Where Disco Dared
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The Good, The Bad & The Heavily Orchestrated
If you didn't live through disco then you don't know what it was like. Personally, I enjoyed and still enjoy a lot of disco immensely and I don't consider it a guilty pleasure either. It's a real out in the open, guilt free, 120 bpm pleasure. Still, back then I did draw the line here and there. For example, I nearly vomited the first time I heard Meco's Wizard Of Oz medley in a disco. I asked my friend, "Is nothing sacred?" As the crowd fairly screeched with glee I left the dance floor to sit and listen in a state of near catatonic disbelief. On the other hand, Amii Stewart's Knock On Wood would send me into frenzy, and still does! Perhaps that is some of the ironic charm of disco - nothing was sacred - just ask Beethoven…and many other classical composers. Some of it was incredibly fun and entertaining and even well done but some of it will never be justified in my mind. I wouldn't have touched some of these gems at the time but with an additional time acquired sense of retro camp the value of some of it has become more than apparent - if often only for its hilarity. As a musical style it may not have suffered the fate it did had it not been so massively popular and so commercially viable. Some people got into it merely for the gravy train it became.  Most people who jumped on the disco bandwagon were having fun. But at whose expense? A lot of artists crossed over into disco from other genres. For what? Probably the attention. Some may have done it to have fun and make fun of (Frank Zappa did it twice, Disco Boy in 1976 - which wasn't disco but a slam at it - and Dancin' Fool in '79 when he snidely acquiesced). And who can forget Rick Dees' Disco Duck? Many artists tried to start new careers by making disco versions of their old hits several of which are represented in this collection. Others may have been trying to revive a fading, uncertain or forgotten career (Peaches and Herb (with a new Peaches) - Shake Your Groove Thing). Some may have crossed over to continue to have hits in the popular mode of the day (Rod Stewart - Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?). Or to spark a career that may not have gone anywhere had it not been for disco (Blondie - Heart Of Glass). Or just to show they could and succeeded splendidly (Ethel Merman - There's No Business Like Show Business). Or to show they could and missed the mark in style (Ann Margret - Love Rush). Even Mad Magazine created a flexi-disc of disco spoofs including one called Barely Alive and a disco version of their 60's 'hit' It's A Gas. And lest we forget Dolly Parton's hot pink 12" disco single Baby I'm Burnin'? Why Mae West never did a disco album is beyond my comprehension.

Like the Twist in the early 60's, which boasted records by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Rod McKuen, everybody was getting in on the act. Except the intensity of the disco trend lasted longer than that of the 60's dance craze and at the pop level was sadly milked well beyond what it could sustain. Even though it imploded at the pop level, it never went away. It went underground where it continues to evolve to this day. It has now lost some of the kiss of death quality it had in the 80's and into the 90's even though through those years the genre generated occasional big pop hits (Shannon - Let The Music Play; Snap - Rhythm Is A Dancer; Robin S. - Show Me Love; CeCe Peniston - Finally) and also by way of big dance hits by big pop stars like Madonna, Cher, Whitney Houston and more. And at this point, disco is to today what the 30's and 40's were to the 70's.

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At the time that disco was popular, the retro fashions and styles of Deco, 1930's glamour and 1940's war years camp became the rage and heavily influenced the style of pop and disco to the degree that some artists completely modeled their style on those trends like The Pointer Sisters and Dr. Buzzard's Savannah Band. Logically, it followed that people would get the idea that it would be a good idea to do disco makeovers of songs from those periods. After all, Bette Midler, a major camp icon at the time had a top 10 hit with Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy and the afore mentioned Pointers were having successes with recordings like Steam Heat. Though these examples weren't disco they and others like them possibly paved the way for such covers as Salsoul Orchestra's Tangerine and Tuxedo Junction's Chatanooga Choo Choo, which may never have come to a new audience had it not been for disco. Too bad some of them were the pinnacle of mediocrity and unforgivingly played to death in the clubs. Some artists had some of the biggest hits of their careers with disco covers like Donna Summer's Macarthur Park and Amii Stewart's Knock On Wood both of which were sensational remakes that out-sold any previously recorded versions. So if covers of tunes like those will work, why not do disco remakes of all sorts of hits from any era in the style that was waiting for, well - everything - DISCO! It seemed as far as disco went, a song just wasn't valid until a disco version had been recorded.

That is what this collection is about. I tried to go for the less conventional, more obscure and possibly not available on CD yet selections. Another factor was, what I had and what was readily available. Yet another factor was what I really liked even though I included a couple of amiable clunkers - just to be balanced. I also went for the more 'pop' versions of versions rather than the long club versions for reasons of time constraints and frankly, the pop versions were frequently more than enough, let alone a long club version. Also, this is about the pop side of disco, not the club side. In the tradition of disco I included a couple of well-known tunes for promotional purposes. So put on your white Capezio jazz shoes, a Nik-Nik Shirt and a glitter headband and get ready to dance the night away as you go WHERE DISCO DARED!

