"I hate playing this song" when rock stars go to the disco – The Guardian


A a few weeks ago, Noel Gallagher announced that his upcoming album would have had a "disco experience of the 70s". Nobody battled an eyelid. Here there were more proofs of Gallagher's new spirit of a boundless musical adventure: a man who spent years rigidly attaching to the accepted canon of classic rock by digging outside it, in a genre that does not never the 100 best album lists in cultural heritage magazines and whose practitioners struggle to be elected to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, however successful and influential they are. Why should not an artist who seems to have finally got tired of making the same record over and over again? "It's just so many times that you can write a song on the rain or use the word" shine "," he noted wisely "and I got rid of a fucking shit" – means that he has broadened his musical horizons by dabbing in dance club?

There were several things in 1979 when the Beach Boys released their new single, the first of a $ 8 million contract with CBS Records: it was a new 11-minute discography of their 1967 hit Here Comes the Night. A record clearly intended to reinvent the Beach Boys for a new era, the disk version of Here Comes the Night has had the opposite effect. It was not just that it was an ignominious commercial failure, though it was. He did not even make the Top 40, while the accompanying album stiffened so much that the CBS boss, Walter Yetnikoff, began to consider the $ 8m contract with a certain sadness (in fact, the words Yetnikoff's actuals were "I think I" I was fucked, "but you get the general essence.) Worse, their fans hated him actively, seeing him clearly as a totally unacceptable capitulation for market forces, a late piece of bandwagon jumping under even a band whose standards had slipped so badly that they had recently released a tennis-themed track called Match Point for our love According to journalist Nick Kent, the band "felt obliged to apologize for each once they played live. "Eventually they stopped doing it entirely after what Wikipedia describes as" adverse public reaction "to a show in New York.

Critical opprobrium, a collapse of both sales and artistic credibility, fans who have paid a good price to see you barking for your blood: you could not wish for a more vivid illustration of the risks that awaited the rock artist of the years & # 39; 70 who chose to go to the disco at the disco. It was a breeze. There was always the possibility of short-term commercial gains, but the odds were stacked against you: the back catalogs of a huge number of artists of the 70s are full of unsuccessful attempts to cash in on the success of Saturday Night Fever, largely remembered by fans as a catastrophic aberration career. Even if you get a success, your success would almost always be accompanied by derision or even anger. "Rarely has anyone betrayed his talent so completely," thundered Rolling Stone, perhaps a bit melodramatically, by Rod Stewart not long after, Da Ya Think I'm Sexy? went to No 1.

If the stakes were so high, why did many artists of the 70s feel compelled to do so? There were certainly artists who went to the disco because they loved music. One of the reasons why Elton John's Are You Ready for Love and Another Queen's Bites the Dust are big hits because Freddie Mercury and Elton John knew what they were talking about: they were both regular at the gay clubs in New York that were 39; natural habitat of the disco. But you have the feeling that most of the rock bands that went to the disco had something quite simple and in their minds.

Initially, it was largely about opportunism: if a group of non-hopers like the Bee Gees – so washed up before writing to Jive Talkin – were reduced to playing at the Batley Variety Club and appearing on a local TV in Sheffield only broadcast in black and white – could suddenly become the biggest band on the planet, so it was definitely a sign that the disco was a world where all bets were off, in which virtually anyone could reinvent themselves. And after Saturday Night Fever became a multi-platinum phenomenon, there was clearly the feeling that making a record was almost an imperative for commercial success.

For nine months solid in 1979, every single that surpassed the US charts was a record. Radio stations across the country have completely changed their production, following the leadership of WKTU Mellow 92 in New York, an unreliable soft rock station that renamed Disco 92 and quickly became the country's most popular radio station. The spark for the notorious Disco Demolition Night in Chicago's Comiskey Park was DJ Steve Dahl, fired from his job at the city's WDAI station, because he was changing his 24-hour disk rock format.

The result was that a large number of incredibly improbable artists gave a disco test, with some quite stunning results. The Grateful Dead went to the disco in 1978 Shakedown Street. So did the Kinks, whose single (Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman sounds strangely not unlike Blur & # 39; s Girls and Boys. So did Kiss, apparently very much against the best judgment of bassist Gene Simmons: "I hate playing that song," he said in 1979 I Was Made for Lovin & # 39; You. "The stadiums full of people jump up and down like biblical locusts … kill me now."

Perhaps not surprisingly, you would politely describe the results as mixed quality. There seemed to be a general feeling abroad that making a record was simple. Paul Stanley of Kiss later claimed that I Was Made for Lovin It was the result of a bet to show how easy it was to write a simple disco track, presumably the divine inspiration and the hours of sweat needed to write heavier and more meaningful material such as Love Gun, Lick It Up and Rock and Roll All Nite. But if it had been so easy, there would not have been so many terrible disco records made by rock bands.

There were certainly rock / disco crossover inspired: the unparalleled Miss You of the Rolling Stones, the brilliant Shine at Little Love and Last Train to London by ELO and Heart of Glass by Blondie. But there were also dozens of records that, in retrospect, believed in beggars. Who would not want to listen to a version of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue disco by Rick Wakeman, the chief programmer of rockstar keyboard players? Who would not find the idea of ​​an album by Ringo Starr (Ringo on the 4th of 1977, with the unspeakable Tango All Night, castanet-heavy) all but pleasant? And who among us can honestly say that their heart does not beat a little faster at the thought of Jethro Tull who records a number of Gaelic and heavy-themed disco called Warm Sporran?

In all honesty for Beach Boys fans who scream their disapproval at Here Comes the Night, there was something profoundly scurrilous about most of the rock / disco crossover. Clearly, no self-respecting DJ at a trendy gay nightclub would have played this stuff, so it was music aimed at the lowest common denominator: the sober suburbs who had delayed their Travolta, the people for whom the disc intended, as the said writer Peter Shapiro, "listening to YMCA six times in one night in the Rainbow Room of a Holiday Inn … while doing group dances with a group of street vendors".

It's not what the disco means today. Anyone with a brain sees it as Brian Eno did in that period ("I heard the sound of the future", he said breathlessly to David Bowie during the "Heroes" sessions, before interpreting "I Feel Love" by Donna Summer ) – as radical revolutionary and revolutionary music that has permanently changed the way we think of pop, full of audacious innovations and sonic experiments. He invented the 12-inch single and the remix, turning a song into something malleable and unfixed, which could be released in a huge variety of versions, modified according to the whim of any producer or DJ you entrusted the remix tasks.

That's why nobody gets angry when a rock artist says he's going to the disco in 2018, and presumably the spirit that Noel Gallagher thinks he's going to draw. Unless, of course, his next album sounds like YMCA.



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