The major new movement which began in the USA in 1975 and would spread its influence worldwide, was disco music. Originally regarded by many as a poor substitute for genuine soul music, nothing had been more capable of filling a dance floor.
Disco had been building as a commercial force since 1974, when rump-shakers such as the Hues Corporation Rock the Boat and George McCrae’s Rock Your Baby topped pop charts.
The disco boom would peak in 1978 with the enormously successful movie Saturday Night Fever, but before that the charts would be almost saturated with disco epics. All of a sudden a 12-incher was no longer a well-worn sexual innuendo, but an extended version of a popular chart dance hit.
The low-budget Saturday Night Fever spawned a 15 million selling soundtrack and did wonderful things for the Bee Gees. It took the world by storm, reminding regular people who didn’t have a prayer of getting into the hippest discos in town that they too had the right to dance.
The popularity of disco lay in its unwritten commandment that fun and good times were to be the prime directive. Lyrics took second place to a musical style whose sole purpose was to keep the feet moving.
That’s not to say that it didn’t generate classic songs: Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive is reportedly the most popular karaoke song of all time. Chic‘s chattering guitar and funky bass were the trademark sound in Le Freak – whose title was changed from another F word. It was aimed at the proprietors of famed nightclub Studio 54, who refused them entry one night.
The word discotheque is, of course, a European one. So it’s fitting that some of disco’s more colourful exponents hailed from that continent. Boney M were from Munich, and we all know from which Viking port ABBA sailed.
European influence on disco continued with two Frenchmen being responsible for one of its most extravagant concoctions – The Village People knew how to dance and had great outfits. Though Patrick Hernandez‘s dancing wouldn’t have cut it at the YMCA auditions, he made up for it with his lyrics (Hear Born To Be Alive for proof).
The disco boom affected the output of many groups who had started out as rock and rollers but began to tailor their music to the burgeoning disco market; Rod Stewart, The Rolling Stones, Blondie and KISS all released a disco flavoured record.