Disco — the music, the dress, the life style — was a phenomenon that has a clear beginning, peak, and denouement, at least in the USA and the UK.
Contrary to the hundreds of “Now that is what I call Disco” compilations available,
Disco made inroads to many other places in the world —
places other than Western Europe and Scandinavia (ABBA).
I have been communicating with a colleague (NN) who is an expert in Bulgarian popular music, and he has graciously given me permission to quote our conversation.
I indent his notes below.
Some Western European disco stars were quite popular in the 1970s like Bony M, Hot Chocolate, Supermax, Eruption & Precious Wilson (who was frequently in Bulgaria!)
The thing is, in Bulgaria (and other Soviet block countries) pop music was made and released by a single state-owned company (named Balkanton). They had no competition and they had no much reason to experiment or do new stuff. Officially they did not welcome new genres from the West but I believe it was the lack of competition that made them accept changes very slowly. We were joking that all new trends (incl. in music) come to us 10 years later. :)
There was little underground/no-label music and if there was any it won’t have survived. Only the music recorded officially in the Bulgarian national radio and the state-owned record company Balkanton has survived.
There is one place where you can download whole albums but it’s mostly in Bulgarian and with a free account you have to wait a lot between 2 downloads. The address is: http://bulgarianoriginals70s-80s.blogspot.dk/. 99% of the music there most likely has no commercial value as nobody in Bulgaria remembers that music anymore. It’s a handful of music lovers and collectors who care about it.
The Disco 3 compilation is really disco. There are only 2 songs from Bulgarian authors there, songs 2 and 3 on side 1. If you look at the English language track list, the songs which have the phrase “Bulgarian words” under their titles are covers of Western songs. This would apply for all other Balkanton vinyls, if songs have “Bulgarian words” it means they are covers. For those songs they list the author of the Bulgarian lyrics and the name of the arranger. Otherwise, they list the name of the composer, followed by the name of the author of the lyrics and last the name of the arranger.
Here is song 3, “Two Smiles” by Alexander Petrounov:
Alexander Petrounov (also known as Sasho Grivnata) is actually a rock-n-roll legend! :) He’s the lead vocalist of probably the first Bulgarian rock bands “The Silver Bracelets”. :) His best known solo song must be this one. This performance is from 1978, the same year Disco 3 was released. I never saw his band on TV, but I heard from my father that they were the real deal. :) They were considered rebellious rock musicians, associated with the West. This is him now, and this is a YouTube channel of one of members of “The SIlver Bracelets” with a lot of stuff by Alexander Petrounov. By the mid 1980s they all immigrated to the USA and Western Europe. They were semi-underground, and only now on YouTube can I see and listen to their songs. Alexander Petrounov lives now in Florida, where he sells guitars. And now he’s a born-again Christian.
The producer of Disco 3 is Ivan Peev who is known as one of the best Bulgarian pop song arrangers. Half of the songs are arranged by members of the band FSB and most likely FSB are playing the instruments in most of the songs. FSB was the studio band of Balkanton. FSB literally stands for “Formation Studio Balkanton.” They were the best studio musicians in Bulgaria in the 1970s and 1980s and they were the band that played in many of the albums released by singers of Balkanton. They also had their own albums and they are still active. Their own material is mostly considered progressive rock, although, they have been known to be able to play anything. They even got a grammy for a collaboration with a Latin American singer in the late 1980s.
The opening and closing of this album (and many others in the Disco # series), “Disco Club,” is actually an unattributed rip-off of Rick Dees’ “Disco Duck”:
And here is “Disco Club” from Disco 3, (NN says: performed by “Vocal Trio ‘M'”, who were most likely 3 girls working as backing vocalists at Balkanton. I’ve never heard about them before now.)
Margarita Hranova may have had a whole disco period in her career. She’s one of the celebrities who’s been on TV since the 1970s. She has many albums, very long career. And she can sing live! :)
Here is Margarita Hranova singing “Small Sun (Malko Sluntse)” on Side B of Disco 3:
You may try Donika Venkova as well.
She was popular in the 1970s, and was active in the 1980s, but didn’t make any hit. She hasn’t had any media appearance since the late 1980s.
In particular, see this album from 1979. All songs except 1, 2 and 7 are Bulgarian songs. The last song, “Mozhe bi/Perhaps,” is particularly interesting. It is made as a disco song, and the same song was released later the same year by a rock band with a rock arrangement. That became a huge hit, but Donika Venkova’s version did not.
And here is “Mozhe bi” by Donika Venkova:
It seems to me that Disco music, as in that with a bouncing bass and strong beat in four, drums with high hat accentuation on the off beats, orchestral arrangements, etc., didn’t appear in Bulgarian until about 1978, and then disappeared around 1981.