Do Your Dance', Esther Phillips, the mighty Change and even the Glitter Band. If choices have to be made, the superlative Disco Ladies is most consistently swoon-packed, mixing breathy fluff like Andrea True Connection and Sylvia Love with Vicky D and Stacy Lattislaw, plus Sheila B. Devotion and Sister Sledge representing the Chic godfathers, the former's 'You Fooled Around' one of their most sublimely overlooked moments. The Euro Disco set, maybe confusingly, plants sleek US boogie gems like Change's 'Change Of Heart' alongside Silver Convention but scholarly quibbles should never be the point with this music, as the set encompasses Advance's luscious boogie, big daddy Giorgio Moroder but, for some reason, Laura Brannigan. The series' credentials are sealed with Gay Disco covering one of the music's often overlooked essential stratas, starting with the Boystown Gang and going on to include Hi-NRG anthems like Macho's 17-minute 'I'm A Man' [and Laura bloody Brannigan again!]. Apart from the odd head-scratching moment, this series can only be wholeheartedly applauded for its passion, taste and devotion to the disco cause.
It has been a while since I've done one of these posts, but Harmless' new Disco Discharge series are honestly some of the most pleasing disco compilations I've heard in a little while now. While not 100% devoted to rarities and obscurities, compiled around specific names or niche categories like most of the disco compilations that tend to pique my interest these days, I was, to be honest, half-expecting to be a little underwhelmed. To my own surprise, I've spent much of the last week or so indulging in these, discovering songs I never knew about (the awesome Bobby O. production by Free Enterprise - "Make It On My Own," "Take Me To The Top" by Advance, Massara's "Margherita," Johnny Mathis' "Gone, Gone, Gone) and re-acquainting myself with well-known classics that I've long taken for granted (Rose Royce's "Do Your Dance", the Shep Pettibone mix of Phyllis Nelson's "I Like You), or never even bothered with in the first place (Fern Kinney's "Groove Me," Manhattan Transfer's "Twilight Zone/Twilight Tone"). I have to give them credit with this, not only have they managed to mark a fine balance between choice rarities and the more well-known commercial hits, but across the four double-disc volumes in this series (Classic Disco, Disco Queens, Gay Disco & Hi NRG and Euro Disco), they've put together quite a broad-based series, well tuned to the current disco zeitgeist, balancing the classic disco of the late 70's with the increasing movement towards Italo, Boogie and Hi NRG.
As far as rarities are concerned, there are a good number of tracks on here which either don't seem to have ever been, or at the very least haven't been widely available on CD until now. While the track times are all listed, and the promo stickers advertise all tracks as "12" or long LP versions," not all of these special versions are specifically labeled on the tracklists, like, for example the rare Canadian 12" mix/extended edit of Amanda Lear's "Blood and Honey," mastered from the original tapes and exclusive to this series. With all of its sweet extended percussion breaks, finally being able to hear this track here in pristine digital quality is one of the major treats on here, especially given the prices that the original Direction label 12" release has commanded on eBay in the not too distant past. Also included among the other unlabeled versions on here are the John Luongo's 12" mix of Melba Moore's "Pick Me Up, I'll Dance", the extended mix of Sparks' Moroder-produced "Number One Song In Heaven," the seven minute version of Time Bandits' "Live It Up," the 12" version of Silver Convention's "Get Up And Boogie," and the "Roy Thode 12" version of Poussez' Come On And Do It, to give a few. It also has to be said, that any compilation that takes the care to track down the masters for both of Sylvia Love's classics - "Instant Love" and "Extraterrestrial Lover" (also exclusive to this series) is definitely in my good books.
In addition to the musical selection, the sound quality across the volumes is also refreshingly consistent and of high quality. While it may not always be possible, the care taken in tracking down original master tapes for the overwhelming majority of selections is commendable, given the number of compilations (excellent ones too) out in the disco world that don't. Luring the listener with a classic while keeping things interesting with a series delicately timed surprises; as a listening experience, this series this is pretty much everything good compilations should be.
