On January 21, 1978 Saturday Night Fever, the defining soundtrack of the disco 🪩 era, began a 24-week run at the top of the US album chart. The double LP was released 2 months earlier, a few weeks prior to the opening of the movie featuring John Travolta. The Grammy Award winning double album included several No.1 hits, including “Night Fever,” “Stayin’ Alive,” and “If I Can’t Have You.” With additional Bee Gee contributions “How Deep Is Your Love,” “More Than A Woman,” “Jive Talkin”, and “You Should Be Dancing.”  Prior to the release of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, it was the best selling album of all-time, selling more than 40 million copies worldwide, and was the best-selling soundtrack album of all-time until supplanted by The Bodyguard soundtrack in 1992. Interestingly, the Bee Gees weren’t involved in the film until post-production, with Travolta dancing to Stevie Wonder and Boz Scaggs during filming.

The soundtrack and music provide the theme for this week’s music blog – Disco. A genre of dance music as well as subculture that emerged in the 1970s from the US urban nightlife scene, the music was hallmarked by danceable beats with syncopated baselines, string sections, brass and horns, electric piano, synthesizers, and electric rhythm guitars. It spawned several dance styles, including the Bump and the Hustle. It was the rise of discotheques and clubs, disco fashion, and a drugs and sex subculture.

Disco sensations included the forementioned Bee Gees, as well as ABBA, Donna Summer, Gloria Gaynor, Alicia Bridges, Thelma Houston, Earth Wind & Fire, Chaka Chan, Chic, KC and the Sunshine Band, Thelma Houston, Sister Sledge, The Trammps, Diana Ross, Kool & the Gang, and the Village People, among many others.

Disco saw its decline following the infamous Disco Demolition Night on July 12, 1979 at Chicago’s Comiskey Park. The lackluster White Sox promotion held between games of a double-header saw instead of their usual 5,000 or so fans, a packed house of over 50,000 attendees who rioted during the festivities, causing damage to the ballfield and forfeiting of the second game. Fueled by a concern that disco was taking over rock, a dislike of disco’s flamboyant dress, as well as racism and homophobia, disco records as well as even R&B and soul albums were blown up and burned. It spawned the Disco Sucks campaign with a general contempt for anything disco throughout the nation, signaling the beginning of the end of disco music, as well as seriously derailing the careers of many disco artists, the Bee Gees in particular, in the wake of the anti-disco backlash.

The decline in popularity of disco was rapid. At the time of the demolition night, the top six songs on the music charts were disco songs. By September 22nd there were no disco songs in the top 10 on the US charts. The late 70’s saw a revival of interest in oldies, in part related to the 1978 film Grease. And the early 80’s saw a surge in country music slowly rising in the pop charts, with the 1980 film Urban Cowboy contributing to the popularity of country music. Interestingly, both movies, Grease and Urban Cowboy, as well as Saturday Night Fever all starred John Travolta, who somehow found himself with lead roles in three movies that shaped three major genre shifts in pop music.

One of my fondest recollection of disco is roller skating at area roller rinks, a 70’s to 80’s thing, to many of the hits contained in this playlist. I also enjoyed hearing stories from my oldest cousin of her nights clubbing at discotheques with her girlfriends. I used to think of her as one of the stars in Saturday Night Fever, dancing the night away opposite the spinning and strutting of her own Tony Manero.

The first songs of the playlist are usually cited as the origins of disco, with perhaps the earliest precursor Manu Dibango’s “Soul Makossa” released in 1972. It includes the lyrics “Mama ko, mama sa, maka makossa”, which Michael Jackson appropriated with a similar “Mama se, mama sa, ma makosa” in “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” later settled with compensation out of court. Other frontrunners including the Four Seasons’ “The Night,” Barry White directed “Love’s Theme,” BT Express’s “Do It,” even Carl Douglas’ “Kung Fu Fighting.” Then early songs more easily identified with mainstream pop disco were “Rock Your Baby,” “Rock The Boat,” “Love Train,” and “Reach Out, I’ll Be There.”

