Not All Disco Sucked

Beg to differ? No problem. For any who care to stick around – my dance card has plenty of spaces. Hard to tell what exactly defines disco – i tend to lean towards the funk / r&b end of it. Left out quite a few decent poppy disco tunes too. Have any personal faves, feel free to post below. I left a lot out. Some may sound very familiar – lots of covers of of the old disco tunes.

1. Yarborough & Peoples – Don’t Stop the Music
2. Evelyn Champagne King – Shame
3. Michael Jackson – Working Day and Night
4. Teena Marie – Lovergirl
5. Mary Jane Girls – In My House

6. Anita Ward – Ring My Bells
7. SOS Band – Take Your Time (Do it Right)
8. Cherelle – I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On
9. Indeep – Last Night a DJ Saved My Life
10.Evelyn Champagne King – Love Come Down

11. Earth, Wind & Fire – Getaway
12. Prince – I Wanna Be Your Lover
13. Janet Jackson – The Pleasure Principle
14. Cameo – She Strange
15. Rufus – Tell Me Something Good

16. Brick – Dazz
17. Slave – Slide
18. Ronnie Hudson and the Street People – West Coast Poplock
19. Mtume – Juicy Fruit
20. Zapp & Roger – More Bounce to the Ounce
21. Pointer Sisters – Yes We Can Can

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189 thoughts on “Not All Disco Sucked

  1. Couldn’t agree more, amylee. Indeed anyone who thinks the opposite needs a good talking to! That’s a great list, but as you’ve hinted, it only scratches the surface. There’s a huge body of excellent disco work out there. Here’s one of my favourites, guaranteed to get you up and dancing…

  2. Well done for getting this up so promptly, Amy! Not sure I’ll get to it till the weekend because a) I’m in the middle of a mad week; and b) I’m in one of my (almost constant…) insomniac phases and listening to anything too catchy just aggravates things! But I hope to get to these eventually. In the meantime, I would add this as a particular delight of mine:

  3. Hi Amylee! Fun idea. I don’t know how to download youtube links here but I’d like to throw – Grace Jones – Pull Up To The Bumper – into the mix.

  4. I really loved the tracks in your list and there is so many of them!!! I can imagine you as a disco diva ! ! !

    We had a phase when Euro disco tracks were covered with new Japanese words and they were very popular for dancing Para Para. This is like USA line dancing but Japanese and featuring co-ordinated movement of the arms.

    Here is an example – Join in it is Fun!!!

    • I actually wasn’t a disco diva, and was one of the disco sucks brigade! I run screaming at songs like I Will Survive, It’s Raining Men, and Do the Hustle. But there are still some jewels in there, and no need to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

      I hear so many covers of the old disco tunes, not to mention reworks and samples galore.

  5. Now in the 80s and 90s disco was one of the most maligned musical styles around. To me a lot of dance music from that era was every bit a stylistic continuation of disco but no one wanted to use the name.You couldn’t give the records away and radio avoided it like plague.

    That was of course before it became THE staple of oldies radio (having moved on from Motown and before that doowop) for reasons that were so blindingly obvious: it had actual hooks (as opposed to sampling), melodies, harmonies (as opposed to studio trickery), instrumentation, and lyrics you could understand. Hell, even the electronic stuff didn’t sound that bad in a kitschy kind of way.

    A weird bit of enviro-sci-fi-retrofuturism? Why not?

    • Exactly, and then they called it “club” or “house” or “techno” or something similar. I definitely remember I Wanna Be Your Lover being played around the same time as Rapper’s Delight, and hip hop started to get mixed in with it all as well.

      The last segment of my list up there, you could make a very good argument (hell, i’d make it too) that it’s not disco at all but classic funk. Which was definitely more my own bag. But it all got played and danced to in the same places.

    • This song is particularly endeared to me because my sister came home one day to find her male roommate dressed in her going out clothes (satin ra-ra skirt,etc.., made up in her make up, hair curled and sprayed standing in front of the large mirror dancing and miming the rather sparse words using her curling wand as a microphone. There was one of those split seconds of open mouthed wonder before she roared with laughter and they collapsed on her bed in a fit of giggles. It’s okay to tell the story now as so many years have passed. :-)

      • (My wife’s friend is a realtor who gave me this link because she’s made it her personal mission for us to buy a home and stop renting. I just thought it fit the topic in an odd way. So if you’ve ever wanted to live in a barely-updated 1970s house that looks like it was designed by an architect on crack in subdivision of similarly styled atrocities: $74K/£47K and it’s yours!)

