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Disco is a genre of dance music that had its roots in clubs that catered to African American, psychedelic and other communities in New York Citymarker and Philadelphiamarker during the late 1960s and early 1970s. While disco was a form of black commercial pop music and a craze among black gay men especially, it did not catch mainstream attention until it was picked up by the predominantly white gay clubs of New York. Latinos and women embraced disco as well, and the music eventually expanded to several other popular groups of the time.(2007) "The 1970s", ISBN 0313339198, 9780313339196, p.203-204: "During the late 1960s various male counterculture groups, most notably gay, but also heterosexual black and Latino, created an alternative to rock'n'roll, which was dominated by white — and presumably heterosexual — men. This alternative was disco,..." In what is considered a forerunner to disco style clubs, in February 1970, the New York City DJ David Mancuso opened The Loft, a members-only private dance club set in his own home. Most agree that the first disco songs were released in 1973, though some claim Manu Dibango's 1972 Soul Makossa to be the first disco record. The first article about disco was written in September 1973 by Vince Aletti for Rolling Stone Magazine. In 1974 New York City's WPIX-FM premiered the first disco radio show.

Musical influences include funk and soul music. The disco sound has soaring, often reverberated vocals over a steady "four-on-the-floor" beat, an eighth note (quaver) or sixteenth note (semi-quaver) hi-hat pattern with an open hi-hat on the off-beat, and a prominent, syncopated electric bass line sometimes consisting of octaves. Strings, horns, electric pianos, and electric guitars create a lush background sound. Orchestral instruments such as the flute are often used for solo melodies, and unlike in rock, lead guitar is rarely used.

Well-known late 1970s disco performers included Donna Summer, Amanda Lear, The Bee Gees, KC and the Sunshine Band, Chic, and The Jacksons. Summer would become the first well-known and most popular disco artist, giving her the title 'The Queen of Disco', and also played a part in pioneering the electronic sound that later became a part of disco (see below). While performers and singers garnered the lion's share of public attention, the behind-the-scenes producers played an equal, if not more important role in disco, since they often usually wrote the songs and created the innovative sounds and production techniques that were part of the "disco sound". Many non-disco artists recorded disco songs at the height of disco's popularity, and films such as Saturday Night Fever and Thank God It's Friday contributed to disco's rise in mainstream popularity.

The disco phenomenon was the last mass popular music movement that was driven by the baby boom generation.

An angry backlash against disco music and culture emerged in the United States hitting its peak with the July 1979 Disco Demolition Night riot. While the popularity of disco in the United States declined markedly as a result of the backlash, the genre continued to be popular elsewhere during the 1980s.

Because the term "disco" became unfashionable at the start of the 1980's it was replaced by "dance music" and "dance pop" which described music powered by the basic disco beat. In the decades since, dance clubs have remained highly popular, and the disco beat has informed the sound of many of music's biggest stars. Disco has been influential on several dance music genres that have emerged since, such as House, Nu-Disco, Hi-NRG, and Latin Freestyle.

History

Early history

The disco sound, style and ethos has its roots in the late 1960s. Psychedelic culture's overwhelming sound, trippy lighting, and hallucinogens would influence the disco scene. Psychedelic Soul groups like the Chambers Brothers and especially Sly and The Family Stone influenced proto disco acts such as Isaac Hayes, Willie Hutch and the Philadelphia Sound discussed in the next paragraph. In addition the positivity, lack of irony and earnestness of the hippies informed proto disco music like M.F.S.B.'s "Love Is the Message".

Philly and New York soul were evolutions of the Motown sound. The Philly Sound is typified by lavish percussion, which became a prominent part of mid-1970s disco songs. Early songs with disco elements include "Only the Strong Survive" (Jerry Butler, 1968), "Message to Love" (The Jimi Hendrix Experience, 1969), "Soul Makossa" (Manu Dibango, 1972) and "The Love I Lost" (Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, 1973).

The early disco sound was largely an urban American phenomenon with producers and labels such as SalSoul Records (Ken, Joe and Stanley Cayre), Westend Records (Mel Cheren), Casablanca (Neil Bogart), and Prelude (Marvin Schlachter) to name a few. They inspired and influenced such prolific European dance-track producers as Giorgio Moroder and Jean-Marc Cerrone. Moroder was the Italian producer, keyboardist, and composer who produced many songs of the singer Donna Summer. These included the 1975 hit "Love to Love You Baby", a 17-minute-long song with "shimmering sound and sensual attitude". Allmusic.com calls Moroder "one of the principal architects of the disco sound".

The disco sound was also shaped by Tom Moulton who wanted to extend the enjoyment of the music — thus single-handedly creating the "Remix" which has influenced many other latter genres such as hip hop, techno, and pop. DJs and remixers would often remix (i.e., re-edit) existing songs using reel-to-reel tape machines. Their remixed versions would add in percussion breaks, new sections, and new sounds. Influential DJs and remixers who helped to establish what became known as the "disco sound" included David Mancuso, Tom Moulton, Nicky Siano, Shep Pettibone, the legendary and much-sought-after Larry Levan, Walter Gibbons, and later, New York–born Chicago "Godfather of House" Frankie Knuckles.

