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


KISS Dynasty.jpg
Enter Stanley with a legendary idea. "Let's write a disco song. How hard could it be?" he said. (Okay, I don't know if he really said that, but it's as close to the truth as necessary.)

In any case, apparently Stanley believed the disco sound, which was dominating the airwaves, to be exceptionally easy to write, so why not try it? Meanwhile, the band had just hired professional songwriter Desmond Child (who would eventually co-write most of Aerosmith's '90s hits) and producer Vini Poncia, who spruced up his demo for what would become "I Was Made for Lovin' You."

Released in May 1979, it was an instant hit on the radio. Even Simmons wasn't a fan of the track, it immediately went platinum and he liked that. KISS fans thought the band was "selling out," but KISS probably couldn't hear them over all the money they were making. Child later commented that they had created "the first rock-disco song" and while that may not have been true, it certainly made a bigger splash than any other.

However, it was the first sign of attrition in KISS's literal dynasty. The recording marked the very moment when KISS began to lose credibility, something they would only compound upon themselves into the '80s by releasing album after album of gimmick after gimmick (including a failed concept album produced by none other than Bob Ezrin), trying to capture the public's imagination once more.

Meanwhile, back in France, Pink Floyd put the finishing touches on their Wall album and released it in late 1979. During the time they had been recording it, the band had dealt with high amounts of tension and infighting, especially with the increasingly distant and egotistical Waters dominating the sessions with his new favorite collaborator, Bob Ezrin.

One of the most tenuous parts of the session was when Ezrin suggested that Floyd get in on the disco wave. Lord knows where he heard it when he listened to Waters' demo of "Another Brick In the Wall," then titled "Education," but he decided the track needed a disco beat and that it should be the first single.

Waters was on board, but Gilmour was displeased. Ezrin had told him to visit a disco club, popular in those days, to see what he thought of it and, in his own words, it was "god awful." Eventually, Gilmour was overruled on "Another Brick In the Wall," along with just about everything else to do with the album, and the disco beat was put in the song.


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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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