A history of disco music
In 1974, disco is an underground phenomenon ...
Keep on Steppin' (1974) - The Fatback Band [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
... in 1977, everyone dances to disco along with John Travolta ...
Saturday Night Fever (1977) [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
... on July 12 1979, disco sucked
Although disco was the most prominent form of popular music in the 1970s, it never got the credit it deserved. These pages aim to set that straight. Your guide is Larry Levan. [Jan 2006]
[Jahsonic's] History of Disco - Does exactly what it says on the tin. --bbc.co.uk, November 2003
'Disco was a dance fad of the Seventies with a profound and unfortunate influence on popular music.' --The 1989 edition of the Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music
Bibliography: Last Night a DJ Saved my Life (1999) - Brewster and Broughton - Love Saves the Day (2004) - Tim Lawrence
CD compilations discography: Club Classics & House Foundations (1995) - Various - Super Rare Disco (1997) - Various - Jumpin Vol.1 and 2 (1997 - 1998) - Various - Disco not Disco (2000 - 2001) - Various - Disco Spectrum series (1999 - 2002) - Various
Related: classic disco - dance - disco sucks - discotheque - DJs - Euro-disco - gay music - funk - groove - house music - italo disco - mix - New York music - Philly soul - post-disco - proto-disco - soul - twelve inch
Etymology: 1964, Amer.Eng. shortening of discotheque; sense extended 1975 to the kind of music played there. --Online Etymology Dicitionary [Jan 2006]
Discotheques and other venues: The Loft - Paradise Garage - Studio 54
Recordings: Ain't No Stopping Us Now - Ain't No Mountain High Enough - Don't Make me Wait - Is it all over my face? - Jingo - Love is the Message - Soul Makossa - Together Forever - Weekend - Paradise Garage classics - loft classics - more tracks
American recording artists: Patrick Adams - Roy Ayers - Jocelyn Brown - Peter Brown - Leroy Burgess - Donald Byrd - Gregory Carmichael - Chic - First Choice - Rochelle Fleming - Gwen Guthrie - Loleatta Holloway - Grace Jones - François Kevorkian - Inner Life - Michael Jackson - MFSB - Patti Labelle - Vince Montana jr. - Tom Moulton - Musique - Herb Powers Jr. - Arthur Russell - Salsoul Orchestra - Gino Soccio - Donna Summer - Pam Todd - Christine Wiltshire - Village People - Earl Young
European recording artists: Giorgio Moroder -
DJs, producers and (re)mixers: Walter Gibbons - Francis Grasso - Norman Harris - Larry Levan - David Mancuso - Herb Powers - Tee Scott - Nicky Siano
Labels: Casablanca - Gold Mind Records - Philadelphia International Records - Prelude - Salsoul - West End
On the origins of disco music
IntroScorned and ridiculed as feather-lite, escapist pap when it emerged in the mid-seventies, and now reduced to a kitsch scenario of Afro wigs, polyester suits and drunken singalongs at office Christmas parties and bachelor weekends, disco is just about the last place anyone would look for avant garde practice. [...] --Peter Shapiro, The Wire Magazine, Feb 2003.
DefinitionDisco is an up-tempo style of dance music that originated in the early 1970s, mainly from funk and soul music, popular originally with gay and black audiences in large U.S. cities, and derives its name from the French word discothèque (meaning nightclub), coined from disc + bibliotèque (library) by La Discothèque in Rue Huchette. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disco [Sept 2004]
Discotheques originated in occupied Paris during the Second World War. The Nazis banned jazz and closed many of the dance clubs, breaking up jazz groups and driving fans into illicit cellars to listen to recorded music. One of these venues - on the rue Huchette - called itself La Discothèque. Then Paul Pacine opened the Whiskey a Go-Go, where dancers would hit the floor accompanied by records played by disc jockeys on a phonograph. Pacine went on to open other clubs in Europe, while in Paris Chez Régine opened in 1960, catering to the self-styled beautiful people. The upmarket thrills of Régine's enjoyed by the American jet-set in turn inspired New York's Le Club, although it didn't last long, closing soon after a new venue in New York took off in 1961: the Peppermint Lounge. -- David Haslam [...]
