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The return of Arbitrary but Fun Friday

Following from yesterday’s once-a-season baseball post:  the Yanks-Red Sox chase has me thinking of 1978—not because the Yankees came back from 14 games down this year or anything, but because so few people remember that in late September of that year, the Red Sox actually caught the Yankees, and not the other way around.

Yes, the Boston Massacre was terrible (15-3, 13-2, 7-0, 7-4, in case you didn’t have the scores on hand).  Yes, the Red Sox lost 14 of their first 17 games in September, and the Yankees finished by winning 24 of 33.  But let’s keep things in perspective, shall we?  The Bosox were 62-28 (.689) after the first ninety games.  They went 37-35 the rest of the way, yeah, but played .567 ball over the final two months while the Yankees went .712 in the same span.  And here’s the real kicker:  after sweeping four in Fenway from September 7-10, the Yankees went up by 3-1/2 games.  The Red Sox caught ‘em by winning their final eight games; the Yankees won six of seven, but lost 9-2 to the Indians on the final day.

So, dear friends, when I was but 17 and a callow college freshman living in New York in the early autumn of 1978, I couldn’t go anywhere in the city without running into “Boston Sucks” buttons.  And I was appalled, appalled at the rudeness and discourtesy of it all.  For, in fact, the Boston Red Sox did not suck.  They were a damn good team, and if Lou Piniella (sweet but never fleet Lou) hadn’t made that amazing running backhanded grab in deep right field (with two out and two on and Boston up two runs) just before Bucky Dent entered the Hall of the Immortals, the Red Sox would’ve taken that division title.

But the “Boston Sucks” buttons, of course, were competing locally with the “Disco Sucks” buttons:  it was the year of the Brilliant Pennant Race, yeah, but it was also the year Robert Stigwood, Peter Frampton, and the Bee Gees brought you their epochal Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.  Clearly, the Robert Stigwood Organization needed to be killed dead, and disco with it.  “Die, disco, die,” we said, and we meant it.  Disco sucked.

And yet, in the end, despite the soulless, mass-produced dreck that most of disco had become by 1978, some of disco did not suck either.  Some of it has aged well, and not in a retro or camp kind of way.  Even “Disco Inferno,” after more than a quarter century, has remained kind of hot, though this hustlin’ blog is kind of agnostic about Heatwave’s “Boogie Nights.” So, then, in the spirit of 1978, I invite you all to nominate disco songs that Do Not Suck.  And because these things are arbitrary, I will start things off by citing James Brown’s distinction between disco and funk—namely, that disco stays on top of the groove while funk gets inside the groove and works it—and suggest that Evelyn “Champagne” King’s “Shame” stays on top of the groove, never really working it, and yet Does Not Suck.  Far from it:  on the contrary, it kicks it.  Granted, “Shame” was released in 1977, not 1978.  But anything from 1974-79 is fair game in this game.  Have a good weekend, party people.

Posted by on 09/30 at 01:29 PM
  1. Looks I can be the first to draw howls of derision by saying Gloria Gaynor did not suck while performing “I Will Survive

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  09/30  at  03:11 PM
  2. ... stupid overeager return key!

    Also, Sister Sledge was pretty damn good as well, with many of her songs displaying a nascent funkitudinousness. I never understood why Bill Clinton had to disrespect her the way he did. </litella>

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  09/30  at  03:13 PM
  3. Althea & Donna’s Uptown Top Ranking. Officially reggae, I suppose, but I danced to it at my first disco, aged 11.

    Great song.

    And from 1978.

    Posted by  on  09/30  at  03:16 PM
  4. The Bee Gees’ songs featured on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack were the high point of disco: Stayin’ Alive, How Deep Is Your Love, Night Fever, More Than A Woman, If I Can’t Have You (sung by Yvonne Elliman), Jive Talkin’, You Should Be Dancing. 

    Nights on Broadway was another good one. 

    Andy Gibb had a couple of good songs as well:  Don’t Throw It all Away, I Just Want to Be Your Everything. 

    Let’s see, what else...I Love the Night Life by Alicia Bridges, Love Train by the O’Jays…

    Do Barry White or Blondie count as disco?

    Posted by  on  09/30  at  03:39 PM
  5. First one that springs to mind: “Tell Me Something Good,” by Rufus.  But maybe it works the groove too much.  “ABC and “I Want You Back” by the Jackson 5.  “I Believe in Miracles” by Hot Chocolate.  And as the years have worn down my edge I’ve become more fond of the Stone’s infamous, shameful, turn towards disco: “Miss You.”

    Posted by  on  09/30  at  03:41 PM
  6. Um, that should be “the Stones’,” not “the Stone’s,” of course.  Or maybe “The Stones’.”

    Posted by  on  09/30  at  03:44 PM
  7. Some others:

    Rod Stewart, Do Ya Think I’m Sexy
    Rolling Stones, Miss You
    Michael Jackson, Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough

    Barry White (yeah he was disco), Never Never Gonna Give You Up, Can’t Get Enough of Your Love Babe, You’re My First, My Last, My Everything

    Blondie, Heart of Glass

    Posted by  on  09/30  at  03:50 PM
  8. Ian - I don’t mean to piss on your glitter covered roller skates but “Tell Me Something Good” is not disco.  It is a brilliant piece of swamp-bucket funk written by Stevie Wonder and kicked into the stratosphere by the one and only Chaka Khan.  And Hot Chocolate, also not disco, but the long lost missing funk/rock/pop link between Sly and the Family Stone and Prince.

    Posted by corndog  on  09/30  at  03:56 PM
  9. Well, it came out in January 1980, so it may not qualify, but I submit that Funkytown does not suck.

    Posted by  on  09/30  at  04:00 PM
  10. I kind of like Cheryl Lynn’s “To be real.” Not sure if that’s disco.  Also the Chic song, I think it’s called “Le Freak”, which Nile Rodgers wrote as an FU to the bouncer at Studio 54.

    Posted by  on  09/30  at  04:20 PM
  11. I suppose it’s vaguely debatable whether Chic really qualify as disco, but nothing they ever released even remotely came close to sucking.

    Posted by Amy  on  09/30  at  04:21 PM
  12. I know that Sister Sledge was already mentioned, but we should not forget even if we could “WE are Family” definitely does not suck.  Michael, you did not mention the third of things that New Yorker said that sucked in 1978, Denis Potvin.  He did not suck either.  Steinbrenner sucks started later.

    Posted by  on  09/30  at  04:26 PM
  13. Santa Esmerelda, “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”

    Thelma Houston, “Don’t Leave Me This Way”

    Posted by Steven Rubio  on  09/30  at  04:37 PM
  14. That should be “EsmerAlda,” and of course I meant the entire first side of the vinyl, which is really one song.

