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The First Years of Disco (1972-1974)

Disco music was initially called discotheque music. Early mainstream disco hits on the American pop charts included "The Love I Lost" by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes (released December 1973), "Rock the Boat" by the Hues Corporation (released February 1974 on their "Freedom for the Stallion" album and released as a single in May 1974), "T.S.O.P." by MFSB and the Three Degrees (on the January 1974 MFSB album "Love is the Message" and released as a single in March 1974), and "Rock Your Baby" by George McCrae (released July 1974). The first #1 song on the American Disco chart upon its debut on November 2, 1974 was "Never Can Say Goodbye" by Gloria Gaynor.

Disco Music released during 1972:

  • The Intruders - "(Win, Place or Show) She's a Winner" - disco-soul (added to the Billboard Soul chart on August 19, 1972 but the single was already reviewed in the July 29, 1972 issue of Billboard magazine on page 51); reached #12 R&B in the USA in 1972, #14 Pop in the U.K. in 1974 -- FIRST DISCO SONG RELEASED IN HISTORY -- drummer: Earl Young, arranger of strings and horns: Bobby Martin
  • Jerry Butler - "One Night Affair" - disco-soul (released as a single on November 4, 1972); cover of the 1969 O'Jays proto-disco song; reached #6 R&B in the USA, #52 Pop in the USA in late-fall 1972 -- drummer: Earl Young, arrangers: Robert Bowles and Samuel F. Brown III
  • The O'Jays - "Love Train" - disco-soul (released in the last week of August 1972 on "Back Stabbers" album, which was designated the "BEST NEW ALBUM OF THE WEEK" in the September 2, 1972 issue of Billboard magazine on page 32); reached #1 Pop in the USA in March 1973 -- drummer: Earl Young, arranger: Bobby Martin

    October 1971's "Theme from 'Shaft'" by Isaac Hayes (a #1 Pop hit in the USA in November 1971) was one of the first proto-disco songs, and it does have a high-hat disco stomp beat for a little less than a minute. Also listen for the original rendition of "One Night Affair" by The O'Jays (a #68 Pop and #15 R&B hit in the USA in 1969) with its almost disco-timed beat, guitar, heavy bass, and violins. And then there's the proto-disco danceable funk of Sly and the Family Stone on their hit "Dance to the Music", released in April 1968. Some proto-disco or virtually-disco songs from 1972 include "I'll Bake Me a Man" by Barbara Acklin, "If You Love Me Like You Say You Love Me" by Betty Wright, "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart" by the Trammps with drumming by Earl Young (which does have about 6 seconds of a pure disco beat - without that light extra beat - when you hear "lord have mercy", and the same is true for about 7 seconds in the instrumental intro) - a remake of a 1943 Judy Garland tune that reached #17 R&B in the USA in summer 1972 and they also released the same year in a purely wordless version titled "Penguin at the Big Apple", "This is the House Where Love Died" by First Choice, "Theme from 'The Men'" by Isaac Hayes, "Date with the Rain" by Eddie Kendricks, "Girl, You Need a Change of Mind" by Eddie Kendricks, "Ain't No Love Lost" by Patti Jo, "Soul Makossa" by Manu Dibango (from Cameroon) (#35 Pop in the USA in July 1973), and "I'll Be Around" by the Spinners. These songs contain elements of what became the disco sound but have notable differences, especially the lack of a generally-steady 4/4 beat. "I'll Be Around" and "Date with the Rain", for instance, have 3 beats per second rather than 2. Purists, therefore, do not classify these proto-disco songs as disco. (By contrast, while some true disco songs have extra percussive elements and beats, like hustle-styled songs "Hey Girl, Come and Get It", "I'll Play the Fool", and "The Hustle", those songs still maintain a 4/4 beat). The funk song "Follow the Wind" by Midnight Movers Unlimited has an introduction with a disco stomp beat. "Your Song" by Billy Paul and "Could it be I'm Falling in Love" by the Spinners are better classified as soul music.