        Way back, long ago on a listserv, there was a debate as to what the final disco song was. I said that it was impossible to define as it encompassed everything from lush orchestral crushed-velvet soft porn (Barry White, Major Harris) to Euro-techno (Moroder, Cerrone), rock crossovers (KISS, Stones, Stewart) and even early rapping.

        My personal opinion was that the last song to fit within those broad confines without being self-consciously retro (Deee-Lite, Jamiroquai) was possibly “Shout To The Top” by Style Council from 1984 (punchy strings, hand claps, call and response chants – d’oh I missed one for this week) from an album I loved to death even if Weller’s politics never really moved me.

      • SHA –

        That much would get you an outhouse here in New England. Big part of the reason why there’s flight to the south from the northeast. And the weather, of course.

      • @ SpottedRich – Glad I brought back some pleasant memories. The song is notable as one of the few disco songs to be about something other than dancing or romancing.

        @ amylee – “Big part of the reason why there’s flight to the south from the northeast. And the weather, of course.”
        Careful, you’re sounding a little ngavc there. ;-)

      • SHA –

        Ok, i’ll go whole hog and say the tax burdens on a liberal state then!! Seriously, there’s a tipping point, our state taxes are higher than federal now. My state, Mass, NY, NJ, and Pa have all lost house seats from the population flight.

      • Of course, i’m bailing out to yet another liberal state (either NY or Calif) with taxes and rents that are just as high, but with a lot more quality of life for the money.

  6. Not my natural territory by any means, in fact I would rather have had scalding cocoa poured over my groins than listen to disco…until I purchased this fine album..http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9J6gxf9Jbc

    Since then I have acquired a “Best of Disco” compilation and quite enjoy it. Mainly the more cheesy tracks I admit.
    It’s not really listening music though, is it ? Fine for having on in the background when you are doing something else ( like going our, washing the dog or scraping your corns).

    • Hi Littleriver! Was wondering who that was. Actually though of you, as wasn’t it you that got the Robert Palmer cover of Cherelle zedded?

  7. Yes. It was my first ever post on RR. I didn’t have a clue what was going on when I stumbled across the thread. It just seemed like so much fun and everybody was respectful and friendly. Breath of fresh air compared to the bulk of daily threads and CIF comment pieces.
    First song I ever danced to in a club was Freedom (George Michael) but don’t know if that could be categorized as ‘disco’. The second was Mea Culpa (Enigma)….oh lordy!!
    littleriver.

  8. Fabulous! Some familiar ones, some less so. I do like a bit of quality disco, although I never was much of a dancer. In the 90s, there was a bit of a trend for 70s nights (it’s that whole 20 year cycle thingummybob), which were rather popular among the student popuation. There was probably something deliberately ironic about it, but us science geeks didn’t especially care. It was fun.

    • A couple of weeks ago you (or maybe it was Ali) said something like you would have liked a song if it wasn’t for the relentless disco background. I knew exactly what you or whoever) meant. I think that’s kind of too bad about some of these (and other) songs, that might have had more staying power as straight R&B type backgrounds.

      I hope you didn’t get the impression that i could dance. When i drank i just thought that i could.

      • It wasn’t me – I think it may have been Ali, possibly on an earworm post. “Relentless disco” can, indeed, be a bit much. Athough I think I didn’t mind in that particular case.

      • It’s amazing what alcohol can do isn’t it? (Wow! I must look REALLY great. I can do this after all!)

  9. Nooo! Will admit fondness for Anita’s bell, but too scared to press play to see if other gems are hiding amongst the horrors.

    • Anita’s bell would certainly have sent some of my science geek friends running (in the opposite direction, naturally). I personally am ambivalent on that one – the “dings” are a bitt annoying and I’ve heard it too often – but it is intrinsically pretty good stuff.

  10. Have to say that the list seems to be missing something without some Chic. Maybe Donna Summer too, but there i have some bias – for me I Feel Love and Love to Love You Baby are genius, but i could essentially do without the rest of it.