    Posted by Steven Rubio  on  09/30  at  04:39 PM
  15. some belated additions:

    Diana Ross - “Upside Down”
    Kool and the Gang - “Celebration” I had to line-dance to in in grade school gym class for two weeks every year.  It was the only song my school apparently had on record.  And this was late 1980s-early 1990s.
    and ABBA.  Don’t knock ABBA.

    Posted by  on  09/30  at  04:46 PM
  16. Yeah, “Don’t Leave Me This Way” is pretty good. And, because I never have a conversation where this fits in so snugly, I shared an airport shuttle recently with a bunch of college kids from Philly (I think) who were talking about a friend of theirs, whose dad apparently holds the copyright to “Funktown.” File under: Dubious distinction.

    I’d nominate Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You,” one of the finest male vocal performances ever recroded and an all-around sublime piece of music. All those Bee Gees songs Blah listed from Saturday Night Fever were pretty great, too. Of course, the Bee Gees were my first concert. Spirits Having Flown, bee-yotches.

    Posted by TravisG  on  09/30  at  04:52 PM
  17. I don’t know what drugs Amy is or was on but I’m afraid it is not even vaguely debatable whether Chic were disco. It’s like debating whether Ann Coulter is opinionated.
    Chic produced the best disco records:
    Good Times
    Le Freak
    Lost in Music by Sister Sledge
    Spacer by Sheila B Devotion. The Bernard Edwards/Tony Thompson rhythm section was the best.
    Other Disco That Doesn’t Suck
    I feel love by Donna Summer (also Sunset People, Love to Love You and Bad Girls)
    Pretty Much anything by Earth Wind and Fire during their peak period
    Is This a Love Thing? by Ray Parker Junior
    Most of the Gamble and Huff Philly stuff esp. When Will I See You Again by the 3 degrees
    Abba’s Disco Period (the Voulez Vous Album was a disco epic)
    By the way, Blah, have you actually ever listened to Do Ya Think I’m Sexy? It’s rubbish honestly. Kenny Everett’s piss take showed it for what it really was.

    Posted by  on  09/30  at  05:12 PM
  18. I guess it came out a little too early to be considered “disco”, but Isley Bros. “Harvest For The World” still gets me moving.

    I’d also second “To Be Real” which zach mentioned above.

    Posted by  on  09/30  at  05:27 PM
  19. I have no idea who Kenny Everett, but the song is pretty damn good.  It’s the pure sleazy essence of the disco scene.  The Revolting Cocks’s version of the song shows just how much it rocks.

    Posted by  on  09/30  at  05:32 PM
  20. Donna Summer - “I Feel Love.” Features an interesting mock-Kraftwerk production by Giorgio Moroder.

    Posted by Gavin M.  on  09/30  at  05:59 PM
  21. While I think that some of the songs already nominated do indeed suck, I do not think Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff” sucks.

    When will there be a Random Friday on which I can nominate Falco?

    Posted by  on  09/30  at  06:13 PM
  22. I like my disco with a good slice of rock’n roll so I’d point Nils Lofgren as the best purveyor of dance music around. Most folks would say “Whaaat?” But the faithful know what I’m talkin’ about.

    Posted by  on  09/30  at  06:28 PM
  23. I know nothing about disco, and have no desire to know anything about it.  There was so much better music to listen to in the last half of the 1970’s.  But, thanks to Chris Clarke i believe(something he had up on his blog a while ago, if i am not mistaken) i did notice the following top 25 sold songs of 1978.  Do any of these count as “non-sucky?”

    1. Shadow Dancing, Andy Gibb
    2. Night Fever, Bee Gees
    3. You Light Up My Life, Debby Boone
    4. Stayin’ Alive, Bee Gees
    5. Kiss You All Over, Exile
    6. How Deep Is Your Love, Bee Gees
    7. Baby Come Back, Player
    8. (Love Is) Thicker Than Water, Andy Gibb
    9. Boogie Oogie Oogie, A Taste Of Honey
    10. Three Times A Lady, Commodores
    11. Grease, Frankie Valli
    12. I Go Crazy, Paul Davis
    13. You’re The One That I Want, John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John
    14. Emotion, Samantha Sang
    15. Lay Down Sally, Eric Clapton
    16. Miss You, Rolling Stones
    17. Just The Way You Are, Billy Joel
    18. With A Little Luck, Wings
    19. If I Can’t Have You, Yvonne Elliman
    20. Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah), Chic
    21. Feels So Good, Chuck Mangione
    22. Hot Child In The City, Nick Gilder
    23. Love Is Like Oxygen, Sweet
    24. It’s A Heartache, Bonnie Tyler
    25. We Are The Champions / We Will Rock You, Queen

    Posted by  on  09/30  at  06:44 PM
  24. I’m OK with “More Than a Woman,” which is simply dazzling in its shiny-surface production, and kind of catchy too.  But despite what Steve Elworth has to say, Denis Potvin really did suck.  He was not a very good player at all.  Sure, he proceeded to lead the Islanders to four straight Stanley Cups while winning three Norris trophies, but everyone gets lucky once in a while.

    Posted by Michael  on  09/30  at  06:48 PM
  25. Speaking of Georgio Moroder, as Gavin did a bit back, there’s Sparks’ album No. 1 in Heaven. Russell Mael’s voice was just made for that kind of stuff, and you have to love that Ron Mael flipped the letters on his keyboard so it was a “Ronald” and not a “Roland.”

    Oh, is there a guiltier disco pleasure than Vickie Sue Robinson’s “Turn the Beat Around”?

    Posted by George  on  09/30  at  06:52 PM
  26. But ... but ... but ... the real connection between baseball and disco was the following year.  Disco Demolition Night, the terrorist incident at Wrigley Field and all that.

    Posted by Sherman Dorn  on  09/30  at  07:06 PM
  27. Solid, Sherman—I was hoping someone would pick up on that critical baseball-and-disco connection.  The terrorist incident happened a bit further south, though, at Comiskey.

    And the White Sox really sucked that year, too.

    Posted by Michael  on  09/30  at  07:16 PM
  28. The Village People, while campy, do not suck.  Beyond their eduring but endlessly repeated classics “YMCA,” “Macho Man” and “In the Navy” is the gloriously unsucky “Go West” and the gay rights anthems “Village People” and “Liberation.”

    Posted by  on  09/30  at  07:27 PM
  29. From spyder’s list, I nominate Boogie Oogie Oogie as a disco song that doesn’t suck, and in fact has a great bass line. 

    Other songs that came to mind are a few songs that are most recognizable (to me at least, being but a young’un during the disco era) as Will Smith samples - I think a song called Forget Me Not was the sample for the theme song from Men In Black (which is kind of funny, actually), and The Greatest Dancer, by Sister Sledge, was the main sample in Getting Jiggy With It.

    Posted by  on  09/30  at  07:31 PM
  30. Meco’s Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk.

