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Disco 1975

If you see Patti LaBelle today, wish her a happy birthday.

Nineteen seventy-five was a pivotal year for disco music. The genre was still very young; the name “disco” as a reference to the music genre was coined just two years earlier by journalist Vince Aletti. Disco music crossed over into the mainstream with more frequency, yet was not as ubiquitous a presence on the pop charts as it would become in the ensuing years of that decade. Artists who had their first top 40 singles in 1975 include Gloria Gaynor and KC and the Sunshine Band. In December of 1975, Donna Summer made her first appearance on the Hot 100 when “Love to Love You Baby” made its debut, having already been a smash in the clubs. The Bee Gees updated their sound in 1975 with “Jive Talkin’,” which became their first top ten single since 1971. Ben E. King, who had hits in the early 1960s as a solo artist and as the lead singer of The Drifters scored his first top ten pop hit since 1961’s “Stand By Me” with the funky “Supernatural Thing.” As the lead singer of the trio named after her, Patti LaBelle scored her first top ten hit in over a decade with “Lady Marmalade.” Veteran acts such as Frankie Valli, The Temptations, The Miracles, The Isley Brothers and Esther Phillips filled the dance floors. And it was in 1975 that the world was doing the hustle.

Today’s playlist is made up of forty disco gems from 1975.

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Throwback Thursday – 1975

It’s a death trap, it’s a suicide rap
You gotta get out while you’re young

New Jersey does not have an official state song. There have been attempts to adopt one since at least 1939, when the state’s Board of Education held a contest to find a suitable number. They named Samuel F. Monroe’s “The New Jersey Loyalty Song” as the contest’s winner, but it was not good enough to be the official state song.

In 1972, the state legislature proposed that Joseph “Red” Mascara’s “I’m from New Jersey” be the state’s song, but Governor William Cahill vetoed the measure, stating succinctly about the song “It stinks.”

In March of 1980, radio d.j. Carol Miller started a petition to have “Born to Run,” written and recorded by New Jersey’s favorite son, Bruce Springsteen, be named the state song. Three state assemblypersons drafted a resolution declaring “Born to Run” “as the unofficial *rock* theme of our State’s youth.” I’m confused to as to how an official resolution can name an “unofficial” theme, just as the state’s senate was confused as to how a song that includes the lyrics that open this post expresses pride in where one’s from. The bid died.
The song also includes these lyrics that tickle my friend Audrey so: Someday, girl, I don’t know when, we’re gonna get to that place where we really wanna go.

Oh, that place!

By the way, I got out of New Jersey when I was 24.

This week’s Throwback Thursday playlist spotlights some of the best tunes from 1975, kicking off with what is unofficially New Jersey’s unofficial state song, Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run.”


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It’s African American Music Appreciation Month And I Need To Dance!

On May 31, President Obama issued a proclamation declaring June 2016 as African American Music Appreciation Month. The designation has actually been around since 1979, when President Carter commemorated the cultural and financial contributions of music made by African Americans at a reception at the White House. Back then it was Black Music Month, an idea conceived by music industry executive and radio personality Dyana Williams and her husband, Kenny Gamble.

You may not know Gamble’s name, but you know his music. The co-founder of Philadelphia International Records with Leon Huff, Gamble and his music partner have written and produced hits for Diana Ross & the Supremes and the Temptations, Dusty Springfield, the Jacksons, the O’Jays, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, Jerry Butler, Archie Bell and the Drells, the Three Degrees, Joe Simon, MFSB, Billy Paul, the Soul Survivors, Teddy Pendergrass, the Intruders, Lou Rawls, People’s Choice and the Jones Girls.

Tunes du Jour’s weekly dance party celebrates African American Music Appreciation Month with twenty dance floor packers, kicking off with a few of Gamble and Huff’s gems.


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It’s Friday And I Need To Dance!

‘Cause when the train of thought gets off the track
The engineer, naturally, starts pullin’ back

I started meditating three weeks ago. Actually, I started meditating again three weeks ago. I’ve tried it before in fits and starts, but never made it past one month.

Much has been written about the benefits of meditation, which is why I continue to try. According to a graphic on the website Art of Living, meditation reduces ageing, helps one appreciate life more, increases one’s attention span, improves metabolism, and “helps you have a good night sleep.” I put that last phrase in quotes so you know the poor grammar is the fault of the creator of the quoted chart, not me. This person also wrote that meditation “keeps your stress-free.” Clearly it also makes you words. Meditation also “adds more hours to your day,” which I didn’t think was scientifically possible. Meditation may also keep one from making snarky comments about someone else’s Benefits of Meditation graphic, so I’ll keep trying.