Disco was also shaped by nightclub DJs such as Francis Grasso, who used multiple record players to seamlessly mix tracks from genres such as soul, funk and pop music at discothèques, and was the forerunner to later styles such as hip-hop and house. Women also played important roles at the turntable. Karen Cook, the first female disco DJ in the United States, spun the vinyl hits from 1974 – 1977 at 'Elan, Houston, TX, and also programmed music for clubs throughout the US that were owned by McFaddin Ventures.

Chart-topping songs

The Trammps - Disco Inferno album cover
The Hues Corporation's 1974 "Rock The Boat", a U.S. #1 single and million-seller, was one of the early disco songs to hit #1. Other chart-topping songs included "Walking in Rhythm" by The Blackbyrds, "Rock Your Baby" by George McCrae and "Love's Theme" by Barry White's Love Unlimited Orchestra. Also in 1975, Gloria Gaynor released the first side-long disco mix vinyl album, which included a remake of The Jackson 5's "Never Can Say Goodbye" and two other songs, "Honey Bee" and "Reach Out ". Also significant during this early disco period was Miamimarker's KC and the Sunshine Band. Formed by Harry Wayne Casey ("KC") and Richard Finch, KC and the Sunshine Band had a string of disco-definitive top-five hits between 1975 and 1977, including "Get Down Tonight", "That's the Way ", " Shake Your Booty", "I'm Your Boogie Man" and "Keep It Comin' Love".

The Bee Gees used Barry Gibb's falsetto to garner hits such as "You Should Be Dancing", "Stayin' Alive", "Night Fever" and "More Than A Woman". In 1975, hits such as Van McCoy's "The Hustle" and Donna Summer's "Love to Love You Baby" and "Could It Be Magic" brought disco further into the mainstream. Other notable early disco hits include The Jacksons’s "Dancing Machine" (1974), Barry White’s "You're the First, the Last, My Everything" (1974), LaBelle’s "Lady Marmalade" (1975) and Silver Convention’s "Fly Robin Fly" (1975). Chic's "Le Freak" (1978) became a classic and is heard almost everywhere disco is mentioned; other hits by Chic include the often-sampled "Good Times" (1979) and "Everybody Dance" (1978).

Diana Ross was one of the first Motown artists to embrace the disco sound with her hugely successful 1976 outing "Love Hangover" from her self-entitled album. Ross would continue to score disco hits for the rest of the Disco era, including the 1980 dance classics "Upside Down" and "I'm Coming Out", (the latter immediately becoming a favorite in the gay community). Ironically enough, the group Ross led to superstardom during the 1960s, The Supremes, scored a handful of hits in the disco clubs themselves, most notably 1976's "I'm Gonna Let My Heart Do The Walking" and, their last charted single before disbanding, 1977's 'You're My Driving Wheel". Also noteworthy are Cheryl Lynn's "Got to Be Real" (1978), Evelyn "Champagne" King's "Shame", (also 1978), Sister Sledge's "We Are Family" (1979), Geraldine Hunt's "Can't Fake The Feeling" and Walter Murphy's various attempts to bring classical music to the mainstream, most notably his hit "A Fifth of Beethoven" (1976).

The rich orchestral accompaniment that became identified with the disco era conjured up the memories of the big band era which brought out several artists that recorded and disco-ized some Big Band Music including Perry Como, who re-recorded his 1929 and 1939 hit, Temptation, in 1975 as well as some unlikely Country artists such as Bill Anderson (Double S) and Ronnie Milsap (High Heel Sneakers). Even the I Love Lucy theme wasn't spared from being disco-ized.

Prominent European pop and disco groups were Luv' from the Netherlands and Boney M, a group of four West Indian singers and dancers masterminded by West German record producer Frank Farian. Boney M charted worldwide hits with such songs as "Daddy Cool", "Ma Baker" and "Rivers of Babylon." In France, Dalida released "J'attendrai", which became a big hit in Canadamarker and Japanmarker, and Cerrone's early hit songs - "Love In C Minor", "Give Me Love" and "Supernature" - became major hits in the U.S. and Europe.

As one of the first movies to be scored with disco music before Saturday Night Fever, the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me garnered great popularity from composer Marvin Hamlisch's score, especially the disco-flavored Bond 77 opening track.

1978–1980: Pop pre-eminence

The release of the film and soundtrack of Saturday Night Fever in December 1977, which became the best-selling soundtrack of all time, turned disco into a mainstream phenomenon. This in turn led many non-disco artists to record disco songs at the height of its popularity. Many of these songs were not "pure" disco, but were instead rock or pop songs with (sometimes inescapable) disco influence or overtones. Notable examples include Blondie's ""Heart of Glass" (1979), Elvis Presley's "If You Talk In Your Sleep" (1973), The Eagles' "One of These Nights" (1975), The Grateful Dead's "Shakedown Street" (1979), Barry Manilow’s "Copacabana" (1978), The Rolling Stones' "Hot Stuff" (1976) and "Miss You" (1978), Michael Jackson's "Rock with You" (1979), "Elton John "Victim of Love" 1979, The Jacksons "Shake Your Body " (1979), "Are You Ready for Love" (1979) Aerosmith "Give it up" (1977) and "The Hands That Feeds You" (1977), David Bowie "John I'm Only Dancing (Again)" (1975), Bette Midler's "Married Men" (1979), Dolly Parton's "Baby I'm Burning" (1978), "Street Player" - Chicagomarker (1979), "The Main Event/Fight" - Barbra Streisand (1979), Rod Stewart's "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?" (1979), Wings’ "Goodnight Tonight" (1979), Abba's Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (1979), Ann-Margret's "Love Rush" (1979), Kiss' "I Was Made for Lovin' You" (1979), Electric Light Orchestra’s "Shine a Little Love" and "Last Train to London" (1979), Isaac Hayes' "Don't Let Go" (1980), The Spinners' "Working My Way Back to You" (1980), Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" (1980), and George Benson's "Give Me the Night" (1980).

