I try to keep my personal politics out of this column, but after a somewhat … unusual … convention in Cleveland, the circus has moved on to Philadelphia this week. It’s one of my favorite cities, and I don’t need any inspiration to write about Philadelphia music. But since the eyes of the world are focused on Philly this week I thought I’d add my gaze as well.
I’m in the middle of reading a fine book called A House on Fire: The Rise and Fall of Philadelphia Soul by John A. Jackson. According to Mr. Jackson, disco was invented in the City of Brotherly Love, specifically when session drummer Earl Young combined a thumping, four-on-the-floor bass drum rhythm with stick work on an open high-hat cymbal. When called upon by producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff in 1973 to play on the Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes session for “The Love I Lost” (a song that was originally intended to be a ballad), Young invented the disco beat right there on the spot. The resulting single featured Teddy Pendergrass singing lead, and it was Pendergrass who called the record “perhaps the first disco hit.”