Classic Disco Feed

Paying Tribute to Paul Parker, Disco Divo

Paulparker Paulparker.olderTwo gay men with the last name of Parker made their mark in two areas of entertainment in the 1980s - Al Parker, a gay porn icon, and Paul Parker, sexy singer of high-NRG dance tracks that resonated with gay disco bunnies (me included).  Both were born in 1952.  Sadly, Al died young in 1992 (age 40), a casualty of AIDS.  Paul, happily, is still with us and at the age of 63 he's still ruggedly handsome.  Best known for his collaborations with openly gay producer Patrick Cowley (an even earlier casualty of AIDS than Al Parker, passing away in 1982), Parker's voice lended swagger to Cowley's futuristic techno sound. 

 

What I liked about Parker's and Cowley's music was that it was written and produced for a gay audience, played largely at gay clubs and never entered the mainstream.  And since so many dance classics were sung by women it was refreshing to have the image of the hot, masculine Parker in our minds/fantasies as we danced to his music.  His big hit, Right on Target, went to the top of the Billboard Dance Chart in July 1982 (vying with Laura Branigan's Gloria and Sylvester's Do You Wanna Funk? as the song of the summer).  He also provided the vocals for Cowley's Technological World and Lift Off, had another solo hit, Desire, in 1984 and in 1986 he and Pamala Stanley (two weeks older than Parker) had a popular duet, Stranger in a Strange Land.

 

Rightontarget.paulparker

 

Parker.stanley.strangerinstrangeland  

 

Since his heyday Parker has continued to sing professionally, with occasional under-the-radar solo albums and back-up vocals.  However, it doesn't appear that his performing/recording have been that extensive to keep him busy for the past 20 years, but his biographical material doesn't shed any light on other endeavors.  (I could easily picture the San Francisco native running a bed and breakfast in northern California's Russian River area).  In fact, until I began researching this post it had been years since I last heard anything about him, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that he was still alive - and had maintained his good looks as a sexy "silver daddy".

 

Paulparkergreatesthits

 


Celebrating the Producers: The High Priests of the Classic Disco Era

Bionicboogie GinosoccioAfter writing a post about Giorgio Moroder last year, in celebration of his first CD/LP in 25 years, I was inspired to write one about other acclaimed producers of Classic Disco.  Like fashion designers, each with their own unique style, every producer has his distinct "sound".  I've chosen a dozen dance maestros (including Moroder).  They range in age from 60 to 78; nine are still alive (interestingly, the three who've died were all born in the same year).  Half of them were born in the US.  Their hits include classics such as Risky Changes, One More Minute; Supernature; Dancer; and Relight My Fire.  And although their lush orchestrations or frenetic electronic beats made these songs mainstays at gay clubs, only one is (was) openly gay.

 

Boris Midney

Boris.midney.disco
At 78, Midney is the elder statesman of disco producers. With a background in jazz, he was looking to blend it with symphonic music, and disco gave him the opportunity. The creative force behind the groups Beautiful Bend and USA-European Connection, he is probably best known for the "Disco Evita" concept album.

 

Giorgio Moroder

Giorgio.moroder.1970s
Born in 1940, the king of techno began his career in Munich during the 1960s. His name is synonymous with Donna Summer when she shot to superstardom in the late 1970s with smashes such as "I Feel Love", "McCarthur Park Suite" and her double album, "Bad Girls".

 

Rinder & Lewis

Rinderandlewis
Lauren Rinder and W. Michael Lewis are both from LA. They had a background in Jazz and were embarrassed by their production of disco music - but they were very good at it.  R&L are best known for producing the groups St. Tropez, Le Pamplemousse and El Coco.

 

 Alec Costandinos

Alec.costandinos
Cairo born (1944), Costandinos is best known for his production of albums for the group Love & Kisses and his concept album "Romeo & Juliet".

