MONDAY, JUNE 1, 2015
WEEK 22: DISCO
In the mid seventies, rock was the mainstream and disco the underground, a four-to-the-floor beat of euphoric strings and a soaring vocal straight out of church. With a pre-history cast from ‘Law Of The Land’, ‘The Love I Lost’ and Philly soul, disco had already made inroads into pop. But of far more importance was how disco’s themselves created a place and soundtracked a space, where women, blacks, gays or any combination thereof could come together to dance, love and just be without fear.
The first records to be built specifically for the dancefloor were those made by Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder in Munich. ‘Love To Love You Baby’ in 1975, and ‘I Feel Love’ two years later, reveled in everything the solemn worshippers of rock derided; decadence, repetition and machine beats as radical as any Elvis hip shake or Pistols sneer. While many thought of them as superficial, robotic crap, they posed as much of a challenge to the status quo as any other revolutionary music.
Attempting to finally banish the veneer of authenticity attached to black music and be the embodiment of the pleasure-is-politics ethos of the emerging Gay Pride movement, disco was a celebration of the fantastic in which flash, overwhelming melodrama, sex, surface and fabulousness were all that mattered. However, on a track like Machines ‘There But For The Grace Of God’, it was also capable of making political statements even the most diehard modernist could understand. And while it would ultimately become as horribly formulaic as any other genre, it would continue to stretch the sonic envelope on avant-garde adventures like producer Arthur Russell’s ‘It’s All Over My Face’ and the even weirder ‘Go Bang!’
The safe, white world of rock may have felt threatened and disgusted by disco’s rampant hedonism but as hypocritical as ever, as soon as the industry realised they could make some serious money by following the same formula, the classic disco beat was thrown behind any number of inappropriate rock types, from Rod Stewart to Kiss and The Grateful Dead! What had started out as an underground black music phenomenon had become very, very white, vilified as the enemy of rock by those only too happy to exploit it.
In 1979, even supposedly free minded punks joined in the baiting and the ‘disco sucks’ campaign which climaxed in the symbolic detonation of tons of disco records at a Chicago baseball game. A shameful orgy of destruction, racism and homophobia, it underlined just how radical and subversive disco's call for liberation had been. Mortally wounded by the slings and arrows of hatred and continued merciless, commercial exploitation, by 1980 disco had been forced back underground where it would have the last laugh, disseminating its DNA into all other forms of dance music.
It’s a sad fact that no other modern music genre has been lambasted, ridiculed and hated in quite the same way as disco. Accused of destroying soul’s classic tradition, despite being as much an extension and continuation of that tradition as funk or R&B, it has had a massive, long term effect on music culture. House, techno, hip hop, dubstep, rave, club culture, twelve inch singles, the extended remix; one way or another, they all shadowed disco’s fabulous dance steps.
01 THE TEMPTATIONS ‘Law Of The Land’ (A Side August 1973)
02 HAROLD MELVIN & THE BLUE NOTES ‘The Love I Lost’ (A Side September 1973)
03 MFSB ‘T.S.O.P. (The Sound Of Philadelphia)’ (A Side March 1974)
04 SHIRLEY & COMPANY ‘Shame Shame Shame’ (A Side November 1974)
05 PEOPLES CHOICE ‘Do It Anyway You Wanna’ (A Side September 1975)
06 DONNA SUMMER ‘Love To Love You Baby’ (A Side December 1975)
07 CANDI STATON ‘Young Hearts Run Free’ (A Side April 1976)
08 THE TRAMMPS ‘Disco Inferno’ (A Side December 1976)
09 ODYSSEY ‘Native New Yorker’ (A Side November 1977)
10 FIRST CHOICE ‘Let No Man Put Asunder’ (A Side November 1977)
11 CERRONE ‘Supernature’ (A Side February 1978)
12 SYLVESTER ‘You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)’ (A Side July 1978)
13 NORMA JEAN WRIGHT ‘Saturday’ (A Side July 1978)
14 CHIC ‘Le Freak’ (A Side September 1978)
15 MUSIQUE ‘In The Bush’ (A Side October 1978)
16 MACHINE ‘There But For The Grace Of God’ (A Side March 1979)
17 LOOSE JOINTS ‘Is It All Over My Face?’ (A Side August 1980)
18 DINOSAUR L ‘Go Bang #5 (Francois K Mix)’ (A Side February 1981)
19 INDEEP ‘Last Night A DJ Saved My Life’ (A Side February 1982)