Let’s face it, Disco was made for the instrumental, in fact disco was made for everything, just ask the Bee Gees. Slip a disco beat under any half decent song and there’s a potential hit in the making.
At least that seemed the case 1974-78 when Disco was just about as big as any musical style could be.
Most of the earlier disco instrumental hits were basically a bit of light classical with added wah wah guitar.Take ‘Love’s Theme’ by the Love unlimited orchestra, fluttery strings lead to the sort of tune Mantovani would have been proud to play in the 50’s. This time round there’s the aforementioned guitarplus two handed hi hats and Barry White has created a song its really heard to dislike. White had other hits of course in other forms but his Love Unlimited Orchestra also spawned Kenny G who would have his own instrumental hits in the 80’s.
For some reason the flute had a significant renaissance in the 70’s instrumental. Its just there on ‘Love Theme’ but right to the front on Van Mcoy’s ‘Do the Hustle’. Again there’s the silky strings and a trumpet break but the tune, such as it is, carried by the flute. Its insanely jolly which was just what we wanted in 1975. ‘Do the Hustle’ was a permanent feature on Top of the Pops as evidenced by numerous You Tube Videos featuring resident dance troupe Legs and Co in a variety of costume changes. So successful was the record that Mcoypersuaded us to do ‘the shuffle’ a couple of years later although apparently we still preferred to look at Legs and Co rather than his flute player.
Like the above composers Biddu was a very talented composer and arranger at a time when talented composers and arrangers were using their ‘orchestras’ to play disco. ‘Summer of 42’ was written by Michel Legrand, the sound he intended starts the record but soon its time for the funky guitars and four to the floor bass drum which isn’t going to let up.Apparently both members of Buggles served their time in Bidhu’s orchestra.Did it influence Yes? Probably not. Apart from being one of the very few notable Indian musicians finding a career in Britain in the 70’s, Bidhu went on to be immensely popular in South Asia and far east .
Its hard to know the difference between a song and an instrumental with disco, James Brown had illustrated the benefit of a vocal interjection in an otherwise instrumental piece but whether its ‘get up like a sex machine’ or just ‘do the hustle’ its never meant to be the highlight of the track. Hamilton Bohannon score a pretty big hit with ‘Disco Stomp’. This actually had a couple of verses of lyrics but I’m sure it was the hypnotic beat that went on and on and on that attracted people to it. ‘Fly Robin Fly’ similarly had a two linelyric and a group of women to sing it but it’s essentially an instrumental that got Silver Convention on Top of the Pops.
With that in mind the last tune is from the beginning of the disco sound. TSOP is typical of the Philadelphia sound with its lush horns and strings. Produced by MFSB (Mother Father Sister Brother) a group of session musicians, for the US television show ‘Soul Train’ it’s a similar approach to what Barry White was doing on the West Coast with the Love Unlimited Orchestra. There’s a smidgeon of vocals by no less than the 3 Degrees but that’s not what people were crowding onto the dance floors to hear.