Lots of people all over the world loved disco during its heyday but few ever took it to their hearts the way the gay community did. It was truly their music and they devoted themselves to it with a fervor than no one else could match. Thus, it was no surprise that when disco disappeared from the pop charts that it would find a welcoming home in the gay clubs. They continued to nurture and develop the sound, soon spawning its built-for-speed, electronic variant Hi-NRG, and they continue to play a vital role in its success.
With this history in mind, it should be no surprise that gay-disco compilations are plentiful in the disco music world. A notable recent entry in the field is Pink Pounders, which was released as part of the ongoing Disco Discharge compilation series earlier this fall. The intriguing title is an English expression that refers to the gay community’s willingness to support the businesses and artists that create the things tailored to their needs. The music business is obviously a favorite of these “Pink Pounders” and this 2-disc set follows in the footsteps of Disco Discharge’s earlier Gay Disco & Hi-NRG set to take the listener deeper into this fascinating subgenre of dance music.
The first disc mixes prototypical gay dance fare from the late 1970’s/early 1980’s with more traditional instrumentation with full-on electronic dance tracks from the glory days of Hi-NRG. On the earlier tip, standouts include “Hot Leather” by the Passengers, a pulse-pounding Italian effort that offsets its throbbing electronic rhythms and synth lines with chirpy girl-chorus vocals and caffeinated horns, and “Boys Will Be Boys” by the Duncan Sisters, with the soaring vocals of the ladies cutting a swath through a densely-orchestrated stomper of a backing track. In the Hi-NRG arena, Patrick Cowley’s “Lift Off” combines trance-y synths and amusingly campy rocketship sex-metaphor lyrics while Pia Zadora & Jermaine Jackson’s absurdly delightful “When The Rain Begins To Fall” is a new-wave-styled slice of dance fever that cranks the gaudy emotionalism and BPM’s up to camp-classic levels.
The majority of disc two is devoted to 1980’s fare and is thus dominated by synth-driven fare. That said, it never becomes dull because all good gay disco has a focus on melodic hooks and bright melodies: for instance, “My Forbidden Lover’ by Tapps milks a couple of candy-coated synth hooks for all they are worth while Virgin’s “Only You” is the kind of effervescent hook-machine that would have made Stock Aitken and Waterman jealous. Other winners on the second disc include the dazzling camp/sci-fi disco opus “The Ultimate Warlord” by The Immortals (dig that vocoder!) and Patsy Gallant’s “From New York To L.A.,” a glorious high-camp melodrama with a beat about a singer who forsakes love for fame.
There’s much more going on in this set than can be discussed in a concise review — like the presence of “Shake It Up,” a fun bit of minimalist synth disco by moonlighting John Waters star Divine — but listeners can rest assured that remainder of the selections are thoughtfully chosen and carefully programmed by series mastermind Mr. Pink. As usual for this series, it sticks to 12-inch versions and album-length cuts so fans don’t have to worry about being subjected to stingy single-edits of any tracks. The informative liner notes from Alan Jones offer intriguing info on every track, capping things off in high (camp) style.
In short, Disco Discharge: Pink Pounders is a fun set and a must for anyone who wants to learn about this distinctive subgenre of disco. Seriously, the Pia Zadora/Jermaine Jackson teamup alone makes it worthwhile.