      • What about the Moodswings/Chrissie Hynde version? I was rather fond of that when it came out (and still am) – it actually served as a doorway into Donna Summer’s back catalogue for me.

      • Never heard that one, Amanda. It sets off like they were trying to do a Cocteaux Song To The Siren type of thing, which I think I’d have preferred to what actually happened. Still pretty good though.

  11. I think I featured this track in one of my first ever Spill posts.

    Apols for the somewhat dodgy album cover. Michael Brecker is the saxophonist.

    Herbie Hancock’s Spider is the other proto-disco track I’d listen to most, not on Youtube unfortunately.

      • And I wanted to add Gary Bartz’ Funked up. Syreeta (ex- mrs. Wonder) on vocals. Mizell bros. production. On the jazz funk fringe of disco, admittedly.

      • I’ve just blown the dust off my CD of Mtume’s 1986 album Theater Of The Mind, and loaded it into the PC for iTunes to gobble. Can’t remember the last time I played it . . .

      • Eesh. Now I remember why that CD was gathering dust.

        With the exceptions of Deep Freeze (which IS fun, I think Bootsy must’ve ‘scored’ some on his way into the studio the day they recorded that), and the frankly disturbing, Zappa-esque, New Face Deli, the whole thing is po-faced, of-its-time, joyless jazz-funk.

        Back to the shelf with you, me-boyo.

  12. Yay! Way to go Amylee. I am LOVING this!!! Are you going to box this lot? I have some of it but there are a few I don’t have in my collection. I don’t care that disco sucks … and you can Take That To The Bank! :-)

  13. Where to start ? I could list a hundred great disco/soul songs without even thinking but I’ll try to limit myself.

    You Got the Floor – Arthur Adams
    Don’t Look Any Further – Dennis Edwards
    Outstanding – The Gap Band
    You’re The One for Me – D train
    Rising to the Top – Keni Burke
    Don’t Let Nobody Hold You Back – LJ Reynolds
    Keep On Movin – Soul II Soul
    Mysteries of the World – MFSB
    I’m In Love – Evelyn King
    Just a Touch of Love – Slave
    I Love Music – The O Jays
    Street Life – Crusaders
    Funkin for Jamaica – Tom Browne
    Somebody Else’s Guy – Jocelyn Brown
    Big Time – Rick James

    That will do for now.

  14. There is no disco without Giogio Moroder, especially with Donna Summer. Even better when Mark Stewart steals it & crashes it with some Vincent Price from Thriller & a famous Glenn Close movie:

      • it’s a groovergoth – bob even wiggles it at 2:07 – the whole disintergration (sp?) album was remixed into the club style of the time – (this track can actually be mixed with INXS ‘need you tonight’ guitar bit – just incase you wanted the indie disco effect in full)

  15. SOS band Just be Good to me – bought the 12 incher way back.

    And Earth, Wind and Fire’s Boogie Wonderland, a whole disco in itself.

    And Kool and the Gang with Celebration “Celebration time, c’mon”.

    Whoo Hoo, my weekend starts today with these 3, the furniture pushed back and a cool beer!!

    • My weekend starts on Sunday, but i have the feeling that it’s going to start with some nice soothing classical after all of this disco overload!

    • A-a-a-a-n-n-n-d . . . guess who got SOS Band’s Just Be Good To Me zedded?
      (RRSA Infidelity – Maddy, guesting for Dorian, picked it in the same Ten as DBT’s Marconium debut, My Sweet Annette – not at all disco, that one, though!) ;)

  16. I won’t say anything that will cause TB to give me a good talking to. In fact, I have previously confessed to liking The Pointer Sisters’ I’m So Excited. Is that disco? Or just wonderful filth?

      • I did wonder about that. When we once had a party at our house in the eighties, it was necessary to create some appropriate dance tapes. This was the only Dead track I was allowed. The closest they got to wakka-wakka guitar and, unfortunately, one of those songs that would just go on and on, quite pointlessly.

      • “unfortunately, one of those songs that would just go on and on, quite pointlessly.”

        Chris, you’re supposed to dance to it, not put on the headphones and listen to it!

      • That is a general problem I have with music, amy: I tend to listen to it, rather than treat it as wallpaper. I should probably drink more – I think that used to help back in the day.

