The outrageous spirit of the era, embodied in a silly dance song with its own silly dance. The two key components of disco: pulse and sleaze. So fun, not even abuse by lazy spoof artists can extinguish its charms.
"Boogie Fever"--The Sylvers
This act made much better music, but hey, James Jamerson just showed up and he brought pizza!
"Boogie Oogie Oogie"--A Taste of Honey
Get up and. Sweeter than a double dose of honey wine. Two chicks rocking guit-fiddles, whoa, what?
Groovy, quite. Do not ask her name--just dance.
"Disco Lady"--Johnnie Taylor
A cultural landmark--the first number one hit with "disco" in the title. "Oughta be on Soul Train"--unf, that's the panty-dropper right there.
There's a danger in attaching too much bait to the hook; no fish will be fooled at the sight of so much temptation in one place.
"You Sexy Thing"--Hot Chocolate
I'll have a six-pack of vibrato to go, please. Hasn't aged as well as agenda-driven editing suggests.
"Fly, Robin, Fly"--Silver Convention
I'll have a six-pack of words for here, please. The first German act to nab a number one in the States, and a proven guilty pleasure. Blame it on the bass, I guess. Why the robin, though? A decent bird. A muted Baltimore Oriole, if I'm being honest, but at least they don't attack cardinals. Unlike some other, more colorful birds I could name....
"(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty"--KC & The Sunshine Band
Party starter, party pusher, over here there and everywhere. Put your treasure chest in the air and wave it like you kinda sorta care. I get it, Time Life; "Get Down Tonight" would have made every other butt-bumper on the collection sound like Requiem Mass in D Minor in comparison.
"More, More, More"--Andrea True Connection
Crazy to think Linda Lovelace could have maybe had Helen Reddy's career. Given Andrea's claim to fame, no surprise how stiff her single hit sounds, from her delivery to the brass to that vaunted piano breakdown. The rare song structured pre-pre-chorus, pre-chorus and chorus.
"If I Can't Have You"--Yvonne Elliman
A stunner from one of the most important albums of the decade. Love me, love this song. The bros Gibb had the knack for dance-floor dramatics that stopped just short of ridiculous, insuring their tunes turned out timeless. Funny, it's the vocal tracks that pushed me into love, and for years I had no clue it was even the culprit! I blamed the string arrangement for a long time.
Need I tell you the legend of Chic? No, I need not, for I trust that if you are not already aware, you will sooner than later take the initiative to confirm it for yourself. Just don't blame me when you get lost in the rabbit hole.
I don't know if people in the 70s--listeners or critics--were willing to recognize that dance/disco music was producing true classic material. Between the best of Chic, the Donna Summer/Giorgio Moroder juggernaut and the Bee Gees' takeover during the last few years of the decade, the genre's detractors seem less like traditionalists concerned for the integrity of the art form and more like grouches with no rhythm.
"Rock Your Baby"--George McRae
The genre wasn't always at its best, but listeners didn't really seem to mind, so long as the groove persisted. This sounds like mashed potatoes in search of gravy.
"Ring My Bell"--Anita Ward
The sins of the drums are absolved by the right deeds of the guitar. I'm begging for an itch to scratch.
"I Just Want To Be Your Everything"--Andy Gibb
Everything here flows, freshness to freshness. The path is a bit too straight,; I would have preferred "Shadow Dancing" here, one of the finest concoctions to escape the Lab Gibb.
"Rock the Boat"--Hues Corporation
Nearly as fun as swimming on concrete. Suck on with yo' bad self.
"Turn the Beat Around"--Vicki Sue Robinson
When a person becomes ensnared in the music, poetry tends not to result. The ideal is to not to stink up the joint like fish in the net would. But holy mackerel, that percussion--so busy, so vibrant--leaves my brains scrambled with a drizzling of Texas Pete. Killing me none too softly.
"The Streak"--Ray Stevens
In 1973, Time magazine reported on the campus craze known as "streaking." On a bet, a dare, or as a form of protest, naked students would run around the halls or on the field during athletic events. This was not a recent fad, of course, but calling it "streaking" was. It soon went beyond colleges. The easily-pleased were content to run around their neighborhood at night. Fanny-flashers with big dreams saved it for sporting events, and even to this day people are willing to be forever known as sex offenders just to run butt-ass naked in front of thousands.
Stupid as all hell. So if someone was going to write a stupid song about a stupid activity, it had to be the author of "Guitarzan" and "Cletus McHicks and His Band From the Sticks." I was amused by this a child. I also found Full House funny. Ray Stevens is basically the male cast of Full House in one guy.
"Gonna Fly Now"--Bill Conti
A vehicle to victory for the universal underdog. Conti works the hook like a speed bag. I wish you luck in making it through more than five seconds without imagining yourself standing in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
"Indian Reservation"--Paul Revere and the Raiders
If you've never heard "Indian Reservation," you are automatically a better person than me.
"The Candy Man"--Sammy Davis, Jr.
