Disco Inferno
July 6, 2009 2:59 PM   Subscribe

Jackson-o-mania (and the nonstop repeats of "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough" among his other records) has made me wonder: what disco songs do we still listen to today? Or, in other words, what disco is actually good? Presumably, staying power is some sort of indicator of how good (or, at the very least, how camp) they are.
posted by ocherdraco to Media & Arts (44 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive"

Thelma Houston's "Don't Leave Me This Way"

Lots of the Bee Gees stuff

Lots of Abba
posted by amyms at 3:06 PM on July 6, 2009

Oh, and Barry White never goes out of style.
posted by amyms at 3:08 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Does who listen to? Do you mean, disco songs that still rock a party or fill the dance floor at a wedding reception, or disco songs that are worth listening to on a more Apollonian level?

Because if we're talking the former, Beegees, Chic and Donna Summer easily rock parties, and if we start looking at disco-revival stuff, there's a huge amount of current dance acts that are practically disco house (Hercules and Love Affair). If we're talking, no, really, listen to this because it's musically interesting, early Material, Was (Not Was), Kid Creole, Disco Tex and the Sex-o-Lettes, Dr. Buzzard, Giorgio Moroder, Patrick Cowley, Bobby Orlando and scores more still qualify.

Let me know what you're interested in, and I can recommend some pretty great music, all with a disco beat.
posted by klangklangston at 3:10 PM on July 6, 2009 [8 favorites]

I have long contended that America began to go downhill with
The Death of Disco
The end of The Rat Pack
posted by Postroad at 3:12 PM on July 6, 2009

Do you mean to ask what disco songs of the 1970s are actually good, or is there no limitation to your question in terms of time frame? Because there is a ton of good disco going on now, and there has been pretty much every year since disco began.

One very unusual example (that most people don't think of as disco) is "One Headlight" by The Wallflowers. Listen to those drums and bass. That is so disco. Most house and electronica these days could safely be referred to as disco (listen to Madonna's album "Confessions On A Dance Floor" for a brilliant example of current disco). Practically everything Giorgio Moroder ever touched is brilliant electronica, and can safely be called disco.
posted by The World Famous at 3:12 PM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: Enduring classics:

Foxy "Get Off"
KC & The Sunshine Band's first album
First Choice "Let No Man Put Asunder"
Giorgio Moroder "From Here To Eternity" & Donna Summer's "I Feel Love"
Loose Joints "Is It All Over My Face"
Raw Silk "Do It To The Music"
posted by rhizome at 3:16 PM on July 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: It's hard to say because during that time frame, any song with a danceable beat was labeled as "disco." So, for example, the Rolling Stones' "Miss You" was considered to be a disco song when it was originally released, but all these years later, it's "classic rock." Likewise Blondie's "Heart of Glass" was originally dismissed as disco, but now it's considered a New Wave classic and is still heard regularly on radio stations of all formats.

As far as "true" disco songs go, this is anecdotal, but I hear songs like "Boogie Nights", "You Sexy Thing" and "That's the Way (I Like It)" on the radio far more often than "Billie Jean" or any of the Saturday Night Fever hits.
posted by Oriole Adams at 3:16 PM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: "I feel love" by Donna Summer
posted by fire&wings at 3:18 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: what disco songs do we still listen to today? Or, in other words, what disco is actually good?

I don't think those two things are exactly the same thing, really. I wouldn't put KC and the Sunshine Band or the Village People at the top of the list in terms of quality (though I find their hits perfectly enjoyable), but those are the ones you can hear them any day of the week.

In any case, personally, the really good stuff (to me) is largely the work produced in those 3-5 years leading up to the mass disco craze (e.g. Chic, early Donna Summer, Thelma Houston, LaBelle, Barry White, etc. -- in other words, the work that obviously has its roots in the soul/funk of the early '70s). I also have a massive soft spot for pretty much the entire Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.

Also, it's important to understand that disco isn't just limited to that narrow pop culture time frame of the late '70s. Disco was a huge influence on the development of DJ culture, hip-hop, house, etc., not to mention the disco resurgence in the '90s onward and the Nu Disco movement.
posted by scody at 3:18 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: klangklangston, my question arises out of original disco, but I'd love to know about good disco revival (I didn't even know there was a disco revival!) and the "listen to this because it's musically interesting stuff" sounds great, too.
posted by ocherdraco at 3:22 PM on July 6, 2009

A lot of people who grew up listening to disco never stopped listening to disco. It gets plenty of airplay on my local radio stations, those that play oldies, "lite hits", dusties, (oldies on the R&B stations), and so on.
posted by hydrophonic at 3:27 PM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: "Car Wash" by Rose Royce is not only a great disco song, it is perhaps the greatest disco song. Come on and sing it with me, "Car Wash."

