memories of the ’70s – Roller Boogie

Life in the 1970s in Venice, California was all about roller skating and life on the beach was shown the Hollywood treatment in the musical Roller Boogie.

Starring Linda Blair and Jim Bray, who was a former competitive skate, the film showcases the world of roller skating. Blair plays Terry, a musician who dreams of going to Julliard to become better at playing the flute and become a professional musician. She comes from a wealthy family and lives in a snooty world of privilege.

Bray plays Tommy, an expert skater who dreams of winning the big competitions and being able to compete nationally and internationally. He works hard to save money and achieve his dreams, and his friends are beach bums, trying to make money to have some fun.

Their initial attraction is overcome by their friends, who don’t think the two of them should get together. They keep meeting up at the beach and eventually decide to become friends, and Tommy will teach Terry to roller skate at the beach hang out Jammers.

Meanwhile a developer has designs on Jammers to redevelop the land – which causes Tommy and Terry to try to figure out how to achieve their dreams – and save Jammers.

Directed by Mark Lester, this movie was released at the end of the disco era in 1979, trying to capitalize on the boogie craze of the time period. The choreography focused on the trending styles of dance of the time – and a double soundtrack LP was focused on sharing the sounds to all those movie fans.

Teenagers loved the film when it was released in December 1979 before Christmas, and the film grossed over US$13 million at the box office. Although there were plans for a sequel, Compass International scrapped the idea as the disco era faded in the early 1980s.

This cult classic was a film that captured the essence of the dance, roller skating and disco era – and paired it with classic songs like Boogie Wonderland from Earth, Wind and Fire. It may have gotten bad reviews, but it lives on as a snapshot of 1979.

memories of the ’80s – Atlantic Starr

Starting in the late 1970s, this r’n’b/soul\funk band became a hot Billboard group in the mid 1980s: Atlantic Starr.

Founded by five musicians including trumpet player Duke Jones and the Lewis brothers: Wayne, David and Jonathan, Atlantic Starr focused on R&B charts but by the mid 80s were focused on the pop charts as a quintet.

In 1982, the band’s third album Brilliance became a gold record with its steady airplay of two hits Love Me Down and Circles, but it was 1987′s All in the Name of Love which made this band a household word with the song Always.

Released in 1987, the album predominantly featured songs by David and Wayne Lewis with their brother Jonathan on keyboards, Joseph Phillips on percussion and Barbara Weathers on lead vocals.

Weathers noticeable style encouraged her to leave the band after this album to pursue a solo career, while the band brought in Portia Martin to work on their next album and hot single My First Love.

Their distinctive sound of mixing R&B, soul, pop, disco and adult contemporary made for a a couple of hot hits in a decade that embraced the cool tunes of the mixing of one end of the musical spectrum.

memories of the ’70s – Chic

For those ardent fans of the 1970s, the band Chic’s presence took traditional disco down the rock n roll road.

Founded by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, Chic came out of the desire for these two session players to create something unique. Bringing in drummer Tony Thompson, keyboardist Raymond Jones and eventually singer Norma Jean Wright.

The first song released by the band was Dance, Dance, Dance which later was part of their inaugural self-titled album in 1977 for Atlantic Records.

The following year the band released their second album C’est Chic, with the hit single Le Freak. After failing to meet with Grace Jones on New Year’s Eve at infamous NYC’s Studio 54, the band wrote the song as a rebuttal to the doorman.

The song became their first number one hit, selling six million copies and becoming a club hit in every disco across America. Their second hit song was from their third album Risque – the memorable song Good Times.

Not just a club hit for Chic, this song was influential to several artists and songs, including Grandmaster Flash’s Adventures on the Wheels of Steel, Rapper’s Delight by Sugarhill Gang, Another one bites the dust by Queen, Rapture by Blondie and Daft Punk’s Around the World.

While the band performed and created a few notable hits, Rodgers and Edwards produced songs for several other performers such as Sister Sledge, Sheila E., Diana Ross, Carly Ross and Debbie Harry, as well as working with a young Luther Vandross who worked as a backup singer for Chic.

By the end of the decade, the disparate paths of the band members and the change in the popular music caused the band to break up – but their influence and production was one that made for constant top 40 radio airplay in the 1970s.

memories of the ’70s – More More More by Andrea True Connection

File:More, More, More.jpgA disco hit in 1976, this one hit wonder has become a classic for the clubs to this day: More More More by Andrea True Connection.

