#982: Disco Queen by Copperpenny

Peak Month: June 1975
8 weeks on Vancouver’s CKLG chart
Peak Position #12
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ did not chart

Vocalist Ken Hollis and keyboardist Rich Wamil were friends in high school in Kitchener, Ontario. They began playing music together in a garage in 1965. Inspired to form a band they called themselves the Penny Farthings. The name was a reflection of the British Invasion with so many pop tunes by the Dave Clark Five, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Animals, Herman’s Hermits, Petula Clark, the Kinks and others. The Penny Farthings soon got a lot of gigs in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. They landed a record contract with Columbia Records who suggested a name change to Copperpenny. The name was taken from the b-side to The Paupers’ hit in southern Ontario, “If I Call You By Some Name.”

In 1968 the band release several singles, “Baby Gives Me Everything,” “Nice Girl” and “Beezel Bug.” Only the second of these charted anywhere in Ontario. In 1970 they moved over to RCA and had little success with a string of singles, though “Stop (Wait A Minute)” did chart in a number of radio markets including Medicine Hat, Alberta, Dauphin, Manitoba, and Antigonish, Nova Scotia. Several years passed as they bounced from RCA to Big Tree Records and in 1974 to the Sweet Plum label. With Big Tree Records both “Sitting On A Poor Man’s Throne” and “You’re Still The One” made the Top 20 in Toronto in 1973.

Copperpenny moved on Capitol Records and in 1975 released “Disco Queen.” At the time, the lineup for Copperpenny included Alan Mix and Brian Russell on guitars, Barry Keane on drums, Eric Robertson on keyboards and Paul Zaza on bass.

Disco Queen by Copperpenny
She don’t need no man to give her satisfaction,
all she needs is a guitar playin’ high.
She don’t need no sweet-talkin’ man,
tell her how much he loves her,
break her heart and leave her alone to cry.

Yeah, yeah music is her lover. 
(disco queen, disco queen)
Music turns her on and on.
Music is her lover.
Music turns her on and on. 
(disco queen, disco queen).

She don’t need no kind of useless information,
’bout the way she moves when she’s dancin’ on the floor.
The disco queen’s aware she causes a sensation,
’cause every head in the place to stop and stare.

Yeah, yeah music is her lover. 
(disco queen, disco queen).
Music turns her on and on – an’ on an’ on
Music is her lover
Music turns her on and on.

No point in talkin’, you’re talkin’ to yourself,
the disco queen is away somewhere else.
You think your bumpin’
and you’re bumpin’ with yourself.

Disco queen is high – high high high high high.

She don’t need no kind of useless information,
’bout the way she moves when she’s dancin’ on the floor.
The disco queen’s aware she causes a sensation,
’cause every head in the place to stop and stare.

Yeah, yeah music is her lover.
(disco queen, disco queen).
Music turns her on and on – an’ on an’ on

“Disco Queen” is a song about a woman who is in a relationship with the beat of the music. She’s had her fill of heartbreaking relationships with men. Now she falls in love with the beat on the disco dance floor. She is conscious that she is a show-stopper on the dance floor, as other people on and off the dance floor are watching her disco moves.

The term disco is derived from discothèque. The French word originally referred to the  “library of phonograph records,” but became used as a term for nightclubs in Paris. By 1959, the term was used in Paris to describe any nightclubs that played records instead of live music. The first article in America about disco was written in 1973 by Vince Aletti for Rolling Stone magazine. The first disco show on the radio was on WPIX-FM in New York City in 1974. Early disco sounds were an evolution of Motown with soul-influenced rhythms from Philadelphia, New York City and Africa. Among the first disco-styled songs were hits in 1973, “Love Train” by the O’Jays and “Soul Makossa” by Manu Dibango from Cameroon.

By 1975 disco music was a force on the pop charts. Elton John’s “Philadelphia Freedom” drew from the Philadelphia soul sounds of the songwriting team Gamble and Huff. Earth, Wind and Fire topped the charts in the USA with “Shining Star,” while David Bowie had a disco hit with “Fame” perfect for doing a dance called the bump. Other #1 disco hits that year included “The Hustle” by Van McCoy, “Jive Talkin’,” by the Bee Gees, “Lady Marmalade,” by Patti LaBelle, “Fire” by the Ohio Players, “Get Down Tonight” by KC and The Sunshine Band and Donna Summer’s international hit, “Love To Love You Baby.” And there were many more disco hits just in 1975. So Copperpenny made a good bet that by making a disco record they could have a hit single. The song climbed to #12 in Vancouver and #13 in Hamilton. The song was originally a #11 hit in the UK for the British soul/R&B band Hot Chocolate.

After “Disco Queen,” Copperpenny’s next single was “Good Time Sally” which made the Top 30 in Toronto. It was a cover of a hit by Rare Earth. Their final single before the band’s breakup in 1976 was “Suspicious Love,” which spent four weeks on the Vancouver pop charts, peaking at #18. The group disbanded later that year. Rich Wamil went on to become an insurance broker, but stayed active as part of some local bands. Ken Hollis released a few solo singles in the late 70s and next became the manager of Lulu’s Roadhouse, a nightclub in Kitchener from 1984 to 2000. Other former Copperpenny bandmates, Russell, Robertson, Keane, and Zaza went on to work in the backing band for Charity Brown.

For more song reviews visit the Countdown.

Sign Up For Our Newsletter