    Hasbro Industries in collaboration with Matchbox Industries/Lesney Products started the "Disco Girls" doll series in 1972 and it lasted until 1977. However, it was not necessarily connected to disco music or the '70s disco scene, but perhaps more to the Spanish word "disco" meaning "record" or (at first) influenced by mid-to-late-1960s discotheque fashions. The girls' outfits were very diverse. But the girls' friend Tony had huge bellbottoms and looked totally '70s.


    Disco Music released during 1973:

  • Barry White - "Honey Please, Can't Ya See" - reached #44 Pop in the USA in 1974
  • Don Downing - "Dreamworld" - Don Downing was the first artist signed to the production company Disco Corporation of America run by Domenico ("Meco") Monardo and Tony Bongiovi
  • Don Downing - "Lonely Days, Lonely Nights" - R&B-disco; reached #65 R&B in the USA in summer 1973
  • First Choice - "Armed and Extremely Dangerous" - reached #28 Pop in the USA in May 1973, #11 R&B in the USA in early 1973, #20 Pop in the U.K. -- drummer: Earl Young, arranger: Norman Harris
  • Gloria Gaynor (a.k.a. Gloria Fowles) - "Honey Bee" - reached #55 R&B in the USA in 1974 -- arranger: Norman Harris
  • Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes - "The Love I Lost" - reached #7 Pop in the USA in December 1973 -- drummer: Earl Young, arranger: Bobby Martin
  • The Independents - "I Love You, Yes I Do" - disco-soul
  • The Intruders - "I'll Always Love My Mama (Long Version: Part 1 and 2)" - disco-soul; over 2 minutes have the disco beat; the mostly un-disco abbreviated version reached #36 Pop in the USA in 1973 and #32 Pop in the U.K. in May 1974 -- drummer: Earl Young, arranger: Bobby Martin
  • The LTG Exchange - "Corazon" - disco in Spanish; cover of Carole King's 1973 song
  • The South Side Movement - "Mud Wind" - disco-funk
  • Sylvia [Robinson] - "Pillow Talk" - mellow disco-soul; reached #3 Pop in the USA in June 1973
  • The Three Degrees - "Dirty Ol' Man" - reached #58 R&B in the USA in fall 1973 -- drummer: Earl Young, arranger: Bobby Martin
  • The Trammps - "Love Epidemic" -- drummer: Earl Young, arranger: Norman Harris
  • Ultra High Frequency - "We're on the Right Track" -- arranger: Norman Harris

    Love Unlimited Orchestra came out with their superb soul instrumental "Love's Theme" in 1973, which reached #1 Pop in February 1974. Barry White's soul song "Never, Never Gonna Give Ya Up" was also released in 1973 and became a hit in the fall of 1973. Barry White's soul classics "I'm Gonna Love You Just a Little More Baby" and "I've Got So Much to Give" also came out in 1973. The Three Degrees released the lovely soul hit "When Will I See You Again" in 1973 and it became a #2 Pop hit in the USA in December 1974. "Love is the Message" by MFSB, "Smarty Pants" by First Choice, "I'm Doin' Fine Now" by New York City (#17 Pop in the USA in 1973), "Look Me Up" by Blue Magic, "When the Fuel Runs Out" by Executive Suite, "I'll Always Love My Mama (Part 1)" by the Intruders (which starts with a disco-beat introduction but then becomes 3 beats per second), "I Believe in Miracles" by Jackson Sisters, and "Keep on Truckin'" by Eddie Kendricks were some of the many almost-disco songs from 1973. Among the year's great funk songs were "The Cisco Kid" by War and "The Dance Master" by Willie Henderson. The Voice of East Harlem came out with a funky groover titled "Wanted Dead or Alive".