    The “Music Inspired By Star Wars” came out in single form which Did Not Suck, but the “LP” had the extended version (which also Did Not Suck) on one side and three songs on the other side. “Other”, “Galactic”, and “Funk” of which maybe there was some Funk there, but really I don’t remember any offhand. Though that was a terribly long time ago and I was quite young.

    Love,

    Hanna

    Posted by Hanna  on  09/30  at  07:51 PM
  31. Yes, Potvin sucked… as a human being (he beat his wife, as I recall); but a bad player?
    E,W&F will never get old; they’re that good.  MJ’s “Don’t Stop...” was my favorite dance tune (sucky human being, great player, too?) The fact is that Disco was DANCE music and it succeeded in getting a lot of people out on the floor to shake it any which way they could.  Unfortunately, there’s not a lot out there now that get’s me up and moving.  I miss it…

    Posted by  on  09/30  at  08:58 PM
  32. Don’t know nothin’ about disco, but as a 14 year-old in boston in ‘78, that playoff game sent me off on my life of cynicism. Not even last year cured me of it.

    Posted by Bob Davis  on  09/30  at  09:30 PM
  33. Scary how each of those Top 25 songs from 1978 is still firmly lodged in my brain. There’s something about the music from when one is c. 13 years old that does that.

    Posted by  on  09/30  at  09:31 PM
  34. Well, I’d nominate “Brick House,” but really, it’s funk.  But Hot Chocolate’s “You Sexy Thing” doesn’t suck; it’s fun.  Donna Summer is a real mixed bag, but “On the Radio” is good (and so is “I Feel Love,” but can we really count it as disco when we’re all hearing Bronski Beat?).  And Rose Royce, “At the Car Wash,” Diana Ross’s “I’m Coming Out,” and for sure the O’Jay’s “Love Train.”

    Posted by bitchphd  on  09/30  at  09:39 PM
  35. though this hustlin’ blog is kind of agnostic about Heatwave’s “Boogie Nights.”

    [frantically scrambling for bookmarks so I can delete this hideous monstrosity of a blog from my list]

    No no no Michael. Repent! Embrace Boogie Nights! Seriously, not only is it a great disco song, it’s a great song period.  Nice jazzy intro, great bassline (the mark of all good disco), interesting structure that’s not rote verse-chorus stuff, great lead vocal and a nice melodic synth solo.  Written by Rod Temperton, who wrote some of the stuff on Thriller and the great MJ song Rock with You.

    I’m convinced that Stayin’ Alive is one of the greatest singles ever released.  See also: Dancing Queen.  Astonishing arrangements on both.

    I was responsible for hiring the DJ for my 10 year class reunion in 1988.  I was given one proviso: under no circumstances was the DJ, who was expected to play a lot of disco, to play Ring My Bell. First question I asked the DJ? “Do you have Ring My Bell?” “Yeah”. “You’re hired”. 

    Spyder, If I Can’t Have You most definitely doesn’t suck.

    Posted by  on  09/30  at  10:11 PM
  36. I do see Michael’s point about Potvin sucking,if the Islanders winning four straight Stanley Cups and still sucking so could Hall of Famer Potvin.  The Rangers won one Stanley Cup in 1994 and no one would dare say that they sucked.  When Slats named Trots as the Rangers coach several years ago, you knew that a coach from that sucking team could not coach the Rangers.  The Devils do not and never have sucked because they are irrelevant what other team had the Stanley Cup procession in a parking lot. 
    About Celebration, as a non sucking disco tune, didn’t michael tell us that it is mandatory to play at all weddings and I would add Bar Mitzvahs. 
    The transformation of Kool and the Gang from a Muslim funk band with no lead singer to the band that made the sappy ballad hits like Cherish is worthy of major discussion.

    Posted by  on  09/30  at  11:20 PM
  37. Great disco?  One answer: ABBA.  Always ABBA.  Practically anything by them qualifies, at least in my humble yet flawless book.

    Sure, they get a lot of flack, but they really did make some of the best music ever.  The dance favorites are basically pure joy distilled into sound waves.  Not just “Dancing Queen” (picking that song as the number one ABBA choice is kind of like picking “Free Falling” as one’s favorite Tom Petty song-- sure it’s good, but it’s so obvious that I question whether or not the person has even heard another song by the artist), but also even greater songs like “Voulez-Vous” or “Knowing Me, Knowing You” or, obviously, “Waterloo.” And some of the ballads have the power to almost make me weep.  I can only speculate about ABBA being a precursor and influence of Alanis Morrissette, but someone needs to write an article on “The Winner Takes It All” as a melodically less angry but lyrically just as potent version of “You Oughta Know.” And dammit if that Mamma Mia! musical isn’t just the most amazing thing since buttered sliced bread.  For someone born in 1980 who missed any chance of ever seeing and appreciating ABBA live, it’s a great 2 hours spent with like-minded, raucous aisle-dancers.

    Sorry for the rant, but I love me some ABBA.

    Posted by  on  09/30  at  11:42 PM
  38. but also even greater songs like “Voulez-Vous” or “Knowing Me, Knowing You”

    Playground memories.

    Going pee, going poo,
    (Uh-huh),
    There is nothing you can do!
    Going pee, going poo; it’s the best we can do.

    ...And ‘Waterloo’ didn’t help with that, let me tell you.

    Posted by Gavin M.  on  10/01  at  12:09 AM
  39. 2 things:
    iTunes music store has a cool lil thing, billboard charts from 1945 to present.
    You can look at what was popular, and listen to a 30 second snippet. Lookin at those late 70 years (my college years) reminds me of how sucky popular music was.Andy Gibb, glen campbell, Rod Stwewart etc.

    Second, was Boston the group big at that time in the Boston (the city ) environs?

    Posted by  on  10/01  at  12:19 AM
  40. A few years ago I bought a great CD, Super Rare Disco Vol. 1. (Alas, Vol. 2 does not share that distinction.) “Dreaming A Dream,” by Crown Heights Affair, is a breezy, but thumping, instrumental, and “Makes You Blind,” by The Glitter Band is mostly instrumental and even more thumping, but not at all breezy. (They also were Gary Glitter’s backing band, hence the name.) Eddie Kendricks’s “Date With The Rain” also stands out.

    But it’s worth the price of admission to get “Girls,” by Moments & Whatnots, a somewhat sleazy Philly Soul knockoff sung by a group of men who obviously were wearing matching burgundy suits and, lyrically, it runs the gamut from ridiculous to the sublime, and sometimes within in the same couplet. Highly recommended.

    And Roxy Music’s “Love Is The Drug” qualifies for our discussion, too, does it not?

    Posted by TravisG  on  10/01  at  12:19 AM
  41. And Roxy Music’s “Love Is The Drug” qualifies for our discussion, too, does it not?

