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Disco Fever: It will survive

How to funky-chicken your way through the seventies

By Marios V. Broustas

Seventies style has been rekindled for the alternative music scene. But the alternative retro-movement has forgotten the 70s' most lasting effect on contemporary pop culture: the music. Groups like Chic and Kool and the Gang paved the way for artists such as Cameo, Chakka Kahn, and even Tina Turner's 80s chart-toppers. Seventies music, as a whole, had a major influence on the succeeding decade.

Listed below are what I consider the 10 best disco hits of all time. Some notable songs like "Y.M.C.A.," and "Celebration" have not been included, but I preferred to encompass the whole genre of the music, rather than focus on any particular groups.

1. "Le Freak" Chic

"Le Freak," released in 1978, encompasses everything that the disco connoisseur desires in a song. Right after a groovin' scream in the intro, the base settles into a panacea of flashing lights and disco balls. Even the squarest lounge lizard can't help but do the freak.

2. "I Will Survive" Gloria Gaynor

Originally a C-side cut, "I Will Survive" became Gloria Gaynor's greatest hit and the anthem of the oppressed minority during the late '70s. The song, unfortunately, has a polyester, naugahyde feel, but the bluesy instrumental, in conjunction with the inspirational lyrics, makes "I Will Survive" a landmark in the landscape of musical empowerment. So on those late nights when you're seeking the solace of Room 13, save yourself the walk. Instead, listen to Gaynor's hit and your world of despair and heartache will suddenly blossom into a thriving disco kingdom of multicolored lights and smooth leisure suits.

3. "Macho Man" Village People

One of the first disco hits to break Billboard's Top 40, "Macho Man" was the first hit in the Village People's distinguished career. Although "Y.M.C.A." is better known, "Macho Man," released in 1978, is more noteworthy because it establishes the roots of the '70s urban cowboy trend.

The Village People were created in New York City's gay club scene; all their members, except for the lead singer (Policeman), were homosexual. "Macho Man" was written to parody the stereotypical '70s stud. But the image was accepted in straight bars all across the country and what had been a intended as a satire of the straight man became the refrain of the stud man.

4. "The Hustle" Van McCoy

This 1975 hit blazed new ground in music history. The first disco megahit, "The Hustle" features melodious horns and, of course, that catchy flute riff which compels you to swing your hips into a series of pelvic thrusts until the sweat is flying off your hairy chest and the strobe light beams off your faux gold medallion.

5. "Stayin' Alive" Bee Gees

The title cut from the 1978 soundtrack Saturday Night Fever, "Stayin' Alive" remains one of the most recognizable disco hits.

"Stayin' Alive" is one of the best dance songs ever recorded. Even if you have never experienced the thrill of disco, this work of art will have you strapping on your elevator shoes and opening up that butterfly collar. Soon you will be dancing like a John Travolta with this high-pitched symphony of disco melody.

6."A Fifth of Beethoven" Walter Murphy

Beethoven's fifth symphony with a disco twist. How can you go wrong? This groovy classical/disco magic was also released on the popular Saturday Night Fever album. Beethoven himself would have slipped into his lavender leisure suit, grabbed the gal closest to him, and funky-chickened his way across the dance floor.

7. "We are Family"

Sister Sledge

This funky female duo was one of the more successful groups of the '70s. Their greatest hit, "We are Family," was released in 1979.

Although the riff follows the basic disco patterns, the lead vocalist's solo foreshadows early '80s pop and gospel music. "We are Family" carries you into a disco paradiso of warm, mellow lava lamps, hot incense, disco togetherness, and the aura of love.

8. "Disco Inferno" The Trammps

"Disco Inferno" tells the tale of a burning disco tower. The Trammps' 1977 hit is filled with jazzy riffs, and raging base lines of which even Dante would approve. "Disco Inferno" takes the listener through a world of mythical disco beasts and three-headed gyrating monsters. Just remember the warning: Abandon all hope, all ye who enter into this steamy disco inferno.

9. "Funkytown" Lipps Inc.

Another in a long line of disco one-hit wonders, "Funkytown" epitomizes the mechanical, methodical sounds of '70s robot funk. The Minneapolis studio group's lone hit was released in 1980, and it features some of the best production techniques of the late '70s and early '80s. Where, exactly, is "Funkytown?" Once it's pulsing beat gets hold of you, you no longer care.

10. "Please Don't Go"

K.C. & the Sunshine Band

Although K.C. & the Sunshine Band are remembered more for "That's the Way I Like it," this 1979 hit is one of their sweeter, more sensitive efforts.

"Please Don't Go" stands at the top of the disco ballads, approached only by Yvonne Elliman's "If I Can't Have You." The song's smooth rhythms and cool vocals make it the finest attempt at disco blues.

K.W.S. produced a successful remake of "Please Don't Go" in 1992, proving that no one really wants to see disco music disappear, that we're gonna miss it "the minute/it walks out that door."

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