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Euro disco (or Eurodisco) is the variety of European forms of electronic dance music that evolved from disco in the later 1970s; incorporating elements of pop, new wave and rock into a disco-like continuous dance atmosphere. Many Euro disco compositions feature lyrics sung in English, although the singers often share a different mother tongue.
Euro disco derivatives generally include Europop and Eurodance, with the most prominent subgenres being space disco of the late 1970s and Italo disco of the early 1980s. The genre has declined in popularity after 1985 in preference to electronic rock and Hi-NRG, with a small revival of Italo disco in the late 1990s.
Euro disco is largely an offshoot of contemporary American music trends going far back to the early times of jazz, rock, soul, funk and disco. In the 1950s and 1960s, besides the big American influence, the French/Italian-created pop music offshoots with a dance-oriented sound, became prevalent in Europe. 1950s and 1960s Europop hits spread around France, Italy and Germany, because of the French Scopitone and the Italian Cinebox/Coilorama Video-jukebox machines. Another root is the Eurovision song contest, especially in the 1970s.
The song "Waterloo" by Swedish pop group ABBA, which won the 1974 Eurovision song contest, is a typical example of a 1970s European pop/disco song (Europop), with a dance manner. The success was huge and many European producers instantly produced many pop hits that did not necessary sound the same, but kept that dance manner. With that created, in a very short period of time, a whole new commercial music industry in Europe was met in the demand for social dancing music. The discofox dancing style was a result of this.
The term "disco" in Europe existed long before the Euro disco and U.S. disco music styles but had a different meaning. It was used in Europe during the 1960s as a short alternative to "discotheque". Discotheques existed in France from the early 1950s and spread around Europe during the 1960s. In Europe (and partly Canada), "discotheques" and "disco" were at the time called "clubs" in the UK. Even today, the term disco-club exists as an alternative name for the mainstream clubs in many European countries. In Italy and Spain, the term "discoteca" or "discotheque" means mainstream clubs. In Greece, "discotheque" describes the retro-clubs. In Germany, Poland and Romania, the term "disco" is still used to refer to "dance clubs".
An example of the term "disco" with no relation to a specific music style (and dance music in general), is the Disco series that aired in Germany on the ZDF network from 1971 to 1982. This show proved that the term "disco" was widespread enough at the time, and that the second national TV network of Germany used it for a general music TV show in 1971. Another later example is the show Discoring on Italy's RAI channel (first aired in February 1977).
The term "Euro-disco" was first used during the mid-1970s to describe the non-UK based disco productions and artists such as Swedish group ABBA, German groups Arabesque,Boney M., Dschinghis Khan and Silver Convention, the West Germany-based Donna Summer (an American singer who recorded in German), the Austrian singer Gilla accompanied by a Gibson SG bass guitar, French artists Dalida (also during the 80s), Cerrone, Ottawan (together with other acts produced by Vangarde and Kluger), Amanda Lear and Belle Epoque (band), Dutch groups Luv', Snoopy and Eurovision song contest winners Teach-In. Disco took off in Spain after the death of the head of Francoist Spain, Francisco Franco in 1975, with artists such as Baccara.
1970s Euro disco soon had spinoffs and variations. The most notable spinoff is space disco, a crossover of Euro disco and US Hi-NRG disco. Another popular variation, with no specific name, appeared in the late 1970s: a "Latin"-like sound added to the genre, which can be heard in Italy's Raffaella Carrà, La Bionda, D. D. Sound., Easy Going and France's Gibson Brothers.
One of the early representatives of the 1980s genre was the British group Imagination and with their series of hits throughout 1981 and 1982. The term "Euro disco" quickly faded in the 1980s and was replaced by the very wide term of "Italo disco" for more than a decade. Notably, there was also some Canadian disco productions (Trans X, Lime), that at the time was called "Italo disco" in Europe, but not in America (the term Hi-NRG disco was used there instead).