Disco hit the airwaves with Soul Train in 1971 hosted by Don Cornelius, then Marty Angelo's Disco Step-by-Step Television Show in 1975, Steve Marcus' Disco Magic/Disco 77, Eddie Rivera's Soap Factory and Merv Griffin's, Dance Fever, hosted by Deney Terrio, who is credited with teaching actor John Travolta to dance for his upcoming role in the hit movie Saturday Night Fever. Several parodies of the disco style were created, most notably "Disco Duck" and "Dancin' Fool". Rick Dees, at the time a radio DJ in Memphis, Tennesseemarker, recorded "Disco Duck"; Frank Zappa parodied the lifestyles of disco dancers in "Dancin' Fool" on his 1979 Sheik Yerbouti album.

Characteristics

Disco bass pattern


The "disco sound", while unique, almost defies a unified description, as it is an ultra-inclusive art form that draws on as many influences as it produces interpretations. Jazz, classical, calypso, rock, Latin, soul, funk, and new technologies — just to name a few of the obvious — were all mingled with aplomb. Vocals can be frivolous or serious love intrigues — all the way to extremely serious socially-conscious commentary. The music tended to layer soaring, often-reverberated vocals, which are often doubled by horns, over a background "pad" of electric pianos and wah-pedaled "chicken-scratch" (palm muted) guitars. Other backing keyboard instruments include the piano, string synth, and electroacoustic keyboards such as the Fender Rhodes piano, Wurlitzer electric piano, and Hohner Clavinet. Synthesizers are also fairly common in disco, especially in the late 1970s. The rhythm is laid down by prominent, syncopated basslines (with heavy use of octaves) played on the bass guitar and by drummers using a drum kit, African/Latin percussion, and electronic drums such as Simmons and Roland drum modules). The sound is enriched with solo lines and harmony parts played by a variety of orchestral instruments, such as harp, violin, viola, cello, trumpet, saxophone, trombone, clarinet, flugelhorn, French horn, tuba, English horn, oboe, flute (sometimes especially the alto flute and occasionally bass flute), piccolo, timpani and synth strings.

Most disco songs have a steady four-on-the-floor beat, a quaver or semi-quaver hi-hat pattern with an open hi-hat on the off-beat, and a heavy, syncopated bass line. This basic beat would appear to be related to the Dominican merengue rhythm. Other Latin rhythms such as the rhumba, the samba and the cha-cha-cha are also found in disco recordings, and Latin polyrhythms, such as a rhumba beat layered over a merengue, are commonplace. The quaver pattern is often supported by other instruments such as the rhythm guitar and may be implied rather than explicitly present. It often involves syncopation, rarely occurring on the beat unless a synthesizer is used to replace the bass guitar. In general, the difference between a disco, or any dance song, and a rock or popular song is that in dance music the bass hits four to the floor, at least once a beat (which in 4/4 time is 4 beats per measure), whereas in rock the bass hits on one and three and lets the snare take the lead on two and four. Disco is further characterized by a sixteenth note division of the quarter notes established by the bass as shown in the second drum pattern below, after a typical rock drum pattern.

The orchestral sound usually known as "disco sound" relies heavily on strings and horns playing linear phrases, in unison with the soaring, often reverberated vocals or playing instrumental fills, while electric pianos and chicken-scratch guitars create the background "pad" sound defining the harmony progression. Typically, a "wall of sound" results. There are however more minimalistic flavors of disco with reduced, transparent instrumentation, pioneered by Chic.

In 1977, Giorgio Moroder again became responsible for a development in disco. Alongside Donna Summer and Pete Bellotte he wrote the song "I Feel Love" for Summer to perform. It became the first well-known disco hit to have a completely synthesised backing track. The song is still considered to have been well ahead of its time. Other disco producers, most famously Tom Moulton, grabbed ideas and techniques from dub music (which came with the increased Jamaicanmarker migration to New York City in the seventies) to provide alternatives to the four on the floor style that dominated. Larry Levan utilized style keys from dub and jazz and more as one of the most successful remixers of all time to create early versions of house music that sparked the genre.

Production

The "disco sound" was much more costly to produce than many of the other popular music genres from the 1970s. Unlike the simpler, four-piece band sound of the funk, soul of the late 1960s, or the small jazz organ trios, disco music often included a large pop band, with several chordal instruments (guitar, keyboards, synthesizer), several drum or percussion instruments (drumkit, Latin percussion, electronic drums), a horn section, a string orchestra, and a variety of "classical" solo instruments (e.g., flute, piccolo, etc.).

