Disco Discharge

Disco Fever USA / Euro Beat / Cruising The Beats / Mondo Disco

Continuing Harmless’ ongoing mission to unearth every possible gem imaginable from the golden age, the Disco Discharge series has been a veritable feast of marvellousness. This new quartet of compilations now makes it 24 discs, with – a rough estimate of almost 30 hours of pretty much every pre-house nation strand of disco textures, bypassing the worn out classics and with an emphasis on the Euro, Hi-NRG, Italo, primitive sleaze areas. Mostly long forgotten tunes dug up and extracted from their cheese pop chart peaks – Taffy, Liquid Gold, Gibson Brothers, Boney M, 5000 Volts – let out to breathe in a more sympathetic context. Mildly terrifying turns from Raquel Welch and Andy Williams, and moments from when the established soul stars – such as Teddy Pendergrass, Johnny Mathis, Marlena Shaw, Cissy Houston – "went disco".

Disco Fever USA reeks, unsurprisingly, of excess, possible cocaine overuse and extravagance. Mini dramas such as Dennis Parker’s luxuriantly string-drenched paean to cruising, ‘Like An Eagle’, for instance, was the result of Village People’s creator Jacques Morali approaching actor Wade Nicholls (filmography: let’s just say "adult") to make an album. A similar tale concerns Swiss singer Partrick Juvet, who’d had some success in France with an album produced by Jean Michel Jarre, but with his beach blond falsetto, and the unstoppable Casablanca label behind him, went supernova with the FM-highway power-disco of ‘Got A Feeling’. Double Discovery was one of the aliases of Russian émigré Boris Midney, who’s cosmic percussion-based ‘Step On Out’ effervesces ethereally like a chiffon fantasy.

The spirit of the time is best found in the Slick’s stupendous exploratory ‘Space Bass’ with its sensual gliding flow sounded positively intergalactic, sounding like something from a club scene from the then huge TV show Buck Rogers In The 25th Century, or the mysterious Noel’s proto electro ‘Dancing Is Dangerous’, written and produced by Sparks, who were inspired by their work with Giorgio Moroder on their ‘Number One Song In Heaven’. Having become something of an underground classic, its reputation is such that the Mael’s themselves have taken to performing it in recent years. Other treats come in the form of Voyage’s ‘Souvenirs’, Supermax’s ‘African Blood’, La Bionda’s ‘Deserts Of Mars’ and the New Beat-heralding Digital Emotion’s ‘Get Up Action’.

This was also the era where the old showbiz guard combined fabulously with the new glamorous champagne life. Disco embraced the stars, and through this a wave of cover versions harking back to yore became prevalent as though to tame the darker edge, and make the movement more accessible. Take Johnny Mathis – whose tracks recorded with Chic emerged last year – here he discards the festive cardigan of global hit ‘When A Child Is Born’ to emote over a Gene Page-arranged cover of ‘Begin The Beguine’. Even the greased up studs of Boys Town Gang, whose epic ‘Cruising The Streets’ was a highpoint on the first set of Disco Discharge, show up twice – once with a cover of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday’ that owes a fair bit to Hi Gloss’s ‘You’ll Never Know’, and a ten minute version of their sole UK chart hit ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Of You’. While quite good and all that, the spirit of the outfit that made ‘Cruising the Streets’ is tellingly absent, replaced in favour of turning out updated remakes. And the less said about Linda Clifford’s ‘If My Friends Could See Me Now’, the better.

Disco Discharge is and has been an indispensible compilation series, and bloody good value too. If the eight sets they’ve released so far have done nothing for you, then these new four certainly won’t change that. However, if you are on board already, strap yourself in for a brilliant ride.

The Quietus Digest

Sign up for our free Friday email newsletter.

Support The Quietus

Our journalism is funded by our readers. Become a subscriber today to help champion our writing, plus enjoy bonus essays, podcasts, playlists and music downloads.

Support & Subscribe Today