Written by Gregg Diamond, the song was performed by Andrea True, a porn actress.

True, who became well-known in certain circles after appearing in numerous adult films, was hired by a Jamaican businessman to appear in real estate television commercials.

After spending time on the island to complete the commercials, a political crisis in 1975 prevented True from leaving the island with her earnings. She invited producer/writer Diamond to come to the island, where she financed the recording of her first album.

True, who wanted to move into a recording career, recorded More More More, with Buddah Records releasing the song as a dance single to disco clubs in winter 1975, and by February 1976, was released as a radio single.

Although a solo artist, she named herself Andrea True Connection to differentiate herself from her porn career to a singing career.

The song became even more popular with its release to the mass market, hitting #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts and charting top 10 in Canada, UK, Germany and Ireland.

True continued her recording career, with follow up hits You Got Me Dancing and What’s Your Name, What’s Your Number, both on her second album White Witch.

But for the hardcore disco fans, More More More became a popular song of the nightly soundtrack, a popular inclusion in future period movies and was covered by Bananarama, Rachel Fox, Dannii Minogue and Samantha Fox.

memories of the ’70s – The Trammps

This Philadelphia disco/soul group is credited with being one of the first disco bands – The Trammps.

Coming out the 1960s bands such as The Volcanos and The Moods, The Trammps was initially Jimmy Ellis, Norman Harris, Earl Young, Robert Upchurch and Stanley Wade.

The band’s first hot single was a cover of a 1934 song – Zing! Went the Strings of the my Heart – which charted on the Billboard R&B list in 1972. Two other popular singles by the band were Hold Back the Night and That’s Where the Happy People Go.

But it was in 1976 that the band hit the A levels with their song Disco Inferno the title track of their fourth album, which became a hot song in every dance club across America, and was then included in the soundtrack for the film Saturday Night Fever.

The soundtrack was awarded a Grammy for best soundtrack, and The Trammps song was a disco anthem.

Although the band continued to release songs and albums, Disco Inferno became their signature song – and as the band members changed, the song stayed the same.

But for a decade obsessed with its dance music, this band’s song is still a dance favourite in the 21st century.

memories of the ’70s – Donna Summer

Known for her sultry voice, this disco queen made her mark in this decade with a song that was more than words.

Singer Donna Summer, born in Boston on New Year’s Eve  as LaDonna Andrea Gaines and was influenced by the Motown girl groups and the gospel sounds of Mahalia Jackson.

Moving to New York City in the late 1960s, Gaines tried out for the Broadway production of Hair. She wasn’t chosen for the role, but when the play was creating a touring ensemble, Summer was chosen and moved to Germany.

She appeared in Godspell and Show Boat, as well as joined Austrian group Family Tree and toured the continent. She released her first single in 1971 Sally Go Round the Roses and married Austrian actor Helmut Sommer.

In 1973, after her divorce from Sommer, Donna Summer emerged, working as a backup singer for Three Dog Night, where she met producer Giorgio Moroder. He produced her first album Lady of the Night in 1974, with the lead single The Hostage, which had success in Belgium and The Netherlands, with its pop/folk rock sound.

But disco was becoming the popular sound and with the lyric “love to love you baby”, Summer worked with Moroder to develop the song. She conjured up Marilyn Monroe as her inspiration and recorded a lengthy version of the song interspersing her breathless sounds inbetween the lyric. Moroder decided this track was complete and had it released as Love to Love You in Europe.

Sent to Casablanca Records president Neil Bogart in the US, he decided to test the song at one of well-known lavish parties, where it was repeatedly asked to be played. He asked Moroder to send him a long version of the song, both of which were released. The shorter version of the song, titled Love to Love You Baby was sent to radio, while the 17 minute version was sent to clubs in November 1975.

Due to the popularity of the song, Casablanca Records became the first record company to have success with what is now known as the 12″ single, as well as a lot of controversy for the song, which to some, sounded like a lengthy sexual experience. By early 1976, Love to Love You Baby hit number two on the Billboard charts, despite the commentary about the song’s decidedly sensual sounds.

Summer released the albums Love Trilogy, Four Seasons of Love and in 1977 released the album I Remember Yesterday with the lead single I Feel Love, which earned Summer the moniker “The First Lady of Love”. Summer didn’t appreciate the label, focusing her energies on her music and then acting, with a role in Thank God Its Friday in 1978 and the release of the film’s single Last Dance, which earned the singer her first Grammy award.

