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by Justin Farrar

August 14, 2012

Senior Year, 1979: Death Before Disco

by Justin Farrar  |  August 14, 2012

Summer 1979. It's a balmy night at Chicago's Comiskey Park, where local rock fans unleash Disco Demolition Night, blowing up a crate of vinyl in a violent push back against the disco fad that has conquered the nation's airwaves. Nearly every turn of the dial produces a tune by Village People or Donna Summer or The Bee Gees. What's more, the top 10 singles of the year are dominated by the stuff: "Bad Girls," "Le Freak," "Reunited," "I Will Survive," "Hot Stuff," "Ring My Bell" and, of course, the dreaded "Y.M.C.A."

For you and your pals, the demolition couldn't come soon enough. Not only do you despise disco, but way too many of your favorite rockers have turned to the dark side in an attempt to keep the hits coming. Once the "hottest band in the land," KISS now coo about how they're made for lovin'. Sure, Ace's "New York Groove" is pretty cool stuff (catchy, if funky), but Dynasty is pure rubbish. The same goes for Rod Stewart: he's been going downhill for a few years now, but "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?" is booty-boogie pandering at its lowest common denominator; so are The Rolling Stones' "Miss You" and Mick's ridiculous rants about Puerto Rican girls dying to meet him in that trash-strewn cesspool New York City, or wherever he's hanging these days -- surrounded by celebrities, probably. The worst, though, are  Little River Band, who are both disco and soft rock ... gag!

Luckily, not all your favorite rockers have gone limp. While definitely flirting with disco beats, both Bad Company and Foreigner still dig their guitar riffs on "Rock n' Roll Fantasy" and "Hot Blooded," respectively. Pink Floyd, too, mess around with four-on-the-floor on "Another Brick in the Wall," but that's cool, because The Wall is the group's best album yet. There's also a slew of younger bands who seem devoted to the spirit of rock 'n' roll in a good way, including Dire Straits, Cheap Trick and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. You dig them, but not The Knack or The Cars -- too goofy, too New Wave.

That said, there's no denying that part of the reason why disco has swept the country is because so many of hard rock's titans are faltering. Led Zeppelin are basically broken up, while Thin Lizzy, Jethro Tull and Aerosmith haven't released anything in the last year or so that matches Jailbreak, Thick as a Brick or Toys in the Attic, respectively. Newer heavy metal acts such as Scorpions and Judas Priest aren't bad, but their stuff is too European-sounding -- not enough blues in there.

When all is said and done, at least Boston, your personal fave, are around to help you through the hard times. You didn't expect the band to top their debut, but somehow Don't Look Back does. And once again, Tom Scholz reminds you that rock 'n' roll is the only sound that matters: 

The time has come to get together
You gotta have a little rock 'n' roll music
To get you through the stormy weather
And do whatever you feel
When you let go
Nothin's gonna help you more than rock 'n' roll

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