The History of Disco-By DJ Zombie and MC Kelly Cane
Most people hear the word disco and instantly think of Jon Travolta and Saturday Night Fever. Disco is one of the most unique periods of dance music. Often made fun of and the butt of jokes. Disco is one of the few music styles that I have ever seen touch everyone. I can think of few parties, clubs or weddings that I did not see everyone get up once I started jamming the Disco classics. Disco has a rather interesting history. It is hard to say exactly when and how the birth of Disco occurred at. The biggest reason for the growth in popularity was the bloom of Discos. You actually have to go back to 1970. That was the here that New York City DJ David Mancuso opened The Loft, a members-only private dance club set in his own home. Most agree that the first disco songs were released in 1973, but some claim Manu Dibango's 1972 Soul Makossa to be the first disco record. The first article about disco was published in 1974. Also in 1974 New York City's WPIX-FM premiered the first disco radio show. The show was a huge hit and brought a whole new flavor to the city.
Most people know most of the popular late 1970s disco performers including the Bee Gees, Donna Summer and The Jacksons. Summer would become the first and most popular female disco artist. She played a part in pioneering the electronic sound that later became a part of disco golden years. Many other performers and singers enjoyed the huge rise in popularity in Disco worldwide. Intresting enough, behind-the-scenes producers played an equal, if not more important role in disco, since they often wrote the songs and created the innovative sounds and production techniques that were part of the "disco sound".Many non-disco artists recorded disco songs at the height of disco's popularity, and films such as Saturday Night Fever and Thank God It's Friday contributed to disco's rise in mainstream popularity and ironically the beginning of its commercial decline. However, disco was very important in the development of what would become Electric or also know as Electronic Funk, British New Wave, and disco's direct descendants: the 1980s and 1990s dance music genres of house music and its harder-driving offshoot, techno. Most DJ's today do not know what it was like to expereince working as a DJ at the end of the Disco era. It was intresting to work as a DJ in 1985. Many nightclubs had No Disco rules or only after everyone is very drunk rules about playing Disco.
Disco has its musical roots in late 1960s soul, especially the Philly and New York soul, both of which were evolutions of the Motown sound. The Philly Sound is typified by lavish percussion, which became a prominent part of mid-1970s disco songs. Music with proto-"disco" elements appeared in the late 1960s, with "Tighten Up" and "Mony, Mony", "Dance to the Music" and "Love Child" . Two early songs with disco elements include Jerry Butler’s 1969 "Only the Strong Survive" and Manu Dibango's 1972 "Soul Makossa" . The term disco was first used in print in an article by Vince Aletti in the September 13, 1973 edition of Rolling Stone magazine titled "Discotheque Rock
The early "disco" sound was largely an urban American phenomenon with such legendary producers and labels such as SalSoul Records (Ken, Joe and Stanley Cayre), Westend Records (Mel Cheren), Casablanca (Neil Bogart), and Prelude (Marvin Schlachter) to name a few. They inspired and influenced such prolific European dance-track producers such as Giorgio Moroder and Jean-Marc Cerrone. Moroder was the Italian producer, keyboardist, and composer who produced many songs of the singer Donna Summer. These included the 1975 hit "Love to Love You Baby", a 17-minute-long song with "shimmering sound and sensual attitude". Allmusic.com calls Moroder "one of the principal architects of the disco sound".
The disco sound was also shaped by the legendary Tom Moulton who wanted to extend the enjoyment of the music — thus single-handedly creating the "Remix" which has influenced many other latter genres such as Rap, Hip-Hop, Techno, and Pop. DJs and remixers would often remix. 12" Long Version. They would take existing songs using reel-to-reel tape machines. Their remixed versions would add in percussion breaks, new sections, and new sounds. Influential DJs and remixers who helped to establish what became known as the "disco sound" included David Mancuso, Tom Moulton, Nicky Siano, Shep Pettibone. Of course Shep Pettibone was one of the most popular remixes in the 80's as well. One of the biggest was the New York–born Chicago "Godfather of House" Frankie Knuckles. I am not sure if any other remixer has been around longer. As I mention in the History of DJ Mixing it was the nightclub DJs such as Francis Grasso, who used multiple record players to seamlessly mix tracks from genres such as soul, funk and pop music at discoteques, and was the forerunner to later styles such as hip-hop and house. Karen Cook was the first female disco DJ on record. She spun the vinyl hits from 1975 – 1978. Trained by Sam Meyer, discjockey at Barbary Coast in Houston, her first job was at Mean Green Inn on her college campus of University of North Texas in Denton, TX. She went on to work at the most popular Houston Club at the time, Todds, owned by McFaddin Kendrick. In San Diego no one knew that the popularity would lead to the building of many of the great Clubs the San Diego Club scene expereinced in the 80's. It was because of the DJ's that Disco crossed over.
The Hues Corporation's 1974 "Rock The Boat", a U.S. #1 single and million-seller, was one of the early disco songs to hit #1. Other chart-topping songs included "Walking in Rhythm" by The Blackbyrds, "Rock Your Baby" by George McCrae and "Love's Theme" by Barry White's Love Unlimited Orchestra. Also in 1975, Gloria Gaynor released the first side-long disco mix vinyl album, which included a remake of The Jackson 5's "Never Can Say Goodbye" and two other songs, "Honey Bee" and "Reach Out (I'll Be There)". Also significant during this early disco period was Miami's KC and the Sunshine Band. Formed by Harry Wayne Casey ("KC") and Richard Finch, KC and the Sunshine Band had a string of disco-definitive top-five hits between 1975 and 1977, including "Get Down Tonight", "That's the Way (I Like It)", "(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty", "I'm Your Boogie Man" and "Keep It Comin' Love".