I didn’t know this singer of the ’70s, I got to know her in the ’80s, so her sultry sexy image was lost on me. But when I did hear that single, I thought she was creating the style of disco – lengthy tracks that would be the soundtrack of the dance floor.

Although at the end of the decade Summer was battling with an addiction to prescription drugs, she won that war and went into the next decade continuing a successful pop career.

memories of the ’70s – Disco Duck

In the height of the disco years, a Memphis-based DJ decided to mix it up with a tribute to a former ’60s song with the creation of Disco Duck.

Written by DJ Rick Dees, Disco Duck was inspired by 1960s novelty song The Duck, which took him a day to write, but three months to convince any musicians to record the song.

The story of the song is someone who decides to dance like a duck but is embarrassed, until he realizes everyone on the dance floor is emulating his slick moves.

Dees paired “duck” vocals with orchestral and disco sounds, and did a part one and part two for the single release. Although the song’s quirky oddity caught the ears of radio stations across the US, Dees station in Memphis refused to play the single and forbid Dees from playing it on his own show.

Dees had put together Rick Dees and his Cast of Idiots, and began performing around Memphis, and as the song grew in popularity, Dees landed the group a spot on American Bandstand. In October 1976, the song hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 charts.

Dees was fired from his radio station after speaking about the success of his single on his radio show and hired by the competition in Memphis. Meanwhile, the song was used in the1977  film Saturday Night Fever, during a scene where senior citizens are being taught how to disco.

I remember hearing this silly song, and not paying much attention to it – years later when I saw a segment on disco, it was cited as one of the horrible consequences of disco – although its intent was always being a novelty and not a true representative of a classic disco song.

Dees is still a successful DJ, now based in Los Angeles, and for music history, created a silly song that embodied the mid 1970s.

memories of the ’70s – Studio 54

In the heyday of disco, there was only one club that everyone wanted to gain entrance – that was Studio 54 in New York City.

Formerly a theatre and then a studio owned by CBS, in 1976 the space became available and many wanted to make it into a nightclub.

Carmen D’Alessio, the pr rep for Valentino and known as a well-connected partymaker, approached her friends Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell, to go into business with her in Manhattan at the building with the address 254 West 54th Street.

Along with Tim Savage and Jack Dushey, Schrager and Rubell created Broadway Catering Corp. which opened the nightclub Studio 54. Schrager and Rubell worked with D’Alessio, who had a myriad contacts in the world of fashion, music and movie culture to create a place that would be the hot spot of Manhattan, as much with locals as with the international jet set who regularly came to NYC.

Five thousand invitations were sent out for the opening of the club, with a special gift attached. On April 26, 1977, Studio 54 opened, with its strict door policy and a hot VIP list including artist Andy Warhol, Bianca and Mick Jagger, designers Calvin Klein and Halston and a host of socialities and celebrities including Margaux Hemingway, Liza Minnelli, Jerry Hall, Brooke Shields, Debbie Harry and newlyweds Donald and Ivana Trump.

Due to the strict door policy, even some major stars didn’t get in like Frank Sinatra, Warren Beatty, Woody Allen and Diane Keaton. As the stories swirled on this new kid on the block, Halston, who was a good friend of Bianca Jagger, wanted to open the club on  a Monday night for a party for her birthday. The publicity of the party, with Jagger entering the club on horseback confirmed this club as the hot spot for the A list.

Schrager, Dushey and Savage were definitely behind the scenes partners, while Rubell became a flamboyant visible host of the club, often hand-selecting  the beautiful and the bold from the crowds on the street o hang out with the well-known celebs within the boundaries of the club. For those lucky enough to be chosen out of the line, the cover was $8, an unheard of amount for a club at the time.

Rumours of hedonism circled the club, with stories of sexual encounters in the balconies, drug use by patrons and an open door policy to homosexual patrons on Sunday nights. Celebs who wanted to make sure their names were in the NY gossip columns of Liz Smith or Rex Reed worked every connection to insure entry into the hallowed halls of Studio 54 on a Friday night. Although the club dodged multiple closures, on February 4, 1980, with charges and stories swirling, the club hosted its final party, dubbed The End of Modern Day Gomorrah.

Rubell and Shrager were charged with embezzlement of US$2.5 million from the club’s coffers and police found cocaine and money hidden within the walls of the club. Rubell and Shrager were both convicted and spent 13 months in jail.