 

Simon Soussan

Simon.soussan.discomusic
Soussan, of French-Moroccan ancestry, got his start in the UK in the early '70s with dance music known as Northern Soul. He produced disco hits by Patti Brooks ("After Dark"), Jessica Williams ("Queen of Fools"), Shalamar ("Uptown Fesitval") and Arpeggio ("Love and Desire").

 

Patrick Cowley

Patrick.cowley.dance.producer
Cowley is the one openly-gay producer on my list. His High-NRG style was epitomized by tracks such as "Time Warp" and "Menergy". He also produced popular collaborations with Sylvester and Paul Parker. His was an all too brief career as he died of AIDS at the beginning of the crisis, in November 1982, one month after turning 32.

 

Gregg Diamond

Gregg.diamond
Diamond is another producer who came from a jazz background. The group Bionic Boogie put him on the disco map, with their dance smashes, "Risky Changes", "Dance Little Dreamer" and "Chains". He also met with some success producing an album for the group Star Cruiser.  Diamond died in 1989 at the age of 49.

 

Dan Hartman

Dan.hartman
You can't get more middle-America as Hartman, who was from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  Perhaps it was his birthplace that gave his  music a distinct American sound. His "Vertigo/Relight My Fire" was probably the most popular disco hit of 1980. And the year before he first came to attention with the peppy "Instant Replay". He died in 1994 at the age of 44 from AIDS but led a closeted life.

 

Cerrone

Cerrone
Born in Paris, his first name is Marc but he went by his last name. He had a symphonic style and early in his career worked with Alec Costandinos. In 1978 he was named Billboard Music's 'Disco Artist of the Year'. His most popular song was "Supernature".

 

Nile Rodgers

Nile.rodgers.chic
If his output was limited to his group Chic, Nile Rodgers would still have a spot on this list, but he also produced hit albums for Diana Ross, David Bowie, Madonna and countless other top acts.

 

Gino Soccio

Gino.soccio.discoproducer
At 60, Soccio is the baby of the bunch. Best known for the smash "Dancer", he more or less left the industry after the backlash to disco music in the early '80s, a development he contends was purposely caused by record companies at the behest of rock musicians, who felt threatened by the genre and its appeal to hedonistic blacks and gays.

 

 DiscoProducers

 


Welcome Back, Giorgio Moroder!

Giorgio.moroder Giorgio.moroder.oldWhen I reminisce about the Classic Disco era it's sometimes a bittersweet experience because it brings to mind those stars who are no longer with us, such as Sylvester, Loleatta Holloway, Dan Hartman, Glenn Hughes (the Village People's leather man), Patrick Cowley, and Donna Summer.  (My parents likely experienced a similar sentiment when they thought back to the Big Band era.)  Happily, a legendary producer of the era, Giorgio Moroder, is still with us, and he recently released his first CD in more than 25 years, Deja Vu.  Now 75 years old, Moroder is a contemporary of Italy's other world-famous Giorgio, 81-year-old Giorgio Armani

 

I particularly like four tracks on this new CD (so much so that I bought them on iTunes):  Two of them, Right Here, Right Now (featuring Kylie Minogue) and Tempted are pop-oriented while Diamonds and Wildstar are dance-oriented.  Other artists who he collaborated with GM were Britney Spears, Sia  and Kelis.

 

Giorigo.moroder.dejavu

 

In my mind GM's name is forever linked with that of Donna Summer because he produced her string of double albums in the late 1970s.  However, he's also worked with a roster of other artists as well.  What follows are my favorites tracks that he's either had a hand in producing, writing or both.  Some were the biggest hits of their time while others are obscure gems (which somewhat adds to their appeal).

 

TROUBLEMAKER - Roberta Kelly (1976)

Moroder wrote this.  Great energy.

 

Roberta.kelly.troublemaker

 

TRY ME, I KNOW WE CAN MAKE IT - Donna Summer (1976)

18 minutes of languid disco without the moaning featured in Love to Love You Baby.