    I think so, but it opens the door to a number of things that aren’t purist-disco. Another outlier would be Gang of Four’s “To Hell With Poverty.”

    Posted by Gavin M.  on  10/01  at  12:33 AM
  42. except that no one in their right mind would ever acknowledge that Gang of Four (at least Entertainment/Solid Gold era Gang of Four) suck in any way shape or form.  I don’t think anyone’s mentioned the Weather Girls’ “It’s Raining Men,” which is, not having had to live through (or at least ne conscious during) its time on the pop charts, kind of great.

    Posted by zach  on  10/01  at  01:07 AM
  43. Let’s also not forget that the “Disco Sucks” campaign was at many levels a “Gay and Black and Latino People Suck” campaign. 

    Soul Jazz Records out of London has done a good deal of the important archival work of redeeming disco.  Check out their reggae disco comp, as well as the spectacular *Nicky Siano’s Gallery* comp.  Ze Records has also resurfaced to challenged the historical record on disco (and its relationship to NYC No Wave). 

    Check out Soul Jazz’s ESG reissue, along with the recent ESG reunion album.  ESG is the dirty secret of British punk: all black girl NYC dance/funk/disco/punk band from which The Clash, Gang of Four, A Certain Ratio, 23 Skidoo and others grabbed the flava with which they rescued their tiresome guitar-rock-cum-punk. 

    Check out the Essential Black Dance Music of the Disco Era comp.  The line between funk and disco is exactly the line drawn by (JB not withstanding) the dance music white guys liked and the dance music white guys didn’t like.

    Finally, let me add that it’s not just “underground” disco that is great.  The four-disc Casablanca Records collection is amazing.  Donna Summer’s (with Moroder) extended version of “Love to Love You Baby” is one of the greatest songs of the 70s. 

    Without disco, punk would have just up ‘n’ died, with no hope of becoming “post-punk.” Without disco, there wouldn’t have been no House or Acid, which essentially means no interesting electronic music outside of Germany.

    Posted by  on  10/01  at  01:56 AM
  44. Check out Soul Jazz’s ESG reissue, along with the recent ESG reunion album.  ESG is the dirty secret of British punk: all black girl NYC dance/funk/disco/punk band from which The Clash, Gang of Four, A Certain Ratio, 23 Skidoo and others grabbed the flava with which they rescued their tiresome guitar-rock-cum-punk.

    Nah, that’s not right. ESG’s Martin Hannett stuff was influential in the UK, but...you know, I’ll give you A Certain Ratio, but it’s really Rema Rema and Colourbox and a small set of bands like that, rather than the Clash and Gang of Four. I just don’t see the influence there.

    Plus, you have to factor in Liquid Liquid and the rest of the NY minimalist funk scene, circa ‘81—which was influencing black artists in the US.  ESG just wasn’t that big a dealback then.

    Posted by Gavin M.  on  10/01  at  02:26 AM
  45. The Clash did shows with ESG when they were in the US and admitted that their attempts to blend punk with black musics were heavily indebted to what they learned from ESG. 

    Sure, ESG wasn’t a one-off.  Liquid Liquid—and Konk—were two of many punk/dance (post-punk) units emerging from the NYC cauldron.  But I think ESG—as a minimal dance band with a certain smooth sexiness—had a different and large influence compared to the more manic funk of LL and Konk.  I think they solved a certain formal issue that was influential in the UK, whether directly or “trickle-down.” Liquid Liquid seem to pop up more these days in bands like !!!.  Their brilliant, hysterical jerky funk seems to me to be a different creature that ESG’s kraut-meets-soul electric slide.

    But Gavin and I are really nit-picking.  Bottom line: nearly all the good music in the US and UK after 1980 is disco-inflected.

    Posted by  on  10/01  at  08:23 AM
  46. Donna Summer’s Last Dance emphatically does not suck. Especially after a few beers, performed standing on a chair with a hairbrush for a mic. Or am I revealing too much of myself here?

    Posted by  on  10/01  at  11:02 AM
  47. I wouldn’t necessarily call ESG, Liquid Liquid or A Certain Ratio “disco,” unless you’re using it as a generic descriptor of dance music. Those three bands, as well as Gang of Four, are too spare and jagged to truly be considered disco. Disco, at least in my understanding, is more sumptuous and full-sounding.

    I would, however, classify the Italian electro-disco found on Morgan Geist’s Unclassics mix as disco, as pertains to our purview. I’m not sure if it all comes from the 74-79 time period, but it’s definitely got a heavy Moroder influence. Speaking of, his disco-fied version of “Knights In White Satin” (sic) treads a dangersouly thin margin between awful and awesome.

    Posted by TravisG  on  10/01  at  12:22 PM
  48. There’s disco (which I don’t like, but then I don’t actually like any of the varieties of rock and roll), but then there’s “Disco Sucks,” the slogan, which was very clearly a thin cover for racism and homophobia. If mere musical cheesiness were enough to bring out crowds to burn records, the smoke of John Denver would have caused spectacular sunsets around the globe; the specific hostility oto disco wasn’t musical, it was hostility to Black people and gay men.

    Posted by  on  10/01  at  02:26 PM
  49. the specific hostility to disco wasn’t musical, it was hostility to Black people and gay men.

    I was pretty young in ‘78, but my synthetic take on the issue, based on memory and further inquiry, is that the record industry went completely bozo for disco that year, driving mainstream rock to the margins and (shortly afterward) engineering a crash in record sales, since the audience was never there for disco in the quantities they expected.

    Empirically, it was like rock was swept off the playlists for faboo, rich-people, coke-sniffing Studio 54 music (which is in fact how the record execs went so mad for it)—and I remember experiencing it as a class issue, not a racio-sexual one. 

    Again, I was pretty young in ‘78, but the way you mocked disco back then, in the schoolyards, was by dancy-dancing and going, “Oooh. Look at me. I’m so cool. Look at my...chest hair.” I honestly don’t think anyone noticed the gay or black thing as much.

    No, on second recall, disco was mocked for being ‘gay’—but that was a different word than ‘gay’ meaning ‘homosexual.’ It’s a homophone, if you will.

    Posted by Gavin M.  on  10/01  at  02:55 PM
  50. I was fortunate enough to see a whole lot of Zappa shows from the 60’s into the 90’s.  My experience with disco came through his innumerable parodies and other musical and verbal references to it in his shows. 

    Ben made a comment above regarding a phenomena that i wish would be more fully researched and studied.  I too have observed(and experienced) that pubescent link to rock that seems to remain inherent in one’s consciousness most of the rest of their lives.  Two aspects i wonder about now are: the effect that visual references(MTV & VH1 music videos) have on that experiential link, and the diminishment of radio as a main source of teen and pre-teen music experience.

