It can be said with some absolute truth that a cultural mania is near death when it is present in all aspects everyday life. True, all decades had (and have) their trademark crazes and styles, but every generation or so, something comes along that turns society…upside-down…possessed bacteria plagued with trendlust.
Disco music is no exception. Thankfully, we as observers have this sort of fad barometer; we can only hope for these manias to die peacefully in their sleep like loud sweaters or old dogs. If this analogy has any merit, what started as pure murder–a crime of passion–ended in euthanasia. Prior to this almost swift mercy killing, feeling disco-esque had become a stylistic default due to its seemingly mandatory wholesale super-imposition upon all pop music. Deeply song-driven genres like folk and country are generally exceptions for varying reasons.
Blondie. Highly original punk/new wave with definite disco leanings. Kiss. Already huge New York glam-rock gone awry with I Was Made For Lovin’ You. Pink Floyd. English psychedelic/noisy avant-rock innovators into “Another Brick 2″? Jazz? Smooth jazz being the eventual offspring (and black sheep) of this unfortunate mating. Maynard Ferguson springs to mind. The Star Trek theme as a disco samba? Meco’s Star Wars Theme and Other Galactic Funk? Classical? Night On Disco Mountain? Fifth Of Beethoven? What about The Village People? The sheer existence of a project like that is evidence enough of a terminal fad. The fact that America accepted, no, embraced The Village People is proof of the utter stranglehold disco had on us. Dance Fever? A primetime gameshow based on quasi-competitive disco dancing? Is that possible? Rick Dees and his Disco Duck project? Boss Hogg learning to disco-dance on The Dukes Of Hazzard? I’ll let you guess on your own what Saturday Night Fever sung by Kid’s Repetory sounded like (I have it on vinyl). Lionel Hampton recorded a Saturday Night Fever album for fuck’s sake! What is the common denominator?
Not all of these artists were creatively coerced by tawdry producers hired by record companies to gussy up their music in disco wares. It was very hip music then and fun to embrace the disco feeling after 10 years of war, social inequality, poverty, basic Soylent Green-esque turmoil, and all the other socio-economic speed-bumps (try potholes, dead-ends, and ghettoes) of the post-Vietnam America. Disco symbolized/embodied: 1. Something futuristic. We’ve got food processors, Walkmans, and test-tube babies now. 2. New sexual paradigms. Not just free straight love. Freaky costumed donkey love. 3. New music. Not more extensions of FM rock. Elvis is dead. Let’s dance. 4. New drugs. Cocaine + champagne = more dancing and less inhibitions. (Resulting in number 2 hopefully) Maybe disco was just the embodiment of one great, big, social sigh of relief. But for every generation there is an equal and opposite generation. Remember the Disco Demolition at Comiskey Park in Chicago? That was premeditated culture assassination, then being taken out back and shot like a lame duck.
Note from 2010: This could have been better with some fine tuning. I don’t like re-writing stuff from the past so here it will stay, frozen, as is. All part of this latest push for content wrangling and consolidation.