I do guided meditations. A calm voice tells me what to do, and while I try to do what the calm voice says, my mind jumps all over the place. The sessions go something like this:
“Take a deep breath in through your nose.”
(inhale) I’m congested. I need to go to CVS and pick up more Claritin. I hate CVS.
“Now exhale through your mouth.”
(exhale) While at CVS I should get a flu shot.
“Gently close your eyes and feel your weight on the chair.”
I need to go to the gym. When I’m done meditating I’ll do some cardio.
“Scan down your body and notice, but don’t judge, any points of tension or discomfort.”
My eyes are so itchy. I wish I knew what medication to use, but when I asked the doctor last week, she told me what not to put on my eyelids, the opposite of the answer I was seeking. I’m not going back to her again. I don’t like this health plan. I wish I could have kept the doctor I’ve been seeing since 2004. I need to go back to my old health insurance. Not Anthem Blue Cross, as they are the worst, but Blue Shield, who aren’t great, but I can deal with them.
“Breathe in and out through your nose, counting each breath. One in, two out, until you reach ten. Then start again. Focus on your breath.”
One. Two. I hope this meditation is done soon. I have a blog post to write. What should I write about today? It’s Friday so the playlist is dance songs, but what about them?
“If your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to your breath and your counting.”
Oh, yeah. Three. Four. I have to go to the bank. Oh, and I need to bring the car back to the body shop. Why is there a warning light on when I start the engine? I just got the car back after being without it for six weeks. There shouldn’t be any issues. I’ll go to the body shop and then CVS. I hate CVS. Why is customer service such a challenge? Is it so hard to tell me how long I need to wait to pick up my prescription? Is it so difficult to pick up a tube and slap a sticker bearing my name on it? I don’t get it. I don’t think there’s another pharmacy I could use on this health plan. I hate this health plan. I hate CVS. I hate this doctor. I hate having to go back to the body shop. I hope this meditation relaxes me and changes this mind set. Oh, yeah. Five. Six.
“Now let your mind be free to do whatever it wants. If it wants to think, let it.”
Umm, this is ironic. Nothing is coming to mind. My head is devoid of thought. Wait. That is a thought. Thinking about not thinking about anything is still thinking. It’s a waste of thought. I should think about something more important while given this opportunity. But what? Nothing is coming to mind.
“Congratulations! You’ve completed another day in your meditation journey. Open your eyes, stretch, and contemplate how far you’ve come.”
I hate CVS.

I’m not ready to give up meditating just yet, but you know what activity clears my mind and makes me feel good? Dancing!

doggies + Hues Corp

This week’s dance playlist kicks off with The Hues Corporation’s other hit, their follow-up to the perennial “Rock the Boat,” the all-but-forgotten “Rockin’ Soul,” from which the lyric that opens this blog post is taken. Have a great weekend!


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Throwback Thursday – 1976

me - bar mitzvah
The blogger in 1976

This week Tunes du Jour revisits the hits of 1976.


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It’s Barbra Streisand’s Birthday And I Need To Dance!

Around ten years ago I took up boxing. Not as a career, but as a form of exercise. I’d never watched a match on TV – too violent for my tastes. The idea to give it a try came from my trainer at Crunch Gym. Not my first trainer – he seldom showed up for our appointments. Not my second trainer, an asshole who ignored Crunch’s slogan “No judgments” and mocked my appearance throughout our sessions, while bragging about how he once made a female client of his cry. It was the idea of my third trainer at Crunch, the actor who often called me as I was five minutes from the gym to tell me he won’t make our session as he was still at an audition. Yes, that trainer. He showed up for our appointments around 60% of the time, which was better than my first Crunch trainer. He introduced me to boxing. I learned the upper cut, the cross, the jab, the duck, some other thing that involved me not getting punched in the face, and kicks. It was great exercise, especially on those days when I came to Crunch after a frustrating day at work. I’d punch that bag like I was seeing the face of one of the assholes with whom I worked. It got out the tension and got me into great physical shape.

I dumped that trainer once I decided a 60% show-up-for-your-job rate was inadequate for my aggression-releasing needs. I continued sparring with the fourth trainer Crunch assigned me, that is when he wasn’t flirting with the female clientele or taking weights from the floor and stuffing them in his duffle bag so as to build up his home gym.

