Monday, November 25, 2013


By the late 1970s, the memo had come down from the music biz execs: make a disco record. Everyone, and we mean EVERYONE is hereby ordered to march into the studio and sing over anonymous lush orchestras, wah-wah guitars, congas, and female backing singers.  Yes, even you, Ol' Blue Eyes.  It's hot, it's commercial, you have no choice

And so we have here an assortment of some of the biggest names in music pounding their well-established square peg styles into the round hole of disco. Faded stars like Frankie Avalon, Petula Clark and Teresa Brewer remade their old hits inna disco stylee. EZ listening acts like Percy Faith, Andy Williams and Johnny Mathis figured this would be a way to squeeze onto rock-dominated charts. Leftover hippies like Country Joe McDonald and The Byrds cut new songs designed to get them back into the good graces of their old Baby Boomer audience, now living a coke-filled life of affluence. I suspect that some, like Ringo Starr, simply had nothing better to do. Toot toot, beep beep, ka-ching!

One of the great musical mysteries of my life is why I find old forgotten disco cheese so entertaining.  I never really liked disco in the first place, and I still couldn't care less about most of the big hits, e.g.: the Bee Gees, KC and the Sunshine Band, etc. But the hilarity of hearing utterly inappropriate material subjected to the disco treatment, the surrealism of the likes of Sinatra or The Beach Boys on the dance floor, the aura of pre-AIDS decadence, some genuinely impressive arrangements and powerful performances (Andy Williams kills it here), and yes, those exuberant rhythms all add up to tacky kitsch taken to almost Liberace-like levels. Plus, we have not had these songs pounded into our brains over the years/decades a la the "Saturday Night Fever" soundtrack.


If for no other reason, download this for the incredible Country Joe McDonald song. Granted, he never struck me as being the most talented sort, but this song is the very definition of "wrongheaded."

Thanks to MadJon! He's the madman who gave us the worst of Sinatra collection.

In case you missed it: more disco sickness.  (I did two other thrift-store disco comps, but they got knocked off-line.)


Reimer said...

Super duper! Love Disco, love attempts to sell out...thanks!

what next? Avant-gardistes try to do what they think is commercial? Disposable Popsters get deep and weird? can't wait.

Mr Fab said...

"Disposable Popsters get deep and weird?" That actually is a real phenomenon that interests me. I put together one collection of such things for this blog called "Polluting The Mainstream" (don't know if it's still on-line) and I'm sure I could probably round up more for a volume two.

"Avant-gardistes try to do what they think is commercial?" Hadn't thought of that, but yeah, I guess that's happened. Beefheart's mid-'70s "tragic band" period comes to mind. And the Philip Glass album where he tried to do actual songs and had people like Paul Simon write lyrics.

Kip W said...

Not seeing Ethel Merman up there. Somebody goofed!

My personal favorites are the classical disco versions — I remember "Hooked on Classics" got a mention in Stereo Review that said the sound quality was great, and the musical content was "numbing."

But even more favorite than those (yeah, it can work like that) is a set of cuts from Myron Floren's "Disco Polka" LP, which never fail to lift my draggy spirits. I can't tell from his performance on these if he even knew anybody was going to take his solos and lay them over an overblown studio band with singers and extra percussion and fog and flashing lights. He's not even wearing white lederhosen on the cover.

Mr Fab said...

I actually have that Ethel Merman vinyl. Just checked Amazon and it appears to be out of print again, so I may just have to record the whole thing & post it here one of these days.
I also have Myron Floren's "Disco Polka" album (I did include a track from it on one of my disco collections) but I'm really not sure if the world needs to hear the whole thing...

Kip W said...

I don't listen to the whole thing! But the clarinet polka (#1!) and the laughing polka and cotton-eyed joe and one or two others are tops on my personal hit parade. The first two mentioned most of all. Something about the bombastic introduction leading to that little accordion solo part that puts me in mind of "Ah-One, Ah-Two Sunset Strip" on Spike Jones's "Omnibust" LP.

Looking forward to Ethel. I have her on a cassette, and can't pull as good an mp3 from that.

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

I can't stop playing this! It's delightful and horrifying all at the same time. Thank you! :D

Swank Daddy said...

Well, why not. Looks like a ton of fun. Thanks for sharing it.