The Day The Music Died

Last week saw the passing of music legends Donna Summer and Robin Gibb.   Robin and his fellow Brothers Gibb formed the wildly successful group the Bee Gees who, along with Donna,  defined the music phenomenon known as disco.

This was the week that disco died.

It was popular to sneer at disco music back in the day, but I loved it.  I still do.  When I hear those songs I want to jump up and dance, just for the sheer joy of the movement.

This repost is in honor of Donna Summer and Robin Gibb.  RIP

I’ll see you on that big, pulsating dance floor in the sky.

Banking Days and Boogie Nights

Me and JT, boogying down.

I was heading into the bank drive-through when The Hustle came on the oldies station.  I cranked it up.  My sensible Toyota Rav-4 morphed into a time machine and I was transported back to “Uncle Dunkels.  Disco is king and this is the bar of choice in my hometown for 19-year-old dancing queens like me.

My girlfriends and I have been lucky enough to snag a tiny, rickety table at the side of the dance floor.  Each of us is nursing a Sloe Gin Fizz or Tootsie Roll – drinks are expensive here, so you only order one.  When The Hustle comes on, we all jump up and take our rightful places.  This is one of the few dances you can do without waiting for some guy to take you out on the floor.

You’ve got to be careful out here.  The squares of multi-colored lights that make up the dance floor flash in time with the music.  They can bring on a seizure.  You could fall off the edge of the platform.  Even more likely, you can lose an eye to a flying mane of Farrah Fawcett hair.  We all have the same hairdo.  Each strand on our heads has been stiffened to lethal weapon status by a crust of heat-&-humidity-defying Aqua Net.

Several hits of 180-proof vodka in the parking lot have us lubricated to the point that we’re dancing fluid and easy. (step back, back, back, back; step up, up, up, up)   The floor isn’t big, but we all know the steps and soon everyone is synchronized.  (spin left, 2 ,3, 4 then right, 2, 3, 4)

It’s mainly girls out here.  Most of the guys are lounging around the perimeter of the floor in their Qiana shirts and puka-shell necklaces, the better to check out the talent.

They don’t really care how much dancing talent we have, though.   They just want to see the equipment move.

I close my eyes and I am Karen Lynn Gorney in Saturday Night Fever.  I had a dress just like the one in the poster, except it was yellow.   I’m not Donna Pescow because she never gets John Travolta.  I don’t know why – I like her better than Karen, even if she’s chubby, and I think she’s a better dancer.  But that’s just my opinion.   John didn’t ask me what I think.  (tap front, 2; tap back, 2; tap front, then back; then to the side, ¼ turn hop)

Now John Travolta is begging me to be his dance partner for the next big competition because I’m the smoothest white girl on the floor. (reach up right, plunge down left; again, up right to down left, hips swinging)

I’m spinning my arms and squirming in my seat, singing at the top of my lungs when I become aware that the 22-year-old bank teller is looking at me.  She’s done with my transaction and is waiting for me to remove my receipt from her drawer.  The expression of polite friendliness that she knows she is supposed to wear is losing a battle for supremacy with “are you kidding me?” horror.

I shrug my shoulders – “what are you gonna do?” – smile sheepishly and grab the receipt before exiting quickly.  I stop short of a full squeal-of-tires-peel-out because, after all, I have to live in this town in the here and now.

If John Travolta had picked me, we would have wiped the floor with the competition.

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About pegoleg

R-A-M-B-L-I-N-G-S, Ram...Blin!
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61 Responses to The Day The Music Died

  1. Tori Nelson says:

    Dancing queen for sure 🙂

    Like

  2. Ahhh…the days of the “proud” look strutting about. Thanks for remembering and transporting us.

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  3. Paula's Paradise says:

    Disco lives! (And grooves in my car too.) I had a dancing/fashion flashback of my own reading this and am equal parts happy and wary that the step-very-carefully platforms are back! If Ginger Rodgers did everything Fred Astaire did, only backwards and in high heels, then we all did everything John Travolta did in that era, only on stilts! Cue “More Than A Woman” … I’m gliding around the kitchen now … thanks for the delightful time travel ….

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  4. gojulesgo says:

    Peg! You’ve been keeping this SUPREME guilty pleasure from me all this time?! Well. I guess I’m glad you survived any flying manes of Farrah Fawcett hair so I could hear about it. And that bank teller should have given you a tip for your performance!

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  5. ‘She’s the queen out there, Father…’
    🙂

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  6. I watched Saturday Night Fever again recently. Man, that’s a dark movie. The soundtrack and the poster make it forever “the disco movie,” but holy smokes is it bleak.

    And it’s also sad that it’s really only going to be now that they’re passing away that the backlash will really stop, and people will re-see that stunning songwriting talent those guys had.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      You’re so right. It was a really depressing movie when you come down to it. And the Bee Gees were great. Even if you don’t like disco, they were great writers before that era.

