Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Girl, To Be With You Is My Fav'rite Thing Uh Huh And I Can't Wait Til I See You Again Yeah, Yeah

70’s Song of the week

“Boogie Shoes” by K.C. and the Sunshine Band (1975)

Some say Disco was spawned because the Nazi’s banned jazz. The next best thing was to develop clubs where they played records. The first ‘discotheques’ sprung up in WWII and continued after in clubs like the ‘Whisky a Go-Go” in Paris. The ultra chic set did not have exclusivity to this trend for long.

The seedy ‘Peppermint Club’ in New York spawned the short-lived dance craze ‘The Twist”. The culture of this was embedded in the teenagers who would drive the commercial direction of music. The Beatles would swoop in to NA in 1964 and no one cared about their ‘Twist” records anymore which had every variation you can imagine by this point.

There was something slightly Victorian about the new dance crazes though – you danced alone. There was no contact with the other person. Sock-hops and record parties in the sixties were somehow made safer to on-looking adults because of this.

The technology had a significant impact on the evolution of disco in a couple of ways. The music clearly had shifted from the melody of the song to the pounding beat of the song – a trend which remains to this day. First off, the music was more about the production and the engineering of the sound due to multiple track capability and the rise of the synthesizer. The music no longer was just the recording and enhancement of live performances, but became the sound created in the studio.

The synthesizer rose to its peak in the seventies but was around long before that.  A predecessor machine, the ‘Theremin’ was the stuff of horror movie sounds like Hitchcock’s “Spellbound” (1945). It rose to eminence in Brian Wilson’s hands on the Beach Boys song “Good Vibrations” in 1966.

The next evolution came with what Robert Moog of Queen’s NY called the “Moog Synthesizer”. The notion of making sounds that were not necessarily instruments we would hear - but new electronic sounds – were now accepted and embraced. The 1969 “Switched on Bach” bizarrely went to the top of the pop charts. Soon Roland and others would mass produce synthesizers for the masses and the grandiosity of the prog rock band was set in motion.

The repetition and looping of tracks in the studio fueled the dancing as discos spread with a vengeance across the world. Long-play albums produced for DJ’s (a new breed that also lives on), spun on turntables like the Technics 1200SL were very popular because you could sync up the beats to better fade in and out of songs. (I have a SL1210M5G of the new generation of turntables). The ‘fatter’ grooves on the records allowed better sound (more information) but the format never caught on with the masses.

The popularity of black music also had a boon with the disco revolution. The Philly sound and other ‘soul’ music came back as radio singles that thrived. Forerunners of disco like Stevie Wonder, The Jackson Five, Sly and the Family Stone, James Brown, The Isley Brothers, and Curtis Mayfield produced fun, interesting and thoughtful music –with a beat that never stopped!

It was this beat and just the lack of seriousness that made disco popular. Leave your worries behind and head to the disco! The genre thrived and broadened in the mid to late seventies. From silly to bizarre, if it had a rhythm you could dance to, you were good to go. Bands like K.C. and the Sunshine Band, Blondie, the Bee Gees, and even the Rolling Stones were part of the phenomena. A million one-hit wonders with titles like “Shake Your Groove Thing”, “You Can Ring My Bell”, “Hot Stuff”, “Do You Think I’m Sexy”, “Funky Town”, “Born to Be Alive”, “Freak Out” and many, many more abounded.
A fine example of high disco is K.C. and the Sunshine Band. If you have not heard “That’s The Way I Like it”, “Keep it Comin’ Love”, “Get Down Tonight”, (Shake Shake Shake) You Booty, “I’m Your Boogie Man”, or “Please Don’t Go”, you must have been living in the proverbial cave.

Harry Wayne Casey (K.C.) formed the band in 1973 in Miami. After being introduced to the studio engineer Robert Finch the rest was history. K.C. and the Sunshine Band. The multi-platinum 1975 self titled album rocketed them to success. “Get Down Tonight” went to number one with “That’s The Way (I Like It), following it that summer also at number one.
They produced some five albums. The hits would keep rolling till the end of the seventies. The last charting song they had was “Please Don’t Go”. (The British Group KWS would also hit number one with the song in May of ’92, going to number six in N.A.)

The rise of new wave and the new consciousness – more serious and introspective arose replacing the frolic that was the disco years.  We can still chill to the disco beat and feel the funk by throwing a disco album on the turntable; (well maybe you can’t but you can get the mp3). As they said in the seventies: Keep on Truckin’!

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