Got The Fever

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Disco (Are You Experienced?)

I come not to praise disco, but to glorify a few elite members of its corps.

In my corner of the world, most disco was for the faction of girls who liked to dress up and for the guys who said they liked the music, but realistically were looking to get laid. Although, toward the end of the era, and well into the “new-wave” era it seemed the discos had become a true blend of the polyester crowd and the left over long-haired denim crew, and all those caught somewhere between. The disco had then become a hangout where it was ok to be seen. It also helped that the music was less “hard-core” and had been homogenized to a degree by then.

But, when I went to hangout, the real beauty of the disco was the sheer critical mass volume and chest cavity pounding bass that could only be experienced by being there right smack dab in the middle of it all. That was something that you couldn't get off of the radio - no matter the stereo system. The tunes came alive there at the disco, you were more prone to move away from the bar and find yourself under the strobe disco ball dancing your ass off, if only to shake off built up sweat out of your glands brought on by the sonic goodness you were bathed in. In fact, I doubt that would have like more than a handful of disco tunes had I not been there to “touch and feel them”. Jimi’s question was truly relevant and held universal truth when he asked “Are You Experienced?”

Born To Be Alive
Contrary to what most of my crowd would be playing back in the day, I would incessantly play this tune. Strange, because it wasn’t in keeping with my ‘Disco Sucks’ lemming mentality that I sported along with the XTC, Joe Jackson, Split Enz, 999, Herman Brood and others that the crowd listened to.

I never regarded it as a disco song, just an unforgiveable great groove. You could BEG on your tattered knees for it not to have a strange control over you, but you simply cannot stop from nodding your head at this one given the surroundings and circumstance! But DAMN MAN, you should have seen the dresses swaying en mass during this one!

Maybe the guitar part killed me, maybe the bass line – it just always felt like a smoking tune to me, and one that I would sneak onto foreign turntables at fabled out-of-control parties back when the tune was just out and a way hot commodity. (I talked a little bit about sneaking tunes onto turntables in a past post). Ironically, playing tracks like this always made me VERY popular when I showed up with a crate in hand! Go figure.

Time was on my side
When I was running down the street
It was so fine, fine, fine.
A suitcase and an old guitar
And something new to occupy
My mind, mind, mind.

We were born, born, born -
Born to be alive!

Knock On Wood
The voice absolutely rules your consciousness, captures and banishes all free thought, while commanding your senses to unrealistic heights of hedonism throughout this track!

Written by the dynamic Floyd/Cropper, this was originally covered by Otis Redding and Carla Thomas. It's also covered by a hundred other artists, probably my fave being Bowie's version off of David Live during his Philadelphia Soul era.

What doesn’t this have? Power Horns, maniacal drums, … everything! A dance beat that is not to be ignored. This is the track that would start up and silence the whole crowd for that one flashing, brilliant nanosecond - everyone looking wildly around in an effort to hook up quickly - with anyone - just to get on that floor with a partner and not be standing there either alone or feigning aloofness with your mates - backs to the bar, heels hooked on the bar rail, casually staring at the dancefloor. We were not fooled.

When the drums come pounding in with such commanding majesty at 2'05, I always picture those half-naked Japanese dudes in headbands that hold what look like thick pegs beating ferociously on stretched skin drums that tilt forward toward them.

I’m not superstitious
About you, but I can’t take no chance.
You got me spinning, spinning,
Baby, I’m in a trance.

Cause your love is better
Thank anything I know.

It’s like thunder, lightning.
The way I love you is frightening!
I better knock – on wood!

When she lets loose with the not-from-this-planet falsetto at 2’37, you can almost picture that she’s ruptured the fabric to heaven and look(!) - here comes God, down a forever staircase in a white suit, pure gleaming white grin, kinda coming at us sideways down the stairs, placing a foot down to the next step with each advancing beat while the confetti explodes, disco ball gyrates madly and the crowd raises up both appendages heavenly in a roar unheard of in Studio 54 times 26! That’s just how infectious this is!