    Disco Music released during 1974:

  • Al Downing - "I'll Be Holding On (Disco Version)"
  • Barrabas - "Hijack"
  • Barry White - "You're the First, the Last, My Everything" - reached #2 Pop in the USA in January 1975, #1 Pop in the U.K. in November 1974
  • Betty Wright - "Where is the Love?" - disco-soul
  • The Blackbyrds - "I Need You" - disco-soul
  • Blue Magic - "Welcome to the Club" - disco-soul -- drummer: Earl Young
  • The Brothers - "Never Can Say Goodbye" - instrumental cover of the Gloria Gaynor hit
  • Carol Douglas - "Doctor's Orders" - reached #11 Pop in the USA in February 1975
  • Creative Source - "Who is He and What is He to You?" - R&B-disco
  • Crystal Grass - "Crystal World" - disco-funk
  • Disco Tex and the Sex-O-Lettes - "Get Dancin'" - reached #10 Pop in the USA in February 1975; #8 Pop in the U.K. in January 1975
  • Disco Tex and the Sex-O-Lettes - "I Wanna Dance wit' Cho (Doo Dat Dance)" - reached #23 Pop in the USA in 1975
  • Disco Tex and the Sex-O-Lettes - "Jam Band" - rock-disco; reached #80 Pop in the USA in 1975
  • Disco Tex and the Sex-O-Lettes - "Outrageous" - rock-disco
  • Ecstasy, Passion, and Pain - "Ask Me" - disco-soul; reached #52 Pop in the USA, #19 R&B in the USA, #4 Disco in the USA -- drummer: Earl Young
  • Ecstasy, Passion, and Pain - "Good Things Don't Last Forever" - reached #93 Pop in the USA -- drummer: Earl Young
  • First Choice - "The Player" - reached #70 Pop in the USA in late 1974, #7 R&B in the USA in summer 1974 -- drummer: Earl Young
  • George McCrae - "Rock Your Baby" - electro-disco; reached #1 Pop in the USA and UK in July 1974
  • Gloria Gaynor (a.k.a. Gloria Fowles) - "Never Can Say Goodbye" - disco version of the 1971 Jackson Five hit; reached #1 Disco in the USA in November 1974 and #9 Pop in the USA in January 1975; reached #2 Pop in the U.K. in January 1975
  • Herbie Mann - "Hijack" a.k.a. "Hi-Jack" - cover of the Barrabas original; reached #14 Pop in the USA in 1975
  • Hot Chocolate - "Disco Queen" - funky disco; reached #28 Pop in the USA in 1975
  • The Hues Corporation - "Rock the Boat" - reached #1 Pop in the USA in July 1974; reached #2 R&B in the USA
  • The Hues Corporation - "Rockin' Soul" - disco-soul; reached #18 Pop in the USA in November 1974
  • Linda G. Thompson a.k.a. Linda Übelherr - "Ooh What A Night"
  • MFSB featuring The Three Degrees - "T.S.O.P. (The Sound of Philadelphia)" - reached #1 Pop in the USA in April 1974; #1 R&B in the USA in spring 1974 -- drummer: Earl Young
  • Peter Henn - "Punchy Plum" - rock-disco
  • Ronnie Jones - "Rock Your Baby" - cover of the George McCrae classic
  • Shirley and Company - "Shame, Shame, Shame" - rock-disco; reached #12 Pop in the USA in March 1975
  • Silver Bird a.k.a. Silver Convention - "Save Me"
  • Sound Experience - "You've Broken My Heart" - disco-soul
  • The Stylistics - "Hey Girl, Come and Get It" - mellow disco-soul
  • The Trammps - "Stop and Think" -- drummer: Earl Young
  • The Trammps - "Trammps Disco Theme" -- drummer: Earl Young
  • The Tymes - "You Little Trustmaker" - disco-soul; reached #12 Pop in the USA in October 1974
  • Van McCoy and the Soul City Orchestra - "Boogie Down" - cover of the 1974 Eddie Kendricks hit
  • Van McCoy and the Soul City Orchestra - "Love is the Answer"

