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


Released immediately after the record came out in November 1979, "Another Brick In the Wall" was an instant hit. It topped the Billboard charts in the UK and America and propelled The Wall to No. 1 in seven countries. It has become one of the band's signature songs and most enduring hits. You can hardly turn on a classic-rock station in America without hearing it at some point in the hour.

Best of all, though, it alienated no fans. Not one single Pink Floyd fan has ever heard the song and said, "Hey, that's a disco beat. Fuck Pink Floyd, those sellouts!" So why did it work for Floyd and ultimately doom KISS in the long run?

Because it still sounded like Pink Floyd. "Another Brick in the Wall," despite its disco beat, retained Floyd's character. The lyrics were dark and in line with everything Waters had previously written. The guitar still drew on Gilmour's blues influence. It conveyed a powerful message and it was bleak, just like Floyd had been for ages. It was just as much Floyd as "Welcome to the Machine" or "Time."

Pink Floyd The Wall 2.jpg
But "I Was Made for Lovin' You," solid track or not, wasn't KISS. It was someone, but it wasn't the KISS fans had grown to love.

It wasn't the demonic hard-rock band of Destroyer, it wasn't the crowd crushing band who played Alive (mostly in the studio), and it certainly was no "War Machine." It wasn't the sort of thing that was going to piss off parents. It was glitzed-up schmaltz, lyrically and musically. Even Simmons commented that it sounded like the Four Seasons.

The lesson here, kids, is that it's always good to experiment and incorporate new sounds, but you have to stay true to yourself. If you recklessly abandon everything that ever made your sound to begin with just to chase a fleeting trend, you're going to get left in the dust when that trend dies.

You'll end up just one more regrettable remnant of a sound long dead and long regarded an embarrassing oversight in the history of rock.




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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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