Disco and rock music have had a tortuous relationship at the best of times. Most of the long-haired, moustachioed, riff-hungry world turned on the genre completely, culminating in a bizarre homophobic fit of vinyl burning rage at the infamous Disco Demolition Night rally. Yet what those leather jacketed bros tossing Donna Summer records into the flames forgot, or possibly chose to ignore, was every terrible time a rock band had tried to band-wagon on disco's success and produced a piss-weak fuddy-duddy crunchy-cum-clunky attempt at something vaguely funk shaped. Since the lights first began drawing the lost souls of New York into Studio 54, ageing and out of shape blokes who look like Geography teachers have been trying to trade their Les Pauls for vocoders and failing miserably.
It didn't always go wrong. The Rolling Stones did a pretty good job, and it is easy to forget that before the BeeGees became one of the greatest disco outfits of all time they were a mock-Beatles pop-rock band, yet for every "Night Fever" there has been a poorly executed, cynical, commercially exploitative record, written about "dancing the night away" by bearded men in cowboy boots. Here is every time it was awful, and just how awful it was...
The Beach Boys - "Here Comes the Night"
Featuring a string of lyrical vagueries including "hold me squeeze me", "why don't you wear your pretty red dress", and "I've never felt a love so strong". Like your perennially single uncle trying to write a Valentine's card.
The Grateful Dead - "Shakedown Street"
The Grateful Dead, in my head at least, sound like Phish and I actually don't know what Phish sound like but they probably sound like Rush, who I haven't heard of either, but probably sound like both Phish and the Grateful Dead. This track, which I definitely have heard, is absolute pish, a Miller Lite weak approximation of what disco is and what disco does.
Paul McCartney - "Dress Up Like a Robber"
There's always been quite a strong whiff of embarrassment hanging around post-Beatles Paul McCartney. The permanently-up thumbs, the haircuts, this video, the "Macca" moniker, this video, "Freedom" — it all adds up to something quite unpalatable. What's he trying to do here? Paul, mate, what are you trying to do here? Is this meant to be an attempt at a Chic record, Paul? Are you trying to be Nile, Paul? You're Paul, he's Nile, you made a few alright tunes that spawned a nation of terrible, terrible bands populated by teenagers with feathercuts, Nile was fucking disco.
Queen - "Body Language"
The theme tune for a sex education video you watched in school.
The Hollies - "Wiggle that Wotsit"
This is a song called "Wiggle that Wotsit" by a band called the Hollies. You might remember the Hollies for their saccharine, maudlin, piss-poor Capital Gold anthem "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother." You might not though because you probably aren't a 60 something bloke in a pringle sweater and slacks, leafing through the Saga cruise brochure. It came out in 1976 which is a good 17 years before the crisp we know and love as the Wotsit first hit the shelves and began permanently altering the skin tone of greedy children the nation over, which, you have to admit is quite an accolade. Certainly more than this shocking cash-in deserves, anyway. Wiggle that fucking Wotsit indeed.
The Clash - "Magnificent Seven"
The Clash are a good band, obviously. But this attempt is that sort of music that is playing on one of the small tents in the far reaches of Glastonbury at about 3 in the afternoon, while a Dad in a straw trilby nods along, sipping his first of the day's four ciders, while his floppy-blonde-haired child sits on his shoulders, and it's really hot, and you haven't really slept so your eyes are stinging, and the music just sounds naff, and the kid on his Dad's shoulders is sliding out of his shorts, and you can see his little arse and it's really off-putting, and you sort of wish you were home and not listening to a bunch of old blokes playing funk-infused-ska. That sort of music, you know?
The Kinks - "(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman"
The thing that connects these records is that they basically all take the vitality and excitement and sexuality of disco as something that's to be chucked away in favour of sticking rigidly to a few boilerplate sonic signifiers. To make disco, these records reason, you just need a shimmery hi-hat, some handclaps, a few toots of a curly horn,and a splash of cheap'n'nasty pseudo-symphonic strings. The result is lumpen shit like this. Throw it over Waterloo bridge and let it rot on the bottom of the Thames.
U2 - "Discotheque"
It's what mid-life crises sound like when the blokes involved have about $600million to play with.
Rod Stewart - "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?"
A relatively lecherous man with a blonde mullet, trying to make fun of the BeeGees and simultaneously ripping of a Brazilian samba musician. Quite probably the only song improved by karaoke.
Wild Cherry - "Play that Funky Music"
Quite simply the worst record ever made.