 

Donna.and.giorgio

I FEEL LOVE - Donna Summer (1977)

A song throbbing with the heat and ecstasy of sex.

 

Donnasummer.ifeellove

 

FROM HERE TO ETERNITY - Giorgio Moroder (1977)

The quintessential disco track.  With synthesized pulsing and swooping orchestral flourishes, this may be my favorite Moroder number.  And the song was further enhanced when hearing it play at The Saint.

 

Giorgio.moroder.fromheretoeternity

 

I'M LEFT, YOU'RE RIGHT, SHE'S GONE - Giorgio Moroder (1977)

From the same album as From Here to Eternity, it has the catchiest title of any on this list, and also the most downbeat storyline.  Never has despair been so danceable.

 

Moroder.synthesizers

 

I LOVE YOU - Donna Summer (1978)

A beautiful, exhilarating song about two people experiencing love at first sight.

 

Donna.summer.i.love.you

 

THE CHASE - Giorgio Moroder (1978)

An electronic instrumental from the Moroder-produced soundtrack for the movie Midnight Express, it won the Oscar for Best Original Soundtrack.  Although it was ubiquitous on TV shows and sports programming of the time it rose no higher than #33 on Billboard's Hot 100. 

 

HARMONY - Suzy Lane (1979)

Brings back memories of prowling the corridors of the Club Baths where music from disco station WKTU was piped in.

 

Suzi.lane.harmony

 

 

LUCKY - Donna Summer (1979)

Recounts an experience many of us had on more than one occasion, i.e., the realization that the trick you thought might be the "one" was just a one-night stand.  This track is from Summer's Bad Girls double LP.

 

Newsweek.discotakesover

 

CALL ME - Deborah Harry (1980)

Moroder's biggest hit, this track (from the movie American Gigolo) made New Wave palatable to the masses.  It topped the Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks and was ranked as the top song of 1980.

 

FLASHDANCE (WHAT A FEELING) - Irene Cara (1983)

From the smash movie Flashdance, this was another huge hit, the third most popular song of 1983.  Moroder co-wrote it and won an Oscar for Best Song.

 

RUSH RUSH - Debbie Harry (1983)

This light and bouncy number belied the violence of the movie it was part of, Scarface.  It was released as a single but failed to make the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at an embarrassing 104.  I liked running to this song.

 

Debbie-Harry-Rush-Rush-182028

 

ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK FROM METROPOLIS (1984)

The instrumental, Machines, and the songs Here She Comes (Bonnie Tyler) and Love Kills (Freddie Mercury) come from the soundtrack to Fritz Lang's remastered 1927 movie classic, Metropolis.  The melding of Moroder's musical style to a black & white silent film was largely met with derision. 

 

Metropolis

 

CARRY ON - Donna Summer (1992)

Returning to his dance roots, this won Giorgio and Donna won a Grammy for Best Dance Track - five years after it was first released in 1992.

 

Donna.summer.carry.on


Battle of the Disco Era's Double Albums (1977 - 1978)

Discowallpaper21977 and 1978 were the halcyon years of the disco era.  The 10-month period between October 1977 and August 1978 was particularly frenzied as four double albums were released: the soundtracks to Saturday Night Fever and Thank God It's Friday and two by Donna Summer

 

SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER (Release Date: Nov. 15, 1977)

I bought it in June 1978, seven months after its release.  After more than 30 years I've tired of Night Fever, How Deep is Your Love? and Stayin' Alive, but my ears still prick up when I hear other hits such as If I Can't Have You; More Than a Woman (both versions); Disco Inferno; and You Should Be Dancing.  And I always had a soft spot in my heart for KC & the Sunshine Band's Boogie Shoes.  The extended instrumentals were worth listening to as well.