On a slightly more serious note, if you're talking about really appreciating disco as "listening music" as well as dance music, klangklangston, The World Famous, and rhizome all recommend Giorgio Moroder. Listen to them. They are smart.
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:27 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Anything by Chic (at least, I can't think of a bad one).
It's Raining Men - The Weather girls
(You Make Me Feel) Mighty Real - Sylvester
Shame, Shame, Shame - Shirley & Company (Fun fact: that's the same Shirley who had a hit with Let the Good Times Roll in 1956 as part of the R&B duo Shirley and Lee.)
Disco Inferno - The Trammps
The Hustle - Van McCoy
posted by timeistight at 3:29 PM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: The best disco track ever is Larry Levan's remix (The Garage Version) of Inner City's Ain't No Mountain High Enough which didn't actually get released until 1981. 10'28" of sublime geeeeeeeeenius. Anyone who says otherwise is just plain wrong, wrong, wrong. Or something.
posted by i_cola at 3:34 PM on July 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

Escort is pretty kickass disco revival.
posted by gnutron at 3:46 PM on July 6, 2009

Most any attempt at disco from a famous rock or soul performer still gets played on classic-rock and oldies radio--'Harlem Shuffle,' 'Miss You,' 'Got to Give It Up,' etc.
posted by box at 3:55 PM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: Sound Opinions just did a show on the Best of Disco you might find it interesting.
posted by hector horace at 3:56 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Dancing Queen
posted by KokuRyu at 4:01 PM on July 6, 2009

If you want to think in terms of iconic influential disco, go back to 1974 and listen to TSOP by MFSB and Rock The Boat by Hues Corporation. And don't forget The Hustle from 1975, all trendsetters before the peak of the 70s "disco era".
posted by Robert Angelo at 4:02 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

I Was Made for Lovin' You
posted by Sys Rq at 4:27 PM on July 6, 2009

Forget it, Jake. It's Funkytown.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:28 PM on July 6, 2009

The Disco Box is a good primer (caveat: "almost all are heard in their single-edit version rather than in the often cathartic extended tracks that were one of the form's trademarks").
posted by kirkaracha at 4:31 PM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: Cheryl Lynn - Got to Be Real
posted by pised at 4:31 PM on July 6, 2009

Also, Earth, Wind, and Fire's "September."
posted by pised at 4:33 PM on July 6, 2009

Another One Bites the Dust
posted by Sys Rq at 4:44 PM on July 6, 2009

Download a set from James murphys special disco version tour
posted by jeb at 4:50 PM on July 6, 2009

Nthing Donna Summer's "I Feel Love," but that is beacuse Giorgio Moroder's eectronic instrumentation arrangement presaged modern dance music (or rather, it was so influential that thirty or so years later, it sounds pretty contemporary).
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:53 PM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: I've been riding The Groove Line by Heatwave since I was 8 years old.

I have since learned that anything written/arranged by Rod Temperton (who was the keyboardist for Heatwave and arranged Thriller) is worth listening to.
posted by droplet at 5:01 PM on July 6, 2009

Apart from the classics, I'll nth most anything by Barry White. Just off the top of my head, a couple of songs that you might not consider but I think are disco gold are Cheryl Lynn "Shake it up Tonight" and "Everyman" by Double Exposure. In the latter case, make sure you get the full length song (7 mins). Lastly, disco was famous for it's massive intros and intros don't get much more massive than "Relight my Fire" by Dan Hartman.
posted by ob at 5:10 PM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: Fatback's Do The Boogie Woogie
Earth Wind and Fire:
Let's Groove
Boogie Wonderland
posted by nj_subgenius at 5:26 PM on July 6, 2009

Not to Rickroll, but "Never Gonna Give You Up" is as disco as it gets. Likewise "Together Forever," also by Rick Astley.

Much of the Pet Shop Boys is very disco-y as well.
posted by cereselle at 5:28 PM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: Maybe scan discomusic.com's list of the top 700 disco songs? I see a few pretty well known acts in there (many already mentioned here) and a few that I'm surprised to see classified as disco (Prince ... Kraftwerk?!). But those guys would know better than me.

(There's a bit of a debate in the comments section about what disco is, mostly because a few people tried to claim that Bryan Adams was disco.)
posted by painquale at 5:35 PM on July 6, 2009

Who can forget Flashlight?

How about some Jungle Boogie?