      • Nah Chris, it was blow for the disco crowd, which should explain a lot. Probably why the Dead didn’t quite cut it as a dance band, the preferences lay elsewhere.

      • I’m not sure about your point about coke, amy. Lowell George produced Shakedown Street and there are tales of literal hills of the stuff being hoovered up.
        And the Dead were a dance band right from the Carousel/Avalon days, but more the twirly, floaty kind of dance.

      • Chris, you’re supposed to dance to it,

        From where I twirl, you dance ‘with’ rather than ‘to’ which is why song based disco or funk is so much more engaging than the later purely beat based stuff.

    • Just that it’s kind of hard to do mountains of blow and then just sit around and listen to music, but smoking weed is very conducive to it.

  17. As I always get to these posts late, I thought I’d pop in with some late commers to the disco period. According to most sources, Disco was suffering death thoes by the end of the 70’s. Well here’s two from the 80’s that I would certainly throw into the “Not All Disco Sucks” hall of fame.

    Were they punk ? Were they disco ? Were they new wave ?

    From 1980, Blondie….”Rapture”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pHCdS7O248g&ob=av2e

    And from 1982 they came and went but left us with this……..

    Kid Creole and the Coconuts…….”I’m a Wonderfull Thing, Babhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=McFCw-U1OC0&feature=relatedy”

    • dond, and now we are definitely moving into some sort of rap! But that reminds me of Heart of Glass, which probably had to be disco. Or pop punk / disco, or something.

  18. I’m not (necessarily) saying I like all of these, but just wondering if you got all the Eurodisco stuff that we had foisted on us over the Pond, Amy?

    I could go on…

    • I don’t know any of that stuff, but maybe SweetHomeAlabama is the one to ask, as he seems to be more familiar with what was on the radio. If not, my guess is that if it made it over here, it would have been in clubs in NY.

  19. Well, I wanted to pop in just to say that I’m not dead, and if I didn’t find loads to love about this post, I would be.

    Anyway, yes to pretty much all the above. In memoriam of Don Cornelius, I used to have a “Don Cornelius Soul Train” compilation from c.1974 which had great sweet soul numbers like The Spinners’ I’ll Be Around, The Impressions’ Finally Got Myself Together, BB King’s I Like To Live The Love That I Sing About and, hoisting the flag for the forthcoming disco revolution, this:

    essentially the same dum da-dum dum da-dum rhythm as this other pioneering classic:

      • Lovely of you to say, amy – thanks. Well, the absence is employment-related – masses of teaching, masses of driving and masses and masses of marking – so this is a brief surface for air, though the marking’s almost out of the way meaning I’ll not go missing for quite so long for a while. I’d hold the congratulations, though, as the lovely people who have realised they need me to do all this work still haven’t worked out what sort of contract they should be offering me and therefore won’t get round to paying me until the end of February. So there may be good news further down the line but at the moment it’s so grim, I’ve got Ebernezer Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Past knocking at my window every night asking me when Tiny Tim’s going to get here. The only solution…the ONLY solution is to dance your tits off, and my next weapon of choice is this cover of a Gordon Lightfoot song:

  20. So I don’t show up for weeks and now I’m sticking my arse right out and bumping everyone off the dancefloor – sorry ’bout that, but I also had to shout this, which is up there on the shoulder of Martha & The Vandella’s Heatwave, bidding for the title of Greatest Thing Ever To Happen In The History Of Recorded Music:

    And while I think enthusing about Sister Sledge and anything Nile Rodgers-related is unlikely to result in any public stonings, I’d not stop there, oh no. I have a quiet obsession with First Choice, a magnificent proto-Destiny’s Child disco outfit who belted them out like a trinity of Loleatta Holloways which, you can calculate, is a lot of woman. Here’s what you’ll possibly know by them:

      • Well, just for you, bish, here’s some more of them – “Nine months later, looks like the joke’s on me/ Dance to a lonely corner/ Now I’m a mother to be…” – does anyone else think that part of what’s so great about disco, never mind the dancing, is some of what was equally great about its apparent antithesis, punk – namely, humorous, human lyrics about believable, usually working class, lives?

