The Disco Experiment: Why It Worked For Pink Floyd, But Not KISS

Floyd and KISS.jpg
In 1979, disco was all the rage. For all the kids who had never bothered to pay attention when their parents would talk about it, it was sort of like dubstep. It was ubiquitous on the radio and even rock bands were vying to get in on the action so they didn't get left behind in the new revolution. Sort of like how Korn did that album with Skrillex, only a little bit less horrible.

Even punk bands were reluctantly dragged into it. In 1978, Johnny Rotten launched his post-punk band Public Image Ltd., which, for all its punk cred, did employ a number of disco beats. Around the same time, two of the biggest rock bands in the world were planning new records and silently plotting to work on their own disco singles.

Those bands? Pink Floyd and KISS. And oh boy, what those plans wound up wreaking.

In early 1979, Pink Floyd was hard at work sifting through the mess of demos Roger Waters had recorded during their break after the Animals tour concluded. The mostly acoustic demos were high in number and low in quality. If you've ever heard them (they've been bootlegged for years), it's a wonder Floyd was able to parse an album out of them at all.

A whole album ended up on the cutting-room floor and became Waters' first solo record, The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking. Some other cuts ended up on The Final Cut and one or two made into the film version of their upcoming album, but were ultimately left off of what would become The Wall.

However, one track in particular got some special attention from Waters, lead guitarist David Gilmour, and producer Bob Ezrin. It was a three-song suite called "Another Brick in the Wall," at the time simply a rough acoustic-guitar demo with Waters whispering over it. But more on that later.

While Floyd was in France working on that, an entirely different band was in New York, working on their own demos for an upcoming record. KISS was making what would eventually become the Dynasty album, hot off the heels of the second volume of their Alive concert-recording series and simultaneously=released solo records by all four members.

By this time, Peter Criss was being replaced regularly by session drummers and the remaining KISS members were looking outside themselves for songwriting ideas. They had come about as far as they could on the pure "rock" sound, and both Gene Simmons, ever the consummate businessman, and Paul Stanley were looking into what they could do to keep up with current trends.



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5 comments
nichobert
nichobert

It's funny just how similar dubstep and disco really are.

Both have popular forms (the kind that 99% of people recognize) which sound almost nothing like the underground music that birthed them.

Both of them almost immediately rippled throughout the wider music world creating both entire genres of excellent music and hilariously obvious cash-grabs.

It's so funny reading about the backlash to disco by all these meatheads, while Brian Eno and King Tubby and David Byrne and Joey Ramone and Fab Five Freddy and Fela Kuti are all holed up in some Manhattan bar hoovering cocaine while watching Arthur Russell and ESG blow all of their brains all over the wall with this hypnotic rhythmic music.

Even funnier are the people who think that disco died because they stopped seeing idiots in stupid suits on the TV. 

wreckedemwreckords
wreckedemwreckords

i was around when both albums came out, granted I was 9, but I was (and still am) a massive KISS fan and I was just getting into Floyd when The Wall came out and love everything they did until Waters left.  I never once associated Another Brick In The Wall with disco, but I understand the "beat" you mention, especially during the breakdown.  That being said, I Was Made For Loving You was a HUGE hit for KISS....all over the world. True, it turned off some fans (not me), but it also introduced them to another audience, like my mother.  I still think it is a slick song from a rather under rated mostly Rock album called Dynasty.  Kiss's foray into disco, i mean Kissco produced EXACTLY what they wanted...a hit and a solid tune.  The backlash that followed (Unmasked, The Elder) was an unfortunate side effect, although i do LOVE The Elder. 

budnickto
budnickto

Ironically, the album you cite as the example of the "demonic hard-rock band," Destroyer, had an even less demonic hard-rock song in "Beth" and the Brooklyn Boys Chorus adding support to mid-tempo non-rocker "Great Expectations." Destroyer was also coincidentally produced by Bob Ezrin, who was the first to push the band to expand their horizons. A better comparison would have been Rock and Roll Over or Love Gun. 

There indeed was a backlash from Dynasty and the subsequent releases Unmasked and "Music From" The Elder (the aforementioned Ezrin-produced concept album). This did result in one of the heaviest KISS albums to date, Creatures of the Night, which included the song "War Machine" mentioned in the article, getting them back on track in the hard-rock realm, albeit a little too late to completely undo the damage cause by the previous 3 albums (5 if you count the Peter Criss and Gene Simmons solo albums).

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