Now, whenever I hear War, I'll have images of Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker dancing in Chinatown.
posted by arishaun at 5:49 PM on July 6, 2009

Diana Ross' "Love Hangover" is goddamn awesome. There's also ESG's "Moody" and Roy Ayers' "Running Away," although I'm not entirely sure either one really counts as 100% disco.
posted by elizardbits at 7:03 PM on July 6, 2009

Edwin Starr, yes he of the "War! Hunh! what is it good for... Absolutely nothing!" fame, has a delightful disco phase with "(eye to eye) Contact" (watch the video, oh please, it has both forklifts, labcoats and a bowler) and H.A.P.P.Y Radio... both good fun.
and now i'm going to go get re-obsessed with 25 miles.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 7:32 PM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: Taj Mahal by Jorge Ben is some supremely awesome Brazilian disco funk. If the melody sounds familiar, it's because Rod Stewart took the melody, not the other way around.
posted by umbú at 8:15 PM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: Ok, since most of the popular stuff will get mentioned, here're some favorites from my collection, with Disco liberally defined:

All of the Mutant Disco and Disco (Not Disco) comps; all of David Mancuso Presents The Loft series; pretty much everything Arthur Russell touched; and go ahead and grab a couple of the Larry Levan comps floating around, especially ones with Inner Life (that's who does Ain't No Mountain High Enough) stuff on them.

Nite Life—Adult.
Don't Give Me Your Life—Alex Party
Black Holes—Amanda Lear
Disco Dancer—Bappi Lehri
Trans-Brooklyn Express—Began Ceckic
Satisfaction—Benny Benassi's Biz (which, if you're into techno, you'll notice that Vitalic only added a back-beat to for his "cover," giving the Stones credit, but none to this song).
How To Pick Up Girls—Bobby Orlando
Rasputin—Boney M
Aeo—Brian Biggs
By the Way You Dance—Bunny Sigler
Can't Be Funky—Bush Tetras
Wonder Worm—Captain Sky
Du the Do—A Certain Ratio
Dance Freak—Chain Reaction
Spacer Woman—Charlie
Steppin'—Chicken Lips
I Want Your Love—Chromatics
Flying Turns—Crash Course In Science
Rise (DFA mix)—Delia Gonzales
What You Won't Do For Love—Denie Corbett
Go Bang—Dinosaur L
I Feel Love (Patrick Cowley Mix)—Donna Summer
Passion—The Flirts
Gallop—Flying Rhythms (pretty much JUST disco-ish high hat)
Misa Criolla—Fuego
Shake The Foundations—Glaxo Babies
Slide In (DFA)—Goldfrapp
Yeh Bombay Shelter—Haasa
Tricerotops—Health (Disco mixes)
Want Ads—Honey Cone
Ultimate Warlord—The Immortals
Spin—Impossible Dreamers
Treehouse/Schoolbell—Indian Ocean
The Mexican—Jellybean
Stand on the Word—Joubert Singers
Another Life—Kano
Pass This On(M.A.N.D.Y. mix)—The Knife

And, um… I'll do more later.
posted by klangklangston at 8:35 PM on July 6, 2009 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Please keep it coming!

I'm marking as best answers the ones that I'm going to be investigating later. Lots of things to look up (and I think I know where the rest of my birthday iTunes gift certificate is going now).
posted by ocherdraco at 10:12 PM on July 6, 2009

Response by poster: Also, Hector Horace, the Sound Opinions podcast was perfect.
posted by ocherdraco at 10:13 PM on July 6, 2009

Best answer: Peter Brown - Do You Wanna Get Funky With Me
Double Exposure - Ten Percent, My Love is Free
Lou Rawls - You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine
McFadden and Whitehead - Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now
Hot Chocolate - You Sexy Thing
Heatwave - Boogie Nights
Fever - Standing in the Shadows
Evelyn 'Champagne' King - Shame
Fantastic Four - I Got To Have Your Love
Munich Machine - Get On The Funk Train (I love the cover.)
Fatback Band - (Are You Ready) Do The Bus Stop
BT Express - Do It Till You're Satisfied
Suzy Q - Get On Up (Do It Again)
Aural Exciters - Spooks in Space
Machine - There But For The Grace Of God There Go I
Unlimited Touch – I Hear Music in the Streets
Lizzy Mercier Descloux - Funky Stuff
posted by hydrophonic at 12:32 AM on July 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have an appalling amount of disco on my hard drive, including everything Chic ever made, even stuff that was, afaik, never actually sold in the U.S. So, obviously, I think anything by Chic is bound to be pretty good -- particularly the first three albums.