                                          - Sun PK



Minnie & Mickey do the 'Moustle' on the original 45 sleeve

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Disco Education | Music MBA | Online MBA | Educating the Best | Learning the Notes | Developing Education
We have learned that Karla Jayne of the Boogie Man Orchestra is the accomplished actress/singer
Karla DeVito. To visit a wonderful fan site dedicated to Karla, click here.
Where Disco Dared - I've listed the Pop, R&B and British chart positions and have noted the original hit versions to the best of my knowledge. Songwriter's names are in parentheses.

1. Begin The Beguine (Cole Porter) - Johnny Mathis - 1979 - First hit version by Xavier Cugat in 1935. A #1 hit for Artie Shaw in 1938 re-charting in 1942. Other charted versions: Eddie Heywood in 1945 and Frank Sinatra in 1946.
2. How High The Moon (M. Lewis - N. Hamilton) - Gloria Gaynor - 1975, Chart #75 / R&B #73 / UK #33 - From the Broadway musical Two For The Show - First hit version by Benny Goodman went to # 6 in 1940.
3. Disco Lucy (I Love Lucy Theme) (E. Daniel - M. Hamilton) - Wilton Place Street Band - 1977, Chart #24 / R&B #41 - Disco version of the iconic TV show theme.
4. Disco Mouse (Jimmy Dodd) - The Mouseketeers - 1977 - Disco version of the original TV show theme song. Though the record is credited to The Mousketeers it was a 70's line up from a new TV show called The New Mouseketeers. Listed as Mouseketeers on the label are Scott Craig, Alison Fonte, Kelly Parsons, Lisa Welchel and Curtis Wong.
5. Life & Death In G & A (S. Stewart) - Love Childs Afro Cuban Blues Band - 1975, Chart #90/R&B #48 - Original version by Abaco Dream 1969, Chart #74 / R&B #25. This band was a studio concoction of prolific producer Michael 'Let's All Chant' Zager and featured such notables as Peabo Bryson and Cissy Houston. S. Stewart is Sly of Sly and the Family Stone.
6. Locomotion (G. Goffin - C. King) - Ritz - 1979 - Original #1 hit in 1962 by Little Eva. Also a #1 hit in 1974 for Grand Funk Railroad. To prove that you can't keep a good song down, The Locomotion was subsequently once again a hit for Kylie Minogue who took it to #3 in 1988. Stock, Aiken and Waterman whose sound was definitely inspired by records like this produced Kylie's version. See if you don't agree.
7. I'm A Man (Winwood - Malavasi - Taylor)- Macho - 1978 - #10 hit version by the Spencer Davis Group in 1967 and #49 for Chicago in 1971.
8. Sway (N. Gimbel - P. Ruiz) - Bobby Rydell 1976 - Disco remake of his 1960 top 20 hit. Hit versions of a popular Spanish song made by Dean Martin and Eileen Barton in 1954.
9. Venus (Ed Marshall) - Frankie Avalon - 1976, Chart #46 - Disco remake of his 1959 #1 hit.
10. Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman (Barry White) - The Deadly Nightshade - 1976, Chart #79 - Disco version of the theme from the hit TV show. (Yes, it was written by the Barry White!)
11. Oh No, Not My Baby (G. Goffin - C. King) - De Blanc - 1976, Chart R&B #70 - Original #24 hit version by Maxine Brown in 1964
12. What A Diff'rence A Day Makes (M. Grever - S. Adams) - Esther Phillips - 1975, Chart #20 / R&B #10 / UK #4 - first American hit version by the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra went to # 5 in 1934. From the popular Spanish song Cuando Vuelva a tu Lado.
13. That Old Black Magic (J. Mercer - H. Arlen) - The Softones - 1975, Chart R&B #29 - From the film Star Spangled Rhythm - Three hit versions in 1943 including a #1 for Glenn Miller.
14. Sunny '76 (Bobby Hebb) - Bobby Hebb - 1976 - Disco remake of his 1966 #2 hit.
15. Baby Face (B. Davis - H. Akst) - Wing And A Prayer Fife And Drum Corps - 1975, Chart #14 / R&B #32 / UK #12 - Four hit versions in 1926 and four hit versions in 1948.
16. Baby, Now That I've Found You (J. Macleod - T. Macauley) - Vicki Sue Robinson - 1975 - Original #11 US/#33 R&B/#1 UK hit by the Foundations in 1967.
17. It's My Party (W. Gold - J. Gluck - H. Weiner) - Karla Jayne and the Boogie Man Orchestra - 1975 - Original #1 hit by Lesley Gore in 1963.
18. Drive My Car (J. Lennon - P. McCartney) - Gary Toms Empire - 1975, Chart #69 / R&B #32 - Beatles hit album track.
19. Quiet Village (Les Baxter) - The Ritchie Family - 1977, Chart R&B #68 - Original hit version by Martin Denny in 1959 went to #4 / R&B #11.

Stay tuned for Where Disco Dared Again!

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