DISCO: A FINE SELECTION OF INDEPENDENT DISCO, MODERN SOUL AND BOOGIE 1978-82.
DISCO: A FINE SELECTION OF INDEPENDENT DISCO, MODERN SOUL AND BOOGIE 1978-82.
Never has a musical genre caused so much controversy as disco. It divided opinion back in the seventies. Even today, thirty-five years after disco survived a near death experience, disco continues to divide opinion. People seem to either love or loathe disco. There seems to be no in between. Controversy even surrounds disco’s birth, and its near death experience.
What was the first disco record is disputed. Ask a hundred music critics, and they’ll give you a different answer. Some critics believe disco was born in 1971, with Barry White and Isaac Hayes pioneering the disco sound. Other critics think 1972 was the year disco was born. They point towards singles like The O’Jays’ Love Train, Jerry Butler’s One Night Affair or Manu Dibango’s Soul Makossa. Even 1972 might be too early for disco’s birth?
It could be that disco wasn’t born until 1973, when the Hues Corporation released Rock The Boat. Some critics think George McCrae’s 1974 number one single got the disco ball rolling. However, it’s thought that disco was already celebrating its first birthday by then. The first article in the music press about disco was penned by Vince Aletti for Rolling Stone magazine in September 1973. Little did Vince know, he’d just written the first article about a true musical phenomenon.
Disco was born in America. Music historians have traced disco’s roots to clubs in Philly and New York. These two cities would play an important part in a disco. Philly and New York were where many of the most successful disco records were recorded. They were also home to some of disco’s top labels, Salsoul Records, SAM Records, West End Records and Casablanca. New York was also home to some of the top clubs, including David Mancuso’s Loft and Studio 54. Although born in America, soon disco’s influence was being felt worldwide.
Around the world, dancers danced to the pulsating disco beat. Disco crossed the continents and provided the musical soundtrack to dance-floors worldwide. Then in July 1979, disco nearly died. The story began eight months earlier.
Disco went from hero to zero in less of a year. Suddenly, disco sucked. Disco’s downfall started on Christmas Eve 1978, That’s when Steve Dahl was fired by Chicago radio station WDAI. It had previously been a rock station, but switched to disco. Steve wasn’t out of work long. He was hired by WLUP, a rival station. WLUP played rock, which suited Steve Dahl. He’d an inkling that disco wasn’t long for this world.
Steve wasn’t a fan of disco, and took to mocking disco on-air. Openly, he mocked WDAI’s “disco DAI.” It became “disco die” to to Steve. Soon, Steve had created the Insane Coho Lips, his very own anti-disco army. Along with cohost Gary Meier, they coined the now infamous slogan “Disco Sucks.” The backlash had begun.
From there, the Disco Sucks movement gathered momentum. Events were held all over America. This came to a head at Disco Demolition Derby, which was Steve Dahl’s latest anti-disco event. Each one was becoming bigger, rowdier and attracting even more publicity. Disco Demolition Derby, which was held at Comiskey Park, Chicago on 12th July 1979 surpassed everything that went before. WFUL were sponsoring a Chicago White Sox game at Comiskey Park. if fans brought with them a disco record, they’d get in for ninety-eight cents. These records would be blown up by Steve Dahl. An estimated crowd between 20-50,000 people attended. Quickly the event descended into chaos. Vinyl was thrown from the stands like frisbees. Then when Steve blew up the vinyl, fans stormed the pitch and rioted. Things got so bad, that the riot police were called. After the Disco Demolition Derby, disco nearly died.
Following Disco Derby Night, disco’s popularity plunged. Disco artists were dropped by major labels, disco labels folded and very few disco albums were released. Disco was on the critical list, and suffered a near death experience. It took a long time to recover. After disco’s demise, dance music changed.
No longer were record labels willing to throw money at dance music. Budgets were suddenly much smaller. Gone were the lavish productions of the disco orchestras of the seventies. This was epitomised by The Salsoul Orchestra and John Davis and The Monster Orchestra. Strings and horns were now a luxury. Music would have to go back to basics.
Replacing strings and horns would be sequencers, synths and drum machines, which during the last couple of years, had become much cheaper. Previously, they were only found in studios or were used by wealthy and famous musicians. Now they were within the budget of many musicians. This would prove crucial in the rise and rise of boogie, and later, modern soul, as these musical genres that replaced disco. They became the favoured choice of music for discerning dancers and DJs.
