Music Lists #2: 20 Reasons Why Disco Died

A lot of speculation has been made about the reason for the sudden backlash against disco at the close of the 70s. Perhaps it was grounded more in elitism, homophobia and racism than simply a reaction against bad music. While that may be true for some, the fact is that disco had become omnipresent by 1979; commercialized beyond all reckoning. What began as an innovative and underground sound had become a clownish watered down behemoth. Disco had reached critical mass and imploded under its own weight by the close of 1980.

I can't begin to list all of the insanely improbable and brazenly awful examples of late 70s disco projects, so let's take look at 20 reasons (in no particular order) why disco bit the dust.

1. The Ethel Merman Disco Album (1979) - Listen here (courtesy of Frank's Vinyl Museum ); here's a tip: have large doses of hydrocodone handy to help dull the pain

2. "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" by Rod Stewart (1978)

3. "Soul Dracula" by Hot Blood (1977) - Listen here

4. "I Was Made for Loving You" by KISS (1978) - Listen here to have Paul Stanley destroy your faith in rock music forever.

5. Avenging Disco Godfather (1980) - Oceans of polyester, roller-skating, and indiscriminate use of neon make this film one of the leading culprits in the death of disco.

6. The Sesame Street Fever LP (1978)- Listen to the disco version of Rubber Duckie; followed closely by the Sesame Disco! LP in 1979

7. The Polka Disco LP (1979) - the two most hated words in music -- brought together for the first (and probably the last) time on this 1979 release from Jimmy Sturr and his orchestra. See it here.

8. Disco Christmas albums - For example, Disco Noel (1979); listen to a track here courtesy of Frank's Vinyl Museum - also see Christmas Disco Party and Christmas Disco below (click to enlarge).

9. The disco version of Close Encounters of the Third Kind by Ronnie Aldrich (1978) - Listen here and pretend your disgusted by it, but secretly love its funky grooves.

10. Can't Stop the Music (1980) - This film starred Steve Guttenberg, Bruce Jenner and The Village People. If you're wondering what's so bad about it, then perhaps you need to read the previous sentence again.

11. Dazzler - Imagine Olivia Newton John, circa "Xanadu", as a Marvel superhero. Now imagine her powers are really, really shitty. You got Dazzler! (Note: by the 1980s, Disco Dazzler had morphed into Flashdance Dazzler)

12. Dance Fever - This show actually outlasted disco, running from 1979 to 1987.

13. Roller Disco -This lame idea was marketed at any and every opportunity. A slew of roller disco movies all came out at once: Xanadu (starring Olivia Newton-John), Roller Boogie (starring Linda Blair), and Skatetown U.S.A.(starring Maureen McCormick).

14. The Saturday Night Fiedler LP- From 1930 to 1979, Boston’s native son Arthur Fiedler conducted the Boston Pops orchestra. Listen to Night on Disco Mountain to hear him piss it all away.

15. "A Fifth of Beethoven" by Walter Murphy (1976). It is my personal belief that the spirit of the great composer placed a curse on disco after the release of this song.

16. Unforgivable Album Covers - Every genre of music has its share of bad album covers, but disco LP's seemed to thrive on buyer displeasure. I wonder how many lines of coke were snorted off the cover of this LP?

17. "Disco Duck" by Rick Dees and His Cast of Idiots (1976). "All of a sudden I began to change. I was on the dance floor acting strange. Flapping my arms, I began to cluck. Look at me, I'm the..." MAKE IT STOP!!!!!

18. "Street Player" by Chicago (1979). We can forgive Streisand and Herb Alpert for going disco, but this is where Cetera really began losing street cred. Listen here.

19. As early as November 28, 1976, the warning signs of disco's demise were already appearing on the pilot episode of The Brady Bunch Hour. The fake Jan and the rest of the Bradys dance to "The Hustle" and "Shake Your Booty". Yes, disco had already jumped the shark by the end of '76.

20. Staying Alive (1983)... the final nail in the coffin. Disco R.I.P.


  1. I'm not a disco hater, but I have to admit this list pretty much sums it up very well.

  2. I always disco. I still do. Those are definitely some understandable reasons why it died. What's funny is that I always liked the KISS disco song. I also watched Dance Fever all the time.

  3. I liked pretty much everything on this list at one time or another (okay, maybe not Staying Alive).

    When you think about it, any genre of music that gets popular eventually has a backlash; disco was somewhat unique in that the backlash was so vocal and severe. It took twenty years for most people to re-examine it and see that maybe it wasn't so bad after all.

    Now I'm just waiting for the backlash against music popular today... I'm more than ready for something new.

  4. I dig disco, but I loved this list. And thank you for not putting Steve Dahl on there. Cat gets too much credit.

    I love Roller Boogie, but I admit it's not for the roller boogie-ing so much.

  5. I've always been a fan of disco, even when no one else was. I would pull out my Saturday Night Fever album and play it when no one was around.

    I can't stand Ethel Merman so there is no way I am going to listen to her do disco. Disco Dracula is awful! I do remember really liking Roller Boogie.

  6. I'm with the crowd. I don't hate disco overall, it had some high points as well... and I actually really dig "Sesame Street Fever", which no one else is defending. Perhaps it's my failing.

  7. Great post, Gilligan. That last photo of Travolta pretty much says it all.

  8. Offically delurking to chime in...

    While I agree with nearly everything on this list...as a kid of the '70s, many of these things take me back to memories of my childhood.

    As lame as it may be, my first exposure to Rod Stewart and KISS were their disco tunes you list here. "A Fifth of Beethoven" was probably my first exposure to Ludwig Van's music. And whenever I see polyester or roller disco, it makes me think of a fun, carefree time before I had to enter the '80s and start growing up.

    Love your blog...officially following and plan to return often.

  9. Well, I certainly won't argue with all the comments defending disco - there's a lot of GREAT disco tunes out there.

    The problem is when everyone piles on. From Chicago, to Streisand, from KISS to The Beach Boys - everyone got in on the big money maker. The problem is when something becomes so over-commercialized and overdone it loses its allure.

    When big pop stars like the Monkees got on the psychedelic bandwagon, bands like The Byrds got off. That doesn't mean the music was bad... it just means it's time to move on. Ya dig?

    Thanks for everyone's comments so far, and please keep 'em coming.

  10. I guess it was pretty lame dancing on roller skates every weekend? The lights on the bottom of my skates were at least cool...ok, maybe not. Falling on the comb, hanging out of my back pocket, exiting the rink when "How Deep Is Your Love" came on, is still painful today.

    Forgot about "Can't Stop The Music". Think I saw it on HBO in the day. I thought I had safely placed that painful memory away in a far away place? Probably will not sleep tonight.

    KISS Dynasty saved the disco era for me.

  11. Oh, Lord. The Beach Boys! You had to make me weep, didn't you? "Here Comes the Night" from their Wild Honey album is one of the hidden gems of music, but the Disco Remix is so unbelievably painful to hear...

  12. Disco Rules,
    but ur list is fun.

  13. I've always loved disco music, but then again I was a kid in the 70s..what did I know about music?
    I think that there were some wonderful disco performers back then, in the early days of disco, but unfortunately when everyone under the sun decided to put out a disco record, that signaled that the end was near.

  14. AnonymousJune 02, 2014

    Disco is ok. There's a few hits here & there that I will listen to. But the moment gays start associating themselves with the genre is the moment I stop listening to it. No ones wants to be associated with fruits & nuts