Daily Record 1/28/11: Endless Summer-Donna Summer (1994)

In 1970s, 1980s, compilations, disco, greatest hits, pop, rock, soul on January 28, 2011 at 6:06 pm

I’ve never hated disco music. I never thought it sucked.

There may have been times when I tried to play off my enjoyment of disco as “ironic” but the plain fact is I like disco music. I liked it in 1979 and I like it now.

Back in ’78 and ’79, I was the king of rare 7th/8th grade dances at St. Joseph School. It was easy to be the disco king at that age and in that place though, since hardly of the other boys in my class would “fast dance,” even as some of them were working up the courage to slow dance with girls.

I was totally cool with fast dancing and, in my white leisure suit and silk shirt, with my hair parted down the middle, I was well-prepared for hot grade school disco dancing action. So well-prepared, in fact, that I wound up dancing up a storm to Donna Summer’s “Heaven Knows” with one of the chaperone moms.

At the risk of bringing mortification onto my family for generations to come, I’ll simply note that, at the end of this dancing-with-someone-else’s-mom fiasco, the mom and I joined hands and spun wildly around during the climax of “Heaven Knows” until vertigo took hold and we both collapsed in heaps on the floor, dizzy in our disco decadence.

It would be difficult to calculate how many similar late 1970s scenes played themselves out, from Studio 54 down to church halls throughout the country,  to the throb of Donna Summer’s classic disco tunes. She was the Queen of Disco, after all.

In reality, Summer is a talented artist whose work far transcends labels, particularly a label as limited as “disco.” But it is as a dance floor diva that Donna Summer achieved her greatest successes, all of which are nicely chronicled on Endless Summer, a 1994 single-disc compilation of her work from “Love To Love You Baby” through “This Time I Know It’s For Real,” along with two tracks that were new to the compilation.

Even on a greatest hits disc, it’s clear that Donna Summer’s music was way more adventurous than the disco haters would have given her credit for. “I Feel Love” is an electrodance freakout (Brian Eno allegedly told David Bowie that “I Feel Love” was the future of modern music); “MacArthur Park” is a melodramatic cover that probably caused fans of the original version to shake their fists angrily at the dance music gods for allowing such an “abomination”; “The Wanderer” shows off Summer’s rock side; “Love Is In Control (Finger On the Trigger)” features a huge Quincy Jones production extravaganza.

And don’t forget “State of Independence,” a trippy tune written by Jon Anderson (of Yes fame) and Vangelis (of Chariots of Fire fame).

Even when Summer got a little cheesy (her “No More Tears” duet with Barbra Streisand), it’s all in good fun.

And, finally, let’s talk a moment about Summer’s huge hit, “Hot Stuff,” since this is the second time this week that a song with that title has been on one of the Daily Records. The Rolling Stones’ “Hot Stuff,” (from their Black and Blue album, which I covered earlier this week) was a move into reggae-influenced disco territory (or, maybe, disco-influenced reggae territory; it’s hard to tell) for the Stones.

Inversely, Summer’s “Hot Stuff” is a bold move from disco into rock. In fact, I’d love to go to a Rolling Stones concert, in which the Stones perform their song “Hot Stuff” and then segue, medley-like, into Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff.” Mick Jagger could totally pull that off, though such a medley would entail the Stones’ admitting that, when it comes to songs titled “Hot Stuff,” Donna Summer  just brought the hotter stuff.


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