Deep funk begot proto-disco (1970-1975) [...]
Before the word disco existed, the phrase discotheque records was used to denote music played in New York private rent or after hours parties like the Loft and Better Days. The records played there were a mixture of funk, soul and European imports [LP-cuts or 45s]. We will call this genre of music "proto disco". These "proto disco" records are the same kind of records that were played by Kool Herc on the early hip hop scene. -- [... ]
Disco 2.0 (1976-1982) [...]The times change, the drugs change, new clubs like the Paradise Garage open their doors, the disco twelve inch was invented. For the first time in musical history, music was made with "discotheques" in mind. The disco years ended with its gay audience decimated by a deadly disease called AIDS. My preferred disco labels of this era are Salsoul, Prelude and West end. A perfect CD-introduction to the music of this era is the superb three-volume compilation Give Your Body Up: Club Classics & House Foundations, vol. 1, vol. 2 and vol. 3
Disco houseVirtually pioneered by Dj Sneak, original Disco House actually started around in 1991, and consisted of looped disco samples with more upfront "Chicago" style beats. The term "disco-house" became more popular around 1994, and has since been taken on by the French scene by the likes of Bob Sinclar and Daft Punk. Also see the live Disco sound pioneered the Idjut Boys, Crispin Glover, Faze Action and early releases on Nuphonic Records. --Matthew (Ritual Recordings)
Euro disco [...]
But it wasn't just American music laying the groundwork for house. European music, spanning English electronic pop like Gary Numan and Soft Cell, sparse German proto-techno by Kraftwerk, the more disco based sounds of Giorgio Moroder and Klein & MBO and Belgium's Telex were immensely popular in urban areas like New York and Chicago.
Best disco albums [...]by rock lover Piero Scaruffi
Obviously missing from this list are too many to name, but let's start with Patrick Adams' Musique, Logg, so many Salsoul, Prelude and West End albums. Please remember that this is the choice of a self proclaimed rock-lover. :-)
Narcissism [...]"Outside the entrance to every discotheque should be erected a statue to the presiding deity: Narcissus."-- Albert Goldman in Sound Bites
Disco drugsThe grandfather of all disco drugs is Poppers. These chemicals, Amyl or Butyl Nitrate, provide an instant, profound euphoria and sexual arousal. Music sounds great, and sex is enhanced. The rush is short lived and frequent doses are normal. Tolerance builds with use, so the doses get larger. The first side effect is usually a skull-splitting headache, then nausea and depression. Mixed with alcohol, these effects become more potent. Long term use can lead to dependence for sexual arousal, recurrent headaches and diminished sense of smell. If you are older, or have medical conditions, poppers can cause palpitations, or even heart attack. Poppers do not mix well with other drugs.
Was disco gay music? [...]
