Steve Gursky and the Birth of Disco

Ok, the headline takes some artistic license. I can authoritatively tell you that the real birth of disco was the 1974 Hues Corporation crossover hit, Rock the Boat. But Steve was part of disco history nonetheless.

In his late teens or early 20s, Steve was working Criteria Studio in Florida as a sound engineer in the late 70s. Around 1976-77, the Bee Gees went to “Funky Chateau” studio in France hoping to record their next hit. After three weeks of dinking around in the studio, they came back to America with nothing they really liked except for a bit of drum track. They then went to Criteria to finish up the song.

Well, a few years ago, on a trip to Colombia, I had a 6 hour layover in Miami. Steve picked me up and took me to a studio next to Criteria set up by some former Criteria engineers. Standing in the lobby among the gold records on the wall, I noticed the Stayin Alive gold record. I told Steve that I had read that the Bee Gees used a two bar section of 2″ tape, 20 feet long, joined the ends together and looped it in the tape for the entire song. A junior engineer at the other end of the room held up a broomstick for a tape reel to spin on so it wouldn’t get tangled up as it looped.

In a shocked voice Steve asked “WHO TOLD YOU THAT?” I explained about the article. He relaxed and with a wry grin said “I was the one holding that broomstick.” He didn’t know that the story had been made public.

I asked the questions I always had about gold records. Well, they are not made out of gold, they are records spray painted gold. Had the studio guys ever tried to play one–yes they had put one on a turntable and it did play music. It turns out the gold painted¬†record is not actually the album it represents. When a record company has a hit, each record is a source of revenue, not to waste a sale and hang on the wall. They would find a non-hit record with the same number of tracks, stick a label in the center, and use that for the gold record.

This drum loop was also used on ‘More Than a Woman’, and Streisand’s ‘Woman in Love’.

He took me to lunch in a small modest seafood place just down the road from Criteria, and as I sat there, I imagined that Eric Clapton, The Allman Brothers, and many others had likely eaten there while on break from recording. That visit to the studio, and the stories he told, were more exciting to me than a trip to disney is for a kid.

Leave a Reply