The bulk of the playlist highlights a variety of hits by the artists mentioned above: the Bee Gees, ABBA, Donna Summer, Gloria Gaynor, Alicia Bridges, Thelma Houston, Earth Wind & Fire, Chaka Chan, Chic, KC and the Sunshine Band, Thelma Houston, Sister Sledge, The Trammps, Diana Ross, Kool & the Gang, and the Village People.

The end of the playlist includes some strange and perhaps less than strange bedfellows who hopped on to the disco craze, including some Motown R&B greats such as the Miracles with “Love Machine” and The Temptations with “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone,” and the Commodores with “Lady.” Michael Jackson’s music is obviously dance-centric, but a few songs were notable for a more disco vibe, including “Dancing Machine,” and much of Off The Wall, my favorite Jacko album, including “Rock With You,” “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,” and the title song, whose sound foreshadowed Thriller. Give “Off The Wall” a listen and you’ll swear the song was on Thriller. And of course a song off the same album lends the title to the playlist “Burn This Disco Out.”

Blondie crossed over with “Heart Of Glass,” Sarah Brightman with “I Lost My Heart To A Starship Trooper,” Barbra Streisand (with Donna Summer) with “No More Tears (Enough Is Enough),” Cher with “Take Me Home” and “Believe.” Then Rod Stewart had “Do Ya’ Think I’m Sexy,” ELO with “Shine A Little Love,” Stevie Wonder with “Sir Duke,” Elton John with “Mama Can’t Buy You Love”, “Victim Of Love,” and more recently “Cold Heart,” Queen with “Another One Bites The Dust,” The Rolling Stones with “Miss You,” and even Kiss with “I Was Made For Lovin’ You.”

Years to follow, acts like Rick Astley with “Never Gonna Give You Up,” Daft Punk with “Get Lucky” and “One More Time,” Justin Timberlake with “Rock Your Body” and “Can’t Stop The Felling” Miley Cyrus with “Midnight Sky,” Kylie Minogue with “Magic,” Due Lipa with “Don’t Start Now,” and Doja Cat with “Say So” got on the disco vibe.

If you could only watch one video to summarize disco, it should be this footage from “Stayin’ Alive”:

Then there is “Stayin’ Alive” Airplane style!:

And “Stayin’ Alive” Spiderman 3 style!:

Even the Peanuts got in on the action:

Then there’s Rick Deez with his disco parody, “Disco Duck”:

And disco inspired several movie themes, here with Rose Royce’s title song for the movie Car Wash:

Thank God It’s Friday, here with Donna Summer singing her disco classic “Last Dance”:

And Fame with Irene Cara’s title song:

And Flashdance with Irene Cara’s “What A Feeling”:

And more recently Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, with Abba’s “Dancing Queen”:

And you can’t forget the impact Soul Train had on disco and dance, here featuring KC & The Sunshine Band’s “Shake Your Booty”:

The band that may have foreshadowed the beginning of the end of disco, with they’re outward portrayal of gay fantasy masculine personas, perhaps being too much for a less than accepting 1970s America, the Village People, their name even a reference to Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, with its reputation as a gay neighborhood, here with their mega-hit, which is still played at many a wedding, party, bar, and sporting event, inspiring dancing and active participation, spelling the song with arm motion, the iconic “YMCA”:

And there is a movie The Last Days of Disco which I have yet to watch but its on the list now:

And for a closing video, a montage of dancing in TV and movies from the 70s set to the Trammps “Disco Inferno”:

So be ready to get your disco 🪩 on, as these songs just might inspire you to shake, shake, shake 🕺 … shake, shake, shake 💃🏻 … shake your booty! ☺️

I hope that this music and my blog truly serve as a “revival: a new presentation of something old,” a springboard to return to the music of your youth, or perhaps to find artists you want to discover anew.  Rediscover the passion of music in your life.

Live in the moment.

Enjoy the moment.

Love the moment.

Listen to the MUSIC!