Italo disco was the first successful 1980s Euro disco variation. Probably because of this, all the later 1980s Euro disco variations were called "Italo disco" by the Europeans (with the exception of Eurobeat). Italo disco began to develop in Italy in the late 1970s and early 1980s, by groups like Gazebo, Kano and 'Lectric Workers. 1980s Euro disco variations soon appeared later in France, Germany, Spain and Greece. The Italian and German Euro disco productions were the most popular. German pop duo Modern Talking was an icon of Euro disco between 1985-1987 and became the most successful Euro disco project ever. Bad Boys Blue was another very successful project.
That style became very popular in Eastern Europe and remained popular until the early 1990s. In the late 1980s, Italian disco artists Spagna and Sabrina combined Italo disco and Eurobeat elements and became popular in Europe with Euro disco songs charting in many European countries.
In Poland, disco polo, a local music genre relying heavily on Euro disco was developed at the verge of the 80s and 90s.
During the late 1980s, Euro disco hits were produced in Spain and Greece and much later in Poland and Russia. Meanwhile, a sped-up version of Euro disco with Eurobeat elements became successful in the US, under the term "Hi-NRG". Even today for many Americans, "Hi-NRG" means Paul Lekakis and the London Boys. Those hits (and a few others, like Londonbeat's "I've Been Thinking About You" from 1991) were the last hits called "Euro disco" in Europe.
By the early 1990s, Euro disco was influenced by the emergence of genres such as house, acid house and the electro (pop/dance/synth) music styles, and replaced (or evolved) by other music styles. Eurohouse and Italo-NRG are the most notable and connected directly with the Italo disco music scene. In America, especially for the Eurohouse style, they use the earlier term of "Eurodance" to describe this 1990s evolution of Euro disco.
Technically speaking, the last form of Euro disco is French house, a music style that appeared in France during the mid-1990s and slowly became widespread in Europe. French house is more of a "back to the roots" music style with 1970s Euro disco influences far before the Italo disco explosion (more specifically space disco, Hi-NRG disco, Canadian disco and P-funk).
By the mid to late 2000s, Euro disco saw renewed interest. Artists such as Irene Cara, Berlin and the late Laura Branigan saw a surge in popularity, especially in places where it was not commercially successful after 1984, such as North America and South America. A notable Euro disco artist to rise during this decade is Mark Ashley. His single "Give Me a Chance" became his most successful single yet, making the Top 40 of the Austrian chart.
The influence of Euro disco had infiltrated dance and pop in the U.S. by 1983, as European producers and songwriters inspired a new generation of American performers. While disco had been declared "dead" due to a backlash there in 1979, subsequent Euro-flavored successes crossing the boundaries of rock, pop and dance, such as "Call Me" by Blondie and "Gloria" by Laura Branigan, ushered in a new era of American-fronted dance music.
Branigan (produced by German producer Jack White) moved deeper into the Euro disco style for further hits, alongside Giorgio Moroder-produced U.S. acts Berlin and Irene Cara. By 1984, musicians from many countries had begun to produce Euro disco songs. In Germany, notable practitioners of the sound included Modern Talking, Arabesque, Sandra, Alphaville, C.C.Catch and Austrian Falco, although he was also heavily influenced by rap and rock music.
A Euro disco revival was also contributed by northern European record labels such as Iventi D'azzurro (The Netherlands) and Flashback Records (Finland), with rearranged releases of the old hits and unreleased demos resung by the original Italo singers, also including new songs. Recording artists like Joey Mauro, Karl Otto, Diva, Mark Fruttero, Fred Ventura and George Aaron have recently been releasing new albums. Joey Mauro was able to recreate the sound of 1980s Italo disco with his synthesizers and keyboard collections, and a special place within the scene is occupied by Peter Aresti, formerly known as Peter Arcade, who officially started his career in the '90s, and is one of the most popular Italo artists in South America (Mexico among all), where a huge, growing Italo disco and Hi-NRG community dwells.