Not better than the version from Willy Wonka, but pay dirt takes flight regardless. The best song about a drug dealer not sung by Curtis Mayfield. People gorging themselves with Pop Rocks, Sugar Daddys, Laffy Taffy and Now and Laters made room.
"Disco Duck"--Rick Dees
The last novelty song to reach the apex of the Hot 100. Clearly, "Disco Duck" killed the population's patience for aural knickknacks. A bit like the "Boss Fight" tune in the NES Ninja Gaiden, with far more quacking. Dees, being a DJ from Memphis and not a singer from Memphis, shows a fondness for elongating syllables--one of the many cheap tricks of the not-singer. Gimme DJ Paul any day.
"Happy Days"--Pratt & McClain
Imagine a crinkle boot stomping on a human face--forever.
"I'd Like To Teach the World To Sing"--The New Seekers
First it was "the Coke song," then it was "the Mad Men song." Never has it been "the New Seekers song," but never was that the point. A greater understanding of interconnectivity and advancement was the point. You can't eliminate homelessness, vanquish hatred, wipe out famine, preserve nature or destroy the weapons of war, but you can crack open a soda and think on how great the planet would be if you could do that pull off even one of those feats.
"The Lion Sleeps Tonight"--Robert John
Everyone knows about "the mighty jungle," but who recalls the "peaceful village"? That's why we need to learn to sing!
"Kung Fu Fighting"--Carl Douglas
Tis better to dance the Kung Fu than to fight it. Tis best of all to not follow up your novelty song with another novelty song about the same damn topic, but I guess Carl's manager was also his favorite uncle. How many kids spent their idle time at the bus stop practicing their "moves," filling the air with "hai!" and "hah!" until even their own fathers wanted to see them run over by a runaway pimpmobile?
"The Rapper"--The Jaggerz
Folksy cautionary tale about a slick-talking professor of Suave Prick 101. Surely he didn't bat a thousand. Certainly he was on the unfortunate end of a nut-shot or two. There must be women in the world sufficiently savvy to just ignore the guy. But thanks for the heads up, Jaggerz. That "z" is so 90s. (Worse fashion statement--JNCO jeans or platform shoes? Only one can cause physical as well as mental anguish! That has to count for something....)
"Put Your Hand in the Hand"--Ocean
Just one of several Canadian acts on Pop Goes the 70s, but the only overtly gospel track. Cutesy on the surface, but touches on the stone upon which any good religion is built--shame. Mother may I not care about this song beyond the drum break?
"Billy Don't Be A Hero"--Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods
Originally recorded by Paper Lace. Someone else's life flashed in front of my eyes the last time I heard this.
"Hooked on a Feeling"--Blue Swede
A cover. All these white Swedes did was cover songs! Pop culture needs to let this dog die in the alley already. Stop taking it home and nursing it back to relative good health. That "ooga-chucka" stuff is the factual worst. Inserting it into your commercial is the most effective way to assure I will never purchase your product and may, in fact, actively root for its failure. I'm not big on conspiracy theories, but I'm 77% sure that Blue Swede were created out of uranium, tapioca pudding, and the stray hairs of ABBA.
"The Cover of Rolling Stone"--Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show
A largely-listenable parody positing the Show as pill-popping, blow-snorting, Guru-consulting, groupie-banging bards in the Keatsian tradition. "Largely," since they left in one of the messiest abortions of an electric guitar part I've ever heard.
The happy ending is that the band did indeed make the cover...in caricature. Yeesh.
"Don't Give Up On Us"--David Soul
Do give up. Tap out with both hands.
David Solberg was actually a folkie before landing his iconic role on Starsky and Hutch, but only eighteen people knew that, and none of them were American, so he remains a novelty. When you're starving, you don't care that the broth is tasteless and the noodles are overcooked. That's why it's important to keep your ears well-fed.
"The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia"--Vicki Lawrence
The timeline here is all futzy. Not to mention the morals. I can understand little sister blowing away her bro's errant spouse, but why'd she let him go down for a crime he didn't commit? Speaking of...his sentencing and execution are pretty damn speedy even by the standards of Down South corruption.
Some listeners were upset at the perceived exploitation of Southern stereotypes, but sometimes you can't tell a story without running the risk of feeding someone's prejudices. Screw it, tell a story anyway.
"Spiders and Snakes"--Jim Stafford
"Crocodile Rock" without the "rocodile." Was that Stafford's natural accent, or an affectation? Either is unpleasant, but only one is excusable. The music grooves like swamp life in heat, but the lyrics are putrid.
"Life is a Rock (But the Radio Rolled Me)"--Reunion
Voiced by Joey Levine (the copper throat behind "Yummy Yummy Yummy"), this right here is Namedrop City, the original city built on rock 'n' roll. "We Didn't Start the Fire" for people who don't care about world history, "Life is a Rock" would have benefited from a vocalist who didn't sound like Bruno Kirby after a helium hit. (But not as much as we all would have benefited from never existing.)
"Sam's cookin'." Garrruuuuhhh. "Carly Simon, I behold her." Buuleeeuuugghhhaaarrr!