Thirty-Five Years Ago: The Night They Tried To Kill Disco

As 1979 dawned, disco music was at the peak of its popularity despite media speculation that it was on the way out and the rising popularity of new wave, punk and rap. The lines began to be drawn in HERC's little junior high world as some of his friends took the wrong-headed ultra-conservative "disco sucks, rock rules" homophobic and rascist stance (likely inpsired by their older siblings) while others were ridiculed for simply liking disco music or falling for baited questions about liking disco music.  HERC liked rock AND disco.  Here's his 1979 disco timeline:

The first Hot 100 chart of the year shows the Bee Gees "Too Much Heaven" knocking Chic's "Le Freak" from the top spot. The Brothers Gibb lip-synched "Too Much Heaven" on the Music for UNICEF concert that was televised on January 10, 1979.  Within two weeks, "Le Freak" will have risen back to the top.

Rocker Rod Stewart tops the Hot 100 with "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy".  He donates all profits of the soon to be platinum selling song to UNICEF with a sloppy performance featured on the televised concert.  HERC ends up buying the original promo disco remix single in 1985.

"I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor tops the Hot 100 where it will enjoy a brief two week reign before making way for "Tragedy" by the Bee Gees, who hold the crown for two weeks.  Then Ms. Gaynor rises back to the top of the chart for a week before giving way to The Doobie Brothers' "What A Fool Believes", which was released in a little-known promo disco remix.

"Heart Of Glass" reaches Number One on the Hot 100 in its eleventh week on the chart.  It will stay there one week before beginning its slow skid down the chart.  The band performs the song on the May 12th episode of American Bandstand along with the more rocking, follow-up single "One Way Or Another" which will make it's debut on the Hot 100 three weeks after the show with "Heart Of Glass" holding on at #15.

Kiss releases obvious disco tune "I Was Made For Lovin' You" as first single in advance of their Dynasty album.  It debuts at #70 on the Hot 100 on May 26th and eventually peaks at #11 in August.  The band unveil entirely new costumes for their Summer tour as seen above during a July performance at Madison Square Garden.  Unable to find a 45 single of the song, HERC buys the album which is surprisingly good.

Donna Summer scores her second Number One on the pop chart with the rock-flavored "Hot Stuff".  She'll enjoy a week stay in the chart penthouse before being overtaken by the Bee Gees and "Love You Inside And Out" for one week. "Hot Stuff" went back and took the top spot for two more weeks before Anita Ward's "Ring My Bell" captured the flag in a disco chart-topping tri-fecta.

Van McCoy, who had popularized and spread disco's popularity with his massive hit single "The Hustle" in 1975, passes on.  HERC was listening to WLS on this day when he heard the news and honored McCoy by playing "The Hustle" repeatedly that night off the Superhits Of The Superstars K-Tel album.

The infamous Disco Demolition Night in Chicago. Masterminded by DJ Steve Dahl (the guy wearing the Disco Sucks tee at top of the post), 99 cents and an unwanted record is the admission charge to a double header Chicago White Sox game.  In between games, Dahl blew up the dumpster pictured above and the fans rioted, tearing up the playing field and forcing the cancellation of the second game.  None of the participants seemed to notice that both the #1 song and album in the land that week (as well as the next four weeks) was Donna Summer's disco/rock hybrid "Bad Girls" which was succeeded by Chic's "Good Times" on the chart ending August 18th.

"Pop Muzik", another new wavey disco track, debuts at #61 on the Hot 100.  The artist known as "M" (above) is actually Robin Scott and on November 3rd his infectiously danceable song will top the charts.  HERC would own the 45 until he traded it away and bought the album New York * London * Paris * Munich just before Christmas.

The Knack's "My Sharona" deposes Chic's "Good Times" as #1 song on Hot 100.  Rockers claim a symbolic victory while disco fans say "My Sharona" IS a disco song though hardly anyone notices.  Though he'd rather have had the single with Sharona herself wearing a revealing tank top, HERC bought the parent Get The Knack album.

Billboard expands Disco Top 80 to Top 100 for two years before reducing it back down to Disco Top 80 on August 1, 1981.  The Number One Songs (yep, plural) on the newly expanded chart were "Found A Cure" / "Stay Free" / "Nobody Knows", all by Ashford & Simpson from their Stay Free album.

Skatetown U.S.A. premieres at the trendy Flipper's rink it was based on.  Cast members not pictured above included Billy Barty, Dorothy Stratten, Ruth Buzzi, Flip Wilson, Judy Landers, Scott Baio and Ron Palillo.  The film was a critical and box office failure but the soundtrack album contains four soon-to-be disco classics in a row on Side One after the obligatory title song:
Surprisingly, all songs are presented in their shorter radio edits rather than their full-length album or extended single versions.  Songs heard in the movie but not included on the soundtrack album included Eddie Money's "Baby Hold On", Cheap Trick's "I Want You To Want Me" and McFadden & Whitehead's "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now".  Two more roller-disco films - Roller Boogie and Xanadu - will follow over the next 10 months before the fad passes.  HERC picked up an original full-size movie poster and a copy of the Skatetown U.S.A. soundtrack album.

Michael Jackson's second solo Number One "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" tops the Hot 100 after a twelve week climb but only lasts a week at the top before Herb Alpert's "Rise" lives up to its title and rises up to Number One for two week stay before being replaced by M's "Pop Muzik".

Rolling Stone (issue #303) reports that "the disco boom may be over", citing reports of a sharp decrease in disco LP sales recently.  Industry representatives say disco album sales are going through "a stabilization period" attributed to fewer new disco artists.  Cashbox reports that disco albums once accounted for as much as twenty percent of the album chart; since July that number has fallen to just five percent. Another executive says that Americans don't care what they dance to, whether its fusion, "R&B, disco, rock or jazz." Another retailer says "Disco definitely looks like its weakening" and "rock is coming back again, though maybe in a slightly different version.

The Village People's fifth and final Hot 100 single debuts at #90 for the week ending November 3rd.  Six weeks later, it peaks at #52 then drops one spot the next week, the last Hot 100 chart of the Seventies.  The song's prophetic title? "Ready For The 80's".  HERC buys the album Live & Sleazy as his disco-loving father HERC SR. already owns the first four albums.

The first (and last) Grammy Award for Best Disco Recording is presented at the 22nd Annual Grammy Awards.  The nominees were: 
The winner was "I Will Survive".  The National Academy Of Recording Arts & Sciences decided against continuing the award stating that disco was "no longer a readily definable separate music form", although its influence had "permeated all types of pop music".

1 comment:

  1. My name is Martin and I love disco! Great timeline and post. My evolution of the dance genre mirrors yours in quite a similar way.