Ring My Bell
Mentioned in a past post during August '06 from the good DJ who passed a meme to me as a blog hatchling. This was originally written as a teeny-bopper "talk on the phone" song for Stacy Lattimore, but she went to another label and gospel singing Anita rode it to the top of the charts. I can’t really pinpoint what it is about this that stays with me all these years, but damn I can still get a belly-full of it and smile.

Well, maybe I hear this and remember the old girlfriend and I hearing it on the radio in the backseat of my very used ’67 Buick LeSabre (what a boat! The oars were optional that year.) Maybe it was the over the top cover to the album, sort of a Neptune’s daughter motif that made me smile. Or, it could be that I always remember this dick-head always singing it falsetto when he was stoned.

Whatever it was, it’s no matter at all because the groove is just killer and stays with you all night long - well after the disco closed! Suspend belief and tell me that the bass playing doesn’t rip a new smile? You’re lying if you say ‘No’.

The night is young and full of possibilities.
Well, come on and let yourself be free.
My love for you, so long I’ve been savin’
Tonight was made for me and you

You can ring my bell – ring my bell

(Ring my bell, ring-a-ling-a-ling)

Once more, keep in mind that the central ingredient, the key for me when I heard these tracks, was turning it up to 11.

Patrick Hernandez: Born To Be Alive (20)
Amii Stewart:
Knock On Wood (24)
Anita Ward: Ring My Bell (36)

Addendum: I'm not a huge fan of playlists on radio, as you're all well aware. But, what really puts musical Viagara in a playlist is when it's done by someone who knows what they're doing. I have already mentioned Fufu Stew in a recent past post. Now, I'm adding the RIBS: Rhythm In Black Satin to the list. Each week is yet another quality post that not only gives me the funk I need, but is guaranteed to turn me on to a few tracks that I might not know. Or, he digs deep into an album and plays tracks that you NEVER hear, but love with the intensity and heart of a teenage boy in love. This week he's spotlighting The Isley Brothers, The Gap Band and Rose Royce. As an added twist, he's set up two playlists - one for the faster groove of the three bands, and the other for the slower groove. Dig it.

Also, I've added a new list over to the right called "What I'm (unsuccessfully) Searching For". If you have any clues to throw my way, I'd be grateful if you'd let me know.


  • Kev: Got the disco fever these days, eh? It's funny, I've actually been pulling some of the ol' disco classics out again myself lately. Mostly concentrating on the old SalSoul catalog, Philly International and the remixes by Larry Levan, Shep Pettibone and some others. I guess enough time has passed (30 years already, {sigh} how the time has flown by) that this stuff is sounding good again.

    I really love the expressive, descriptive writing in your posts. you always seem to paint a vivid picture in my mind as I'm reading them. I'm with you on the Patrick Hernandez and Amii Stewart cuts... BUT Ring My Bell by Anita is still one of those tunes that makes me cringe every time I hear it. I just heard it and/or had to play it (during my DJ days during and just after college) one time too many! {smile}

    By Anonymous tgrundy, at 11:30 AM  

  • Greetings again,
    You're enthusiasm for the disco era experiences you remember is translated perfectly in your post. And made this reader understand the passion about a subject I have very little interest in. Very nicely written. Props!

    By Blogger Casey, at 3:51 PM  

  • tgrundy - you know, I didn't mean to be writing about disco, I had someone else in mind to post, but the random play hit a few of these and I just smiled and went with the flow. Thanks for the compliment about my writing - nothing special to me, just the way I talk really. And, yea, I can forgive the Anita Ward - I have a few like that also that I can't take.

    casey - once again, you give me props! I truely appreciate the time it takes to come here and write a note - it means a lot to have a message here as all who have blogs can attest to. The passion wasn't so much for the era, as it is for the experience of hearing the music that way! You had to be there. Although, I could say the same for a few concerts I've been to that really pushed me over the edge to newfound respect for a band.

    Maybe I'm saying that music ... songs can be enhanced by the environment in which we hear them, and by the circumstances in which we find ourself when we hear them. We don't necessarily have to romanticise them or the times, but we all have memories of how important a track, a selection, or a slice of an album might not have meant as much to us without the surroundings that just happened to be there.

    By Blogger wzjn, at 10:24 AM  

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