 

Saturday.night.fever

 

THANK GOD IT'S FRIDAY (Release Date: May 19, 1978)

With the exception of Last Dance (and to a lesser degree, the title track), this wasn't packed with big hits like Sat. Night Fever.  This was probably the reason I didn't get around to buying it until five or six years after it was released - and then only because it was at a discount record store on 5th Ave. for $1.99.  But it was quite a find because it was packed with great dance tracks by Diana Ross (Lovin', Livin' and Givin' - not to be confused with Journey's Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin' ); Thelma Houston (Love Masterpiece);  Pattie Brooks (After Dark); Donna Summer (With Your Love); Cameo (Find My Way); and Love & Kisses (You're the Most Precious Thing).  These tracks all got plenty of attention at gay discos.

 

Thankgoditsfirday

 

ONCE UPON A TIME (Release Date: Oct. 25, 1977)

I have a special place in my heart for this album because it was my first by Donna Summer, bought in the summer of 1978, when I was coming out.  I was somewhat familiar with only the single Rumor Has It, but I had a feeling I'd love the other tracks - and I was right.  It contains lush, swirling songs such as Fairytale High; Trip to Nowhere; I Love You; and Now I Need You.

 

Donnasummer.onceuponatime

 

DONNA SUMMER LIVE AND MORE (Release Date: Aug. 31, 1978)

A powerhouse of an album anchored by the 19-minute MacArthur Park Suite, which had the songs One of a Kind and Heaven Knows embedded in it.  The other three sides were live and included most of the tracks from Once Upon a Time, a way to expose mainstream audiences, who embraced the album as much as "the gays."  At the Monster in Greenwich Village they still play MacArthur Park Suite in its entirety every Tuesday at their classic disco night.

 

Donnasummer_liveandmore 

 

And my favorite of them all?  Once Upon a Time, followed by Thank God It's Friday, Sat. Night Fever and Live and More.  Don't get me wrong I like Live and More but because a lot of it was tracks from Once Upon a Time I played it less.  

 

 

 

 


Paul Jabara Pays Tribute to Fire Island with "Pleasure Island" (May 1978)

Pines.harbor.fireislandSongwriter Paul Jabara (1948-1992) is best known for Last Dance, the Oscar-winning song Donna Summer performed in the disco-themed movie Thank God, It's Friday.  Besides being on the movie's soundtrack, a version sung by Jabara was on his album Keeping Time, which was released in May 1978.  The album also included another song from the movie, a throwaway titled Trapped in a Stairway.  However, the album's hidden gem was his 10-minute paean to Fire Island, Pleasure Island:  

 

                Get on a boat, take a train

                    If traffic's heavy we'll charter a plane

                    Come to the island, Pleasure Island, with me

 

                    Walk on the beach, sit by the bay

                    Let the sunshine burn your worries away

                    Come to the island, Pleasure Island, with meeeee

 

                 There's nothing like the Island to give you what you need 

                     Time, space, fantasy for free

                     Nothing like the Island, you feel so good inside

                     You're feeling satisfied

 

The lyrics are concentrated in the song's first few minutes, followed by moaning that is gradually overtaken by a slowly building, Giorgio Moroder-like beat.  The moans of ecstasy are somewhat reminiscent of Donna Summer's in Love to Love You Baby, except that Pleasure Island's moans come from a man.  It's an absolutely beautiful song which perfectly captures the mood of languid hours spent at the beach followed by dancing and nighttime conquests.

 

The Village People had released their debut album the previous year, and it also had a song that saluted Fire Island.  Simply titled Fire Island, it was an over-the-top, campy romp.  Pleasure Island, by contrast, was far sexier and had a more complex song structure.    

 

Tom.bianchi.polaroidsI didn't make my first visit to Fire Island until 1981, so these two songs, as well as Larry Kramer's novel Faggots, served as the inspiration for the images created in my mind of the place.  And, as it turns out, they were quite accurate.  (A great companion piece to this post is photographer Tom Bianchi's coffee table book of photos, Fire Island Pine Polaroids, 1975-1983, published in 2013.)

