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Smooth Breakfast with Jenni Falconer 6am - 10am
24 May 2022, 13:56
If there was one genre and era of music that got people on the dancefloor more than any other, it was disco of the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Sure, some folks in the States ended up declaring that 'Disco Sucks', but over 40 years later disco music still makes us feel good and gets feet tapping.
From the Bee Gees to Gloria Gaynor to... The Rolling Stones?!... we've picked the very best disco anthems to make for a perfect party playlist.
Australian singer John Paul Young scored a massive hit in 1977 with this romantic disco banger.
It was later used as the theme tune to Baz Luhrmann's 1992 movie Strictly Ballroom.
This 1973 track took a while to become the hit it deserved to be, but thanks to heavy plays in New York clubs, it became a disco favourite.
The song featured Fleming Williams on lead vocals just before he quit the group.
British soul group The Real Thing found fame on Opportunity Knocks, and in 1976 they released this excellent disco tune.
It was a big success, giving the group a UK number one single.
It's not often you get a dancefloor anthem that's also a mini-history lesson.
Boney M's bonkers tale of "Russia's greatest love machine" made a resurgence when a remix reached the UK chart in 2021.
Rod Stewart couldn't help but give disco a go for his 1978 album Blondes Have More Fun.
Not everyone was a fan at the time, but you have to admit it's one of the most catchy songs from the 1970s.
Baccara were Spanish flamenco dancers Mayte Mateos and Maria Mendiola, who were spotted on the island of Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands by RCA Records executive Leon Deane.
The duo soon recorded this track and it gave them a number one hit around the world, including the UK.
American band Tavares originally recorded this as a six-minute track in 1976.
The romantic track with the cheesy chatup line was a big hit around the world, reaching number 4 in the UK.
With the Bee Gees taking over the charts following their Saturday Night Fever dominance, it wasn't long before their younger brother Andy Gibb joined them.
For a while, he was arguably the biggest popstar on the planet, and this song was a massive number one for Andy in the US.
"Voulez-vous coucher avec moi?"
Later a massive number one hit from the Moulin Rouge soundtrack, this was the ultimate seductive disco dance anthem from Patti Labelle and her girls.
Sure, it was cheesy beyond belief - but 'YMCA' remains an excellent disco anthem all these years later.
It is one of the few songs to sell over 10 million physical copies worldwide, and became a gay anthem.
"Do a little dance, make a little love, get down tonight!"
A true dancefloor anthem from KC and the guys, this was the band's first of five US chart-toppers.
This was a massive international hit in 1974, and was arguably the first true disco hit around the world that introduced the genre to the mainstream.
This 1976 disco anthem was Boney M's first hit in the UK.
Produced and co-written by the group's founder Frank Farian, he also provided the male voice parts on the record.
Released in 1982, this was actually a bit late in the day for disco hits.
It was originally intended for Donna Summer, and then offered to Diana Ross, Cher, and Barbra Streisand, all of whom declined it. In the end, it fell into the lap of the Weather Girls, and it became an iconic tune of the '80s.
This disco-funk staple was Earth, Wind & Fire at the peak of their powers in 1979, with Maurice White going for it at the front.
It's impossible not to get up on your feet with this one.
This track was widely thought to be about the experience of the African American community at the time, and after finding success, was even referred to as "the new black national anthem".
Released in 1979, it was a top 5 hit in the UK.
One of the ultimate one-hit-wonders, and what a song to have a hit with.
It was a huge number one success in the US, and number two in the UK, and was written while the band was living in Minneapolis with dreams of moving to New York.
It was actually recorded a year before for their previous album Children of the World, and helped launch the band as disco kings.
According to Candi Station, this song came about after a conversation she had with producer David Crawford: "He was always asking me: 'What's happening in your life'...and I was with someone I shouldn't have been with and it was hard getting out of that... very abusive relationship.
"I [noticed] that [Crawford] was taking notes, and he said, 'You know, I'm gonna write you a song. I'm gonna write you a song that's gonna last forever'".
And he was right!
Written and produced by Chic stars Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, this song became Sister Sledge's signature tunes and a disco staple.
Bernard and Nile weren't yet comfortable approaching big name artists with their new songs, and so instead suggested the label's least established act. If they got a hit record, then they could take up the challenge of writing bigger stars. It goes without saying that this technique worked!
Originally, the Bee Gees were meant to record this disco track, and Yvonne Elliman was due to record the ballad 'How Deep is Your Love', for Saturday Night Fever.
However, producer Robert Stigwood said that this should be reversed, and it turned out to be a stroke of genius. Though, the Bee Gees did record their own version for the 'Stayin' Alive' B-side.
A pure disco classic from Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, this ended up becoming one of the most-sampled songs in history.
The lyrics include a reference to 'Happy Days Are Here Again', and lines based on lyrics featured in 'About a Quarter to Nine'. Nile Rodgers has said that these Great Depression-era lyrics were used as a hidden way to remark on the then-current economic issues in the United States.