A Straight Romance with Gay MusicNope, but there are some noteable gay people in disco, such as Sylvester, Giorgio Moroder and Patrick Cowley. [...]. Read more on http://www.brumm.com/gaylib/disco/
Gay liberation and disco [...]But the seventies also witnessed the flowering of gay clubbing, especially in post-Stonewall New York. For the gay community in this decade, clubbing, according to Garratt, became 'a religion, a release, a way of life'. The most notable New York venues in that era were probably the Sanctuary and the Loft, home to DJ David Mancuso. Saturday Night For Ever includes some enthusiastic reminiscences of the gay scene in London: the drugs, the songs and the very late nights. The camp, glam impulses behind the upsurge in gay clubbing influenced the image of disco in the mid-Seventies so much that it was often perceived as the preserve of three constituencies - blacks, gays and working-class women - all of whom were even less well represented in the upper echelons of rock criticism than they were in society at large. The 'Disco Sucks' campaign was a white, macho reaction against gay liberation and black pride more than a musical reaction against drum machines. In England, in the same year as the 'Disco Sucks' demo in America, The Young Nationalist - a British National Party publication - told its readers: 'Disco and its melting pot pseudo-philosophy must be fought or Britain's streets will be full of black-worshipping soul boys.' -- David Haslam
A producer's mediumDisco marked the dawn of dance-based popular music. Growing out of the increasingly groove-oriented sound of early '70s and funk, disco emphasized the beat above anything else, even the singer and the song. Disco was named after discotheques, clubs that played nothing but music for dancing. Most of the discotheques were gay clubs in New York, and the DJs in these clubs specifically picked soul and funk records that had a strong, heavy groove. After being played in the disco, the records began receiving radio play and respectable sales. Soon, record companies and producers were cutting records created specifically for discos. Naturally, these records also had strong pop hooks, so they could have crossover success. Disco albums frequently didn't have many tracks — they had a handful of long songs that kept the beat going. Similarly, the singles were issued on 12-inch records, which allowed for extended remixes. DJs could mix these tracks together, matching the beats on each song since they were marked with how fast they were in terms of beats per minute. In no time, the insistent, pounding disco beat dominated the pop chart, and everyone cut a disco record, from rockers new wave artists — but the music was primarily a producer's medium, since they created the tracks and wrote the songs. Disco lost momentum as the '70s became the '80s, but it didn't die — it mutated into a variety of different dance-based genres, ranging from dance-pop and hip-hop to house and techno. -- allmusic.com [...]
Paar-ty! Paar-ty! . . . You hear the chant at concerts, rising like a tribal rallying cry on a shrill wave of whistles and hard-beaten tambourines. It's at once a call to get down and party, a statement that there's a party going on and an indication that discotheques, where the chant originated, are back in force . . ., 1973, Rolling Stone magazine -- [Vince Aletti ...]
The twelve inch single [...]The twelve inch vinyl recording was a technical innovation. Because 45s were geared for radio, they were all 'middle,' and you couldn't cut a lot of [bass] onto the record, the twelve inch record allowed more bass and made records suitable for night club play. The first promotional copies appeared in 1975 and the first commercial release was the 1976 release 'Ten Percent' by Double Exposure, on the Salsoul label. -- [...]
The Paradise Garage [...]
The Paradise Garage is still considered as the most legendary club of club culture history. It was located at 84 King Street, New York and from 1977 till 1987, it was the playground of one Larry Levan. The club gave its name to garage music, New York's flavor of underground dance music. 1000+ classic tracks that were championed by Larry at the Garage -- [...]
Larry Levan [...]
first DJ star
Larry Levan was the first DJ-star and stands at the crossroads of disco, house and garage. He was the legendary DJ who for more than 10 years held court at the New York night club Paradise Garage. Quite a number of today's most successful producers and DJs credit their first exposure to Larry's music at the Paradise Garage as a moment that changed their lives forever and inspired their whole careers. [Read more about those DJs here]
Larry is also credited with putting the dub aesthetic into dance music and being the first DJ to play a very eclectic and open-minded mix of music. --
Disco sucks [...]
The Uneasy Relation between Rock and DiscoOnly by killing disco could rock affirm its threatened masculinity and restore the holy dyad of cold brew and undemanding sex partners. Disco bashing became a major preoccupation in 1977. At the moment when Saturday Night Fever and Studio 54 achieved zeitgeist status, rock rediscovered a rage it had been lacking since the '60s, but this time the enemy was a culture with "plastic" and "mindless" (read effeminate) musical tastes. Examined in light of the ensuing political backlash, it's clear that the slogan of this movement--"Disco Sucks!"--was the first cry of the angry white male. --Peter Braunstein, http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/9826/braunstein.php [June 1998]
Post-disco and proto-house [...]
