I will NOT apologize, but I am feeling like a little disco today. Now, when many of you hear the word disco, you cringe. Me, I’m a straight man who has always loved disco. Sure, it’s always been a “light” version of funk, but I am of the ilk that I really do not care what brings you da funk, it’s all good.
Now, the disco artists that jump out to the general public are the Bee Gees, Donna Summer and Chic, but I am going to tell you that there was a band that arrived on the disco scene before any of the aforementioned artists hit the disco scene. Quietly, unbeknownst to many of my friends, I hid my love for KC & the Sunshine Band from everyone back in the mid-Seventies.
Back in 1973, a record store employee name Harry Wayne Casey met up with TK Studios engineer Richard Finch created what became KC & the Sunshine Band when they added session musicians Jerome Smith (guitar) and Robert Johnson (drums). The Casey-Finch collaboration became a highly successful musical relationship as the two wrote and led Smith, Johnson, and many other session musicians into the studio to record many hits on the dance floor and Top 40 radio. The band’s sound was a perfect mix of smooth pop sensibilities and great dance grooves.
In late 1974, the band nailed their first huge hit with “Get Down Tonight”, which went to #1 on both the Top 40 and R&B Charts, while peaking at #11 on the Dance Chart. The song was known for its unique guitar sound used at the beginning of the song. What Finch did was simply sped up the tape of Smith’s guitar playing throughout the song, making it difficult for Smith to recreate the sound in a live setting, until guitar foot pedal technology could catch up. The song’s bouncy rhythm section coupled with that unique guitar sound and easy lyrics to pick up made this song a catchy earworm in the best sense of the word.
After that song, KC & the Sunshine Band dominated the charts in the pre-Saturday Night Fever disco days, although the band did contribute a song to that soundtrack. For my money, their finest album is the 1989 Rhino compilation entitled The Best of KC and the Sunshine Band. On this album, every big chart success the band had is included.
If you don’t remember, KC & the Sunshine Band had a total of five #1 Top 40 hits: “Get Down Tonight” (1975), “That’s the Way (I Like It)” (1975), “(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty” (1976), “I’m Your Boogie Man” (1977) and “Please Don’t Go” (1979). The band also had a #2 hit with “Keep It Comin’ Love” in 1977, while KC hit #2 with a duet he did with Terry DeSario on “Yes, I’m Ready” in 1979. Unfortunately, the latter ballad is not included on KC’s hit package.
This compilation does include KC’s excellent comeback single from 1983, “Give It Up”. I remember going to a dance club in 1984 and hearing that song played three times during the night, with the dance floor filling up every time. Now, I am NOT saying that the DJ was good that night. I am saying that the crowd wanted to dance, and KC made it happen unbeknownst to him that night. Yet, it is all the other songs included in this compilation that makes this album a classic album. All but two of the songs were hits on the R&B Chart, while those others got much action in the night clubs.
I remember in late 1979, when I was dating a girl and hearing that great ballad “Please Don’t Go” for the first time. Of course, it was a perfect song for a teenage relationship since it was all about the longing you would feel the minute that the two of you would become separated. And, KC & the Sunshine Band played it perfectly, though it was seemingly dominated by the increasingly popular synthesizer that you may miss the great bassline that made the song such a fantastic slow dance. Slow dances should have a great bottom to it, and “Please Don’t Go” has rhythm in spades.
If you need a great party album, I’m telling you know now that The Best of KC and the Sunshine Band is the album to use. At least, until you can afford some other compilations by the likes of Donna Summer, Chic and a couple box sets of disco hits and early rap hits. Tell me, who doesn’t want to “put on my, my, my boogie shoes”? When kicking out the jams just isn’t enough, it may be time to “get down tonight”. This is pop/disco at its finest.