One of the best functions of the compilation album - which doesn't seem to be going away, in spite of the changes in music consumption (in fact, I'd probably argue the opposite), is as one of the primary gateways into new avenues of music. As far as I'm concerned, while there's a lot here those for those well acquainted with disco and looking something new; for those who aren't, it's a perfect place to start.
The first volume, Classic Disco was already released September 7th, with Disco Ladies scheduled for release on September 28th, followed by Euro Disco on October 5th and Gay Disco & Hi NRG on October 19th via Harmless/Demon. All include liner notes by Alan Jones, co-author (with Jussi Kantonen) of "Saturday Night Forever: The Story of Disco".
In the meantime, for those who would like a preview, Horse Meat Disco's Luke Howard has put together an excellent 30 minute Disco Discharge mix, featuring tracks from the series. Enjoy.
www.guardian.co.uk F&M Playlist
Laura Branigan Self Control
Of all many amazing things about the 8CD Disco Discharge series, perhaps the most amazing is the way it recontextualises Laura Branigan's cheesy 80s hit. Placed among all the sparkle and sleaze and glittery melancholy, it sounds – and you'll have to trust me here – inexplicably astonishing: a racked, potent, weirdly ambiguous paean to yearning obsession.
The significant resurgence of that predominantly American, black, and gay melting pot of funk, soul and gospel music, also known as Disco, has become ubiquitous. The sheer number of 12 inches released every week under the label ‘Re-Edits’ is unstoppable.
Continuously, during the last two years my own record collection has been flown with white labels and re-edits of songs which originals I have never listened to or heard of. Today, when this underground market and tradition seems to saturate itself, searching for the original is mandatory.
To draw similarities with other decades, and say that Disco is back because we are, apparently, going through harsh economical times is justified, but it seems a self-answering explanation. Rather, it seems more appropriate to argue that Disco is back because of technology. Advances in music software have procured new generations of musicians, artists, and DJ’s with endless possibilities to create new music where the only limit is imagination, and Disco with its vast amounts of records, both obscure and accessible, has been the genre chosen to be exploited once again. There are no spacial or financial restrictions. The ‘Re-Editor‘ does not even need musical training or knowledge about how to work with reel to reel tapes to extend the break. Now it has become democratic and affordable. You can create edits on your own laptop as well as a music studio. Although the quality of the music will vary, the tools are out there for everyone to grab and experiment.
After the flood of re-edits we have had over recent years, it looks like the market is ready for the ‘real thing’. Aided by articles published in papers like the Guardian, uncountable number of bloggers posting Disco rarities and b-sides, successful Disco themed nights around the globe, or even Budweiser ads telling us that the ‘Good Times’ are out there, Disco is enjoying a comeback without precedents. The proof of this resides in the number of Disco compilations that have been released recently; DJ History refreshed Tele Disco with a remix collection of modern retakes by cosmic producers; Horse Meat Disco compiled their floor-fillers on a great Double CD and excellent vinyl release; Dimitri From Paris commissioning the magnificent compendium of b-sides, instrumentals and dubs – many times much better than their vocal versions – in Nightdubbin’ (on BBE) are just a few instances of this music phenomenon.
The latest addition to this trend is going to be ‘Disco Discharge‘ on Harmless Records, a mammoth collection of 8 compact-discs that will be hitting the shops on the 28th of September, it promises to be the king of all of them. Subdivided into four different variants of Disco with two CD’s dedicated to each (Classic Disco, Disco Ladies, Euro Disco and Gay Disco & Hi NRG), it offers no less than 84 disco tracks.