      Like

  7. Off the Wall says:

    Oh man, I really miss my Farrah hair!!!!!! I had the feathered side swoops down pat! Saturday nights at the Thirsty Turtle doing our disco dancing….I can still see the disco ball and flashing lights in my brain!

    Of course, I live in the city of Disco Demolition when DJ Steve Dahl and his compadres blew up a huge pile of disco records and started the Chicago White Sox field on fire between games, and they had to forfeit! Best. radio. stunt. ever!!!!!!!

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      Wow – that would have been something to see! I remember Steve Dahl and Gary Myer – I liked them both best when onair together. The Thirsty Turtle? Funky names we had back in the day, eh?

      Like

      • Off the Wall says:

        I know, right? Gary is now on WGN radio in the afternoon, Jonathan Brandmeir in the morning, and Steve and Kevin Matthews do a daily podcast. It’s all come full circle!

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  8. Ooooh, good one, Peg. Was Travolta now the HOTTEST MAN ALIVE in that film? And yes, it was dark and depressing as hell. And a great movie.

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    • pegoleg says:

      He WAS. He did such a great job at playing somebody who wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, but you still “got” him and felt empathy. The music is so catchy you forget the darkness of the movie.

      Like

  9. Worrywart says:

    I was right there with you. Realistically, I was in probably in the bathroom applying yet another coat of Maybelline (does that say “May be lean someday?”) Great Lash Mascara or throwing up the tasty Southern Comfort (does that say lucky to be alive today?) we downed in the parking lot. Suddenly I feel the need to text my 19 year old.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      Ain’t that the truth! When I think of the stuff we did..and I was officially one of the “good kids”…I shouldn’t let the 20 year old out of the house!

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  10. That film was way ahead of its time. I am shocked every time I see it. People still sneer at disco…I will never understand why. I will take disco over “dance mixes” anytime. I was very saddened when Davy Jones died recently — The Monkees music was cheerful, just like disco. Abba, The Bee Gees, and The Monkees will always be with me.

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  11. Al says:

    Still got the “Best of Donna Summer” and SNF CDs in my car.

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  12. Lenore Diane says:

    The visuals triggered by this post are great, Peg. I’ve been caught in a daydream while waiting for the teller. And seriously, how can one sit still and not daydream when disco music plays? Shoot, in my mind, I am doing tricks at the roller rink. (In real life, the only thing I did in the roller rink was fall.)
    I hate that we lost Donna Summer. Death sucks, regardless. But Donna Summer? She worked hard for the money.
    And the Gibbs. God bless their Mom. Parents are not suppose to outlive their children, and she’s seen three of her sons die. My heart aches for her – and Barry.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      I remember well dusting the roller rink floor with my backend on many occasions. Ah memories.

      They were all so talented! I didn’t realize the Gibb mom was still living. It is a terribly sad thing to outlive one’s children.

      Like

  13. winsomebella says:

    You took me back to days at the Mad Hatter in Lawrence, Kansas where the drink du jour was usually rum and coke and we hustled to stay upright more than anything. Still can’t drink rum today :-). Thanks for the memories.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      Oh jeez, that was Lambrusco for me – the college drink of choice. After so many times seeing the violent, violet upheaval that resulted from my (usual) over-consumption I haven’t been able to stare that wine in the face..er,glass…since.

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  14. I remember that post! What a great tribute, Pegoliciousness. Love that photo of you and Travolta, those funkadelic red heels sure do get around. And that hair! That it the exact hairdo I had all through high school. I used so much hairspray, nothing could harm me, it was like a helmet. So sad to hear of Summer’s and Gibb’s passing. I can hear my mom say, it’s the curse of the 3. Let’s hope she’s wrong this time.

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  15. Maggie O'C says:

    Beautiful! I have had the Bee Gees and Donna’s greatest hits for years. LOVE! My brother and I won a dance contest in jr. high hustling to Night Fever. Mom and Dad were so proud.

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  16. Audrey says:

    Love this! Makes me wish they had a legitimate disco set up around here. 🙂

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      I went to a wedding on Saturday and got them to play a tribute song to Donna. Other than that, it was mainly rap crap that the young folk wanted. And I KNOW I just sounded like my grandmother there, but you couldn’t dance to any of it! (grumble, grumble, grumble)

      Like

  17. brennagrimes says:

    LOVE! this description. I never got the chance at the Farrah hair (I’m too young)…but I totally think I could have rocked it. Just sayin’.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      It was a great look, but EVERYbody wore it. Hell on earth for girls with fine, straight hair to try to achieve. You would literally walk through clouds of hairspray in the restroom at a bar.