    Posted by  on  10/01  at  05:10 PM
  51. Okay folks, I lost the will to live when someone mentioned Nils Lofgren in a discussiona about disco.

    Blah, I still maintain that you are wrong about D’ya think I’m Sexy. It doesn’t ever get played to make people get up and dance, which is the function of non sucky disco music. It’s okay as a kitsch object, but that’s not what we’re ona bout here.

    By the way, Luther Blissett, are you the real Luther Blissett, a philosophical italian football fanatic or another kind of Luther Blissett? Unless you are the real Luther, then I admire your choice of nom de plume. If you are the real Luther, then I admire your nom. However, describing Love To Love You - the 18 minute version - as a ‘song’ is stretching it a bit. It’s a hi hat, a bass guitar and series of orgasmic moans. Doesn’t diminish it’s sheer minimalist genius though. Btw, you are spot on about the black/white thing. Disco is, in essence, speeded up funk with the blackness taken out - which explains why French, Sedish and German people made some pretty great disco music. Disco took dance music out of its American black cultural context and gave it to the world. 

    Of course Liquid Liquid didn’t suck. Not only can you not fail to shake a leg to ‘Cavern’ but it was one of the four or five most influential recordings of all time. But was it disco?
    I feel love also appears on that influential list for me. It took the Kraftwerk thing out of the realms of the experimental and gave it a popular application. You could argue that I feel love invented house music.

    Tomluv. At last someone who seems to understand Abba. Their music was visionary, their lyrics were better and more complex than a million literary singer songwriters and you could dance to them and sing along too. I always maintain that the first 8 bars of Gimme Gimme Gimme set the template for pretty much all Goth music.

    Spyder, I reccommend you cut out the theorising. Get hold of some of the records that people have mentioned (NOT Zappa, Tom Petty or Nils Lofgren), dress up in your best clothes, play the records loud in a big shiny room full of smiling, intoxicated people and let yourself go. We may cure you of your pubescent link to rawk and finally set you free of those rawk reissue box sets. Disco is about joy, intoxication and sex. It’s about the beat. As Gary’s Gang put it, Keep on Dancin’

    Posted by  on  10/01  at  08:27 PM
  52. Just a little quibble way up thread.  blah makes a common white mistake up thread:

    “Barry White (yeah he was disco), Never Never Gonna Give You Up...”

    This song was done by a white boy (Rick Astley), not by someone with the name White (who of course is not white).

    Posted by  on  10/01  at  10:09 PM
  53. Oh yeah, and what Tomluv and saltydog said about ABBA (why is it so hard to say that, even anonymously?—I think it’s that SNL skit so many years ago...)

    Posted by  on  10/01  at  10:45 PM
  54. triozyg:  Rick Astley, the white kid with the deep voice, did “Never Gonna Give You Up.” Barry White, the black man with the deep voice, really did sing “Never Never Gonna Give You Up.” Not the way I feel aboutcha, girl I just can’t live withoutcha. . . .

    Still, Barry White is soul, not disco.  Look in my file cabinet if you don’t believe me.

    Luther, rootlesscosmo, and everyone—yes, there’s no question that “Disco Sucks” was in part a cover for racism and homophobia.  It was also a protest against a certain kind of heterosexual hypermasculinity symbolized by the open shirts, chest hair, medallions, and necklaces attached to coke spoons.  But I really did want to focus on 1978, and Gavin M. is right:  that was the year that the Robert Stigwood Organization appeared to be on the verge of world domination, and the rest of the record industry went bonkers.  In other words, defending Sylvester and Tavares and Gloria Gaynor and the Trammps is one thing—a righteous thing.  Defending Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees in Sgt. Pepper is quite another.  Let’s be as specific as we can, for as Donna Summer once said, “always historicize, beep beep.”

    By the way, mainstream rock sucked as hard in 1978 as it ever did.  Toto.  Kansas.  Auntie Em.  Boston.  Hey, Boston really did suck after all!

    Jim:  “Boogie Nights” has a fine groove and a great closing section, every bit as layered as anything Earth Wind and Fire ever did, and that’s serious praise.  I never liked that jazzy intro, though.  Hence the agnosticism.  And while we’re on the subject, have you noticed that the film Boogie Nights does not in fact include “Boogie Nights” on the soundtrack?  Likewise with the Who retrospective, The Kids are Alright, in which “The Kids Are Alright” does not appear (or “Boogie Nights”!).  Just saying.

    Dr. B.:  “On the Radio” is terrific.  But the lyrics are incredibly strange (not that anyone dances to the lyrics).  Check out that first verse again.  And as for “Brick House,” let me point out that thirty years ago, it appeared only on the R&B charts.  Today it throws every kind of party into a booty-shaking frenzy, from undergraduate cover-band festivals to forty-something grown folks’ parties.  One of the more telling signs of cultural progress in parlous times. 

    Posted by Michael  on  10/01  at  11:56 PM
  55. Mainstream rock may have sucked in 1978, but Bruce Springsteen, the greatest live rocker of them all, did his greatest tour that year. Darkness on the Edge of Town wasn’t too shabby an album, either.

    Posted by Steven Rubio  on  10/02  at  01:26 AM
  56. Saltydog, I’m under the impression that there’s no “real” Luther Blissett (except for the original Caribbean footballer for Italy).  I’m just one of the LBs out there, keeping the world safe for disco one blog at a time. 

    I’m not sure, though, I’d support an equation in which disco = black dance music - funk.  A great number of black folk were involved in disco and its immediate roots and routes, from Philly Soul to Acid.  I might get behind a rhythmic definition of disco, but Michael, as a drummer, could probably get this down better than I.  The main difference between James Brown, say, and George Clinton is the complex syncopation of JB versus the “on-the-one” steadiness of disco.  But even that’s not right.

    So what is disco?  What connects Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You Baby” to the Bee Gee’s “Tragedy”?  Musical form?  Or audience and sites of reception and modes of dissemination?  Do we need Bourdieu?  Am I gonna hafta get Bourdieu on the dancefloor?

    Someone’s gonna say “family resemblence,” I just know it.  If we look at an interesting crossover moment—David Bowie’s *Young Americans* album of 1976—it all gets screwed up.  He had already “gone disco” with “1984” on the *Diamond Dogs LP, but then he goes Philly Soul in 1976.  But some listeners then and now don’t make that distinction—they all just say, “Bowie sold out.”

    So what I think is at stake here is “rockism,” or the mode of biased thinking in which all music must work like rock music: the band writes the songs, plays the instruments, and everything’s “authentic.” (Nevermind that one of the few instances of Springsteen having influence on another band is Thin Lizzy, an Irish rock band with a black singer/bassist/writer singing about “Dino’s Bar and Grill.) Disco, Philly Soul, dance music: just doesn’t conform to the rockist cookie-cutter.