            Notable 1974 funk songs included "Pick Up the Pieces" by Average White Band, "Jungle Boogie" and "Hollywood Swinging" by Kool and the Gang, "Got the Love" by Average White Band, "Queen of Clubs" by K.C. and the Sunshine Band, "Kung Fu Fighting" by Carl Douglas (a #1 Pop hit in the USA in December 1974), "Boogie Down" by Eddie Kendricks (#2 Pop in the USA in 1974), "Don't Fight the Feeling" and "Boogie Woogie" by Sound Experience, "Get Ta Steppin'" by Robert Parker, "Dance Girl" by the Rimshots, "Bertha Butt Boogie" by Jimmy Castor Bunch, "Bus Stop" by Oliver Sain, and "Do It ('Til You're Satisfied)" by B.T. Express (#2 Pop in the USA in November 1974). Another, nodding in the direction of disco, was "Sting" by Barry Waite and Ltd.
            "Everlasting Love" by Carl Carlton, a cover of a Robert Knight song, is up-tempo R&B. LaBelle's "Lady Marmalade" is a funky R&B-dance version of the 1974 funk song by The Eleventh Hour in English and French; it reached #1 Pop in the USA in March 1975 and is commonly referred to as disco, but technically it isn't at all. "Dancing Machine" by the Jackson 5 (a #2 Pop hit in the USA in May 1974) is R&B dance or "proto-disco", but not disco. Other proto-disco songs are "Trusting Heart" by the Trammps, "Better Get Ready for Love" by Robert Knight, "Brother's Gonna Work It Out" by Willie Hutch, "Guilty" by First Choice, "Main Line" by Ashford and Simpson, "Hey Babe (Is the Gettin' Still Good?)" by the Joneses (#18 R&B in the USA), "Sugar Pie Guy" by the Joneses, "Somebody's Loving You" by Ecstasy, Passion and Pain, "Let's Get Together Now" by Aristocrats, "Undecided Love" by the Chequers, and "Uptown Saturday Night" by Bill Harris. One of the best soul songs of 1974 was "Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Babe" by Barry White. The Spinners with Dionne Warwick released the soul hit "Then Came You" in the same year. William DeVaughn's original soul-funk version of "Be Thankful for What You've Got" was a big hit in 1974 also. Jimmy Ruffin's "Tell Me What You Want" is also soul. "Girls" by the Moments and the Whatnauts is an electro-backed soul song that reached #3 Pop in the U.K. in April 1975 and is also available in a French version. It's included on some disco compilations but after further thought I realized it's a bit mellower than disco. Bimbo Jet's dance song "El Bimbo" came out in 1974. First Choice also released "Newsy Neighbors". George McCrae came out with the funky tune "I Can't Leave You Alone (I Keep Holding On)" which reached #9 Pop in the U.K. The Intruders released the almost-disco soul song "Be Thankful for What You Got". The superb "How Long" by Ace (#3 Pop in the USA, #20 Pop in the U.K.) is rock (or, perhaps, rock-disco?) with an interesting continuous beat at 120 beats per minute which sounds different from the usual disco or even rock-disco beat, but also a clearly rockish bassline. Its bassline and beat remind me of the bouncy Canadian hit "I May Never See You Again" by Gary and Dave from the same year which is also very good (the bass playing at the start of "How Long" is like that in this song's chorus starting when the singer says "again" for the first time).


    The initial release years listed for songs in the Disco Savvy year-by-year lists refer to commercial releases, NOT promotional releases such as DJ-only issues. For instance, "T.S.O.P." by MFSB featuring the Three Degrees was being spun in nightclubs by some DJs in December 1973 but wasn't released to the general public till early the next year.

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    Disco Music released after 1974:

  • 1975 Disco
  • 1976 Disco
  • 1977 Disco
  • 1978 Disco
  • 1979 Disco
  • 1980 Disco
  • 1981 Disco
  • 1982-1989 Disco
  • 1990-1999 Disco
  • 2000-2003 Disco
  • 2004-2006 Disco
  • 2007-2009 Disco
  • 2010+ Disco

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