Compiled by Brightonian Disco devotee Mr. Pinks and with sleeve notes written by Alan Jones, co-author of the book Saturday Night Forever: The Story Of Disco, this series is for both the Disco aficionado and the newcomer. The greatness of it dwells in the versions chosen. All of them are full 12 inches or long album versions; no radio edits here. We get Macho’s ‘I Am a Man‘ in its full 17 minutes of glory, Fern Kinney’s ‘Groove Me‘ in all its splendor and beauty, and many others like Nona Hendrix’s ‘Keep It Confidential’, Amanda Lear’s ‘Blood & Honey’, and Sylvia Love’s ‘Extraterrestrial Lover’. There are also rare and sought after tracks including Gloria Jones’ (of ‘Tainted Love’ fame), ‘Bring On The Love’ (Why Can’t We Be Friends Again), Double Discovery’s ‘Thanks For Loving Me’, Free Enterprise’s ‘Make It On My Own’, Sylvia Love’s ‘Instant Love’, Massara’s ‘Margharita’ and Boy Town Gang’s uncut full length version of ‘Cruisin’ The Streets’ clocking 13 minutes of disco narrative. A generous part of the disco spectrum is covered here -from classic, soulful philly sounds and diva vocals to italo, space and cosmic adventures in sound are all present.
‘Disco Discharge’ is a must have for those who regard Disco as something more serious than a wedding soundtrack, and those who want to learn where the original samples come from. This is a welcome Disco effort for a new generation of listeners (Like myself…) that were not around in the seventies and eighties and are eager to unearth a new world of sound that deserves to listened, appreciated and carefully studied.
www.disco-disco.com, September 09
CD of the MONTH !
This is not your average Disco compilations - far from... You won't find the same tracks as you do in most other compilations, but still Harmless have been able to create a perfect mix of both hit tracks and great Disco afficionado gems.
These are tracks that everyone will enjoy, no matter if you're a hardcore "Discoholic" or just enjoy great Disco music.
It's four double CD's, each with it's own style and liner notes by Alan Jones, co-writer/author of the book Saturday Night Forever: The Story Of Disco.
You'll find an impressive list of classic gems and hits, you'll get to reDISCOver others and hopefully you'll find yourself some "new" favorites as well...
So, "Everybody Get Dancin'" and "Jump To The Beat", don't "Fear" these "Disco Kicks"...
Disco Discharge. Gay Disco & Hi NRG
Time for the fourth release in Disco Discharge series, this time Harmless let's us enter the gay and uptempo scene of dance music with their Gay Disco & Hi NRG CD.
The beat is pumpin' and the sexual undertones are more explicit, but you just can't sit still to this uplifting and sweaty genre of Dance music history. Becuase it IS what it's called - High Energy.
The King of Hi NRG was undoubtedly Bobby O who is represented here through his acts; the Flirts, Oh Romeo and Free Enterprise.
Another of the gay scene's signature acts, Boys Town Gang is featured twice while Liza Minelli claims she's "Losing My mind" and Macho is chanting out "I'm A Man" (like someone would doubt that when hearing those butch male vocals).
Regardless if you're gay or not, you'll enjoy the tracks of this CD, which brings you back to the late 70's and up to the mid 80's (and beyond) through acts as; Fun Fun, Deodato, Ken Laszlo, Kano, Laura Branigan and others.
It's Boys Town music at its best!
You have to "Feel It" as it "Color My Love".
Tillate Magazine, November 09
Forget the slightly disconcerting title and dive into this mammoth, four-volume extravaganza – there’s been a glut of disco compilations on the market recently but nothing compares to this for depth and diversity. Each sub section – ‘Disco Classics’, ‘Gay Disco’, ‘Disco Ladies’ and ‘Euro Disco’ – is loaded with lost gems and rarities; from cosmic weirdness to ass-wiggling Hi NRG, this is a fascinating appraisal of disco in all its guises. Look out for eBay-busting delights from Nona Hendrix, Gloria Jones and Free Enterprise in particular – glitterball doesn’t get any better. 9/10
Attitude, November 09
This eight disco CD set is split into disco styles of Classic, Euro, Gay & Hi NRG and Disco Ladies. It’s worth the price alone for the glorious packaging which is indicative of the careful, not crass selection of mirrorball magic on each CD.