The Bee Gees used Barry Gibb's falsetto to garner hits such as "You Should Be Dancing". In 1975, hits such as Van McCoy's "The Hustle" and Donna Summer's "Love to Love You Baby" and "Could It Be Magic" brought disco further into the mainstream. Other notable early disco hits include The Jackson 5’s "Dancing Machine" (1973), Barry White’s "You're the First, the Last, My Everything" (1974), LaBelle’s "Lady Marmalade" (1974)and Silver Convention’s "Fly Robin Fly" (1975). Chic's "Le Freak" (1978) became a classic and is heard almost everywhere disco is mentioned; other hits by Chic include the often-sampled "Good Times" (1979) and "Everybody Dance" (1977). Also noteworthy are Cheryl Lynn's "Got to Be Real" (1978) and Walter Murphy's various attempts to bring classical music to the mainstream, most notably his hit "A Fifth of Beethoven" (1976).
1978–1980-The Prime years
The release of the film and soundtrack of Saturday Night Fever in December 1977, which became one of the best-selling soundtracks of all time, turned disco into a mainstream music genre. This in turn led many non-disco artists to record disco songs at the height of its popularity, most often due to demand from record companies who needed a surefire hit. Many of these songs were not "pure" disco, but were instead rock or pop songs with disco overtones. Notable examples include the Grateful Dead's Shakedown Street (1979), Helen Reddy’s "I Can't Hear You No More" (1976), Marvin Gaye’s "Got to Give It Up" (1977), Charo's "Dance a Little Bit Closer" (1977), Barry Manilow’s "Copacabana (At The Copa)" (1978), The Rolling Stones' "Miss You" (1978), Dolly Parton's "Baby I'm Burning" (1978), Rod Stewart's "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?" (1979), Wings’ "Goodnight Tonight" (1979), Barbra Streisand's "The Main Event/Fight" (1979), Ann-Margret's "Love Rush" (1979), Kiss' "I Was Made for Lovin' You" (1979), Electric Light Orchestra’s "Shine a Little Love" (1979), Isaac Hayes' "Don't Let Go" (1980), The Spinners' "Working My Way Back To You" (1980) and Queen's "Another One Bites The Dust" (1980).
Disco club scene and dancing
By the late 1970s many major US cities had thriving disco club scenes which were centered around Disco’s, nightclubs, and private loft parties where DJ’s would play disco hits and wowing the crowd with clean beat mixing and providing a whole diffeent sound. The DJs played "...a smooth mix of long single records to keep people 'dancing all night long' Some of the most prestigious clubs had elaborate lighting systems that throbbed to the beat of the music. Many tradtions that are still carried by large scale nigtclubs came from the Disco era. When I was first starting out in 1984. The biggest and best clubs were in TJ. My good friend Art Mendoza was the Video Jockey at the time. He also did the lights. To this day I have never seen a club with more lights that what was on display there. The owner was a huge Disco fan and went to the clubs in Europe and wanted to have the worls's largest light show. Believe me they did!
Just like Country line dancing, some cities had disco dance instructors or dance schools which taught people how to do popular disco dances such as "touch dancing", "the hustle" and "the cha cha." There were also disco fashions that discotheque-goers wore for nights out at their local disco, such as sheer, flowing bog dresses for women and shiny polyester shirts for men with pointy collars, preferably open at the chest, often worn with double-knit suit jackets. Yeah, just like Saturday Night Live.
Favorite Disco Tracks
I Will Survive - Gloria Gaynor
Le Freak - Chic
Stayin' Alive - Bee Gees
Super Freak - Rick James
Funky Town - Lipps Inc
Disco Inferno - Trammps YMCA - Village People
Born To Be Alive - Patrick Hernandez
We Are Family -Sister Sledge
Get Up...I Feel Like Being A Sex Machine - James Brown-
Mandolay - La Flavour
I Feel Love - Donna Summer
Love To Love You Baby - Donna Summer
Shame -Evelyn "Champagne" King
I Love The Night Life-(Disco 'Round)- Alicia Bridges
Do U Wanna Funk-Sylvester
abe We're Gonna Luv Tonight - Lime
That's The Way I Like It - K.C. & the Sunshine Band
Knock On Wood - Amii Stewart
Night Fever - Bee Gees
Last Dance -Donna Summer
Don't Leave Me This Way - Thelma Houston
Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel - Tavares
Take Your Time (Do It Right) - S.O.S. Band
Double Dutch Bus - Frankie Smith
Rapper's Delight - Sugarhill Gang
Get Off - Foxy-
Celebration - Kool & the Gang
Don't Stop Til You Get Enough Michael Jackson Love Hangover- Diana Ross
Hot Stuff -Donna Summer
Heaven Must Have Sent You Bonnie Pointer This Time Baby -Jackie Moore
Let's All Chant - Michael Zager Band
Boogie Oogie Oogie - A Taste Of Honey
Get Down Tonight - K.C. & the Sunshine Band -
Spank - Jimmy "Bo" Horne
Bad Girls - Donna Summer
The Hustle - Van McCoy-
Ladies Night -Kool & the Gang
Macho Man -Village People
Turn The Beat Around - Vicki Sue Robinson
Never Can Say Goodbye - Gloria Gaynor
You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) Sylvester
September- Earth, Wind & Fire
Brick House - Commodores
Car Wash - Rose Royce
Rock Your Baby -George McCrae
Good Times -Chic 1979
Can't Get Enough Of Your Love Barry White
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