Cerrone made some sweet sweet eurodisco back in the day -- their Supernature is always great.
posted by paultopia at 12:40 AM on July 7, 2009

Best answer: I think my definition of disco is very liberal (read: funky beats that make me wanna dance, dance, dance!), but here are some songs I think you'll like:

-"I Don't Feel Like Dancin'" by the Scissor Sisters (A lot of the Scissor Sisters' music is groovy as hell, but it might fall more in the rock spectrum. This song, however, is funkadelic.)
-"Big Girl (You are Beautiful)" by Mika (Again, this is grooviest of all Mika's awesome songs. You might also like "Relax Take it Easy.")
-"Sunny" by Boney M (All of the songs from this band are disco-fied and wonderful to dance to. This song's my favorite because it's funky AND it makes my heart soar! Also check out "Rasputin," mentioned above.)

That's all my bandwidth can handle right now, but I hope that helps! Peace out!
posted by ElectricBlue at 3:56 AM on July 7, 2009

Best answer:
The best disco track ever is Larry Levan's remix (The Garage Version) of Inner City's Ain't No Mountain High Enough which didn't actually get released until 1981. 10'28" of sublime geeeeeeeeenius. Anyone who says otherwise is just plain wrong, wrong, wrong. Or something.

Favorited in agreement, and I add the following: the second best disco song of all time is a 4 way tie between Love Committee's "Just As Long As I Got You", Black Ivory's "Mainline", Sister Sledge's "Thinking of You" (sorry, no yt link) and D-Train's "Keep On". [Hearing that last song on Mancuso's system at The Loft a few years ago brought me to tears]

What disco songs do we still listen to today? Or, in other words, what disco is actually good?

As mentioned above, we Americans listen to the familiar hits of the 70s at weddings and on oldies stations, but I wouldn't call "YMCA" good. This is a long history discussion [and I've been up all night after getting home late from djing, guess what, a disco party! with vinyl records, no less!] to get into, so I'd suggest a "literary-tech" approach to learning about the good music.

Pick up the following books - Love Saves The Day: History of American Dance Culture, Last Night A DJ Saved My Life & Turn The Beat Around: Secret History of Disco, and, reading them in front of your laptop, open a new youtube window and search for whatever song interests you. Be sure to check the playlists compiled by the dj's mentioned at the back of the books.

I would agree with listening to klangklangston's list as well as picking up those compilations he mentioned. Be sure to grab "Journey Into Paradise: The Larry Levan Collection", The Loft Series, Disco (Not Disco) 1-3, "The World of Arthur Russell", and the Mutant Disco set.

Also, ocherdrago, you're fortunate to live in NYC where you can still hear some of the original disco DJs from the 70s playing classic disco and soul alongside newer dance music. David Mancuso's Loft Party still takes place (but you need to be a member to attend), Danny Krivit has a monthly party called 718 sessions at Santos, Francois K plays weekly at Cielo, Nicky Siano has a handful of summer events planned, and venues like PS1, BKLYN Yard, and Water Taxi Beach all have disco-loving djs playing soon. If you're curious, MefiMail me and I'll recommend some events that would suit your schedule. [I will be attending Daniel Wang's set at PS1 this saturday]
posted by stachemaster at 4:43 AM on July 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Again, for broad values of "disco":

I Found Someone To Love—Les Rita Mitsuoko
Bellhead—Liquid Liquid
Optimo—Liquid Liquid
Modern Life (Phones remix)—Lomax
Ring Sjover—Major Swellings
Busting Out—Material
Epi y Blas—Metropolitan Express
Love on Video—The New York Models
Menergy—Patrick Cowley (probably the gayest song I own)
Mind Warp—Patrick Cowley
Emperor Machine Dub—Protocol
Pillow Talk—Quiet Village Project
Media—Roberto Cacciapaglia
(The Best Part of) Breaking Up—Roni Griffith
Penguin's Invasion—Scotch
No. 1 Hit In Heaven—Sparks (in fact, this whole album, which was produced by Moroder)
I Who Have Nothing—Sylvester
I Zimbra (12")—Talking Heads
Barely Breaking Even—Universal Robot Band
Wikka Wrap—The Evasions
New York City—The Village People

Couple of things to mention—I got into funk, No Wave, electro and, well, drugs, before I got into disco, and I'm still not, like, an authority or anything. So you'll notice that my lists are pretty impure, and include stuff like Italo Disco (which is the ultra-cheese that everyone always hates on when they think of the worst of the '80s). And I left off a lot of stuff that's on the comps that have been big upped a couple times in the thread. Finally, I looked for songs that had two out of three on the disco handclaps, slightly syncopated bass, and disco high-hats. There's some stuff upthread, where I think folks just tossed in anything that they liked that was dance music, but I tried to keep stuff that was definitely house or funk out of the recommendations.
posted by klangklangston at 2:12 PM on July 7, 2009 [3 favorites]

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