According to the co-writer Bob Gaudio, the song lyrics were originally set in 1933 with the title 'December 5th, 1933', and celebrated the repeal of Prohibition, but the lyrics were changed by Frankie Valli and lyricist Judy Parker to reposition the song as a nostalgic look back at a young man's first affair with a woman.
With Teddy Pendergrass on lead vocals, this soul anthem wasn't a hit for a couple of years until the success of another great disco version by Thelma Houston in 1977.
The Communards later scored an '80s dance cover hit with it a decade later.
No one was too good for disco, not even the Rolling Stones.
Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood have insisted that it wasn't conceived as a disco song, while Keith Richards said: "'Miss You' was a damn good disco record; it was calculated to be one."
It became the Stones' eighth and final number one record in the States, in 1978.
Originally a hit for Mick Jackson (no relation), the Jacksons turned it into an infectious disco tune with the vocals of Michael.
It went on to become one of the Jacksons' signature songs, and a precursor to Michael becoming a pop icon.
Released back in 1972 when disco wasn't even a thing, it can easily be argued that this was the song that kickstarted the whole genre.
The positive track gave the O'Jays their only number one single in the States.
Burn baby burn! When you think of disco, chances are this is one of the first songs that comes to mind.
It surprisingly wasn't a hit at first, but once it was included on the soundtrack for Saturday Night Fever, it became forever associated with the genre.
Released in 1974, this song was originally written over 21 years previously by Peter Radcliffe as a country song, before Barry White totally reworked it and took it to number one in the UK.
It took on a new lease of life in the 1990s, when Ally McBeal character John used it as his own personal theme song, leading to Barry appearing as himself on the TV show.
The Bee Gees wrote this song over a few days after being contacted by producer Robert Stigwood. RSO Records wanted the song to be named ‘Saturday Night’ after the then-title of the film, but they added the ‘Fever’ to encompass the song title of ‘Night Fever’ instead.
Barry Gibb said of the track: “People crying out for help. Desperate songs. Those are the ones that become giants. The minute you capture that on record, it’s gold.”
This track's sexual overtones had to be toned by down for radio play, but that didn't stop it becoming a megahit for KC and the Sunshine Band in 1975.
It became a disco staple for the rest of the decade, and gave the band a US number one hit.
This song saw Blondie truly hit the mainstream, reaching number one in the UK in 1979.
Moving on from rock to a disco vibe, this song was written as a slower track titled 'Once I Had a Love' a few years earlier.
Debbie Harry later said it "was one of the first songs Blondie wrote, but it was years before we recorded it properly. We'd tried it as a ballad, as reggae, but it never quite worked", and that "the lyrics weren't about anyone. They were just a plaintive moan about lost love."
Disco kings Earth, Wind and Fire scored a big international hit with this upbeat song in 1978.
Although many theories about the significance of the September 21st date have been suggested, songwriter Maurice White claimed he simply chose the 21st due to how it sounded when he sung it.
His wife, Marilyn White claimed that September 21 was the due date of their son, Kahbran.
There are few records which changed the music world as much as Donna Summer's 'I Feel Love'. The single arguably ushered in the electronica era, thanks to its lucious production from producer Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte.
Released in 1977, it was years ahead of its time, and connected disco with synthpop and even house music.
Moroder described Summer as "an incredibly talented singer, who could improvise but was also very disciplined".
This song was originally recorded as a mid-tempo piano gospel song. However, after producer Patrick Cowley saw a rehearsal of the song at a San Francisco disco, he offered to remix it.
The result was one of the most pioneering disco records, using early electronic instrumentation and effects, which would be a big influence on music across the next decade.
Another disco masterpiece from Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers, this was a massive club hit for the group in 1978.
The lyrics of the party anthem reference New York City nightclub Studio 54, particularly its notoriously long customer queues, exclusive clientele, and unpleasant doormen.
ABBA managed to stay relevant and one of the greatest pop groups ever, by merging glam pop with disco by the end of the 1970s. Their creative peak was this stunning dancefloor filler.
Perhaps ABBA's best-loved song, it is the perfect love letter to disco and dancing itself.
Despite being a B-side originally, this became one of the greatest disco anthems of all time.
The song is a female-empowerment anthem, and is about moving on after a bad relationship. It has since taken on other meanings for people who have overcome any difficult situation, but writer Dino Fekaris revealed it was about getting fired by Motown Records, where he was a staff writer.
Gloria Gaynor herself once said: "I love the empowering effect, I love the encouraging effect. It's a timeless lyric that addresses a timeless concern."
For Michael Jackson's Off the Wall album, he took a step up in creativity, and recorded some of the 1970s' most luscious songs.
One such song was this excellent track which was one of the last true great songs of the disco movement.
With everything that happened during the disco era, the absolute peak has to be the Bee Gees' surprisingly perfect soundtrack for Saturday Night Fever, providing the music for John Travolta taking it to its most mainstream moment.
The Gibb brothers recorded several excellent songs during this period, but this was the ultimate disco song that summed up the period perfectly, and makes you want to grab your comb, your finest flares, and strut your funky stuff.