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Over the course of 1975 and 1976, disco was most definitely ascendant as radio programmers and DJs fed the new appetites and clubs competed to have the most advanced sound systems and the largest glitter balls. The apex was reached in 1977 as Studio 54 swiftly became not only the most famous disco in New York, but the world, too. Later the same year (and well into the next), Saturday Night Fever turned America into a land of wannabe Tony Maneros in tight-fitting white suits, strutting down every street to the ubiquitous sound of the Bee Gees’ soundtrack.
At its worst, disco in its imperial phase was a whitewash of the dance music that preceded it, the blandest examples removing soul’s passion and funk’s hardness. But the foremost practitioners—like Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of Chic, also architects of hits for Diana Ross and Sister Sledge—made music of indisputable sophistication. It could be also be cheekily subversive, like when French producer Jacques Morali cast a series of hunks, dressed them up as gay archetypes of the era and somehow sold the Village People to Middle America.
Like all parties, this one couldn’t last forever. By 1979, disco suffered a fatal counter-attack by its haters, i.e., the white dudes whose traditional position of privilege was threatened by a cultural surge that was so strongly female, African-American, and gay. But no matter how many records they tried to blow up in baseball parks, there was no way to erase the mark made by so many of the tracks on this playlist.