    Posted by  on  10/02  at  08:04 AM
  57. Interestingly, Michael started this under the presupposition that “Disco sucks,” but that we would cull out the few but interesting examples of Disco that Did Not Suck.  The comments now appear to have slowly included all disco (and a great deal of other music from the 1970s) under the category of “Does Not Suck,” and indeed, has progressed to the assertion that to even say “disco sucks” is to speak from the place of homophobia and racism.  Congratulations are no doubt due to this unusually rapid arrival at the standard irony and humor-free cognitive paralysis of identity politics, but I think that we might want to distinguish between “vague feeling of recognition and nostalgia” and “actually not sucking” (as Adorno points out, one of the first things that the culture industry does is make “recognition” the same as “liking,” so that listeners mistake recognizing an endlessly repeated song on the radio for actually enjoying it).  Sure, I appreciate the way that hearing the Bee Gees invokes my nostalgia for the 1970s in a predictably postmodern ironic way, but that is not to be confused with any kind of actual positive value to their music, which is pretty bland and uninteresting, I think.

    Also, Boston sucked?  The second album isn’t great (and neither are the last two songs on the first), but that first album does have the unimaginably perfect realization of the arena rock guitar sound, and a good deal of energy--and may I request that, instead of the now overly-familiar “More Than a Feeling,” you re-listen to the start of “Hitch A Ride.” Although I imagine that it doesn’t have as much to offer a drummer as it does a guitarist, it does not suck.

    Posted by  on  10/02  at  12:53 PM
  58. "the assertion
    that to even say “disco sucks” is to speak from the place of homophobia
    and racism.  Congratulations are no doubt due to this unusually rapid
    arrival at the standard irony and humor-free cognitive paralysis of identity
    politics”

    No, what I asserted was that when “Disco Sucks” was a slogan and a country mini-hit, its clear intent was to disparage Black and gay disco fans. Radio stations organized bonfires for disco records. I was alive at the time, I knew what “Disco Sucks” meant, and so did everyone else.

    And I think it’s curious that acknowledging the persistence of racism and homophobia should be said to induce “cognitive paralysis.” Of course Katrina is only a dim memory by now, but I for one find it cognitively invigorating, rather than the reverse, to try to understand the politics of my society.

    Ah, but then there’s good old irony, the clever teenager’s favorite mode of playing intellectual dress-up. I suppose I must yield to Mr. Rushing on that point.

    Posted by  on  10/02  at  03:27 PM
  59. I just wanted to add that rockism sucks.

    Posted by Michael  on  10/02  at  03:46 PM
  60. thanks salty dawg, but even you know you can’t teach a really old dog new tricks--look at Charile Watts.  I do continue to greatly enjoy George Clinton/P-Funk in all of their manifestations though… and i totally agree that mainstream rock in 1978 sucked for the most part.. with a few generous exceptions, but mainstream rock (or rock-pop) has pretty much always sucked

    you didn’t set me free soon enough though, as i just the other day slurged heavily in a couple of large box sets of stuff from just one band’s vault that i could pass on to my youngest son(13) including material from the early sixties on through 1989.  damn

    was Stigwood the progenitor of Jive--who seemed for a while in the late 90’s to control nearly all of pop???

    Posted by  on  10/02  at  03:48 PM
  61. Is that what ‘disco sucks’ meant? I never saw it that way. I never saw it that way, because from my (at the time) very young perspective, disco was about this bland, gag-inducing stuff produced by painfully tasteless and untalented white people that somehow managed to wind up at the top of the charts thus causing relentless overexposure. All while wearing really ugly clothes. It might be anti-gay, if gay people qualified under the description above.

    The black people I knew (including my step-grandfather and his relatives of assorted ages) did NOT listen to the Bee Gees.

    Gloria Gaynor fucking ROCKS, dude.

    ash
    [’PBBBBBBBTHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.’]

    Posted by  on  10/02  at  03:55 PM
  62. Michael, triozyg makes a common ‘doesn’t know his music history’ mistake. Rick Astley - white boy from the village of Newton le Willows in Cheshire (Americans! it’s about 8 miles outside of Liverpool)DID do a song called Never Gonna Give You Up in 1988/9. But I’m letting him off his lask of Barry knowledge beause of what he said about ABBA. I also agree with you that Rockism sucks - couldn’t we widen that to ‘isms suck’?
    By the way, wasn’t the medallion man hypermasculinity a gay thing anyway, in the same way as the hypermasculine Bruce Weber kind of imagery of buff six-packed swimmers defines mens’ physical self image these days?

    Luther, I’m glad you cleared up the name thing for me - thanks. I guess I am also a Luther too, there are more of us about than they realise.

    I agree that my disco definition was a bit sloppy. Strictly I always followed what the musicians said. Funk is on the ‘one’(JB), Disco is on the ‘two’(Nile Rogers), reggae is on the ‘three’(Marley). But I also think that disco is to do with speed. Funk is often 100 bpm or less, Disco 120 bpm or more. By that definition Barry White is a kind of funk musician, although also a branch of soul, except when he casts his shadow across disco. I also think that Disco is generally mainstream and definitely part of POP. Even ‘avant garde’ disco artists - such as the Pop Group - realised this. I think this is why so many of the rockists dismiss it. They just don’t get that music can have depth and quality, even when the topic is love and dancing. Often rockists make the mistake of thinking that angst is what makes music ‘deep’ and worthwhile. Even rock’s version of celebration music is often about how hard it is on the road and how my woman was as hot as a Harley yet she done me wrong. Note how Robert behaves exactly to the rockist anti-pop template by bigging up Boston yet denying their pop hit as an aberration. The early, obscure stuff is always the best. They were better before they went commercial, that kind of attitude.

    I am not sure that disco sucks was specifically a homophobic and racist thing. It seems that there is a swathe of America that hates Metropolitan life and attitudes with all its nasty ghettoes, bath houses, barrios and general godlessness, and that was the source of the distrust and hatred. It’s interesting that Disco was an urban poor folks music that was adopted by the jet set and the excessively rich. Even today the ‘club’ is the meeting place of choice for the debutantes and nouveau riche of the world. Yet, as portrayed in SNF it was all about the common people pretending to be rich on Saturday Night and celebrating in order to forget ("and dance and drink and screw because there’s nothing else to do"). Perhaps you should invite Bourdieu after all (he WAS one of the great disco producers - the French Moroder I would say)

    Robert, with all due respect: since when did a discussion have to follow a linear structure?
    Also, I’m sorry, but your second sentence is 49 words long and your third is 78. 78! Jospeh M Williams would be cross at you. And so am I. How dare you assert that the Bee Gees music is any more bland than, say an Yngwe Malmstein guitar wank album, or a woe-is-me rock opus? This is another sign of the unreconstructed rockist - the belief that the guitar is the only instrument. And, I am also a bit cross that you patronise drummers. What makes guitarists so musically superior?