Disco songs were arranged and composed by experienced arrangers and orchestrators, and producers added their creative touches to the overall sound. Recording complex arrangements with such a large number of instruments and sections required a team that included a conductor, copyists, record producers, and mixing engineers. Mixing engineers had an important role in the disco production process, because disco songs used as many as 64 track of vocals and instruments. Mixing engineers compiled these tracks into a fluid composition of verses, bridges, and refrains, complete with orchestral builds and breaks. Mixing engineers helped to develop the "disco sound" by creating a distinctive-sounding disco mix.

Early records were the "standard" 3 minute version until Tom Moulton came up with a way to make songs longer, wanting to take a crowd to another level that was impossible with 45-RPM vinyl discs of the time (which could usually hold no more than 5 minutes of good-quality music). With the help of José Rodriguez, his remasterer, he pressed a single on a 10" disc instead of 7". They cut the next single on a 12" disc, the same format as a standard album. This method fast became the standard format for all DJs of the genre.

Because record sales were often dependent on floor play in clubs, DJs were also important to the development and popularization of disco music. Notable DJs include Rex Potts (Loft Lounge, Sarasota, Florida), Karen Cook, Jim Burgess, Walter Gibbons, John "Jellybean" Benitez, Richie Kaczar of Studio 54marker, Rick Gianatos, Francis Grasso of Sanctuary, Larry Levan, Ian Levine, Neil "Raz" Rasmussen & Mike Pace of L'amour Disco in Brooklyn, Preston Powell of Magique, Jennie Costa of Lemontrees, Tee Scott, John Luongo, Robert Ouimet of The Limelight, and David Mancuso.

The 12-inch single format also allowed longer dance time and format possibilities. In May, 1976, Salsoul Records released Walter Gibbons' remix of Double Exposure's "Ten Percent", the first commercially-available 12-inch single. Motown Records’ "Eye-Cue" label also marketed 12-inch singles; however, the play time remained the same length as the original 45s. In 1976, Scepter/Wand released the first 12-inch extended-version single, Jesse Green's "Nice and Slow." This single was packaged in a collectible picture sleeve, a relatively new concept at the time. Twelve-inch singles became commercially available after the first crossover, The Tavares' "Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel".

Disco clubs and dancing

Saturday Night Fever's impact on culture.
Disco ball
Studio 54 Disco palace
Blue disco quad roller skates
By the late 1970s many major US cities had thriving disco club scenes which were centered around discotheques, nightclubs, and private loft parties where DJs would play disco hits through powerful PA systems for the dancers. The DJs played "...a smooth mix of long single records to keep people 'dancing all night long'". Some of the most prestigious clubs had elaborate lighting systems that throbbed to the beat of the music. McFaddin Ventures in Houston, Texas commissioned a study on the stimulation of males and females during the playing of music. They accordingly custom tuned their speakers to make their numerous properties more exciting. Their programmer/disc jockey, Karen Cook, was the first female disco DJ in the states and trained other McFaddin Ventures discjockeys to work the music format - 6 up, 3 down, to sell more drinks.

Some cities had disco dance instructors or dance schools which taught people how to do popular disco dances such as "touch dancing", "the hustle" and "the cha cha." The pioneer of disco dance instruction was Karen Lustgarten in San Francisco in 1973. Her book The Complete Guide to Disco Dancing (Warner Books, 1978) was the first to name and break down popular disco dances and distinguish between disco freestyle, partner and line dances. The book hit the New York Times Best Seller List for 13 weeks and was translated into Chinese, German and French.

There were also disco fashions that discothèque-goers wore for nights out at their local disco, such as sheer, flowing Halston dresses for women and shiny polyester Qiana shirts for men with pointy collars, preferably open at the chest, often worn with double-knit and polyester suit jackets with matching trousers known as the leisure suit.

Some notable professional dance troupes of the 1970s included Pan's People and Hot Gossip. For many dancers, the primary influence of the 1970s disco age is still predominantly the film Saturday Night Fever (1977). This developed into the music and dance style of such films as Fame (1980), Flashdance (1983),"The Last Days of Disco"(1998), and the musical A Chorus Line (1975).

Hedonism: Drug subculture and Sexual Promiscuity

In addition to the dance and fashion aspects of the disco club scene, there was also a thriving drug subculture, particularly for drugs that would enhance the experience of dancing to the loud music and the flashing lights, such as cocaine (nicknamed "blow"), amyl nitrite "poppers", and the "...other quintessential 1970s club drug Quaalude, which suspended motor coordination and gave the sensation that one’s arms and legs had turned to Jell-O." According to Peter Braunstein, the "massive quantities of drugs ingested in discotheques produced the next cultural phenomenon of the disco era: rampant promiscuity and public sex. While the dance floor was the central arena of seduction, actual sex usually took place in the nether regions of the disco: bathroom stalls, exit stairwells, and so on. In other cases the disco became a kind of 'main course' in a hedonist’s menu for a night out."

Famous disco bars included the very important Paradise Garage and Crisco Disco as well as "...cocaine-filled celeb hangouts such as Manhattanmarker's Studio 54marker", which was operated by Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager. Studio 54 was notorious for the hedonism that went on within; the balconies were known for sexual encounters, and drug use was rampant. Its dance floor was decorated with an image of the "Man in the Moon" that included an animated cocaine spoon.

