Fall 2007

Disco…That’s Where The Happy People Go!

Disco Download: Watching and listening to the 30th Anniversary Special Editon of Saturday Night Fever made me nostalgic, and I felt the need to revisit the songs that defined this era. We are so fortunate that practically every song is available on iTunes - and what better way to relive the era than to download these songs and place them on your iPod? On my player, I even created the genre of “Disco” to play back at my leisure. For gym rats, this is the perfect play list for your workouts.

I’ve compiled a list of great disco songs that set the world on fire back in the 70’s and 80’s. The industry renamed it “dance” after 1980, but if it thumps at 126 BPM, trust me, it’s still disco.

For the generation that danced to these songs at WCPC in San Diego, Studio One  in West Hollywood, The Saint in New York or wherever you may have been in disco’s heyday, these songs are dedicated to that fabulous era. For the generation of folks that came after this time, take a listen and enjoy the songs that were the genesis of the music that you’re dancing to today.

The Must-Haves:

“MacArthur Park Suite” – Donna Summer (This seventeen and a half minute opus is the ultimate disco masterpiece)

“I Feel Love” – Donna Summer (Electronica artists still look at this production today as the blueprint. It holds up in 2007 as well as it did in 1977. It’s truly timeless)

“Could It Be Magic?” – Donna Summer (Barry Manilow’s opus set to a beat. One of Summer’s finest early works)

“Rumour Has It/I Love You” – Donna Summer (The first real glimpse into Donna’s amazing vocals)

 “Sunset People” – Donna Summer (This is one of the greatest synth songs of all time. Storytelling this in-depth was very rare on a disco song)

“No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)” – Donna Summer & Barbra Streisand (Never before and never again will you get the two most in-demand vocalists recording such a smashing duet)

“Lay All Your Love On Me” – ABBA (Fond memories of Studio One and one of their very best)

 “Take Me Home” – Cher (As soon as I saw Cher clad in nothing but a gold-plated bra, gold bikini bottom, winged-wristbands and antlers to match, I was hooked. Then I actually heard the song!)

 “Believe” – Cher (Call it “dance” if you want, but this 1999 global Grammy-winning smash has disco written all over it)

“Star Love” – Cheryl Lynn (Most people know Lynn from the more familiar “Got To Be Real,” but this is the disco song that made the biggest impact on the dancefloor)

 “Shame” – Evelyn “Champagne” King (One of the greatest disco anthems of all time)

 “Love Come Down” – Evelyn “Champagne” King (Four years after the success of “Shame,” King returned with a vocal and a song that remains one of the best of its time)

“Come To Me” – France Joli (This 16 year-old Canadian native came out of nowhere and put her powerhouse vocals on the map combined with its infectious melody)

 “Honey Bee” – Gloria Gaynor (The first in a trilogy of songs that included “Never Can Say Goodbye” and “Reach Out, I’ll Be There.” These were the songs that crowned Gaynor the original queen of disco before Donna Summer swiped it off her head one year later)

“Call Me” – Blondie (The Giorgio Moroder-produced theme from American Gigolo was so powerful, it played non-stop on the radio, peaking at #1 for six weeks while it filled the dancefloors to capacity in the winter/spring of 1980)

“Heart Of Glass” – Blondie (Although they were called “sellouts” by their peers for recording a disco song, Deborah Harry & Company proved you could mix new wave with 126 BPM. See, you can have it both ways!)

“This Time Baby” – Jackie Moore (Even though Moore recorded her fair share of music, this is the one that caught fire, and for good reason. A great vocal matched a great hook. This song still shows up on several “disco” compilations, which proves the timelessness of a great song)

“The Love I Lost” – Harold Melvin And The Bluenotes (This early disco hit fronted by Teddy Pendergrass’ unmistakable vocals was pure gold. The song never gets old)

 “Burning Up” – Madonna (This is the first Madonna song I heard while on the dancefloor at Studio One. Who knew she’d still keep us dancing 25 years later?)

 “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” - Michael Jackson (This was just a sign of things to come. Who knew his masterpiece was just three years away?)

“Billie Jean” – Michael Jackson (There’s no denying this contagious Caribbean rhythm with the smooth as silk beats. Add some stage presence and a moonwalk, and history is made)

“You Know How To Love Me” – Phyllis Hyman (This underrated vocalist had her biggest disco hit with this fabulous song)

 “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” – Sylvester (If you ever saw Sylvester perform this song, no explanation is needed. This was THE anthem and he was the king…and queen)

 “That’s Where The Happy People Go” – The Trammps (The Trammps may have hit the lottery with “Disco Inferno,” but this club hit a year earlier made this a favorite on the dancefloor)

“Don’t Leave Me This Way” – Thelma Houston (Teddy Pendergrass’ vocals fronting Harold Melvin And The Bluenotes recorded this song first, but it was Houston’s ferocious delivery that earned her a Grammy in 1977)

“Turn The Beat Around” – Vicki Sue Robinson (This is the disco staple and the song that defined the era. The performance was flawless and there’ll never be another to match it)

“Gloria” – Laura Branigan (When I first heard this song, I was at Studio One and I was ecstatic that Donna Summer’s new single had arrived. It wasn’t until afterwards, when I approached the DJ, that I learned it was a new singer with a set of pipes to match the queen herself. Branigan had a great run, but nothing ever matched the excitement of this platinum single)

 “There But For The Grace Of God Go I” – Machine (This is a song about non-acceptance. I loved this song and all its controversial lyrics. “No Blacks/No Jews and No Gays.” When the censors got a hold of it and replaced it with “Where only upper class people stay” it didn’t quite pack the same punch.” The purists and the gay clubs thankfully didn’t stray from the original)

  “The Glamorous Life” – Sheila E. (Prince’s drummer had the fiercest and most fun banging bongo disco hit in the summer of ’84. Just for the record, who wouldn’t want a “man’s man baby?”)

“So Many Men, So Little Time” – Miquel Brown (This anthem hit just before the panic set in. How many of us reveled in this fantasy while sweating our asses off on the dancefloor?)

 “You Should Be Dancing” – Bee Gees (This song is considered by many to be the Brothers’ foray into disco. I have to disagree. Listen to those licks on “Jive Talkin’ and “Nights On Broadway” and you could feel the stage being set. “Dancing” was wisely taken and placed on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack more than a year after its release. It fit on that soundtrack as if it were written with the film in mind.)

“Stayin’ Alive” – Bee Gees (The first disco track to be released by The Bee Gees from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, and to say that it made its mark would be an understatement. The song belongs in the Smithsonian. It defined the era in the same way Farrah’s hair did…do!)

“Night Fever”– Bee Gees (There was no escaping The Bee Gees in 1978 and I didn’t want to. I wore out this soundtrack in record time. No pun intended.)

 “Tragedy” – Bee Gees (Here was the gamble. Was the audience ready for another disco anthem after being inundated by the “Fever” soundtrack for the past year? The answer was clear when it became one of their biggest hits)

…and I saved the best for last:

“Last Dance” – Donna Summer (This Academy Award-winner put Donna on the international musical map and made her a superstar. When this song was played at the wee hours, you knew it was your “last dance.”)

© 2007 Steven M. Housman. All Rights Reserved.