Love it or hate it, the disco craze dominated the latter half of the 70s and New York was unquestionably the epicenter. The driving beat echoed through discotheques across the island, as well as every local pop radio station, as the nation caught it’s latest case of dance fever.
The style that would come to be known as disco began to evolve in the early 70s. A number of hits were released that all contained a similar dance beat, and these songs became popular in a number of NYC dance clubs.
Some of the earlier offerings were songs like “Rock the Boat” from the Hues Corporation, “Kung Fu Fighting” by Carl Douglas, and “Love Theme” by Barry White’s Love Unlimited Orchestra. By 1975, three artists would help solidify the style enormously – K.C. and the Sunshine Band, Donna Summer and Van McCoy (The Hustle). Television shows like Don Cornelius’ Soul Train brought the craze into living rooms across the country.
But the breakthrough year for disco came when Hollywood decided to get in on the action in 1977.
Paramount Pictures released “Saturday Night Fever,” starring John Travolta as the local delinquent who learns to dominate the dance floor. The film and it’s accompanying soundtrack broke all kinds of records, and artists such as The Bee Gees seemingly graced every minute of radio airplay.
Of course, by the time us 70s kids were old enough to actually go to a disco, the craze was over. Dance music went a different direction, primarily employing drum machines and synthesizers.
Gone were the lush string sections, the incendiary horns, and the mirrored light balls, replaced by a new wave edge and perhaps even a cynicism that resulted from the overexposure of disco in the 70s. But love it or hate it, at least disco was fun, employed real musical instruments, and gave many a talented artist the exposure they deserved. In hindsite, it wasn’t all that bad.
What do you remember most about the disco era? I hope you’ll share your thoughts on the topic in our comments section below.