Great music, mirrorballs and dancing around handbags all help to define the disco era. The music has been brought into the limelight recently with a lot of prevalence due to the untimely passing of two stars of the genre; Donna Summer and Robin Gibb. Their music featured in the soundtrack of my formative years, which must be why I feel such a strong affinity with disco.
I may not have direct memories of this time period but I definitely enjoy hearing about it. My experiences of the music from the 70s have been formed subsequently, which started when I began to develop my own musical tastes… something in which the Bee Gees, inadvertently, feature quite heavily!
In the late 1990s I got my first Hi-Fi. No one calls sound systems that any more, but what made it extra special was that it was in the shape of a Coca-Cola can – I loved it! I’ll never forget the first albums that I bought on CD, which were: The Lighthouse Family’s Ocean Drive (I’ve always liked Easy Listening music you see) and a Top of the Pops compilation album because, like most young people do, I followed the charts like a hawk. Over the Christmas period of 1999 many artists of that time covered Bee Gees hits in aid of the charity called Live Challenge ‘99. Steps, Cleopatra (I can’t even type that without thinking “Comin’ at ‘cha!”) Boyzone, 911 and more 90s names released their versions of classic Bee Gees hits. I know that list doesn’t exactly set your heart racing now but back then it did for me. I wanted the tribute album and asked Santa Claus if he would bring it me for Christmas.
Alas, I didn’t get it! There must have been a crossed line to the North Pole somewhere. What I did get was a Bee Gee’s album called One Night Only, recorded live at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. I was not happy with this; any band my parents liked was not cool in my eleven-year-old eyes! So I stuck the album in a drawer, never to be spoken of again…
Many CDs were spun in my little Hi-Fi as the years passed and, as my musical exploration progressed, I started veer away from the constrictions of usual formulaic chart fodder. I became interested in many different genres, especially electronic based music, including bands like Daft Punk, Royksopp and Jamiroquai’s later work.
If you look hard enough for the six degrees of separation you’ll be able to see how all styles of music link together or how one genre has influenced another. With other songs though it’s not hard to hear the connection – take 2003’s Digital Love by Daft Punk as an example:
Now listen to George Duke’s I Love You More from 1979:
Spot the sample! A lot of the electronic music uses samples, especially the synthesizers and vocoders that are synonymous with disco music. So, even though disco is the genre that supplied a large amount of the soundtrack to the ‘70s, it is perhaps more influential nowadays than you may realise.
Music is eternal. I don’t think it matters that I wasn’t born during the 70s, when disco reached the height of popularity, in order to experience it. Taste doesn’t have to be constricted to what decade you grew up in – if it were then no one would ever listen to classical music! As there is such a massive range of music out there it would be narrow-minded to limit what you listen to by the charts, a certain genre or decade. I’m a huge advocate for encouraging musical exploration and with the internet, downloads and online streaming being so accessible there really is no reason not to delve that little bit deeper. (Get any How Deep is Your Love puns out of your system now, or forever hold your peace…)
Maybe an indication of how good songs are can be measured by how frequently they have been covered by other artists, which explains the ethos behind the Bee Gees tribute album that I yearned for in the late ‘90s… and I did get it eventually. The irony is that I don’t play it any more. I listen to the original versions of Bee Gees hits much more than any cover versions. The only reason that the One Night Only CD is in a drawer now is because I have converted the tracks into MP3s. I’ve played these songs even more often since hearing the news of the death of Robin Gibb. The longevity of music means that even though performers pass away their music can live on forever. I definitely will never forget to remember disco.