For DJs all over America, boogie and modern soul were the answer to their prayers. Disco’s demise had proved problematic. What were they going to play? If they even dared to drop a disco track, they risked clearing the dance-floor. As DJs wrestled with this problem, boogie was born. It was almost born out of necessity, and became the choice of discerning DJs. So did modern soul. Boogie and modern soul became part of the soundtrack in the most fashionable clubs. These genres also feature in Soul Jazz Records’ latest compilation Disco: A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82.
Soul Jazz Records will release Disco: A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82 on 17th November 2014. It’s the companion to Soul Jazz Records’ new 360-page hardback book Disco-An Encyclopedic Guide To The Cover Art of Disco. featuring over 2,000 album cover designs, as well as over 700 12″ sleeves. For anyone interested in boogie, disco or modern soul, Disco-An Encyclopedic Guide To The Cover Art of Disco will be a must have. So is Disco: A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82.
Disco: A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82 features nineteen tracks. There’s contributions from Superfunk, Jessie G, The Sunburst Band, Sparkle, Sympho State, Fantastic Alleems, Chemistry, Retta Young and Cordial. Many of these tracks are incredibly rare. There’s a reason for this.
The tracks on Disco: A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82 on small, independent labels. Often, only small amounts of these tracks were pressed. Many of the copies have been lost or forgotten about. Except by crate-diggers who swoon at the thought of finding a long lost, copy of Jupiter Beyond’s . The River Drive or Retta Young’s My Man Is On His Way. This however, comes at a price.
Given the rarity, and continued demand for the tracks on Disco: A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82, buying a copy of the nineteen tracks is beyond most people. It would require deep pockets or bank loan. Not any more. Instead, the nineteen tracks can be found on Disco: A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82, which I’ll pick the highlights of.
John Morales’ mix of The Fantastic Aleems’ Hooked On Your Love, which features Calebur, opens Disco: A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82. The Fantastic Aleems consisted of Identical twin brothers Taharqa Aleem and Tunde Ra Aleem. Their debut single was Hooked On Your Love. It was released in 1979, on NIA Records. Leroy Burgess arranged Hooked On Your Love and The Fantastic Aleems produced their debut single. A year later, John Morales remixed Hooked On Your Love, transforming this slice of boogie into a six minute epic.
In 1981, Jessie G released the Billy Nichols produced That’s Hot. It was released on the New Jersey based label Nugget Records. Written by Jesssie and Billy, swathes of strings, harmonies, handclaps, Chic guitars and harmonies accompany Jessie G. Together, they play their part in a hook laden fusion of boogie and disco.
Back in 1982, The Sunburst Band, who were based in York, Pennsylvania, released their one and only single. This was The Easton Assassin. It was produced by Samuel King and released on King Records. Copies of The Easton Assassin were then given away at Larry Holmes’ prize fights. Larry Holmes was born in Easton and given the nickname “The Easton Assassin.” The Sunburst Homage pay homage to one of the great American boxers of the early eighties on this innovative fusion of boogie, funk and hip hop. After releasing The Easton Assassin, The Sunburst Band continued to make a living on the New York club scene.
1979. That was the year disco went from hero to zero. It’s also the year Sparkle released Disco Madness on Jam Records. It was penned by Keith Cloud and Steve Sargent and produced Harold Sargent. In Sparkle’s hands, Disco Madness is a drive slice of funky, sassy disco.
Wayne Ford’s Dance to the Beat Freakout is my final choice from disc one of Disco: A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82. This was Wayne’s only single, released in 1979, just as disco cheated death. It was arranged by Peter and Patricia Brown, and produced by Michael Brown. He produced what’s best described as a thirteen minute epic where disco and elements of boogie melt seamlessly into one.
Sympho State’s You Know What I Like opens disc two of Disco: A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82. It was the B-Side to Sympho State’s 1979 single Fever, which was released on ZE Records. Written by Eddie Cooley and John Davenport, You Know What I Like was recorded at Blank Tapes Studios, New York in July 1978. Back then, disco was at the height of its popularity. By the time Fever was released as a single, in 1979, disco’s popularity was on the slide. That’s a great shame, as You Know What I Like is a gloriously, soulful, dance-floor friendly hidden gem from one of disco least known orchestras, Sympho State.
Sexy Lady is another B-Side. It was the B-Side to Something Extra’s eponymous sophomore single. It was released in 1980, a year after Something Extra released their debut single Dancin’ With You Love on Unidisc. Dice, a Canadian label, released Something Extra. Good as the single was, the B-Side Sexy Lady was better. It’s a funky slice of boogie, which showed the direction music was heading, in the post disco era.