    I’m afraid you seem also trapped in the tyranny of having to intellectualise things before deciding they deserve your stamp of quality. How can you dismiss the sheer simple joy and ecstasy of cutting a rug to Night Fever, a slooow dance to How Deep is Your Love? or even the defiant pride invoked by identifying with the sentiment of Islands in the Stream as not having positive value? At least you give a name check to Adorno, the love god of Italian Disco music and the uber producer behind
    Patrick Juvet’s ‘I Love America’

    There seems little hope left for you. We will have to prescribe radical treatment. Throw away your MOR albums and listen to Love Can’t Turn Around by Farley Jackmaster Funk instead.

    By the way Spyder, I completely accept the old dog, new tricks defence and am a little relieved that you took my comments in the spirit they were intended. Now where did I put that quadruple album Dead bootleg from the Fillmore in 1970?

    Posted by  on  10/02  at  05:47 PM
  63. The Clash did shows with ESG when they were in the US and admitted that their attempts to blend punk with black musics were heavily indebted to what they learned from ESG.

    I think the ‘81 Bond’s Casino shows were with the Bush Tetras and Kraut… I was 12 that year, but already engaged with the punk scene in NY in terms of what turned up on the radio and in the middle-mainstream press; and Kraut were from a town over from me in Queens… It was, as someone else recently said, ‘seared on my memory.’ Although parcel with that is that it might have been Tet and not Christmas, etc.

    I really, really don’t remember ESG being a part of that whole thing. They were a 99 Records band, if that means anything these days.

    Posted by Gavin M.  on  10/02  at  07:36 PM
  64. Shake your habitus.

    Posted by  on  10/02  at  07:39 PM
  65. "Note how Robert behaves exactly to the rockist anti-pop template by bigging up Boston yet denying their pop hit as an aberration. The early, obscure stuff is always the best. They were better before they went commercial, that kind of attitude… This is another sign of the unreconstructed rockist - the belief that the guitar is the only instrument. And, I am also a bit cross that you patronise drummers. What makes guitarists so musically superior?”

    Their pop “hit”?  Singular?  Only the last two songs on the album were NOT pop hits.  This was the biggest selling debut album in rock until the mid 1980s, as I recall (I have the sad suspicion that Quiet Riot might have broken that record).  There WAS no Boston before they went commercial.  I said “More Than a Feeling” was overly-familiar, not that it was bad.  And how do I patronize drummers?  All I said that Boston had more to offer guitarists than drummers--I recall my drummer friends making fun of the rather predictable fills in those songs, but guitarists were wowed by the tone and some of the playing.  There are lots of bands with mediocre drummers and great guitarists, as well as the reverse.  Drummers are great--all other musicians are frustrated drummers.

    Evidently I am a rockist.  Now I know.  I’d write more about cognitive paralysis, but I’ve got a 3 year old who wants to play light sabers, speaking of 1978.

    Posted by  on  10/02  at  08:11 PM
  66. I don’t pretend to know what was going on in the rest of the country, but here in Chicago (home of Steve Dahl and his Disco Demolition at Comiskey) “Disco Sucks” was more anti-slick, anti-pretty, and anti-rich than it was anti-gay or anti-black. Disco was seen as dressing in expensive clothes and using expensive drugs--definitely a class thing but not a race thing. Chicagoans are not subtle: you know when they’re being anti-black, as the backlash to Harold Washington showed a few years later.

    The worst thing about disco--apart from the music itself, which was execrable--was that too many old people liked it. Discos were full of middle-aged people, and any music that appealed to people your parents’ age had to suck.

    Posted by Dr. Drang  on  10/02  at  10:28 PM
  67. "Turn the Beat Around"--can hear it on my transistor still.

    Nothing by Tavares sucked. 

    Average White Band, “Cut the Cake.” Best three-chord song ever.

    B.T. Express:  “Here comes . . . the Express.”

    Disco was surprisingly unsucky.  Boston, though?  Very bad.  Very, very bad.

    Posted by Sean McCann  on  10/02  at  10:34 PM
  68. eecks!  what a naked display of ignorance I displayed above, can I be president now?

    Posted by  on  10/02  at  11:01 PM
  69. saltydog,

    Did Nile Rodgers really say disco was on the 2?  Apart from anti-metropolitanism and an investment in faux sincerity, I think one reason some people hated disco is that some of it seemed to be on all 4 at once--which if you weren’t on a dance floor with chemical stimulation could drive you absolutely mad.  New Wave is my memory of pop heavy, heavy on the 2.

    Posted by Sean McCann  on  10/03  at  06:31 AM
  70. Chris, (let the howling begin) I had respect for you!! Now you gotta proclaim your love for “I Will Survive”??!!  I mean, it’s one thing for women to like it, it speaks to them.  It’s a song that guys just put up with at weddings.  I hope your trip to the desert clears your mind a bit (and good luck finding some good new boots!) wink

    Anyway, some disco was damn fine.  But I get a kick out of the Bee Gees singing in falsetto “You can tell by the way I use my walk, I’m a woman’s man—no time for talk!” Really, to me that line is just bust-a-gut funny, especially picturing them walking around in extra tight pants and that blow-dried hair!  But I’m laughing with it as much as at it - it’s a good tune.  But what really impresses me is Mick Jagger.  Who else could sing, also in falsetto, “Ain’t I tough enough, (ooh ba-baaay)” and pull it off!

    Anyway, a couple off the top of my head, “Brick House” and “You Dropped a Bomb On Me.” And I’m a huge O’Jays fan, but that’s not disco (Ship Ahoy era).

    Posted by  on  10/03  at  05:05 PM
  71. Michael, I think you’ve reached the Point of No Return.  Now you’re just Dust in the Wind.

    [GROOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAN]
    sorry.  that was ‘77 anyway.

    Posted by  on  10/03  at  05:23 PM
  72. "All I said that Boston had more to offer guitarists than drummers--I recall my drummer friends making fun of the rather predictable fills in those songs, but guitarists were wowed by the tone and some of the playing.”

    Which is not surprising, because most of the album was recorded with guitarist Tom Scholz playing all the instruments himself.

    Posted by  on  10/03  at  05:50 PM
  73. Lady Marmalade, by Labelle.  Recorded in New Orleans, produced by Alain Toussaint.

    Posted by  on  10/03  at  06:29 PM
  74. Robert, thanks for corecting me. By ‘Pop Hit’ I did really mean the one track that you hear over and over and over. So my definition was a bit unclear. And instead of accusing you of denying More than a feeling, I probably meant disavowing. BUt I would guess that even the 700 squillion Americans who bought Boston albums don’t actually listen to them all the way through anymore.

