Tuesday, June 30, 2009

There Won't Be a Disco Comeback Unless...

Think for a moment if you will about studio musicians - those men and women who toil in near obscurity, making their careers and eking out a living providing support to top-flight recording artists and bands. On rare occasions, those studio musicians - Jimmy Page, former session guitarist, and Boston, former session band, are perfect examples - are able to move out on their own and develop impressive careers, but for the most part the only reputation they develop is on the quality of their work out of the spotlight.

On rare occasions, you may actually hear about some of these folks: "Mr. X is a successful guitarist whose work can be found on albums by such bands as the Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, and Pink Floyd;" "Mr. Y played bass on albums for many of the most successful pop groups of the last thirty years." You probably even heard recently a brief mention of Bud Shank, a flutist who played the flute solo in the Mamas and the Papas' "California Dreamin'." Everyone at some point gets the credit they are due ...

... except for the disco string players. Not once have I heard anyone give a shout out to the gentleman who was first violin on Gloria Gaynor's remake of "Never Can Say Goodbye," or the lady who doubled on cello and second viola in the orchestra used in "A Fifth of Beethoven." At least Barry White, with "Love's Theme," had the decency to give blanket credit to the Love's Unlimited Orchestra. For all those children who take violin or cello lessons, hoping to one day be the next Anne Sophie Mutter or Yo Yo Ma, how can we in good conscience look at them and say, "Well, you've got a great dream; pursue it! But if you don't make it to the concert stage, there's always the recording studio" if there's no credit to be had?

Until we give proper respect to the folks who really made disco great - the backup string orchestras - then the comeback we've been hearing about for so long just won't happen...

3 comments:

thecheekofgod said...

Disco is coming back?! God help us . . .

Sarah R. said...

You must have been bored out of your mind this morning. Disco??? (PS, Barry White wasn't disco, thank goodness.)

Also, you forgot one of the biggest session bands to break big on their own: Booker T & The MGs.

Dave said...

I totally get where you're coming from here, Matt. I love the disco string sound! A few favorites that come to mind: Silver Convention "Fly Robin Fly" & "Get Up and Boogie", Chic "Good Times", Rose Royce "Car Wash", Donna Summer "Love to Love You Baby"... well, the strings are all over the place, especially in early disco. Once the synthesizers were introduced (e.g. "I Feel Love" and "Funkytown"), disco's golden age drew to a close, though the beat still lives on in dance music sub-genres of all types. I don't think we'll ever see a old-school disco comeback along the lines of what we saw in the mid-70s because it's not new anymore and string sections are just too expensive to hire! And I disagree with Sarah when she says Barry White wasn't disco - he surely was, he helped get the trend started! There's no shame in that either. :)