      Like

      • Spectra says:

        I was overjoyed when the Farrah look hit. Prior to that, everything was flat and straight and my sisters and I ironed our hair and slept with GIANT rollers on top of our heads to smooth away our Irish curls. So Farrahs look was a liberation to my naturally big hair. And I’d almost forgotten about all those dance contests. I was in junior high and we hit all the local school dances and I had to be in those contests – very exciting at the time, picking your coolest dance partner. Hm. I was on a TV dance show too. This post really brought that all back. Although I don’t miss it at all. I guess I lived it all out and don’t need a do-over 😉 which is a good thing.

        Like

        • pegoleg says:

          My hair is bone straight so, of course, I always wanted naturally curly hair. In fact I paid a fortune for artificially naturally curly hair throughout my teens. I would ask for just some wave and would end up with a Burt Convey fake fro. Sigh.

          The hair is always greener on someone else’s head.

          Like

  18. notquiteold says:

    I love to dance, but wasn’t big into disco. But I get to rockin’ in the car when Motown comes on!

    Like

  19. Angie Z. says:

    Ah, I bet you really were a disco queen, Peg! I love disco. I still listen to my ABBA Gold and Bee Gees Greatest Hits. Oh, and The Hustle! I wrote a post once that included a video of The Hustle. That beginning part (“Ahhhhhhhhh. Do it!”) was like the theme song to every shopping trip I took with my mom. I swear it came on the Muzak station of every store every single day back in 1979. To this day, I can’t see a pair of culottes without hearing that song.

    For me, what was more sad than losing Donna Summer and Robin Gibb was when Andy Gibb died. *Sigh.* So young, so beautiful, so perfectly suited for being worshiped.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      I can’t believe your exquisite memory for styles and eras. I lived through all that and it takes pictures to jog my aging memory!

      It was so sad when he died. Someone said that their mom is still alive, having lost 3 sons. So sad.

      Like

      • Angie Z. says:

        All seem to have had intestional things; how weird. Andy I believe died of a heart related thing but I thought it began as a viral infection. Poor Barry to be the lone survivor.

        Like

  20. pattisj says:

    Gotta love music that makes one want to get up and dance–or dance in the seat in the car. And sing at the top of our lungs…Always liked the Bee Gees.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      That’s why I still usually listen to the oldies radio in the car, as opposed to CDs or talk shows – when one of those songs come on, it’s like a surprise visit from an old friend! It always lifts my spirits.

      Like

  21. Peg. Sorry I’m late to respond. I was grieving. I still am. I can’t stand losing all my beloved Disco faves. Am devastated. Like Angie said, these people wrote the music of my youth. They are eternally young and vibrant. Andy Gibb was my first concert. *weep* I am still roller skating to their stuff. When Peter Frampton dies, I’m in trouble.

    Like

  22. Coming East says:

    Great story! I, too, was saddened by the death of Robin Gibbs. His son Spencer is a singer/songwriter. I don’t know if he still lives in Austin, but when my sins lived there, they sang a tribute to Bob Dylan with him and other local Austin artists. I still have the CD of all their songs.

    Like

  23. Coming East says:

    Of course, you do realize that I meant when my SONS lived in Austin. I don’t share my sins easily.

    Like

  24. The "rooster" says:

    Love your “Rock’n Roll” metaphor, but when Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper went down on Feb. 3, 1959 in a plane crash near Clear Lake, IA, they hadn’t reached the pinnacle of their careers yet. An enormous body of creative work potential “died” on that frozen field. Donna Summer and the Bee Gees, although iconic representatives of an age, left their “full” legacies and “Disco” is complete.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      You’re so right about the incomplete legacy of those three. I’m not such a huge fan of Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper, but I think the sky was the limit for a talent like Buddy Holly.

      I don’t know if disco is complete, though…maybe the time is ripe for Disco: The Next Chapter. Get your Qiana and Farrah hair ready!

      Like

  25. Never did get into disco, but I was fortunate enough to discover Bob Marley and Peter Tosh before most of America had ever heard the term “reggae”. I enjoy looking at the faces of the 20-somethings wearing the Rasta Bob T-shirts when I tell them that I saw him and the Wailers at Madison Square Garden.

    Like

  26. Dana says:

    Donna Summer and the BeeGees were both before my time, but I still got my groove on to some “Hot Stuff” and “I Will Survive”. Timeless classics! Plus, one time I randomly told a junior high friend of mine that I would automatically LOVE any band who covered “Stayin’ Alive”, only to be mortified mere hours later when a just-emerging ‘NSync covered that very ditty. Boy band fail. 😦

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      Awkward – Ouch. Good music crosses all ages, doesn’t it? And while I’m saying that, I’m also hating on just about all modern rap, so I guess I’m a hypocritical geezer.

      Like

  27. Barb says:

    Here’s the sad thing for me. Not only do I know the moves. I know all the words to those songs. I’m such an embarrassment if one of them happens to come on the radio.

    Like

  28. Pingback: This is The Greatest Blog Post Ever Written | Peg-o-Leg's Ramblings

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