But it wasn't just American music laying the groundwork for house. European music, spanning English electronic pop like Depeche Mode and Soft Cell and the earlier, more disco based sounds of Giorgio Moroder, Klein & MBO and a thousand Italian productions were immensely popular in urban areas like New York and Chicago. One of the reasons for their popularity was two clubs that had simultaneously broken the barriers of race and sexual preference, two clubs that were to pass on into dance music legend - Chicago's Warehouse and New York's Paradise Garage. Up until then, and after, the norm was for black, hispanic, white, straight and gay to segregate themselves, but with the Warehouse, opened in 1977 and presided over by Frankie Knuckles and the Garage where Larry Levan spun, the emphasis was on the music. (Ironically, Levan was first choice for the Warehouse, but he didn't want to leave New York). And the music was as varied as the clienteles - r'n'b based Black dance music and disco peppered with things as diverse as The Clash's 'Magnificent Seven'. For most people, these were the places that acted as breeding grounds for the music that eventually came to be known after the clubs - house and garage.
Legendary disco clubs [...]
There are two US clubs that had simultaneously broken the barriers of race and sexual preference, two clubs that were to pass on into dance music legend - Chicago's Warehouse and New York's Paradise Garage. Up until then, and after, the norm was for black, hispanic, white, straight and gay to segregate themselves, but with the Warehouse, opened in 1977 and presided over by Frankie Knuckles and the Paradise Garage whereLarry Levan spun, the emphasis was on the music. And the music was as varied as the clienteles - r'n'b based Black dance music and disco peppered with things as diverse as The Clash's 'Magnificent Seven'. For most people, these were the places that acted as breeding grounds for the music that eventually came to be known after the clubs - house and garage.
Legendary disco DJs [...]
"In the seventies, when clubs only needed one DJ, that DJ was in a position to make waves. And in cities where the clubs were usually soundtracked by jukeboxes, those waves could become a storm. " --Al Bottcher
Legendary disco tracks
Due to the rise of the discotheque and the technical innovation of the twelve inch recording, a new genre of music that was explicitly made with the dancefloor in mind, was born . This music was coined disco, of which there are two flavors and time periods: disco 1.0, which is firmly connected to soul and funk in the first half of the seventies and disco 2.0 in the second half of the seventies, as the incarnation of gay hedonistic club culture. This movement was fueled by the DJ, who came into prominence during the seventies.
Salsoul [...]Salsoul released the first commercially available twelve inch record, followed by some 300 more twelve inches and LPs. A tremendous output, many of which are among the very best disco releases. Specific releases to hunt down are Jocelyn Brown's 'Ain't No Mountain High Enough', a true classic with an incredible keyboard work-out and Walter Gibbons's mix of 'Hit And Run'. Also exceptional - and all but forgotten - is 'Bumblebee Rap' a favourite of Todd Terry .Towards the mid eighties, Shep Pettibone was commissioned to revive the old Gold Mind Rochelle Fleming and Loleatta Holloway tracks. These have been sampled in both Frankie Knuckles and Steve 'Silk' Hurley early house recordings. [the bassline of 'Jack Your Body' was 'Let No Man Put Asunder']. -- [...]
Disco + drum computers = house music [...]Like it or not, house was first and foremost a direct descendant of disco. Disco had already been going for ten years when the first electronic drum tracks began to appear out of Chicago, and in that time it had already suffered the slings and arrows of merciless commercial exploitation, dilution and racial and sexual prejudice which culminated in the 'disco sucks' campaign. -- [...]
Disco + punk = no wave [...]
In 1977, two legendary disco clubs open their doors: the Paradise Garage in New York and the Warehouse in Chicago. In the summer of that same year, Time and Newsweek magazine informed their readers of a new subculture, called "punk," that had emerged at a few rock clubs in the United States and Britain.
Stuck between Punk Rock noise and Disco, the No Wave scene was born in New York where it lived a short life in tight connection with downtown's avant-garde artistic crowd. Mostly an attitude towards music, it was characterized by the refusal of traditional Rock 'n' Roll format (chords, chorus...) and the incorporation of exterior influences such as Free Jazz (the Loft Scene), contemporary and black music (funk, disco). My favourite artist in this scene is Arthur Russell
The divasPersonally, I have soft spot for female vocals. Favourite vocalists of the disco era are Loleatta Holloway (number one!), Rochelle Fleming (of First Choice fame), Jocelyn Brown, Gwen Guthrie and Christine Wiltshire. Of course, there are more good voices, check this link: [...]
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