Gay Times, November 09
When we hear “essential” this, “must have” that, it usually makes us want to commit a few hate crimes. But this collection of four gay-tastic disco compilations is all that with spandex on top. Come 5pm on Friday, we whack on the Gay Disco and Hi NRG CD, pump some poppers through our air conditioning unit and start dancing on our desks while draining the drinks trolley. Things get particularly rowdy once we’ve slipped into our leotards and it gets round to Laura Branigan’s Gloria. It’s like your own mobile Horsemeat Disco.
Wire, October 09
Four new collections of disco classics and obscurities recall the last time that the beat took control.
Was this the last time of transgression and ecstasy? The last real time, before so many things interrupted the dream? Was this the last dance? Are we still hearing its echoes – and is that all they are, now: echoes?
It is 1979, maybe, or 1980. At the end of a long corridor or mineshaft, you can hear the distant and muffled BMP BMP BMP. Like that scene in American Gigolo where the camera-dancer pauses on the threshold, just before plunging into uproar and hallucination (Dante re-imagined by Tom of Finland), falling into the dance as into a reservoir of electric energy, all set to the vertical-take-off amyl sound of Cheryl Barnes’ dizzying “Love And Passion” (music and lyrics: Paul Schrader/Giorgio Moroder). You cease being this person this race this sex or sexuality and plunge, sacrificially, into this zone of mirror and heartbeat and chemical aroma. The music is sonic time stretched like bubblegum on a rollerskater’s lips. This music is not up on a stage somewhere preening or sullen or detached – this music is IN you, turns you on like a lover, shoots through you like a drug. Sometimes you wonder that these underground convergences are even allowed. Will the future be like this music – all speed and disappearance and dizzying stop-go change? Sometimes you think all music after this will be a disappointment, mere aftermath. Sometimes you think you prefer walls to stay up, not come down – walls that maintain and make luxurious this music’s streamlined embrace, its smooth space of melancholy. Here, even heartbreak feels like sublime forgiveness, the sweetest release. Go bang: go bang.
What do they sound like 30 years on, the echoes? This is what compilations are now: a retrospective math. History with the nightlife and social friction and utopian dreaming wiped away. Everything listed, ticked, tidied up. OK, then: Disco Discharge…
Each of the four sets has a handful of heart-stoppingly brilliant tracks… It’s an eternal dance music paradox – guaranteed floor fillers may not be the most ‘interesting’ to listen to in their surroundings…
But there is also all the stuff that not only hasn’t dated, but could be released tomorrow and still sounds ahead of its game. In the current pop climate of La Roux, Lady Gaga and Calvin Harris, a lot of it makes a whole new kind of sense. There is a great passage on the first Euro CD – four tracks in a row (Space, Moroder, Sylvia Love, Sparks) that glisten with inventiveness, synthesizer outreach. Dr Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band stagger in with the offhand, multi-hued production on “Cherchez La Femme”; this clingy polyphony of veils, layers, shadings that Stony Browder and August Darnell bring to bear on a track that also has a very timely sting in its tale: “Now he’s working two jobs/Tired of living in debt…” Fern Kinney’s “Groove Me” conjures up both Stax and Basic Channel in its mix of synth pulse, feathery trill and carnal invite. Chic’s production on Sheila B Devotion’s “Spacer” interrupts its dubby dance billow with a scorching guitar solo – years before Thriller. On Suzi Lane’s “Harmony”, Moroder takes what is essentially a gospel track and renders it jaggedly futuristic, a blissful cocaine jacitation. Rose Lauren’s vocal on “American Dream” makes profane love sound like the most sacred choice in a small-minded, unforgiving world. Boys Town Gang’s 13 minute aural playlet “Cruisin’ The Streets” simply has to be heard to be believed.
Does disco still need ‘defending’? Maybe not. But it’s notable that the kind of interest and approval that accrues to a figure like Arthur Russell is still more that exception than rule. As if a lot of critics can only cope with the sheer outsize WASH of disco by clinging to the wreckage of some kind of desiccated AUTER wish: Russell was a little bit nerdy, angsty, a ‘proper’ musician after all. Don’t get me wrong – I love his music, too. But still – you can’t quite imagine the same papers and conferences for Walter Gibbons, say, or even Moroder. (Which is, I guess, a mixed blessing.) They were unarguably WAY ahead. Disco was both a social space (a series of spaces) and a sonic space, in which wondrous things were accomplished. If at the very least you credit disco with powers of transformative alchemy, then all the proof you’d ever need is here; any list of the highlights would have to include – with absolutely no ‘irony’ intended – tracks by the following: Janis Ian, Johnny Mathis, The Glitter Band.
