Saturday 8.00pm – 10.00pm
Many of us danced to the sound of ‘Disco’ in the 70’s, but how many of us realised
that it contained elements of funk, soul, pop, salsa and psychedelic music.
The term ‘Disco’ is derived from ‘discothèque’, which is French for
“library of phonograph records”.
The term ‘Disco’ was first used, as the name for a trendy nightclub, in Paris.
Its initial American audiences were club-goers from the African American,
Italian American, Latino, and psychedelic communities in New York City and Philadelphia ,
during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Disco also was a reaction against both the domination
of rock music and the stigma against dance music by the counterculture during this period.
Women embraced disco as well, and the music eventually expanded to several other popular
groups of the time.
In what is considered a forerunner to disco-style clubs, a New York City DJ, David Mancuso,
opened The Loft,
a members-only private dance club set in his own home, in February 1970.
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.
In 1977 Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager, opened the famous Studio 54 Disco Club,
at 254 West 54th Street in Manhatten, New York City.
It soon became the place to be seen at.
Frequent regulars at Studio 54 included Andy Warhol, Liza Minnelli, Bianca Jagger,
Elizabeth Taylor, Mick Jagger, Jerry Hall, Debbie Harry, Grace Jones, Michael Jackson,
Calvin Klein, Elton John, Tina Turner, Divine, Margaret Trudeau, Truman Capote,
Mikhail Baryshnikov, Diana Ross, Cher, Salvador Dali, John Travolta,
Jackie Kennedy Onassis, and Brooke Shields.
Performers at Studio 54 during its first few years of operation included Grace Jones,
Donna Summer, Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Gloria Gaynor, Sylvester,
Amii Stewart, Stephanie Mills,
The Ritchie Family, The Village People, Anita Ward, Two Tons o’ Fun, Jocelyn Brown,
France Joli, Cheryl Lynn, Jean Carne, Claudja Barry, Klaus Nomi and Linda Clifford.
The ‘Disco Sound’ itself often has soaring, reverberated vocals over a steady
an eighth note (quaver) or 16th 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.
The Fender Jazz Bass is often associated with disco bass lines, because the instrument
itself has a very prominent “voice” in the musical mix. In most disco tracks, 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 lead guitar is less frequently
used in disco than in rock. Many disco songs employ the use of electronic
instruments such as synthesizers.
Well-known late 1970s disco performers included ABBA, Giorgio Moroder,
Donna Summer, The Bee Gees, KC and the Sunshine Band, The Trammps,
Gloria Gaynor and Chic. Various critics would also claim that Kraftwerk,
who were an electronic band played a large part in pioneering disco as well as
the electronic sound that became a big element of disco.
While performers and singers garnered some public attention, producers working behind
the scenes played an equal, if not more important role in disco, since they often 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.
Disco was the last mass popular music movement that was driven by the baby boom generation.
Disco music was a worldwide phenomenon, but its popularity declined in the United States
in the late 1970s.
On July 12, 1979, an anti-disco protest in Chicago called “Disco Demolition Night”
had shown that an angry
backlash against disco and its culture had emerged in the United States.
In the subsequent months and years,
many musical acts associated with disco struggled to get airplay on the radio in the
US although they did
not experience such problems in other countries.
A few artists still managed to score disco hits in the early 1980s,
but the term “disco” became unfashionable in the new decade and was eventually
replaced by “dance music”, “dance pop”, and other identifiers.
Although the production techniques have changed,
many successful acts since the 1970s have retained the basic disco beat
and mentality, and dance clubs have remained popular.