Saturday, March 26, 2011

Face-Off: The Disco Super-Groups

Doug: If any of you remember WLUP disc jockey Steve Dahl's "Disco Demolition" at Comiskey Park in Chicago on July 12, 1979, you'll recall how a publicity stunt actually led to the downfall (temporarily, you could argue) of a musical genre. Dahl is perhaps one of the original "shock jocks" and has been a fixture on Chicago radio before and ever since.

Doug: But I'm here to confess... I liked disco then, and I still have quite a collection on my iTouch. I don't like all of it, but let's face it: some of those songs just have a great hook. Boogie Oogie Oogie -- you don't like that one? Shake Your Groove Thing? C'mon. The name alone drags you along. And of course there's the extended version of the Queen of Disco, Donna Summer, smash I Feel Love. It's all toe-tapping, rump-shakin' singalong nostalgia at this point, but I'll go just a bit further -- it was innovative for it's time, and at the beginning of the era the musicians played their own instruments. And the vocals weren't augmented by synthesizers. So there... Why do I sound like I'm apologizing for this? Sheesh -- you'd think I was reading a funnybook in public!

Doug: Anyway, today -- for those of you who want to play -- let's have a little tussle between two of the most successful acts of the disco period: the Bee Gees and KC and the Sunshine Band. The Bee Gees were of course successful long before disco landed, and both bands enjoyed at least a fair amount of success into the 1980's. But what did you like during the mid- to late-70's?

Doug: KC and the Sunshine Band has a website, and from it I post the following information. All I can say is -- this is a pretty darn good resume'...

Their first record, BLOW YOUR WHISTLE, made the top 15 on the R&B chart.

Their second album, KC & THE SUNSHINE BAND, was released in 1975, went triple platinum and contained the #1 hits GET DOWN TONIGHT, THAT’S THE WAY (I LIKE IT), BOOGIE SHOES and ROCK YOUR BABY. Also in 1975 he won the American Music Award for Best R&B Artist.

KC & The Sunshine Band became the first act to score four #1 pop singles in one 12-month period since the Beatles in 1964. Three of those singles crossed over to become #1 R&B, as well.

KC’s third album, PART 3, released in 1976, also went triple platinum and contained the #1 singles I’M YOUR BOOGIE MAN, SHAKE YOUR BOOTY and KEEP IT COMIN’ LOVE.

Doug: The Brothers Gibb are probably recognized as the premier act of the disco era. Again, successful before, they re-invented themselves and created a style that branched over into other artists. And what a lot of people don't know is that Barry Gibb has served as songwriter and producer for many, many other hits for other artists.

Doug: You can click this link to that bastion of historical accuracy, Wikipedia, to see a table of the Bee Gees hits and chart positions from around the world. Consider this my disclaimer in the event any of the information within is incorrect - I don't want anyone ripping on me like back in the solo Beatles comments. While I don't think the Bee Gees swept in and dominated as KC and the Sunshine Band did with seven #1's in quick succession, the success of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack is undeniable in the annals of popular music.

Doug: So who ya got?


HannibalCat said...

Ca-mon! Who else but the mighty Chic?! Edwards and Rodgers were everywhere, producing everyone and made some of the best disco sounds of the time. Dance Dance Dance!

david_b said...

Doug: GREAT topic for a Saturday.. I highly respect (and typically enjoy..) any musical style when done really well, and Disco was superb on several levels:

1) It brought a new influx of recording styles, instruments, etc into the industry primarily relying on the accepted heavy-weights like the Stones, Heart, etc;
2) Like most musical trends, it's scope was pretty broad, nudging artists to get on board (or compete if they want..), like the Stones ("Black and Blue"), McCartney ("Silly Love Songs", "Goodnight Tonight", etc), you name it.
3) It brings new producers to the forefront, like Quincey Jones (one of the BEST), Barry Gibb, etc..

You may not like the style, but it's influence was undeniable. I mean, punk and garage band stuff had it's influence for years after, but it wasn't as far-reaching as Disco.., nor blatant enough to illicite such a fore-mentioned nationally-televised publicity backlash.

I love very clean productions, and really good acts like ABBA and the BeeGees, around for a few years prior, really strike a chord and become the mainstays (like they've always done that style..).

There was an ENORMOUS amount of talent that went into those productions, and LPs that have been discussed earlier ("Off the Wall" to name one..). The best productions were a lot of hard work, but the quality (especially with the likes of Gibb and Jones..) continue to really resonnate.

Obviously the after-shocks of huge trends (Studio 54, Chic jeans (still see Gilda Radner prancing in those Jewish jeans commercials on SNL..) were nauseating at the time (but great fun to watch now..), it's much like the Swingin' 60s in terms of goofiness, yet fondness for days gone by.

Still will never understand comics like the 'Dazzler' with her glitter ball appeal, but having just read her 'Wikipedia' entry to confirm my facts, her concept and execution was pretty lame, and didn't get much traction.

Like 'New Universe'.. you can't blame Marvel for trying..

J.A. Morris said...

I've got a longer reply in re whether disco sucked or not, but I love this video of 'Demolition Night'. Dig Jimmy Pearsall's take on the event as it happened!:

Edo Bosnar said...

I'll admit that in my first few years of elementary school I liked disco, but became a bona fide hater soon after.
As for your face-off question, I'd definitely go with KC & the Sunshine Band. There's still a few of their songs that I really like listening to occasionally, while I can barely tolerate the Bee Gees.
And HannibalCat, agreed about Chic. Besides KC, they're probably among the few disco-hit machines of that time whose songs I still like.

dbutler16 said...

Great topic! Even though Chic is great, with Le Freak; Good Times; Dance, Dance, Dance, I Want Your Love, and Everybody Dance, I have to give my vote to Earth, Wind and Fire. Of course, there's September, Let's Groove, Shining Star, and Fantasy, but my favorite by them is, I think, and all time underrated disco classics - Boogie Wonderland. Plus, you just have to love those costumes! That, plus the huge membership, makes them the Legion of Super-Heroes of musicians.

Fred W. Hill said...

Disco dominated Top-40 radio during most of my teen-age years, and while I liked some of it I never got into it in a big way, maybe because it was explicitly dance music and I was far too much of an introvert to get out on a dance floor (yep, I didn't date at all while I was in high school). For me, the Bee Gees and K.C. and the Sunshine Band are essentially a draw, but I'd give the edge to the Bee Gees as they had a broader range of style and didn't entirely disappear into the ether after the disco era.

Doug said...

I have plenty of love for Chic -- I recall in 8th grade PE we had a dance unit and Le Freak was one of the tunes our middle-aged instructor taught us some moves for. Believe me, it was worth the price of admission. Any love for Tony Thompson on the drums with Power Station?

Don't really consider E,W, & F to be disco, although Boogie Wonderland is a standard of the era.

Tell you what -- in the future we could do a "5 to Love" post with some of the one-hit wonders of the disco era.

Thanks, all, for the comments! Karen has another music post for you tomorrow, then it's back to the comics in the first half of next week.


Anonymous said...

I s'pose, Doug, that you liked that scene in Buck Rogers where Buck attends the ball and shows those starched 25th century stiffs how to get down and funky...?

There's a couple of disco tracks I like, but most of it leaves me cold. Why exactly could be summed by Dee Lite's Kier Kirby when she explained (in a TV doco about the subject) that disco meant looking beautiful and dancing all night. Is it any wonder punk got such a look-in?

B Smith

dbutler16 said...

I love Doug's one hit wonder idea and, expanding on it a bit, I think it could be a series. You could do various one hit wonders for various eras/genres.

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