Backlash and Decline

Though disco music had enjoyed several years of popularity, an anti-disco sentiment manifested itself particularly in America. Many musicians and fans of a variety of rock music styles expressed strong disapproval of disco throughout the height of its popularity. Among these critics, the slogans "disco sucks" and "death to disco" was common by the late 1970s and appeared in written form in places ranging from tee shirts to graffiti. Radio DJ's organized mass burnings of Bee Gees albums and posters. Rock artists such as Rod Stewart and David Bowie who added disco elements to their music were accused of being sell outs.

The punk subculture both in the United States and United Kingdom was often very critical of disco, even to the point of being downright hostile. Jello Biafra of the The Dead Kennedys likened disco to the cabaret culture of Weimar Germanymarker for its apathy towards government policy and its escapism (which Biafra saw as delusional). He sang about this in the song "Saturday Night Holocaust", the B-side of the song "Halloween". Aside from Jello Biafra's criticism, punk fans shared the "disco sucks" sentiment of other rock fans. New Jersey rock critic Jim Testa wrote "Put a Bullet Through The Jukebox", a vitriolic screed attacking disco that was a punk call to arms. "
Example of Disco Sucks T-Shirt


Some historians have referred to July 12, 1979 as "the day disco died" because of an anti-disco demonstration that was held in Chicago. Rock station DJs Steve Dahl and Garry Meier, along with Michael Veeck, son of Chicago White Sox owner Bill Veeck, staged Disco Demolition Night, a promotional event with an anti-disco theme, between games at a White Sox doubleheader for disgruntled rock fans. During this event, which involved exploding disco records, the raucous crowd tore out seats and turf in the field and did other damage to Comiskey Parkmarker. It ended in a riot in which police made numerous arrests. The damage done to the field forced the Sox to forfeit the second game to the Detroit Tigers who won the first game. The stadium suffered thousands of dollars in damage.

On July 21 six days after the riot the top six records on the U.S. charts were of the disco genre. By September 22 there were no disco records in the top 10. The media in celebratory tones declared disco dead and rock revived.

The anti disco backlash combined with other societal and radio industry factors changed the face of pop radio in the years following disco-demolition night. Top 40 radio stations shied away playing music from black artists in an effort to prevent their stations from being labeled with the dreaded "disco" tag. These stations converted to a variety of niche formats. One of the more popular of these formats Country Music fell into favor when Saturday Night Fever star John Travolta had a hit with the film Urban Cowboy a movie that has been perceived as a rejection of disco.

The television industry — taking a cue from the music industry — responded with an anti-disco agenda as well. A recurring theme on the television show WKRP in Cincinnati contained a hateful attitude towards disco music.

It was during this backlash and decline that several record companies were folded, reorganized or sold. TK Records closed in 1981. ABC Records was sold to MCA Records in 1979, which shut down the label. Casablanca Records' founder Neil Bogart was forced out in 1980 by label owner PolyGram. RSO Records founder Robert Stigwood left the label in 1981.

Factors

Anti disco sentiment proliferated at the time because of over saturation and the big-business mainstreaming of disco. The popular 1977 film Saturday Night Fever prompted major record labels to mass-produce hits, a move which some perceived as turning the genre from something vital and edgy into a safe "product" homogenized for mainstream audiences. A bad economy, political chaos that would lead to the election of Ronald Reagan, and burnout brought on by the hedonistic lifestyles led by participants also have been cited as factors leading to the decline of the genre. According to Gloria Gaynor, the music industry supported the destruction of disco because rock music producers were losing money and rock musicians were losing the spotlight. Disco was criticized for being elitist. Songs such as Frank Zappa's satirical song "Dancin' Fool" and Steve Dahl's "Do Ya Think I'm Disco?" described patrons of exclusive discos as being overdressed and vapid.

In January 1979 rock critic Robert Christgau wrote that homophobia and most likely racism were reasons behind the backlash. In the years since Disco Demolition night social critics have described the backlash as implicitly macho and bigoted and an attack on non white and non heterosexual cultures. Legs McNeil founder of the fanzine Punk was quoted in an interview as saying the "hippies always wanted to be black. We were going fuck the blues, fuck the black experience". He said that disco was the result of an unholy union between gays and blacks. It has been noted that United Kingdom punk rock critics of disco were very supportive of the pro black/anti racist reggae genre. Steve Dahl has denied the charges saying "It's really easy to look at it historically, from this perspective, and attach all those things to it. But we weren't thinking like that." Both Christgau and Testa noted there were legitimate artistic reasons for being critical of disco.

Influence on other music

The transition from the late-1970s disco styles to the early-1980s dance styles was marked primarily by the change from complex arrangements performed by large ensembles of studio session musicians (including a horn section and an orchestral string section), to a leaner sound, in which one or two singers would perform to the accompaniment of synthesizer keyboards and drum machines.

In addition, dance music during the 1981–83 period borrowed elements from blues and jazz, creating a style different from the disco of the 1970s. This emerging music was still known as disco for a short time, as the word had become associated with any kind of dance music played in discothèques. Examples of early 1980s dance sound performers include D. Train, Kashif, and Patrice Rushen.