There’s a lot to be said about why rock critics were quite so wrong about (and uncomfortable with) disco – that will have to wait. Disco was just TOO MUCH. The sex and drugs were too much. The mix-up of hierarchy – both social and sonic – was too much. Disco was and ABYSS of sound – but one with a heartbeat. Let Sparks have the last word: “Loud as a crowd, or soft as a doubt/Lyrically weak, but the music’s the thing.”
Record Collector, October 09
New series flies different colours of the disco flag
Labels such as Strut have set a high benchmark for disco repackaging projects, presenting classics and highly-sought obscurities. Their knowledge and passion not only keeps this music afloat, but helps it grow in popularity, especially as the recession bites and some escapism is needed.
Disco Discharge is a new series started by Brighton’s Mr Pink, aiming to chronicle the various strains of disco with enough nuggets for long-term devotees and attractions for the curious. Only using the full 12” mixes, they’re annotated by Alan Jones, author of Saturday Night Forever: The Story Of Disco.
Considering this is all labelled “disco”, the different styles pulsing through these eight CDs outnumber the beams reflecting off a mirrorball. Classic Disco alone veers from Cheryl Lynn’s anthemic Got To Be Real to Idris Muhammed’s transcendental Could Heaven Ever Be Like This. If choices have to be made, the superlative Disco Ladies is most consistently swoon-packed, with Sheila B Devotion and Sister Sledge representing the Chic godfathers. Perhaps confusingly, Euro Disco plants sleek US boogie gems such as Change’s Change Of Heart alongside Silver Convention, but scholarly quibbles aren’t the point with this music. Credentials are sealed with Gay Disco covering one of music’s overlooked essential stratas. In every way, this series can only be wholeheartedly applauded.
Pixzine, November 09
An extensive trip down ‘disco’ memory lane, every on this fantastic compilation is covetable! Where else can you get the extended mix of Boy Town Gang’s ‘Crusin’ The Streets’, Amanda Lear’s ‘A Taste Of Honey’ and Cerrone’s ‘Look For Love’, the list is endless. A must, must, must have!
Disco Discharge: An Essay By Alan Jones & Horse Meat Disco Download
Harmless are gearing up to releasing four of the best compilations we've heard for ages: the Disco Discharge series. In anticipation look, listen and read.
Long before you heard it, you could feel it – a throbbing, pounding beat that seemed to pulse through walls and vibrate in the air as it echoed out of brightly lit club entrances up from dingy stairwells past cloakrooms. Then you heard that unmistakable sound, a ‘four-on-the-floor’ bass drum thump, thump, thump, thump, pushed through a bank of state-of-the-art speakers that grew even louder as you inexorably moved towards its increasingly eardrum-shattering source. That’s when the evocative multi-coloured light shapes hit you full in the face; a giddy demi monde of human spirals captured by reflecting facets of spinning mirror globes. Gyrating flashes freeze-framed in strobe effects, swallowed up in a swirling galaxy of ultraviolet stars. Kaleidoscopic revolving puddles of the rainbow flitted from vivid intensity to deep shadow. Suddenly dry ice smoke effects engulfed you, obscuring the stiletto heels, trainers and platform shoes in a shroud of sparkling fog. Out of which the disembodied weaving crowd warmly beckoned you into their swaying, sweating midst and the room became a boogie wonderland pulsating with one accord. The deafening music never stopped, not for a single moment. From the second the tribal throb moved from suspended tweeters and woofers to vibrate your rib cage, it continued relentlessly until the gathering dejectedly dispersed into dawn’s early light. As Idris Muhammed sings in this superb collection, ‘Could Heaven Ever Be Like This?’
