Sunday, December 25, 2011

The first disco song I can remember (Feb. 24, 2010)

Current mood: cheerful

My son spends what seems to me to be an inordinate amount of time on the computer, much of it watching videos. I see no value in it most of the time. Every once in a while, though, he happens upon something truly amazing. This is about one of those times.

Flash back to early 1974. I was in 10th grade, and while I’d pretty much stopped buying 45 rpm records, I still liked my music, and instead sat next to the radio with my tape recorder. When a favorite tune came on, I hit the record button and captured it, including any disk jockey blabber, the end of the weather reports, station IDs, bits of commercials and all. I still have all those tapes, and if they’re still playable, I can hear snippets of what Top 40 radio sounded like back then.

One song I managed to capture was a piece of a disco recording, possibly the first song I can remember that could be called disco. It certainly didn’t sound like anything else I’d heard, and its novelty, as well as its entrancing beat, enthralled me. This was early 1974, before “TSOP” by MFSB, before “Rock the Boat” by The Hues Corporation, before anything by K.C. and the Sunshine Band, almost a year and a half before “The Hustle” by Van McCoy. It sounded like it might have been sung in Spanish, or maybe some flavor of Italian. Nothing that came close to any English words made any sense. Perhaps the closest I came up with was “freezing cold and ants in mine choose oh – all right!” At least the “all right!” was clear enough. Maybe it was just heavily accented English. Whatever, it was primarily played on one chord, with a heavy 4-4 beat and a brass band. I knew neither title nor artist, and could not find it in the record stores.

A few years later, at college, with the song still stuck in my head, I dug out Billboard magazine back issues on microfiche and went through the charts for early 1974. Nothing.

Decades pass. Someone invents the Internet, Google, Wikipedia and YouTube. And I come down the stairs one morning to find my son playing this song in a YouTube music video. That song! I hadn’t heard it in 35 years! (aside from the grubby cassette recording I’d last pulled out some years back)

Without further ado, here’s the video, and here’s the Wikipedia page. There's even (ahem) lyrics! Enjoy!

P.S. What the song is about is what American English sounds like to non-English speakers.

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