During the first years of the 1980s, the "disco sound" began to be phased out, and faster tempos and synthesized effects, accompanied by guitar and simplified backgrounds, moved dance music toward the funk and pop genres. This trend can be seen in singer Billy Ocean's recordings between 1979 and 1981. Whereas Ocean's 1979 song American Hearts was backed with an orchestral arrangement played by the Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra, his 1981 song "One of Those Nights (Feel Like Gettin' Down)" had a more bare, stripped-down sound, with no orchestration or symphonic arrangements. This drift from the original disco sound is called post-disco.

During the early 1980s, dance music dropped the complicated melodic structure and orchestration which typified the "disco sound". Examples of well-known songs which illustrate this difference include Kool & the Gang’s "Celebration" (1980), Rick James’ "Super Freak" (1981), Grace Jones's "Pull Up to the Bumper" (1981), Carol Jiani's "Hit N' Run Lover" (1981), Laura Branigan's "Gloria" (1982), The Pointer Sisters’ "I'm So Excited" (1982), Prince’s "1999" (1982), The Weather Girls's "It's Raining Men" (1982), Madonna’s "Holiday" (1983), Irene Cara's "Flashdance " (1983), Angela Bofill's "Too Tough" (1983), Miquel Brown's "So Many Men, So Little Time" (1983), Michael Jackson’s "Thriller" (1983), Stevie Nicks' "Stand Back" (1983), Cerrone's "Back Track" (1984), Jocelyn Brown's "Somebody Else's Guy" (1984), and Klymaxx's "Meeting in the Ladies Room" (1984).

TV themes

During the mid to late 1970s a number of TV themes began to be produced (or older themes updated) with disco influenced music. Examples include S.W.A.T. (1975), Charlie's Angels (1976), NBC Saturday Night At The Movies (1976), The Love Boat (1977), The Donahue Show (1977), CHiPs (1977), The Professionals (1977), Dallas (1978), Kojak (1978), and 20/20, which kept the disco sound throughout the 1980s. The British Science Fiction program Space: 1999 (1975) also featured a soundtrack strongly influenced by disco. This was especially evident in the show's second season.

DJ culture

The rising popularity of disco came in tandem with developments in turntablism and the use of records to create a continuous mix of songs. The resulting DJ mix differed from previous forms of dance music, which were oriented towards live performances by musicians. This in turn affected the arrangement of dance music, with songs since the disco era typically containing beginnings and endings marked by a simple beat or riff that can be easily slipped into the mix.

Hip hop and electro

The disco sound had a strong influence on early hip hop. Most of the early rap/hip-hop songs were created by isolating existing disco bass-guitar lines and dubbing over them with MC rhymes. The Sugarhill Gang used Chic's "Good Times" as the foundation for their 1979 hit "Rapper's Delight", generally considered to be the song that first popularized Rap music in the United States and around the world. In 1982, Afrika Bambataa released the single "Planet Rock," which incorporated electronica elements from Kraftwerk's "Trans-Europe Express" and "Numbers." The "Planet Rock" sound also spawned a hip-hop electronic dance trend (electro music), which included such songs as Planet Patrol's "Play At Your Own Risk" (1982), C Bank's "One More Shot" (1982), Cerrone's "Club Underworld" (1984), Shannon's "Let the Music Play" (1983), Freeez's "I.O.U." (1983), Midnight Star's "Freak-A-Zoid" (1983), and Chaka Khan's "I Feel For You" (1984).

Post Punk

The Post Punk movement that originated in the late 1970s both supported Punk Rock's rule breaking while rejecting its back to raw rock music element. Post Punk's mantra of constantly moving forward lent itself to both openness to and experimentation with elements of disco and other styles. Public Image Limited is considered the first Post Punk group. The groups second album Metal Box fully embraced the studio as instrument methodology of disco. The groups founder John Lydon told the press that disco was the only music he cared for at the time. No Wave was a sub genre of post punk centered in New York City. For shock value, James Chance who was a notable member of the No Wave scene penned an article in the East Village Eye urging his readers to move uptown and get "trancin' with some superadioactive disco voodoo funk". His band James White and the Blacks wrote a disco album Off White. Their performances resembled those of disco performers (horn section, dancers etc). In 1981 ZE Records led the transition from No Wave into the more subtle Mutant disco (post-disco punk) genre. Mutant disco acts such as Kid Creole and the Coconuts, Was Not Was, ESG and Liquid Liquid influenced several British Post Punk acts such as New Order, Orange Juice and A Certain Ratio.

House music

House music is the direct heir apparent of disco, if not the same exact genre. A large number of disco performers and musicians have stated it is the same thing with a different name. Some might agree that record producers and synthesizer pioneers such as the American Patrick Cowley and Italian Giorgio Moroder, who both had a number of hit disco singles such as Moroder's "From Here to Eternity" (1977) and Sylvester's "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" (1978) and "Hills of Katmandu" (1978) influenced to some degree the development of the later electric dance music genres such as house and its stripped down offshoot techno. Both early/proto house music and techno rely on the repetitive bass drum rhythm and hi-hat rhythm patterns introduced by disco. However, as house music evolved over time, the productions became more lush with productions maintaining soulful vocals while re-introducing live instrumentation and live complex percussion mixed with the electronic drums and synthesizers — basically coming full circle back to the Disco musical ideals with a contemporary edge to them. Techno became more mechanical and devoid of organic flourishes, relying more on instrumental compositions or with minimal synthesized vocals.