 

 

 

 

 


Best Disco Songs with "Hand Claps"

Clapping_handsSynthesizers, whistles, bells, tambourines and electronic beeps are all incorporated into dance music, but the hand-clap stands out for its human connection (granted they're often the product of a synthesizer).  What I also like about hand claps is how they have a primal way of compelling the listener/dancer to join in.  You'll know what I mean as you review the following baker's dozen of my hand-clap favorites:

 

  • Cocomotion - El Coco (1977).  The song begins with the lyrics, "Do it, do it good (clap-clap), dance the Cocomotion (clap-clap) ...".  (In the link this line comes on about midway through the song.)

Cocomotion

  • Don't Let Me Be Understand - Santa Esmeralda (1977).  A remake of a rock classic from the mid-60s, but with a salsa beat.

Santa.esmeralda

  • Everybody Dance - Chic (1979).  The lyrics issue the command, "Everybody dance (ooh ooh ooh), clap your hands, clap your hands."

Chic

  • Good Times (1979)- Chic.  This song, perhaps the top song of the summer of '79, came out just as the CBS sitcom by the same name was ending its 6-year run.  The clapping occurs during the chorus of "Good times, these are the good times, leave your cares behind".

 

  • Fairy Tale High (1977) - Donna Summer.  From her double-album titled Once Upon a Time, when I bought it I realized that I was gay.  Double click here to hear an extended remix.

Donnasummer

  • One of a Kind - Donna Summer (1978).  This song comes in the middle of the grand, 18-minute "MacArthur Park Suite".

 

  • If There's Love - Amant (1978).  Clapping comes in during an interlude about two-thirds of the way into the song.  I first heard this at the famed Gaiety in Times Square (above Howard Johnson) when I moved to New York in March 1979.

Amant

  • In the Navy - Village People (1979).  Hand claps come in during the chorus of, "They want you, they want you, they want you as a new recruit!"

In.the.navy

  • Let's All Chant - Michael Zager Band (1978).  The extended 12-inch version begins with rounds of clapping followed by "Ooh-ooh, ah-ah, let's all chant (clap-clap-clap); Ooh-ooh, ah-ah, let's all chant (clap-clap-clap)".  Click here for a jaw-droppingly cheesy clip from Solid Gold that may ruin your enjoyment of the song forever.

 

  • Mandolay - La Flavour (1980).  Not to be confused with the Burmese city of Mandalay, Mandolay is a woman who hangs out at a disco in Spain.  Rhythmic hand claps are part of the song's chorus.

 

  • Don't You Want My Love? - Debbie Jacobs (1979).  The clap pattern is:  "Clap, beat, clap-clap".  Listen for yourself in this clip.

Dontyouwantmylove

  • Car Wash - Rose Royce (1976).  Its funky opening includes rhythmic clapping.

Carwash

  • Rasputin - Boney M (1978).  This group was huge in Europe but not in the U.S.  Double click here to hear the song and watch the video.    

 

You may also find the following two posts about classic disco of interest:

Favorite Lyrics of Classic Disco Hits

Silly Disco Hits

 


The Village People Appear on the Cover of "Rolling Stone" (April 12, 1979)

Village_people_rolling_stone A few months after rocker Rod Stewart succumbed to the Disco Fever sweeping the nation in 1979 with his disco smash Do Ya Think I'm Sexy? (four weeks at #1), the world of rock capitulated further when Rolling Stone put the Village People on the cover of its April 19 issue (it hit newsstands today).  The magazine had earlier cover stories on the Bee Gees in 1977 (posing in their famous white disco suits) and Donna Summer in 1978, but the Village People cover was an indication of how gay culture was being slowly absorbed into mainstream America.  Soon their song YMCA would be played at wedding receptions and performed by ground crews at baseball games.  And a commercial for Old El Paso salsa from the early 1990s was set to the song Macho Man.

 

Old el paso salsa commercial

 

Unlike most novelty groups, the Village People managed to chart three songs in the top 20 of Billboard's Hot 100: YMCA went to #2; In the Navy peaked at #3; and Macho Man topped out at #14.   