Welcome to the world of Disco, where the music has never stopped for a 70s generation it defined. Die-hard devotees who loved the atmosphere, the fun and the thrill of the circus environment so much it became the enduring soundtrack of their lives! Who came to appreciate the double irony contained in the title of the all-time classic Disco anthem ‘I Will Survive’ - when everyone who really should have known better said it wouldn’t! Who wouldn’t have been caught dead wearing the dazzling white three-piece suit or glitter boob tube of popular polyester myth! Because the soaring melodies, harmonies and tunes were so powerful, so fantastic and so epic in emotional contouring that more than thirty years after ‘Saturday Night Fever’ spawned international dance mania on a massive scale Disco is still here. Just as fashionable and even more relevant than ever as pop culture. Like The Players Association say, ‘Turn The Music Up’. Loud!
Disco was a glamour-packed fantasy universe, a ‘Funk Encounter’ of the best kind, a reaction against the grimy and depressing reality that lay beyond the walls of your smoke-and-mirrors club cocoon. A world of sexuality and sensuality, romance and rapture, escapism and playfulness, Hollywood and hedonism – an unreal and often surreal cosmos splashed before a background of lush vocal and orchestral manoeuvres in the dark. The Disco movement, and it definitely was a movement because the community spirit it engendered became a global calling card for many acolytes, changed the way people spent their time and money, how they dressed and lived. For after a decade of Beatlemania, Bubblegum, Flower Power and Glam Rock, music went from headtrip to hips and feet again as dancing took on a cultural magnitude not seen since the Depression era of the 30s. You went to the discotheque to celebrate the good things in life and to forget the bad ones. For a couple of hours a week, or day depending on how affected you were by the all-encompassing lifestyle trend, you could let it all hang out, let the lyrical dream take hold, let your body move to the hypnotic rhythm and push out everything else. Everyone needed a little nighttime fantasy in their lives and they found its electric heartbeat on the flashing floors.
In Disco Land, bizarre costumes and exotic masquerade mingled with haute couture and celebrity chic to create a unique fashion pack milieu that was part showbiz, part café society, part carnival, part catwalk and part Twilight Zone. Beautiful People bumped into construction workers, the Jet Set mingled with suburban secretaries on the floorshow stage where none were spectators and all were players, forsaking their normal mundane responsibilities in the pursuit of pleasure, sensation and Disco dedication. It was where celebrities came to be nobodies as they anonymously mixed with the hustling throng. It was where nobodies came to enjoy the glitterati experience for a brief moment doing their spectacular thing: a dazzling step, a sexy routine, a shimmering move.
In the case of Studio 54, the undisputed Queen of Clubs in mid-town Manhattan, it was where the Divas of the day came to celebrate – anything! Like birthday girl Bianca Jagger who galloped through its baroque interior on a white stallion to become a front-page tabloid cover girl - a paparazzi first that inaugurated the famous-for-being-famous photo opportunity. Or like Liza Minnelli unwinding after a strenuous night on the Broadway stage by once more tirelessly dancing her ass off: with a host of the eminent, illustrious and notorious also Latin Hustling the night away.
Those who couldn’t get past the legendary Studio 54’s much-hated selective door policy – and velvet rope refusal could happen to anyone from office worker to royalty - took comfort in the fact that it was more than happening elsewhere. In side streets, shopping malls and alleyways all over town and especially in another blue collar New York discotheque. Across the Brooklyn Bridge 2001 Odyssey had been the setting for the blockbuster ‘Saturday Night Fever’ movie, one firing the hopes and dreams of a million John Travolta wannabes. For like their screen hero, such true disciples of the Disco gods came to dance, pure and simple. The way they moved to the tempo of the music revealed their true selves. And each move was the sensual vibe of a great lover that fascinated and fired the erotic fantasies of their onlookers. Don Ray’s ‘Got To Have Loving’ said it all.