When it came renewal time I left Crunch and their lot of unprofessional trainers and signed up at 24-Hour Fitness. Though it is literally a few steps from my home, I didn’t go to the location in West Hollywood, whose equipment, like its clientele, was old and decrepit. I went to the Hollywood location, where I was assigned a trainer who was so good, we worked out together for a few years. He introduced me to that hot actor who I later saw as a defendant on Judge Judy. He won his case. A few years later the West Hollywood location of 24-Hour Fitness closed for three and a half months. It reopened with fresh new equipment and fresh new customers, though oddly, it still was not open 24 hours, at least not in a single day.

Unfortunately, there was no boxing at 24-Hour Fitness. While at a local smoothie ship I saw a business card for a boxing coach who did private training at his home. He converted his unattached garage (is that the right word – unattached? I mean detached, right? Either way, you get my drift – his garage was not attached to his house.) into a boxing ring. He used to be a professional boxer and was a model as well. Our sessions were great, and not just because he’d say goodbye to me each week with a kiss on the lips, his heterosexuality be damned. Once he kissed me on the neck. Why did I stop seeing him? No recuerdo. Maybe it had something to do with a mental ward.

I’ve had one or two trainers and taken some boxing classes since then, but they weren’t as much fun. Something was missing, besides the kisses. Still, if one were to put me in a boxing ring today with Barbra Streisand, I think I could take her down. It’s not that I have a desire to punch Barbra Streisand, nor do we have a bout on the books. I’m saying this as a poor segue into mentioning her 1979 film The Main Event, in which she portrayed a boxer manager/perfume magnate.

The film re-teamed Barbra Streisand with Ryan O’Neal, seven years after their film What’s Up, Doc? What’s Up, Doc? is a great movie. If you haven’t seen it, I strongly suggest you do, even if you’re not a fan of Barbra Streisand. Especially if you’re not a fan of Barbra Streisand. You’ll see a whole other side of her in this movie. Ryan O’Neal is great. Madeline Kahn made her feature film debut in this movie. How can you go wrong with Madeline Kahn? Austin Pendleton is in it. Kenneth Mars is in it. A lot of people are in it. I think I’ll host a viewing of it at my condo. Let me know if you’re around and interested. You should be interested.

I never saw The Main Event. Critics panned it, but the public enjoyed it. I have the soundtrack album, which includes the hit single “The Main Event/Fight.” Three times – the 45 mix, the 12-inch mix, and as a ballad. The latter is solely the song “The Main Event.” “The Main Event/Fight” is a medley. “The Main Event” was written by Paul Jabara, whose writing credits also include Donna Summer’s “Last Dance” and The Weather Girls’ “It’s Raining Men” (on a side note, does anybody know if Chaka Khan is okay?) and Bruce Roberts, whose writing credits also include Laura Branigan’s “The Lucky One” and that Jeffrey Osborne song that goes “Can you woo woo woo?”. “Fight” was written by Jabara and Bob Esty. Esty’s writing credits also include Cher’s “Take Me Home.”

Babs + Winston

“The Main Event/Fight” is, with the Donna Summer duet “No More Tears (Enough is Enough),” my favorite Barbra Streisand single. I like my boxing coaches kissy and my Barbra Streisand songs peppy.

Today Barbra Streisand turns 73 years old. “The Main Event/Fight” kicks off Tunes du Jour’s weekly dance party.

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It’s Friday And I Need To Dance!

Billboard magazine’s first disco chart was published in October of 1974. Its #1 song was “Never Can Say Goodbye” performed by Gloria Gaynor. That record stayed on top for four weeks, soon crossing over to the pop chart, where it peaked at #9.

An eighteen-plus minute medley of “Honey Bee,” “Never Can Say Goodbye” and “Reach Out, I’ll Be There” reached #2 on the Disco chart in early 1975, leading to Gaynor being named “Queen of the Discos” by the National Association of Discotheque Disc Jockeys in March of that year.

Six more top ten disco hits followed in 1975 and 1976, but then her fortunes dried up. Her sole entry on the Disco chart in 1977 reached only #38. Her next charted disco single was over a year later, and peaked at #24. By this point, Donna Summer was the new Queen of Disco. Summer was also crossing over onto the pop chart, while Gaynor’s sole top 40 pop single was “Never Can Say Goodbye.” She failed to crack the Hot 100 in 1976 and 1977.

Her record company, Polydor, reached out to producer Dino Fekaris and asked him to produce for Gaynor a cover of the Righteous Brothers track “Substitute,” then a recent hit overseas for a group called Clout.