 

Disco_demolition_night However, the Rolling Stone cover may have been the straw that broke the camel's back as a backlash against disco music soon began - culminating in the infamous "Disco Demolition Night" riot at Chicago's Comiskey Park in July.  But 30+ years later the mention of the Village People is still likely to put a smile on most faces.   

 

Other ZeitGAYst posts about the Village People:

Coming Out with the Help of the Village People

The Village People Appear on American Bandstand

Creator of the Village People Dies of AIDS

Glenn Hughes, Village People's "Leatherman" Dies


The Village People's "Leatherman" Dies (March 4, 2001)

Glenn_Hughes_(Village_People)in_memoriam Glenn Hughes, the Village People's furry-chested, handlebar-mustached leatherman died on March 4, 2001 from lung cancer at the age of 50.  The other five members of the original group are still alive and range in age from 55 to 65.  (The group's creator, Jacques Morali, died in 1991.)  The video clip below of Hughes is from the Village People's awful 1980 movie Can't Stop the Music:

 

    

 

Brian_wilson_sfgiants2 I thought about Hughes when watching the 2010 World Series because Giants relief pitcher, Brian Wilson, reminded me of him - except he doesn't have a hairy chest or naturally black hair (Wilson dyes it to give him an intimidating look).

 

 

 

 

 


The Village People Appear on "American Bandstand" (January 6, 1979)

Villagepeople.americanbandstandThe mainstreaming of gay culture began on the afternoon of Jan. 6, 1979 when the Village People performed their hit song YMCA on American Bandstand (the Good Housekeeping seal of approval for pop music).  Then in April they would crash that bastion of rock'n roll, Rolling Stone magazine, by appearing on its cover.  Having the Village People embraced by the general public was similar to when Wonder Bread came out with a line of whole wheat bread.  Indeed, their Bandstand appearance may have been the beginning of gay culture infiltrating the mainstream - the song made it all the way to #2 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart.  Such acceptance by the masses was what conservative politicians and the religious right feared (and was one of the driving forces behind the rise of the "Moral Majority").  

 

434064_Village-People-The

 

Was the public so benighted that the innuendo-laden message of this and other VP songs such as Macho Man and In the Navy completely eluded them?  (Then again I was also surprised that the "milk mustache" campaign took off because from the very start I thought it had a pornographic connotation.)  Or had they suddenly developed an appreciation of "camp"?  Whatever was behind it, their fascination faded the following year when the Village People "jumped the shark" by appearing in the dreadful movie Can't Stop the Music (co-starring Bruce Jenner, long before plastic surgery).

 

 

Village_people 

 

This movie fiasco can't take away from the accomplishment of our merry band of troubadours in introducing some gay culture into the zeitgeist of mainstream America.  


A Gay Nightlife Milestone: Flamingo Disco Opens Its Doors (December 14, 1974)

Flamingo_disco_nyc Before iconic clubs such 12 West (1975), Paradise Garage (1977), Studio 54 (1977) or the Saint (1980) opened their doors, there was Flamingo.  Although the Sanctuary (1969-72) laid claim as the first gay disco, it attracted a good number of heteros as well.  By contrast, Flamingo was promoted as the first discotheque for an exclusively gay clientele; it opened on Dec. 14, 1974.  It was located on the 2nd floor of a nondescript building at the corner of Houston St. and Broadway in New York's SoHo neighborhood.  It closed in the winter of 1980-81 shortly after The Saint opened its doors.

 

DiscowallpaperDisco and its many iterations was the lifeblood of gay clubs in the 1970s/80s and for a while it even attracted a mainstream audience.  But after a brief flirtation the general public rejected disco at the close of the '70s.  The gay community's strong allegiance, however, never wavered; after all, it was our music to begin with.  Gays embraced disco culture for the escape into fantasy it provided while straights gravitated to rock and country (and later to rap) to immerse themselves in the grim reality of their world.