Cirt Gill and The Jam-A-Ditty Band released Turn This Disco Out in 1979. It was produced by Earl Gill and released on the Jam-A-Ditty label. On the A-Side was the vocal version, while the instrumental version featured on the B-Side. Boogie and funk collide head on, on a track that looks to the future, rather than the past. Maybe Cirt Gill and The Jam-A-Ditty Band knew that the disco boom was almost over?
Three years after releasing her debut single, You Beat Me To The Punch in 1975, Retta Young released My Man is On His Way. It was released on All Platinum in 1978. This was an Al Goodman, Harry Ray and William Morris composition. They also produced the track with Sammy Lowe. They’re responsible for an old school disco track. This is before boogie. So swathes of quivering strings and stabs of braying horns accompany Retta’s heartfelt, soulful and sometimes, sassy vocal. Together, they play their part in the highlight of Disco: A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82. Why? Well, My Man is On His Way epitomises everything that’s good about disco.
Cordial’s Wave closes Disco: A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82. It was originally recorded by Carlos Jobeme. In 1979, Cordial recorded their version of Wave in Bill Withers’ San Jose studio. They then released Wave on Tolimar Records, as part of their 1979 E.P. Their First. Of the three tracks on Their First, Wave is the standout track. This long lost disco track is the perfect way to closeDisco: A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82, and leaves you wanting more.
Indeed, hopefully, Soul Jazz Records, who released Disco: A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82 on 17th November 2014, are working on the followup. After all, Disco: A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82 oozes quality. Unlike lesser compilations, the guys at Soul Jazz Records have dug deep, eschewing the familiar and obvious.
Long forgotten slices of boogie, disco and modern soul can be found on Disco: A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82. These tracks were released on small, independent labels, during what was an important period for dance music.
Disco had gone from hero to zero, the space of eight months. From providing the soundtrack to dance-floors worldwide, disco became a musical pariah. DJs didn’t dare drop a disco track. If they did, they risked emptying a dance-floor. They’d also be perceived as behind the curve musically. So, they looked for alternatives. This included boogie, modern soul and the early house records that came out of Chicago. These records, including some of the tracks on Disco: A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82, ensured that dance-floors stayed full. However, in turning their back on disco, many sheep-like DJs turned their back on so much great music.
Unwilling to stand out from the crowd, many DJs turned their back on disco. None of them were willing backbone to keep spinning classic disco. No way. They feared the wrath of their contemporaries or peers. So, second rate music took the place of classic disco. That’s ironic.
After all, many of the people who were disco’s fiercest critics, were critical of what’s best described as manufactured disco. Much of this was released by labels jumping on the disco bandwagon. Disco became the last refuge of the failed pop or rock star. Not at some of the smaller, independent labels.
Among the small, independent labels were Salsoul, SAM and West End Records. They’d released some of the best music of the disco age. There was a reason for this. They were staffed by innovative musicians and producers. These musicians and producers were responsible for some of the most successful disco music. Much of that music has become timeless, and still features on compilations. However, following disco’s near death experience, it was persona non gratis on dance-floors.
So while disco teetered on the brink, boogie and modern soul flourished. Independent labels were founded all over America. They released short runs of singles. Many were popular within a small geographical area. However, since then, and especially in the internet age, word has spread about these hidden gems. They’re now prized amongst record collectors, crate-diggers and compilers. Especially compilers.
Over the last fifteen years, many compilations of rare boogie, disco and modern soul have been released. As regular readers of this blog will realise, these compilations differ in quality. They’re best described as the good bad and ugly. There’s everything from lovingly compiled and critically acclaimed compilations, like Disco: A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82, which will be released on 17th November 2014. It’s one of the best compilations of boogie, disco and modern soul released during 2014. However, and to misquote George Orwell in Animal Farm, not all compilations are created equally.
For every Disco: A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82, there’s several hastily compiled, thrown together, cash-in compilations. Ironically, many of the low rent disco compilations have been thrown together by those who turned their back on disco, in its time of need. Nowadays, they’re happy to cash in on the resurgence of interest in disco. This allows them to top up their pension pot, now they’ve hung up their Technics 1210s. These DJs don’t really love music. No. They love money. People who love music, create compilations like Disco: A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82.
DISCO: A FINE SELECTION OF INDEPENDENT DISCO, MODERN SOUL AND BOOGIE 1978-82.