2001 Odyssey was far more in keeping with what the global Disco tribe were used to in terms of atmosphere, floor size and dance credibility. Post the ‘Saturday Night Fever’ epidemic discotheques sprouted up everywhere. From a postage-stamp floor in a supper club or renovated loft to the vast spaces offered by a refurbished theatre or converted church, nowhere was safe from the Disco revolution. But wherever such bijou or cavernous establishments sprouted, the tie that bound them all together was the music and the erotic and exotic ambience of sensual sound stimulation.
Disco showed no ageist, sexist or racist bias either. Mainly because it had originated in the black, Hispanic and gay inner-city communities, during the peak Disco years every minority demographic came together in an explosion of mutual admiration and trust in the bass line. For whatever age, colour or sexual preference, everyone had one thing in common – a compelling desire to shed their inhibitions in a celebration of segued music and perpetual motion. No matter what underlying reason you had to Disco – great exercise, stress relief, fantasy trip, ego posing or social interaction – at no other time in dance history did so many participate so forcefully in a musical ethos. For Disco signalled the way ahead. For liberation and tolerance. It was a revolution, a people movement for the blissed out and one that set a hopeful blueprint for future society.
Although nascent elements can be traced back to the Tamla Motown sound of the Swinging Sixties, Manu Dibango’s Afro-Lounge stormer ‘Soul Makossa’ in 1972 is considered the very first Disco record. Some argue ‘Dance to the Music’ by Sly and the Family Stone from 1968 shows the earliest signs of the lavish percussion that would typify the genre. More lush than Soul Music, easier on the ear than hard rock, Disco weaves together a tapestry of musical styles. From Big Band swing and Broadway pizzazz, from rhythm and blues to funk, via luxurious string arrangements and sweetly sung chorals. And at the 125 beats-per-minute heart of this eclectic mix is the rhythm - an up-tempo, heavy, straight 4/4 time that goes directly to the feet to guide them like a metronome.
Disco proper took off in 1973 with ‘The Love I Lost’ by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, the chart topping ‘Rock the Boat’ by The Hues Corporation, ‘Love’s Theme’ by The Love Unlimited Orchestra and ‘Rock Your Baby’ by George McCrae. Philadelphia International, SalSoul, TK, Westend, Prelude, Solar, Lollipop and especially Casablanca were just some of the influential record labels that fuelled the largely urban American trend. Until the newly syncopated sound started firing the creative juices of European composers and producers like Giorgio Moroder, Jean-Marc Cerrone, Alec R. Costandinos, Celso Valli, Jacques Fred Petrus and Mauro Malavasi. Moroder of course became one of the key architects of the popular Disco idiom with his muse Donna Summer. The equally sterling work of the still-going-strong Cerrone (Billboard magazine’s 1978 Disco Artist/Composer/Arranger of the Year) and Petrus and Malavasi are featured in this collection. The latter duo represented by both ‘Counting On Love (1 2 3)’ by The Peter Jacques Band (Jacques Petrus’ name reversed and anglicized to garner more American turntable interest) and ‘It Burns Me Up’ by Change. Disco as a genre was also further shaped by American studio engineer Tom Moulton who pioneered the remixing and extending of a track, complete with break section, to cater to nightclub preferences. This 12-inch single format innovation was the result of Discophiles wanting the most out of their favourite songs. But the 2004 Dance Music Hall of Fame inductee was to find Disco immortality with Gloria Gaynor’s seminal ‘Never Can Say Goodbye’, the first continuous-mix album side ever, alongside MFSB, Andrea True Connection and the outré styling of model-turned-diva Grace Jones. Other remixers and DJ’s who added their unique twist to Disco included David Mancuso, Larry Levan, Nicky Siano, Shep Pettibone and Walter Gibbons. Mancuso especially, because he initiated the ‘Invitation Only’ parties to his own home that soon became known as The Loft, a concept that would eventually transform the entire DJ network and crystallize the club business model.
