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by Justin Farrar

October 4, 2014

Classic Rock Gone Disco

by Justin Farrar  |  October 4, 2014

Rhapsody has officially declared it Classic Rock-tober! That means it's time to crank things up to 11, as we travel back in time to salute the finest in classic rock. Stay tuned each day of October for a new reason to rock out.

In the late '70s, with disco booting rock 'n' roll from the top of the charts and just about every dude in America dressing like Tony Manero, many of rock's biggest stars began recording disco cash-ins in hopes of remaining commercially relevant. Some of these tunes -- The Rolling Stones' "Miss You," Queen's ["Another One Bites the Dust"] and, of course, just about anything the Bee Gees unleashed between 1975 and '77 -- made for wonderfully novel pop that still sounds fresh four decades later. Others, meanwhile, were brazen miscalculations epic in their cluelessness. Two prime examples are The Beach Boys' "Here Comes the Night" and Steve Miller Band's "Macho City" (disco funk insanity featuring nothing less than a rap from Miller).

But not all rock/disco hybrids were cash-ins per se. When disco blew up, veteran art rockers David Bowie, Roxy Music, Electric Light Orchestra and Sparks all approached the trend as just another tool in the toolbox, so to speak. In the process, they churned out club-oriented music passionately embraced by hardcore fans of disco. Produced by Giorgio Moroder, the knob-twiddling genius who played a key role in the creation of Donna Summer's genre-defining "I Feel Love," the Sparks album No. 1 in Heaven became a cult classic that would go on to influence synth pop, New Wave, electronica and house music.

Far less unlikely, though no less successful, hybrids came from Pink Floyd ("Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2"), Bad Company (the ironically titled "Rock 'N' Roll Fantasy") and Foreigner ("Urgent"). "Urgent" in particular is a deceptively subtle fusion of rock and disco. While the song retains hard rock's beefcake machismo, its spiky funk and icy production, as well as the framing of Lou Gramm's soulful vocals front and center (a disco calling card), all made it a dancefloor favorite. The tune, according to authors Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton in Last Night a DJ Saved My Life: The History of the Disc Jockey, even made the Top 100 for the Roxy, one of New York City's cutting-edge disco clubs in the late '70s and early '80s. One more song definitely worth mentioning is the Eagles' "One of These Nights." Recorded all the way back in 1975, several years before most of the music mentioned in this post was released, the extravagant ballad proved that the band possessed far more pop savvy than their shaggy country rock persona had us believing. Now it's time to boogie!

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