This post is part of our Disco 101 program, an in-depth series that looks at the far-reaching, decades-long impact of disco. Curious about disco and want to learn more? Go here to sign up. Already signed up and enjoying it? Help us get the word out by sharing it on Facebook, Twitter or just sending your friends this link. They’ll thank you. We thank you.
When disco emerged as a dominant cultural force in the mid-to-late ’70s, regressive cultural forces converged under the banner of rockism to decry its ascendance. Racists, homophobes, and garden-variety closed-minded reactionaries started stirring up impressionable music fans with apocalyptic visions of disco taking over the world and crushing good ol’ rock ‘n’ roll into the dirt beneath its platform heels. Mass record burnings, graffiti, and sloganeering were all part of the benighted Disco Sucks movement. But if anyone ever bothered to ask actual rockers about the issue at the time, they would have gotten a very different perspective.
Between the late ‘70s (when disco was at its zenith) and the early ‘80s (when it began to peter out), a remarkable number of high-profile rockers decided to take the plunge and adapt their sound to a disco groove, even if only for a song or two. Granted, it may not have been too huge a shock when try-anything types like The Rolling Stones and David Bowie turned out discofied tracks like “Miss You” and “Fashion,” respectively, especially since the no-disco movement was less prevalent in their native U.K. than in the U.S. But even some American bands you’d never expect to hit the dance floor were having a go at it.
Hippie heroes The Grateful Dead got down with the four-on-the-floor feel for “Shakedown Street.” America’s Band themselves, The Beach Boys, put on their polyester (at least figuratively) for “Here Comes the Night.” And hard-rock demons Kiss stepped up to the plate with the ooga-ooga bass lines of “I Was Made for Lovin’ You,” ending up with one of the biggest hits of their career in the process.