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Music

How The Village People inspired one of The Rolling Stones' biggest hits

@SamWKemp

If you look at the breadth of popular music in the 1970s, The Rolling Stones and The Village People appear to sit at opposite ends of the spectrum. But on closer inspection, there’s actually a fair bit of crossover between the two groups. In fact, it isn’t unreasonable to argue that, if it wasn’t for The Village People, The Rolling Stones’ last number one hit wouldn’t sound the way it does.

The story goes back to Studio 54. In 1977, Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager opened a nightclub in what had once been the Gallo Opera House on 54th Street, Midtown Manhattan. Opened at the height of disco, the club quickly earned a reputation as one of the most hedonistic spots in the city, boasting a clientele made up of the biggest names in music, art, film, and fashion.

Mick Jagger frequented Studio 54 whenever he was in New York. With its liberal drugs policy, lavish treatment of VIP guests, and open displays of sexual activity, it was everything the Rolling Stones frontman looked for in a nightclub. In the early morning hours, he would often return home singing one of the disco tunes he’d been dancing to the night before. One of these was The Village People’s iconic queer anthem ‘Y.M.C.A’.

Jagger’s bandmate, Keith Richards, explained how ‘Y.M.C.A’ influences The Rolling Stones’ sound: “It was ‘Aah, Mick’s been to the disco and has come out humming some other song,'” Richards began. “Mick spent [many nights] at Studio 54 and coming up with that beat, that four on the floor. And he said, add the melody to the beat. We just thought we’d put our oar in on Mick wanting to do some disco shit, keep the man happy. But as we got into it, it became quite an interesting beat. And we realised, maybe we’ve got a quintessential disco thing here.”

That “quintessential” disco sound eventually became ‘Miss You’, from 1978’s Some Girls and proved to be a stroke of genius. The disco craze was in full swing at the time and, by capitalising on the trend, The Rolling Stones bagged themselves their last number one hit. Today, ‘Miss You’ still stands up as one of the grooviest Stones numbers in the band’s catalogue.

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