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Saturday Night Fever, Punk and Bombed Out!

Saturday Night Fever, Punk and Bombed Out!

Above Photo: John Travolta as Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever.

In an effort to tidy up the manuscript, I chopped out some paragraphs in the final draft of my Punk and New Wave Memoir, Bombed Out! 

One of them included comment on the massive worldwide success of the 1978 Disco film, Saturday Night Fever, starring John Travolta.

Punk's debt to Disco music in the 1970s studio 54 saturday night fever and the Punk and New Wave revolution in New York and the UK

Who hasn’t been here? A late-night trek on public transport, coming down from a night out.

Interestingly, some themes in the film, albeit articulated through a Disco soundtrack, also resonated as driving forces behind Punk’s appeal to many back then: a going-nowhere kid in a dead-end job looking for something to help him deal with his life and to hedonistically break out of it.

Punk's debt to Disco music in the 1970s studio 54 saturday night fever and the Punk and New Wave revolution in New York and the UK

Elvis Costello and the Attractions, who charted with ‘I don’t wanna go to Chelsea’ in April 1978.

The film ‘s soundtrack (which the film was promoted on the back of) was an authentic Disco playlist, including the Bee Gee’s Night Fever single.

Punk's debt to Disco music in the 1970s studio 54 saturday night fever and the Punk and New Wave revolution in New York and the UK ian dury and the blockheads versus 1970s disco

Ian Dury and The Blockheads, articulating British Working Class teenagers social dislocation in the 1970s. They knocked YMCA by the Village People off the top of the British charts in 1979.

I remember enjoying the film when I saw it, even though it was a galvanising event for Disco Decadence, which was then fighting a turf war with Punk and New Wave in New York.

Studio 54 lay only a few blocks away from Max’s Kansas City and a cab ride from CBGBs, both of which were in their Punk heydays when Studio 54 opened in 1977 – a seminal year for The Punk Revolution in the UK too.

Punk's debt to Disco music in the 1970s studio 54 saturday night fever and the Punk and New Wave revolution in New York and the UK the boomtown rats bob geldof

Punk band The Boomtown Rats (Bob Geldof standing). They were also in the British charts with ‘She’s So Modern’ in 1978.

It’s interesting looking at the charts around the time Saturday Night Fever got to Number One in the UK in April 1978, because a surprising number of Punk and New Wave bands were also charting.

Punk's debt to Disco music in the 1970s studio 54 saturday night fever and the Punk and New Wave revolution in New York and the UK the Vibrators Punk Band playing live

The Vibrators who  charted with Automatic Lover in March 1978 (not to be confused with the below musician…)

Even the Vibrators had a chart entry, with Automatic Lover. This should not be confused with a song of exactly the same name by Dee D Jackson which also charted at around the same time – which neatly illustrates the musical divide afflicting the UK charts back then (see You Tube links below.)

 dee d jackson automatic lover the vibrators Punk's debt to Disco music in the 1970s studio 54 saturday night fever and the Punk and New Wave revolution in New York and the UK

Dee D. Jackson, who also charted in 1978 with a song called Automatic Lover (see below).

Interestingly, in the same week Night Fever got to Number One, below it in the Top 30 stood a number of Punk and New Wave singles: The Boomtown Rats (She’s so Modern), Blondie (Denis), Squeeze (Take Me I’m Yours), Elvis Costello (I Don’t Wanna Go To Chelsea) and Patti Smith (Because The Night).

Punk's debt to Disco music in the 1970s studio 54 saturday night fever and the Punk and New Wave revolution in New York and the UK patti smith CBGBs regular not studio 54

Patti Smith, a CBGBs regular when Studio 54 opened across the city. She was also in the UK charts when Night Fever went to Number One.

From a Disco versus Punk perspective, the UK charts were already a battleground by the time Saturday Night Fever appeared. That battle continued into 1979, when Ian Dury knocked The Village People’s YMCA off the top of the Charts with Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick.

Punk's debt to Disco music in the 1970s studio 54 saturday night fever and the Punk and New Wave revolution in New York and the UK squeeze take me I'm yours

Squeeze charted at the same time as Night Fever with ‘Take Me I’m Yours’ (with Jules Holland on keyboards, right). (Copyright Hugh Brown).

As mentioned in Bombed Out!, I believe the amount of over-produced, pretentious musical rubbish clogging up the British charts in the 1970s made people look in despair for an alternative. And that alternative for many, and especially for me, was the exuberant, energising, stripped-back, under-produced DIY music of the Punk Movement.

Buy a signed copy of Bombed Out! here: http://www.bombedoutpunk.com/buybook.php

I never thought Night Fever was rubbish when it came out, although I hated it all the same. But set to this video it brilliantly captures a time and a place.

 

 

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 www.bombedoutpunk.com © Peter Alan Lloyd

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