Early house music, which was developed by innovative DJs such as Larry Levan in New York and Frankie Knuckles in Chicago, consisted of various disco loops overlapped by strong bass beats. House music was usually computer-driven, and longer segments were used for mixing. Clubs associated with the birth of house music include New York's Paradise Garage and Chicago's Warehousemarker and The Music Box.

Resurgence from the 1990s to the present day

In the late 1980s and increasingly through the 1990s, a revival of the original disco style began to emerge. The disco influence can be heard in songs as Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up" (1988) Gloria Estefan's "Get On Your Feet" (1991), Paula Abdul's "Vibeology" (1992), Whitney Houston's "I'm Every Woman" (1993), U2’s "Lemon" (1993), Diana Ross's "Take Me Higher" (1995), France Joli's "Touch" (1996), The Spice Girls’ "Who Do You Think You Are" (1997) and "Never Give up on the Good Times" (1997), Gloria Estefan's "Heaven's What I Feel" (1998) & "Don't Let This Moment End" (1999), Cher’s "Strong Enough" (1998), and Jamiroquai's "Canned Heat" (1999).

The trend continued in the 2000s with hit songs such as Kylie Minogue's "Spinning Around" (2000) and "Love at First Sight" (2002) as well as her album "Light Years" (2000), Sheena Easton's "Givin' Up, Givin' In" (2001), Amanda Lear's "I Just Wanna Dance Again" (2001), Alcazar's breakthrough single Crying at the Discotheque (2001), Sophie Ellis-Bextor's "Murder on the Dancefloor" (2002), S Club 7's singles "Don't Stop Movin'" (2001), "Alive", (2002) and "Love Ain't Gonna Wait For You" (2003), The Shapeshifters' "Lola's Theme" (2003), RuPaul's "Looking Good, Feeling Gorgeous", (2004) Janet Jackson's "R&B Junkie", (2004) La Toya Jackson's "Just Wanna Dance" (2004) & "Free the World" (2005). Madonna's 2005 album Confessions on a Dance Floor echoes traditional disco themes, particularly in the single "Hung Up," which samples ABBA's "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! ." Madonna continued doing disco music in her 2008 release, "Hard Candy", this time experimenting with the old days of funk- and soul-influenced disco in songs like "Beat Goes On" and "Dance 2nite".

In the mid-late part of the decade, many disco songs have been released, becoming hits, including (2005) Gorillaz's "Dare", Ultra Nate's "Love's The Only Drug" (2006), Gina G's "Tonight's The Night" (2006), The Shapeshifters' "Back To Basics" (2006), Michael Gray's "Borderline" (2006), Irene Cara's "Forever My Love" (2006), Bananarama's "Look on the Floor ", the Freemasons "Rain Down Love" (2007), Claudja Barry's "I Will Stand" (2006), Pepper Mashay's "Lost Yo Mind" (2007), Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s "Me and My Imagination" (2007), Maroon 5's "Makes Me Wonder" (2007) Justice’s "D.A.N.C.E.", "Phanton " (2007), Dannii Minogue's "Touch Me Like That"(2007), Cerrone's "Misunderstanding" and "Tattoo Woman" (2008), Sean Ensign's "I Wanna Be With You" (2008), Donna Summer's "I'm a Fire" (2008), Jody Watley's "A Beautiful Life" (2008), Crystal Waters's "Dancefloor" (2008), Alcazar's comeback single "We Keep on Rockin'" (2008), RuPaul's "Jealous Of My Boogie" (2009)", Shakira's "She Wolf" (2009), and Whitney Houston's "Million Dollar Bill" (2009). Music producer, Ian Levine has also produced many new songs with such singers as George Daniel Long, Hazell Dean, Sheila Ferguson, Steve Brookstein and Tina Charles among others for the compilation album titled, Disco 2008, a tribute to Disco music using original material.

In recent years, artists such as DE SIGNER, Ali Love, Hercules and Love Affair, producer JMV and Lady Gaga have revived the disco sound helping bring further mainstream interest and success.

Disco tributes continue to be popular draws. The World's Largest Disco, an annual celebration held over Thanksgiving weekend in Buffalo, New Yorkmarker, draws thousands of disco fans in 1970s attire. In addition to playing disco hits of the era, live performers from the 1970s make appearances. One surprising place disco arrived and then never went away is English Junior schools. By 1975 discos began for young children and are still an annual feature in many schools today.

Nu Disco

Nu-disco is a 21st century dance music genre associated with the renewed interest in 1970s and early 1980s disco, mid-1980s Italo disco, and the synthesizer-heavy Eurodisco aesthetics. The moniker appeared in print as early as 2002, and by mid-2008 was used by record shops such as the online retailers Juno and Beatport. These vendors often associate it with re-edits of original-era disco music, as well as with music from European producers who make dance music inspired by original-era American disco, electro and other genres popular in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It is also used to describe the music on several American labels that were previously associated with the genres electroclash and deep house.

