"Burn Baby Burn" Original Version Lyrics/Meaning To 'Disco Inferno' By The Trammps
Disco Inferno single sleeve. Source: discogs.com
With "Burn baby burn," The Trammps 1976 single "Disco Inferno," the group lit a fire in the kindling of the pre-disco era -- or perahps it's better to say that it was the first self-admitted disco single. While "disco" would be a concept that dominated the late '70s, coming forth with a single called "Disco Inferno" staked out a certain territory: There is such a genre as disco and we are, as a band, putting our artistic oomph behind it. Plucking the word "disco" out of the popular vernacular and making it a title of a song, was a declaration. Get ready, there's something coming, it's called disco and it will dominate your airwaves.
The days of disco are long gone but some old tunes just never go away. “Disco Inferno” by The Trammps remains one of those songs that never quite go out of style. Whether it’s in movies, TV shows, or samplings by artists of today, the “Disco Inferno” refuses to go out. Made in 1976 by Trammps keyboard player Ron Kersey and Leroy Green, “Disco Inferno” didn’t follow the usual path to greatness. Just like the Trammps.
An Unusual Coming Together
The Trammps actually started as two separate bands: The Volcanoes and The Exceptions. Thankfully, the two groups merged and came up with a much better name, although clearly the bar was pretty low. The Trammps comes from Charlie Chaplin who was known as the “The Little Tramp.” Apparently, they decided to add another “M” so they would be known as "high-class tramps."
The Path Less Walked
On its first release, “Disco Inferno” only made it to #53 in the US charts but got plenty of play in the Disco Clubs across the country. The following year, a little movie, “Saturday Night Fever” used it as John Travolta strutted his stuff. That disco dancing scene changed the song’s destiny forever. The “Disco Inferno” Hollywood moment was filmed at the Odyssey 2001 Club in Brooklyn, New York. The Trammps just so happened to enjoy a monthly residency during the height of their fame.
Thank You Saturday Night Fever
The following year after Saturday Night Fever, The Trammps rereleased “Disco Inferno” as a single and it shot to #11! The Trammps were already on the map but that announced their presence to the country as one of the top disco bands. They peaked when “Saturday Night Fever” won the Grammy for album of the year!
Tom Moulton, the band’s mixer and producer, believed that the song’s drive and punchiness came from a happy accident. Supposedly, an assistant engineer improperly set the mixing desk levels. “Burn Baby Burn” indeed.
Pop Culture Legs And Where It All Came From
The pop culture love for “Disco Inferno” got started by “Saturday Night Fever” but that was far from the end of it. Tina Turner covered it on her 1993 “What's Love Got To Do With It” soundtrack, as did Cyndi Lauper for “A Night At The Roxbury.” It also found its way into “Ghostbusters,” “Backfire,” “Donnie Brasco,” and “Dogtown and Z-Boys.” Hilariously, Kersey and Green got the idea from a movie called “The Towering Inferno.” The movie features a rooftop disco on a building in flames! The ‘70s was not a time for subtlety.
“Burn Baby Burn” doesn’t own such a light-hearted backstory but it’s origins are worth mentioning. In 1965, during the racially charged riots in Los Angeles, a radio presenter named the Magnificent Montague made his feelings felt by repeatedly saying, “Burn baby burn.” That call was taken up by the rioters, who were protesting police brutality in the loudest way possible. Not as fun of a message as a silly movie but far more important to remember.
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