    By the way, I am from England and Boston and all those other MOR rock bands who are all seemed to be named after American cities or states - Kansas, Chicago, Toto, Styx et al meant little to us because we had punk. I view them as a kind of lumpenrock. I may be comnpletely wrong, basing my assumptions on charts and mainstream radio, but we seem to have a much more eclectic and uncategorised approach to music in our little country. Our mainstream radio, although increasingly bland in the commercial sector doesn’t tend to seperate everything into categories. I guess this is where my blatant anti-rockism comes from. The other day I heard Franz Ferdinand followed by The Corrs followed by Jane’s Addiction followed by The Sugababes on a BBC music station.  All music can be good in itself AND in a postmodern ironic kitsch nostalgic way. Disco is often kitsch, but also often sheerly brilliant. Have you listened to Farlay Jackmaster Funk? Did you tap your foot or smile?

    Sean, yes. Nile did explain disco in such terms (i’m not sure I could quote you the exact words). Specifically I remember seeing Clyde Stubblefield - the funky drummer, Chuck Brown and JB discussing the rhythms of funk on some TV show. Marley I remember on a TV show called Music Box, which was a BBC Schools education show about music in about 1982. Then I remember seeing Nile (in his Muppet style dreadlocks period) sitting on a circular bed with his guitar explaining to someone about the basic rhythms of disco. How the kick drum was regular and the hi hat on the ‘two’, the off or the upbeat. This must have been mid nineties, after Bernard Edwards died because in the same interview slot he talked about Edwards.

    Anyway, enough of all that crap. I’ve been trying to think of the best ever disco record and have whittled it down to two: Thinking of you by Sister Sledge and Stay This Way by the Brand New Heavies.

    Posted by  on  10/03  at  07:26 PM
  75. Thanks, Saltydog.  That sounds like a good description of good disco.  But I can think of lots of bad disco (YMCA, rhythmically speaking only) that I think was just four on the floor with straight sixteenth notes on the high hat.  I had a friend once who used to drum every year on a float in NY’s Gay Pride parade who said by the end his right leg was ready to fall off.

    Anyway, I’ll bet you’d love a new book on funk about to come out from Wesleyan University press in its Culture and Music series.  The author, whose name I’m forgetting, does a brilliant job of explaining all the ways--rhthym, timbre, melody, orchestration--JB and Parliament respectively set up the tensions in their distinctive grooves.  By the time you’ve read just a little of it, you have a renewed appreciation of just how complex “the one” could be and of the supreme artistry of those two acts.

    Posted by Sean McCann  on  10/03  at  09:22 PM
  76. p.s. I should’ve added that if I remember right, one of the points of that book is how often funk grooves work via alternating measure-long or two measure-long patterns, the second of which often stresses upbeats.  The result being that you have an aesthetically compelling alteration of heavy (on the one) and light halves (two) of the pattern.

    Posted by Sean McCann  on  10/03  at  09:28 PM
  77. I’ve never understood “I Will Survive” as a wedding song.  Why not just play Tammy Wynette’s “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” and get it over with?

    Posted by  on  10/03  at  10:15 PM
  78. The Bee Gees came in at #482 this morning (Tuesday) on WXPN’s (Philadelphia 88.5 FM, Harrisburg ??) countdown of the all-time greatest 885 albums. That’s pretty solidly in the middle, which means they made a lot of top-ten picks in the list of the voters.  Haven’t seen much else in the genre, though.

    So how is this exercise in populist canonization playing in central PA?

    Posted by  on  10/04  at  09:49 AM
  79. ’Let’s also not forget that the “Disco Sucks” campaign was at many levels a “Gay and Black and Latino People Suck” campaign.  ‘

    And at many, many more levels, it was not.  There are vast mountains of racism.  You don’t need to hold up a picture of mount Fuji and say, “See, more racism here!”

    People who do not like to dance, are not likely to prefer dance music.  When a dance music genre takes over the resources of the entire music industry, it provokes a backlash.  Racists and homophobes are likely to present any backlash in terms that betray their hatreds, but it does not mean that they speak for everyone who feels the same way about the phenomenon that created the backlash. 

    The fast, insipid beat of disco music, the beat that dancers love to let take over, the monotony designed to induce the trance that disco fans love, is like fingernails on the blackboard to me.  There is a lot of music that I can just ignore if I don’t like it.  Disco will not be ignored.  Like a masonry drill, it bores a hole through my skull, not by spinning or cutting but just by repeated high frequency pulsation.

    Posted by  on  10/04  at  04:29 PM
  80. Njorl, you have a valid point. However, I would suggest that when a disinterest or a dislike turns into a movement, with bumper sticker slogans, burning rituals and everything, then we are probably looking at underlying motives.

    There are plenty of things that people don’t like, and I understand your dislike of disco - it’s not for everyone - but your solution is just not to buy disco records or listen to disco radio. This is what happens with almost every cultural fad from tech stocks through to flares.

    If you, or anyone else, agree with some of the sentiment i.e. you just don’t like disco music, it doesn’t automatically make you a racist or a homophobe, but joining the movement means that you are in danger of, even tacitly or unintentionally, supporting the more extreme fringes of it.

    Posted by  on  10/04  at  07:53 PM
  81. "but your solution is just not to buy disco records or listen to disco radio. “

    Had not hearing disco music been a possibility, it would not have provoked such a reaction.  It was simply not possible when I was in high school to not hear disco music.  Active measures were needed just to reduce the amount one heard.

    Posted by  on  10/05  at  09:13 AM
  82. Yeah, I see what you’re saying. I was kind of talking theoretically about not buying into fads that we don’t like. It’s like ‘reality TV nowadays. Even though I try to be very selective whenever I turn on the TV, I can’t escape it. AAAAAAAAAAGH! It takes over the rest of the media and you just want to encase your head in concrete in order to escape its creeping cultural pervasiveness.

    You conjour up a great image: of a high school boy being stalked on all sides by evil disco music and trying deperately to escape it. Such a tale would make an excellent quirky Sundance style indie movie called Escape from Disco, I think.

    I also think that for many, the anti gay anti black/hispanic thing is a historical judgement. I guess in high school in 1979 or whenever, it wasn’t necessarily a widely held cultural truism.

    Posted by  on  10/05  at  07:22 PM
  83. Can I just say:

    * Disco did suck

    * Music criticism in the comments on this here blog rapidly descends into “name an obscure band then vociferously defend it from claims that if t’were any good I would have heard of it.”

    *some of the commenters here appearing to be simply panting for the opportunity to take a joke and smother under a pillow of identity politics

    * following, many posters are in fact humourless

    * and finally, many Americans do seem to lack a playful sense of irony, leaning more to the Bethlehem Steel end.

    Michael is wasted on you lot.

    Posted by  on  10/08  at  11:04 PM
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    Posted by Jeremiah  on  12/22  at  12:26 AM

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