Contained in this collection are some of the tracks Mancuso would have played at those legendary house parties. Each spotlights the richness and diversity of Disco, something contemporary critics never acknowledged, even grudgingly. Because the Disco craze ran concurrently alongside the rise of Punk Rock, many viewed it as a very poor plastic relation to that anti-authoritarian musical rebellion. Punk’s political anger and anarchist message might have been light years away from Disco’s playful sexual innuendo and heightened romance. But its harmonious innocence, glitzy production and free spirit mirrored exactly the OTT theatrical elements that appealed to the contemporary mass market who couldn’t have cared less about the ‘No Future’ counterculture when ‘No More Tears (Enough is Enough)’ was more than enough.
‘What a Diff’rence A Day Makes’ by Esther Phillips is a classic example of the assorted influences Disco shuffled to form a new musical variety. Take an evergreen standard - a hit for both the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra in 1934 and Dinah Washington in 1959. Give it to one of the first vocal superstars of R&B, formerly known as Little Esther. Add the ethereal beat. Suffuse it with instrumental grandeur. Stand back well back or get crushed by the rush to the dance floor. Dr Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band followed a similar formula with their Swing-Disco chart topper ‘Cherchez La Femme’. Formed by Brooklyn brothers Stony and Thomas Browder, the latter would go on to form Kid Creole and the Coconuts under his alternative name August Darnell. There’s a nostalgic air surrounding Manhattan Transfer’s ‘Twilight Zone/ Twilight Tone’ too that doesn’t just come from its fantasy TV show homage. Stunning production values also exemplify Johnny Mathis’ ‘Gone, Gone, Gone’, one of the finest illustrations of a veteran megastar adapting his enviable skills to the Disco schematic, and creating a masterpiece of effortless sophistication and melodic craft.
The recipe for success in the Disco era was the orchestra used to create the lush background sounds. Many bands put Orchestra in their names to signify the importance of the forty or so session musicians gathered in the studios to texture even the trickiest of rhythmic structures. John Davis And The Monster Orchestra and the Constellation Orchestra were two class acts that never disappointed using strings, horns and trumpets to ensure the solo melodies of ‘Love Magic’ and ‘Funk Encounter’ built to intensified finales.
Rose Royce was already established by the movie ‘Car Wash’ when ‘Do Your Dance’ broke out. So was The Glitter Band in Britain when ‘Makes You Blind’ hit Disco pay dirt. But In the best tradition of overnight pop sensations, Gary’s Gang found themselves thrust into the highest echelons of success with ‘Keep On Dancing’. As did Cheryl Lynn who took her discovery on the television talent platform ‘The Gong Show’ all the way to the top with ‘Got To Be Real’. Grey & Hanks with ‘Dancin’’, The Bombers with ‘(Everybody) Get Dancin’’ and the Glen Adams Affair with ‘Just a Groove’ also proved that if you had a memorable slice of feel-good Disco that perfectly captured the mood of the moment, you too could have a smash hit the world over.
His name might not be as familiar as Giorgio Moroder or Nile Rodgers, but two of the highlights from this collection come from the unsung hero of Disco - Boris Midney. Composer, arranger, producer, sound designer, engineer and an accomplished musician in his own right, the Soviet Union defector created a marriage of music and technology that yielded breathtaking delights. The sparsely ethereal space effect he shaped between gorgeous vocals, wild percussion and roving strings formed uniquely experimental Disco landscapes. ‘Thanks For Loving Me’ by Double Discovery (originally recorded in 1982 but not released until 2000) and ’Livin’ Up To Love’ by Companion, two of his many signature studio bands (others included USA-European Connection and Masquerade), are exemplary delves into luscious melody and dazzling dense harmony driven by a clean-cut beat and dizzying momentum that scale the slinky heights of incomparable Disco enchantment.
This is what the Disco phenomenon was all about. It was one that showcased the most adept and professional singers, while consistently changing with the times, keeping up to date with the latest trends in production techniques and giving rise to an unprecedented commercial saturation that revolutionized the entire recording industry. All achieved on the way to becoming one of the most enduring catalogues of music in pop history. It’s Party Time and Classic Disco means you are all invited.
Alan Jones is the co-author of Saturday Night Forever: The Story Of Disco.
Luke Turner recommends Gay Disco & Hi Energy while John Doran recommends Euro Disco.