      • Interesting theory, may. I would certainly contend (and I’m sure I wouldn’t be the first to do so) that some of the critical opprobrium hurled in disco’s direction back then (and perhaps still now) was essentially the white, male, middle-class, heterosexual music-journo elite sneering at music created (and enjoyed) by non-white, non-male, non-middle-class, non-heterosexual performers (and punters). On which note, let’s have a bit of Sylvester:

        Of course there was some substandard disco, but what musical genre hasn’t produced some substandard records?

      • But on this side of the pond anyway, i think it might have been reviled not so much because of the working class roots, but by the culture that co-opted it – the Studio 54 useless slebs and socialites. It wasn’t about working class Brooklyn kids going out to dance off a hard week anymore, or gay guys in the Village doing the same, but a bunch of rich wives out to dress up, snort coke, and get photographed. And of course the velvet rope too.

      • Bish –

        Have you ever read the Disco Bloodbath book by James St. James? It was the murder of Angel Melendez, along with the earlier tax evasion and jailing of the Studio 54 owners that basically killed the big disco culture here.

      • I think bishbosh is spot on about the sneering from the middle class white boys re disco. All those I knew in the 80s that loved soul/disco were white working class.

      • Now that you mention it – the preppy private school white kids i knew listened to the Dead, while the rich Italian kids who went to private Catholic schools listened to funk and disco.

      • Always bearing repeating in this context is the legend behind Chic’s Freak Out, which, in case it’s not already posted above, goes a little something like –

        – when Studio 54 got all elitist, Chic were booked to play a live set, so the story goes (and I distinctly remember seeing the wonderful Nile Rodgers tell this story on a documentary years ago) but the bouncers wouldn’t let them in – says something for the fashions of the period that those guys didn’t look like they’d shown up to play a gig. So they went home, got a riff going, and then started adding the chant: “Aaaaah – Fuck Off!…”
        Very very difficult to hear the song without hearing that, and it makes me love them all the more.

  21. * engage CAPS LOCK*

    AW MAN-OH-MAN! TWO ALL TIME DsD FAVES IN HERE:

    MTUME’S JUICY FRUIT & INDEEP’S LAST NIGHT A DJ SAVED MY LIFE.

    THANKS, AMY. HOPE TO GET BACK LATER TO READ AND COMMENT.

    • I’ve been kind of waiting for you to post Word Up. It’s really a better song than She’s Strange, but as a weirdo, i have a soft spot for a guy who finds this attractive.

      • Amy, has anyone ever mentioned/explained about a UK Ch4 TV show in the 80s called The Tube?

        Presented by Jools Holland and Paula Yates, it was, back then, a VERY rare opportunity to see decent live-in-their-studio performances by bands who’d be hard-pressed to get on air otherwise.

        Over it’s relatively short life, there were several blow-me-down performances from very unexpected bands. A three-song set from Talk Talk when The Colour Of Spring was released ignited my passion for them in 1985 or so.
        And yes, Cameo, who I’d then never heard of, came on and were absolutely awesome. Albums Single Life and Word Up!, in spite of both being only 7-song sets, made their way into my collection, but sadly for me, the studio albums failed to capture the red-hot fever they looked like they generated live.

        If you can put up with the missed-by-a-mile audio/video synch, I beseech you to watch this:

        Disco it ain’t. Kick-ass funk/rock crossover? Now that’s my kinda THANG!!

  22. Talking of Cameo I think this rates better than She’s Strange or Word Up for funkiness. Classic. Listen to that bass.

  23. HA! On a whim I just sorted my iTunes by Genre.

    Anyone want to take a guess as to how many of the 52,000 songs are listed as Disco?

    Spill points on offer for an accurate guess.

      • Au contraire – to follow the true path of disco, you must embrace the choppy hand dance, Grasshopper. Donds.

      • I think you have to make a distinction between songs that are played at discos ie this and songs that are disco ie soul, funk, etc

      • Good point, FF, but a line we’ve crossed several times already upthread.

        And no problem, bish & Amy; ’tis undoubted cheese, but one that my daughters are still young enough to get innocent pleasure from.

  24. Amy, good to see you are keeping the faith! What you need is to get a copy of this :
    Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture, 1970-1979 by Tim Lawrence

    It’s a fabulous book about the origins of disco & features some amazing playlists from the movers & shakers of the time

    Let’s change continents with a seminal tune from the mid ’70s

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