Author: Bruce Jenkins  Date Posted:15 October 2021 


Born LaDonna Adrian Gaines but known as the Queen of Disco, Donna Summer sold over 100 million records worldwide and was responsible for the wearing out more pairs of dancing shoes than any artist in pop history. (Possibly not true, but then again…)

Having racked up an astonishing forty-two hit singles on the US Billboard chart, Ms Summer was also a hugely successful album artist and none of her long players were bigger hits than 1977’s Bad Girls. This was late in the first bloom of disco and the sound is rich, nuanced, and powered by floor-filling rhythms. The opening one-two punch of "Hot Stuff" followed by "Bad Girls" is utterly infectious. If you can sit still while these are pumping, see your cardiologist urgently.

It’s vital to note the satisfaction offered by Bad Girls is largely due to the variety. We have soul ("My Baby Understands"), R&B ("One Night In A Lifetime") and some smoochy ballads ("On My Honour", "All Through The Night"). A personal favourite is the analogue synth driven strut of "Our Love" with a fabulous drum breakdown and deliciously squishy keyboards. You will believe synthesisers can be funky. The album wraps up with a very strong closing track, the epic "Sunset People", showcasing a bit of everything that has gone before.

Production (and some songwriting) is by the king of Euro-disco Giorgio Moroder, with his long-time collaborator Harold Faltermeyer co-writing and playing synths. There is also great session work from Jeff Baxter on guitar (ex-Steely Dan) and saxophonist Gary Herbig. Yet it is LaDonna’s versatile voice that takes centre stage across the fifteen songs on this double album. Her gospel training is evident in the range and control while her disco leanings come through in the sweaty propulsion of the key dance tracks.

The OBI (that’s the narrow paper sash some records sport) wrapping this French RSD release trumpets Bad Girls as "The Greatest Disco Album ever made" and it would be a brave person who’d argue. It reached #6 on the Australian Chart and scored Summer a Grammy in the US. When Rolling Stone did a feature on Women Who Rock: The Fifty Greatest Albums of All Time, this one came in at #23. Add in the mischievously lurid pulp fiction cover and the beautiful translucent vinyl of this edition—red / blue to pick out the key colours of the cover—and you have a very attractive package indeed. This was Summer’s last album for the Casablanca label and signalled a move towards more mainstream pop, but what a swan song for both the record label and, to some extent, disco itself. Dance music continued to evolve, of course, yet almost forty-five years later Bad Girls it’s so good you’ll be digging out those flairs and platform boots in a heartbeat.


© Bruce Jenkins 2021

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