I only heard about the infamous nightclub well after its heyday, reading the stories of celebs who were notorious for their repeated presence in the club and for the impact it had during the days of disco. For a time period that celebrated a new found sexuality and freedom, Studio 54 represented one place where everyone pushed the boundaries of propriety and societal rules, embracing everyone and everything.

Although books and films have showcased this historical place, Studio 54 remains best known to its former patrons, an example of a bright star that burnt brightly and then faded from glory as the decade came to a close.

memories of the ’70s – The Hustle

I remember standing in the living room of my neighbours The Wrights. Their eldest, Lynette, was a few years older than me, but kindly tried to teach me the hustle, while her brother Verner (who was the same age as me) and his younger brother Derek watched us, laughing and trying to imitate our moves. I remember Lynette moving to the music in sync, while I was a bit hopeless in my attempts to remember the sequence of steps as we played the song over and over in my mini-dance class with Lynette.

A catch-all of influences, the hustle was a product of the 1970s disco age, which started as a line dance done in the discotheque, but became a partner dance also known as the New York hustle. With major influences of Latin dance like the mambo and salsa, the hustle popped into everyone’s consciousness thanks to the instrumental song ‘The Hustle’ by Van McCoy and the Soul City Orchestra, topping the Billboard pop single charts in July 1975, with its only lyric – do the hustle!

The burgeoning disco scene in New York City was the source for Van McCoy, who thanks to a local dj found out about the dance style emerging out of the clubs. Other dance forms emerged, like the Continental Walk, the Bus Stop and the Electric Slide, as club goers experimented with dance and the sounds of disco. Saturday Night Fever, which premiered in 1977, showed both styles of the hustle – line and partner, and also created the tango hustle for the film. As the general public learned the hustle, freestyle was becoming the norm for setting the trend club goers, who created their own moves to the sounds of the Bee Gees, Donna Summer, and Chic’s Le Freak.

I never truly mastered the hustle, and became a freestyle dancer, bringing in moves from what I saw in movies, on television and in the elementary school gym. I remember hearing about the death of disco and seeing teenagers destroying records on the edge of the school field, showing off as you feel you needed to as a hormone-driven not yet adult. But I still remember Lynette’s fluid moves as I watched, wanting to whirl and twirl to the sounds of the hustle.

If you want to relive the music and dance – check out this tribute video to Van McCoy. Do the hustle!

memories of the ’70s – The Village People

The halcyon days of disco – with its freewheeling night clubs, conglomeration of people from all levels of society and the burgeoning era of gay rights – a brief period of the 1970s that burned fast and furious. Urban centres like New York revelled in the clash of classes with the music levelling the playing field.

But like any cultural trend, there’s always a corporation trying to monetize it. So the recording industry, a master at pop culture creations, formed The Village People. Concocted  in 1977 by French producer Jacques Morali, The Village People was born out of a need to have singer Victor Willis (aka the Police Officer) surrounded by a group. Morali posted an ad in a music trade magazine requiring “Macho types wanted: must dance and have moustache”. Note the lack of singing expertise required!

Fixating on stereotypes to attract the gay community – the group was the Police Officer, American Indian chief, Cowboy, Construction Worker, Biker and Military Man. First appearing as a band on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand – the simple lyrics of Macho Man resonated with disco lovers across the country.

The resounding hit was YMCA in 1978, another illusion to the gay community in NYC, but to a young girl in BC it was a fun dance she copied from tv. I had tried to learn the hustle but could never get all the steps. Of course, my fellow students were not as apt to learn such a planned exercise in elementary school, but for some reason we all learned how to form our arms into the letters to dance to YMCA. Did we understand the deeper meanings of the lyrics? No. We just laughed and danced – like the key comment on American Bandstand – the song has a good beat and you can dance to it.

With a quick trajectory, The Village People graced the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine in April 1979 and made a deal with the US Navy, allowing the use of their song “In the Navy” as a recruiting song, while the band got to film a video on board a naval warship. At the end of 1979, Willis left the group, before the highly anticipated film debut “Can’t Stop the Music”. But in 1980 when the film opened, disco was declared dead, the film a flop and the group a wash-up.

Still kicking along, with some original members, The Village People continue to tour, now a blast from the past from the last days of disco. They’ve been imitated and parodied, and although many won’t claim to be fans, many can still sing the lyrics and name the members of the band by profession.

I still remember thrusting my arms in perfect time to the song’s beat, believing I had finally been able to participate in the disco era, even if from a gymnasium in small town BC.