The Disco Files 1973-78: New York's Underground, Week by Week
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
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.
Another 1969 O'Jays song, "Branded Bad",
first released as a single in October 1969, reaching #41 on the R&B chart,
is styled similarly to "One Night Affair" so it's also proto-disco.
Jerry Butler's proto-disco soul cover
of "One Night Affair" was first released on his May/June 1972 album The Spice of Life and became a single on November 4, 1972;
it reached #6 R&B in the USA and #52 Pop in the USA in late-fall 1972; it does have 14 seconds of genuine disco drumming on the drum
(rather than on the symbols) near its start.
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
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; the song was first released as a single by Buddah Records in
the U.S. in May 1972) - 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.
Julie Budd's bouncy version of "See You in September" (1972) is a proto-disco
concoction of a different sort.
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
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 FOR CHILDREN
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". "Love is a Hurtin' Thing" by the Walter Whisenhunt Orchestra featuring Gloria Ann Taylor is soul with some proto-disco and disco moments in its 12-inch version. "Put Your Hands Together" by the O'Jays (#10 Pop in the USA) is gospel-influenced soul with 3 beats per second.
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
Another, nodding in the direction of disco, was "Sting" by Barry Waite and Ltd.
In November 1974, WPIX FM launched the world's first disco radio show,
"Disco 102", hosted by Steve Andrews for 4 hours every Saturday night.
"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, "Baby Don't Let This Good Love Die" by Carol Douglas, "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, "Good Things Don't Last Forever" by Ecstasy, Passion and Pain (#93 Pop in the USA), "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. "Ask Me" by Ecstasy, Passion, and Pain is a disco-flavored soul song that reached #52 Pop in the USA, #19 R&B in the USA, and #4 Disco in the USA. Its drummers were Earl Young and Althea Smith. It has a few moments with a pure disco beat but usually has an erratic stuttering beat pattern. I used to include it in the list as a disco song. 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).
In November 1974, WPIX FM launched the world's first disco radio show, "Disco 102", hosted by Steve Andrews for 4 hours every Saturday night.
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Disco Music released after 1974: