Posts Tagged ‘Kool & The Gang’

Today at Run-DMSteve we contemplate disco. As the 1970s recede in our rearview mirror we should remind ourselves that the disco phenomenon did not engulf the entire decade. It wasn’t even around long enough to become the theme music to the Carter administration.

Disco had an intense but relatively short initial run, breaking upon the world in 1976 with the release of the film
Saturday Night Fever and cresting in ’77 as punk and New Wave appeared and people got tired of dressing like circus clowns and stuffing themselves into ice-fog-shrouded, money-sucking discotheques. (I miss the fog.)

Disco staggered on, too oblivious or coked-out to die, though the industry probably got some kind of message after Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park in 1979, when the White Sox blew up a pile of disco records while beer-soaked anti-disco fans rioted. This is probably not what Ronald Reagan meant by “Morning in America.”

You may believe that such acts as KC & The Sunshine Band (“Shake Shake Shake, Shake Your Booty”), Sister Sledge (“We Are Family”), The O’Jays (“Love Train”), and Chic (“Le Freak”) have had little impact on our civilization. If you believe that you are like so wrong.

This music dovetails to perfection with pop from the ’60s and the ’80s in any Golden Oldies format. You could easily bookend 15 minutes of British Invasion with Donna Summer on one side and Evelyn “Champagne” King on the other, or follow Frankie Goes to Hollywood with Kool & The Gang. The Village People’s “Y.M.C.A.” has become a traditional, and much-anticipated, part of baseball games, wedding receptions, corporate retreats, birthdays, bar mitzvahs, and Christmas parties, whereas if you’d tried that in 1978 when the song was fresh you would’ve had a fight on your hands.

Burn baby burn! Disco inferno, yeah! Burn baby burn! Gonna burn that mama down!
My problem with disco is not that I regret loving it when I was 21 – I wore a leisure suit and I’m proud – but that I can no longer dance to it. Our dance standards have changed, altered by decades of electronica, Madonna, Michael Jackson, and Lady Gaga. Here in 2012, disco sounds slow.

While disco was happening, dances with formal steps sprang up to match the music, but who dances like that anymore? Britney runs rings around Donna and Evelyn with “Womanizer.” Lady Gaga sprints past The Bee-Gees with “Born This Way.” You can get hours of nonstop, hands-in-the-air, jet-propelled glow-stick insanity from any trance artist. (Christopher Lawrence’s Un-Hooked is totally off the hook.) You can’t get any of that from “Well she’s a brick. HOUSE. The lady’s stacked and that’s a fact, ain’t holding nothing back.” Even The Trammps’ “Disco Inferno,” a signature event when they played it at discos in 1977, sounds today as if The Trammps were dragging their feet. Must’ve been the burden of that extra m.

The Saturday Night Fever soundtrack is the 10th best-selling album of all time. Disco is part of our heritage, and though there are no post-graduate programs in Disco Studies (that I know of), the field probably has depths none of us suspect.

But I doubt it.

Get down, get down, get-down-get-down, get down tonight! Oh woo hoo oo hoo hoo hoo hooooo.

“Celebration”
Kool & The Gang
1980

Kool & The Gang must forever live in the shadow of K.C. & The Sunshine Band. Their song “Celebration” deserves better. It lacks the lyrical wit of the K.C. catalog*, but it packs a similar joyfulness and rhythmic insistence. “Celebration” could easily have been the B-side of K.C.’s “Boogie Man” or “That’s the Way (I Like It).”

Three minutes of music from your youth will reliably transport you right back there, and so it is with “Celebration.” In 1980 and ’81 the Seattle Mariners played “Celebration” after every victory in the old Kingdome. Unfortunately, “victory” and “Mariners” were rarely paired in the sports pages in those long-ago days. The club lacked something…don’t tell me, I’ll have it in a moment…oh yes. Talent.

When the meek inherit the earth, you can bet the Mariners will be out of town
Consider the six Mariner catchers of that era: Bull, Skip, Sarge, Moose, Naha, and Scrap Iron. You wouldn’t want to meet one of these boys in a dark alley. He’d probably trip and fall into a dumpster. Together Bull and his colleagues whacked 53 homers as Mariners, a bone-crunching pace of one every three weeks. They were, on average, 6 feet tall, weighed about 200, and batted .200. They were all right-handed but would probably have done just as well with the other hand. They were as speedy as a sackful of doorknobs. But they had the nicknames, and I envy them that. I had to invent my own because nobody I know is ever going to call me Moose.

I remember those Mariner teams and their sometimes-inspired promotions (Funny Nose and Glasses Night) with fondness, and “Celebration,” because I heard it so rarely, was a gift. Just like the S.S. Mariner, which rose on its hydraulic lift beyond the centerfield fence and fired a thunderous one-gun broadside every time a Mariner hit a homerun. I didn’t see or hear much of that back then, either.
It’s time to come together
It’s up to you, what’s-your-pleas-ure?
Ev-’ry-one a-rooouuund the world
Come on!

* Kool & The Gang, don’t forget, afflicted us with “Jungle Boogie.” What kind of song says “get down” and “boogie” 30 times each but “baby” only once? C’mon, guys, at least buy her some flowers.