2007   NOVEMBER 2   #306

Disco Sickness

This collection is the result of turning over rocks and finding moldy old forgotten relics of the disco craze. Disco music seemed to everywhere in the late '70s, and then seemingly vanished by the '80s, all parties waking up with a hangover and acting like these records never existed. In hindsight, it seems like a kind of mass hysteria, but it was no accident - the music business made a concerted effort to promote disco in their attempt to find a sure-fire hit-making formula, and disco records were cranked out with factory-like efficiency. It was expected that everyone - lounge singers, ethnic acts, rock'n'rollers, easy-listening band leaders, children's music makers - would make at least one token disco songs. This collection compiles a small sampling of miscellaneous album tracks, singles, and one-off studio groups. There's a lot of boring, assembly-line stuff out there, but to the dedicated record hound, the rewards for sifting through it all are ample - a collection of the best of these records is ridiculously entertaining.

1. La Sinfonica de J.B. - Papaya (3:11)
2. Wilton Place Street Band - I Love Lucy Theme (3:52)
3. Joe Tripoli Jr - The Hustle (2:44)
4. Sesame Street Fever - Rubber Duckie (4:27)
5. In Touch - Nights On Broadway (3:48)
6. The Dragoneers - Kung Fu (2:53)
7. The Chinese Fighters - Hong Kong Lizzy (2:34)
8. Raja - Baby (3:46)
9. Larry Nored - She Works Hard For The Money (1:58)
10. The Salambos - Salambo pt.1 (3:30)
11. Hot Blood - Soul Dracula (3:57)
12. Count Floyd - Treat Her Like A Lady (3:14)
13. Myron Floren - Beer Barrel Polka (3:05)
14. Steve Dahl - D'Ya Think I'm Disco (3:38)
15. Enzo Lupo - No Se No Se (2:24)
16. Freddy Ventura - Disco Samba (6:06)
17. Mort Garson - The Unexplained (3:04)
18. Ronnie Aldrich - Close Encounters (2:55)
19. The John Keating Space Experience - Star Cluster (3:43)
20. Ramapo Valley Chorus - Disco Medley (7:12)
21. Sam Butera - Last Dance (3:15)

Some of these performers meant to funny, like Count Floyd, aka Joe Flaherty of the "SCTV" comedy tv series, popular (and still performing) Chicago radio personality Steve Dahl, and "Sesame Street," whose lavishly-produced "Sesame Street Fever" album has never been released on CD. Others records were by veterans jumping on the bandwagon, like lounge legend Sam Butera of the Louis Prima band, Moog pioneer Mort Garson, easy-listening star Ronnie "Twin Pianos" Aldrich, and Lawrence Welk's accordion-wielding polka-meister Myron Floren.

Self-produced outsider/DIY releases featured occasional disco numbers as well, such those by teenaged organ soloist Joe Tripoli Jr, and the Ramapo Valley Chorus, a female a capella vocal group still active in Northern California. At the other end of the professionalism scale, slick studio groups under a variety of "group names" cranked out novelties derived from horror ("Soul Dracula"), TV themes ("I Love Lucy"), even rip-offs of other disco hits, like the martial arts/Chinese titles released in the wake of Carl Douglas' hit "Kung Fu Fighting" - the group El Chicles even released a whole album of the stuff under the name "The Chinese Fighters."

Some of the most fascinating records are from artists of other countries or ethnicities, who fused their style with disco to create some pretty wonderful mutants, e.g.: Raja's Middle Eastern belly-dancing music, Enzo Lupo and Freddie Ventura's Brazilian samba, and the Latin influence of Mexico's La Sinfonica de J.B. And then there's In Touch's exotic/Latin/Moog take on the Beegees that's just inexplicable.

A large chunk of Americans resented disco's ubiquity, and it all came to a head in 1979 when Steve Dahl, whose "D'Ya Think I"m Disco" was one of the most pointed disco satires, led the anarchic "Disco Demolition" event: "Originally crafted as a radio promotion, Dahl asked listeners to bring their disco records and $0.98 to Chicago's Comiskey Park (home of the White Sox) so he could blow up the LPs and put an end to disco forever. With Dahl leading the "Disco Sucks" chant, an estimated 90,000 fans and listeners showed up to storm the field and joined him in setting fire to thousands of disco records."

Which is good news for us - collectors consider these records worthless, and we get 'em for dirt cheap. This music is stayin' alive, stayin' alive, ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin' alive, stayin' alive.

- Contributed by: Mr. Fab

Images: Disco Salambos, Disco Samba, Disco Sesame Street, Disco Soul Dracula

Media: vinyl LPs, singles
Date: late '70s