Fekaris was a staff songwriter at Motown Record for almost seven years before the company let him go. Determined not to let that career setback derail him, Fekaris got together with his songwriter and production partner Freddie Perren, who also had a stint at Motown, and wrote a song about getting over the fear of the unknown and surviving what life throws at you. They wanted a woman to record the track, but didn’t have anybody in mind. They decided to give the song to the next diva they work with. That’s when Polydor called with the Gaynor gig.

As requested by her label boss, Gaynor recorded “Substitute” to be the A-side of her next single, but the song about survival, which she recorded to be the record’s B-side, really resonated with her. Besides her career troubles, she recently lost her mother and fell on stage while performing, which required her to undergo spinal surgery and spend six months in the hospital. She recorded the tracks wearing a back brace.

“Substitute” was released in the fall of 1978. It failed to make the Hot 100.

One night around that time, Studio 54 DJ Ritchie Kaczor flipped over “Substitute” and played its B-side. The patrons ignored it that first time, but Kaczor kept playing it. Eventually, it became the club’s most popular cut. Soon, all New York City clubs were playing the track.

In November 1978 Vince Aletti wrote in Record World magazine that this song “is Gaynor’s very best work in years…delivered with such relish that one can’t help but get caught up in the emotion.”

In Boston, disco radio DJ Jack King played the single’s B-side and reported that “my listeners went nuts!” Seeing the response this song was getting, Polydor reissued the single with “Substitute” as the B-side. The A-side was now the anthem “I Will Survive.”

Winston + Gaynor
In January 1979, “I Will Survive” returned Gloria Gaynor to #1 on the Disco chart, where she remained for three weeks. In March of that year the record hit #1 on the Hot 100, where it also stayed for three weeks. It went on to become a smash around the world.

At the 22nd Annual Grammy Awards ceremony on February 27, 1980, Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” won for Best Disco Recording, the only time that award has ever been given, over Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,” Rod Stewart’s “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?,” Earth Wind & Fire with The Emotions’ “Boogie Wonderland,” and then Queen of Disco Donna Summer’s Bad Girls.

“I Will Survive” kicks off Tunes du Jour’s weekly dance party.

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Thank God It’s Friday And I Need To Dance!

Oscar Winners 002

The nominations for the 86th Academy Awards were announced yesterday. Who will take home the statuette for Best Original Song? Will it be U2 for “Ordinary Love” from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom? No. Will it be Pharrell for “Happy” from Despicable Me 2? No. Will it be someone or another for “Let It Go” from Frozen? No. Will it be that song that nobody’s ever heard from that movie that nobody’s ever seen? Hell no. Will it be Karen O. and Spike Jonze for “The Moon Song’” from Her? Yes. Yes it will.

How many of you know all five nominated songs? How many of you know any of the nominated songs? What happened to the days when the general public knew the songs that were nominated?

Today’s dance playlist is built around two Oscar winners – “Last Dance” and “Flashdance…What a Feeling.” That’s right – Thank God It’s Friday and Flashdance are Academy Award winning films. Thank God It’s Friday won more Oscars than North By Northwest, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, A Clockwork Orange, Psycho, Singin’ in the Rain, Rebel Without a Cause, Taxi Driver and 12 Angry Men put together. Ah, but nobody ever said life was fair, Tina.

Happy Friday!

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It’s Friday And I Need To Dance!

The 1970s were all about Star Wars and disco. One man had the brilliant idea to combine the two. Is it an overstatement to call Meco Monardo a genius? His disco version of the Star Wars score was a #1 hit in 1977.

That’s his only top ten hit where he is credited as the artist; however, Meco arranged the horns on Tommy James and the Shondells’ smash “Crystal Blue Persuasion,” played the trombone on Diana Ross’ classic “I’m Coming Out,” and, alongside Jay Ellis, Harold Wheeler and Tony Bongiovi, produced Gloria Gaynor’s “Never Can Say Goodbye” and Carol Douglas’ “Doctor’s Orders.”

He revisited the Star Wars connection in 1980 when he released Christmas in the Stars: Star Wars Christmas Album, which includes the holiday evergreen “What Can You Get a Wookiee for Christmas (When He Already Owns a Comb?)” and “R2-D2 We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” which features vocals by Tony Bongiovi’s second cousin John (who later dropped the “h” from his first name and changed the spelling of his last name. Perhaps you’ve heard of him.)

As it’s Friday, our playlist is designed to get you dancing into the weekend. It’s Meco’s birthday, so we’ll start with his track that encapsulates the seventies.

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