Monday, July 9, 2012

Top 40 Songs of the Disco Era

I have to tell you about the American Top 40 rebroadcast from this past weekend. It was one of the more infamous shows in the program's history - the special "all disco" countdown from July 7, 1979. Well, except for Hour #1, that is; due to the format of these retro shows being set at three hours, the four hour shows which began in late 1978 are edited out of necessity. That's a shame, but I'd rather get 3/4th of the show than none at all.

And I did get to hear the whole thing, for once. I usually end up missing the last half hour or so due to having to leave my radio, but on Sunday, my station (for reasons unknown) began the show at 8 am rather than the customary 9. The whole thing was over before 11 am! Whether this was an accident or a deliberate move by someone who hates disco is unclear. But then, it's not as if this edition is a stranger to controversy. Cleveland station WGCL loathed disco so much that they pre-empted the real show and aired a fake one in its place.

All of which is a pity. I get a fair amount of ribbing from people over liking some (not all) disco, but the truth is that disco music never went away. They just changed the name and let the disco moment pass. If you look at that countdown, there are a number of polarizing acts (the Bee Gees, the Village People, Rod Stewart), but also a lot of solid, fun music. "Got To Give It Up" does nothing but enhance Marvin Gaye's reputation. Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of Chic would go on to be much in-demand producers. "Dazz" by Brick and "Turn The Beat Around" by Vicki Sue Robinson are just amazing regardless of how you classify them. And so on.

The most hilarious/sad aspect of the whole show is how Casey Kasem offers up quotes about disco and its influence on our daily lives and how it was "here to stay." Little did anyone know while putting together this show that Disco Demolition Night was literally just days away. July 12, 1979 has been called "the day disco died," so it's ironic that AT40 aired such a huge celebration of it in the days prior to that seminal event. And for the record, I think the whole promotion was just dumb.

As for disco itself, there was much that was good and bad about it. I am pretty sure the disco moment would have passed anyway (I've read it was only SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER that extended it as far as it did), but it's genuinely too bad it took such an ugly riot for things to reach critical mass. Still, maybe that's the only way things could have turned out.

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