Before there was Saturday Night Fever there was underground disco. DJs across America went out and found the music to play; dancers went out and found the clubs. At this point, in the early seventies, the disco was the venue and not a genre of music.
By the time Nik Cohn’s short story Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night was published by New York magazine in June 1976, disco was the biggest genre of music on the charts and was about to get bigger still, becoming an all-enveloping cultural phenomenon. Cohn sold the film rights to Robert Stigwood, and his classic club yarn became Saturday Night Fever.
“Tribal Rites Of The New Saturday Night” is the soundtrack to Cohn’s story, where disco began; a 1975 score for the underground clubs of Brooklyn and Queens that played R&B, soul and Latin beats to people who lived for the weekend.
Bob Stanley has put this collection together, sourcing what was actually played in Brooklyn discos in 1974 and 1975. Only a few specific records were mentioned in Cohn’s feature, but two of them – Ben E King’s ‘Supernatural Thing Part 1’ and Harold Melvin’s ‘Wake Up Everybody’ - were cosmically great and both are included here, alongside underground favourites like Moment Of Truth’s Four Tops-like ‘Helplessly’ and Gloria Scott’s Barry White-produced modern soul classic ‘Just As Long As We’re Together’. Ivano Fossati’s incredible ‘Night Of The Wolf’ has fans in northern soul, disco and prog circles.
Without Cohn’s original story, it’s quite possible that disco would have remained an underground phenomenon – “Tribal Rites Of The New Saturday Night” paints a scene in full flower. Saturday Night Fever would eventually, if unintentionally, wreck the underground nature of this scene, and clubs like Studio 54 would destroy the democracy of the party, but for two or three years the scene was largely undocumented and magical. This album is the sound of disco before it was captured.