See also



References and notes

  1. Disco Double Take: New York Parties Like It’s 1975 - Village Voice.com. Retrieved on August 9, 2009.
  2. [1]. What's That Sound? • W. W. Norton and Company, Inc. wwnorton.com. Retrieved on August 4, 2009
  3. [2]. Discotheques and Clubs of the 1970s/80s: "MacArthur's Disco". DiscoMusic.com. Retrieved on August 4, 2009.
  4. (1998) "The Cambridge History of American Music", ISBN 0521454298, 9780521454292, p.372: "Initially, disco musicians and audiences alike belonged to marginalized communities: women, gay, black, and Latinos"
  5. (2002) "Traces of the Spirit: The Religious Dimensions of Popular Music", ISBN 0814798098, 9780814798096, p.117: "New York City was the primary center of disco, and the original audience was primarily gay African Americans and Latinos."
  6. (1976) "Stereo Review", University of Michigan, p.75: "[..] and the result - what has come to be called disco - was clearly the most compelling and influential form of black commercial pop music since the halcyon days of the "Motown Sound" of the middle Sixties."
  7. empsfm.org Past Exhibitions
  8. discomusic.com Timeline
  9. [3]. Disco: Encyclopedia II - Disco origins and proto-disco songs. Re-retrieved on August 4, 2009.
  10. ARTS IN AMERICA; Here's to Disco, It Never Could Say Goodbye, The New York Times, December 10, 2002]
  11. Excerpt from first article about disco
  12. discomusic.com Timeline first disco radio show
  13. allmusic
  14. Psychedelic Soul Allmusic
  15. [4]. Canoe.ca: JAM! Music - Artists - Album Review: THE JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE. Retrieved on August 4, 2009.
  16. Giorgio Moroder Allmusic.com
  17. see p.45, 46
  18. DISCO History @ Disco-Disco.com
  19. The Body and soul of club culture
  20. Gootenberg, Paul 1954- - Between Coca and Cocaine: A Century or More of U.S.-Peruvian Drug Paradoxes, 1860-1980 - Hispanic American Historical Review - 83:1, February 2003, pp. 119-150. He says that "The relationship of cocaine to 1970s disco culture cannot be stressed enough; ..." -
  21. Amyl, butyl and isobutyl nitrite (collectively known as alkyl nitrites) are clear, yellow liquids which are inhaled for their intoxicating effects. Nitrites originally came as small glass capsules that were popped open. This led to nitrites being given the name 'poppers' but this form of the drug is rarely found in the UK. The drug became popular in the UK first on the disco/club scene of the 1970s and then at dance and rave venues in the 1980s and 1990s. Available at: http://www.drugscope.org.uk/druginfo/drugsearch/ds_results.asp?file=%5Cwip%5C11%5C1%5C1%5Cnitrites.html
  22. www.americanheritage.com/articles/magazine/ah/1999/7/1999_7_43.shtml - 76k -
  23. Peter Braunstein. Available at: http://www.americanheritage.com/articles/magazine/ah/1999/7/1999_7_43.shtml
  24. (2001) "Encyclopedia of Contemporary American Culture", ISBN 0415161614, 9780415161619, p.217: "In fact, by 1977, before punk spread, there was a "disco sucks" movement sponsored by radio stations that attracted suburban white youth, who insisted that disco was escapist, synthetic and overproduced."
  25. [5] Robert Christgau for the Village Voice Pop & Jop Poll 1978
  26. Allmusic BeeGees bio
  27. Allmusic Disco Genre
  28. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=CU1jKq0TlvQC&pg=PA17&lpg=PA17&dq=punk+hates+disco&source=bl&ots=1iv_GPuM6y&sig=Xfs9odAOfTDuSdj1oA6hB8zXoGs&hl=en&ei=Fo5rSqeFIZ-NjAe5qMyZCw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=9 Punk criticism of Disco by Jim Testa (Dance of Days, page 17)
  29. From Comiskey Park to Thriller: The Effect of “Disco Sucks” on Pop by Steve Greenberg founder and CEO of S-Curve Records July 10, 2009.
  30. empsfm.org - EXHIBITIONS - Featured Exhibitions
  31. Rip it Up and Start Again POSTPUNK 1978-1984 by Simon Reynolds p154
  32. Disco demolition: Bell bottoms be gone! ESPN August 11, 2004
  33. These changes were influenced by some of the notable R&B and jazz musicians of the 1970s, such as Stevie Wonder and Herbie Hancock, who had pioneered "one-man-band"-type keyboard techniques. Some of these influences had already begun to emerge during the mid-1970s, at the height of disco’s popularity. Songs such as Gloria Gaynor’s "Never Can Say Goodbye" (1974), Thelma Houston’s "Don't Leave Me This Way" (1976), Donna Summer’s "Spring Affair" (1977), Rod Stewart’s "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?" (1978), Donna Summer’s "Bad Girls" (1979), and The Bee Gees’ "Love You Inside Out" (1979) foreshadowed the dramatic change in dance music styles which was to follow in the 1980s.
  34. Rip It Up and Start Again POSTPUNK 1978-1984 by Simon Reynolds
  35. http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=33:aifwxztrld0e
  • Michaels, Mark (1990). The Billboard Book of Rock Arranging. ISBN 0-8230-7537-0.
  • Jones, Alan and Kantonen, Jussi (1999). Saturday Night Forever: The Story of Disco. Chicago, Illinois: A Cappella Books. ISBN 1-55652-411-0.
  • Article on the 30th Annversary of Saturday Night Fever DVD, re-mastered by writer John Reed.


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