Today we live in a world where disco is accepted as the root of all dance music, lauded in books, on TV documentaries and countless blogs. Disco has finally been given the prestige it deserves, whereas once it was subjected to countless racist, sexist and homophobic taunts and considered the root of all evil. No modern music genre has been so openly ridiculed or hated in quite the same way as disco. In fact, despite its current resurgence amongst a younger, more enlightened, underground audience, for those of us old enough to actually remember the seventies, the decade’s most popular disco records remain our most secret, secret pleasures, synonymous with bad hair, bad flares and bad taste.
The problem is that the term disco itself means so many different things to so many different people. When I began to venture out in my early teenage, disco was less a genre and more a place to go on a Saturday night, usually a fusty church hall or youth club jammed with excitement starved kids high on Woodpecker cider and ten Number Six dancing to the top forty hits of the day, as much about Elton John, ELO and Abba as The O’Jay’s, Barry White or KC & The Sunshine Band.
In my hometown and throughout the provinces, clubs catering for the older, more discerning, predominantly black connoisseurs of disco were a rarity until Saturday Night Fever changed everything. Suddenly cheap imitation copies of New York’s celebrated Studio 54 with their own selective door policies, velvet ropes and pretensions of grandeur sprang up in the unlikeliest of places. Everyone wanted in as disco infiltrated the mainstream to the point of saturation, so gaining the reputation it has never really shaken off.
Yet the truth is that at some indeterminate point, we have all succumbed to the glow of the glitter ball and the songs here. Most can be found on any number of playlists and compilations with titles like Disco Nights, Disco Fever or Ultimate Disco, but to me they are every bit as essential as my more predictable touchstones. Dance music in its many forms has become a part of my life and modern music culture in a way I would never have believed possible forty years ago. ‘Love Train’, ‘The Love I Lost’, ‘Love To Love You Baby’, ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’, Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards fabulous ‘Spacer’ and the rest of these secret pleasures are where that unlikely journey began.
1. THE O’JAYS ‘Love Train’ (February 1973)
2. BARRY WHITE ‘I’m Gonna Love You Just A Little More Baby’ (April 1973)
3. HAROLD MELVIN & THE BLUENOTES ‘The Love I Lost’ (November 1973)
4. M.F.S.B ‘T.S.O.P. (The Sound Of Philadelphia) (March 1974)
5. BLACKBYRDS ‘Walking In Rhythm’ (September 1974)
6. SHIRLEY & COMPANY ‘Shame Shame Shame’ (November 1974)
7. KC & THE SUNSHINE BAND ‘Get Down Tonight’ (February 1975)
8. SILVER CONVENTION ‘Fly Robin Fly’ (August 1975)
9. PEOPLE’S CHOICE ‘Do It Anyway You Wanna’ (September 1975)
10. DONNA SUMMER ‘Love To Love You Baby’ (December 1975)
11. DIANA ROSS ‘Love Hangover’ (March 1976)
12. THE TRAMMPS ‘That’s Where The Happy People Go’ (March 1976)
13. ANDREA TRUE CONNECTION ‘More More More’ (April 1976)
14. TAVARES ‘Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel’ (May 1976)
15. BEE GEES ‘You Should Be Dancing’ (July 1976)
16. THELMA HOUSTON ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’ (December 1976)
17. DETROIT EMERALDS ‘Feel The Need’ (May 1977)
18. CANDI STATON ‘Nights On Broadway’ (July 1977)
19. A TASTE OF HONEY ‘Boogie Oogie Oogie’ (June 1978)
20. NORMA JEAN ‘Saturday’ (July 1978)
21. SHELIA & B DEVOTION ‘Spacer’ (November 1979)
22. JEAN CARNE ‘Was That All It Was’ (December 1979)