Disco  

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"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


"Scorned 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.

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Disco is a genre of dance-oriented pop music that was popularized in dance clubs in the mid-1970s, and which dominated mainstream pop until the late 1970s. In the United States, the term disco, which is a shortened form of discothèque, refers to a specific style of pop music that was derived from funk and soul music, also dubbed proto-disco. In Europe the same term is used for American disco and "Euro Disco" productions, that had 50s and 60s beat music and yé-yé influences.

Major mid-1970s mainstream disco performers included Donna Summer, The Bee Gees, and ABBA. Many non-disco artists recorded disco songs at the height of its popularity. Films such as Saturday Night Fever contributed to disco's rise in mainstream popularity with artists such as the Rolling Stones (Hot Stuff, Miss You, Undercover of the Night) and Blondie ("Heart of Glass") making "disco" records. While disco music declined in popularity after the racist and homophobic "Disco Sucks" incident, it was an important influence on the development of the 1980s and 1990s electronic dance music genres of house and techno.

"Underground disco" was centered around the Gold Mind Records, Prelude Records, Salsoul and West End Records; DJs David Mancuso, Tee Scott, Larry Levan, Frankie Knuckles and Nicky Siano and clubs such as The Loft and the Paradise Garage.

Contents

Rise and fall

The 1972 African single "Soul Makossa" is considered the first disco record, this was before the term was popularized by Vince Aletti in a piece called "Discotheque Rock '72: Paaaaarty!" Rolling Stone on September 13 1973. In 1974, disco is an underground phenomenon, in 1977 everyone dances to disco along with John Travolta, on July 12 1979, disco sucked. "Funkytown" is the last disco song to hit #1 in the U.S..

History

1966 - 1974: Early history

proto-disco

The disco sound, style and ethos has its roots in the late 1960s. New York City blacks, gays, heterosexuals, women and Hispanics adopted several traits from the hippies and psychedelia. They included overwhelming sound, free-form dancing, "trippy" lighting, colorful costumes, and hallucinogens. Psychedelic soul groups like the Chambers Brothers and especially Sly and The Family Stone influenced proto-disco acts such as Isaac Hayes, Willie Hutch and the Philadelphia Sound. In addition the positivity, lack of irony and earnestness of the hippies informed proto-disco music like M.F.S.B.'s "Love Is the Message".

Philly and New York soul were evolutions of the Motown sound. The Philly Sound is typified by lavish percussion and lush strings, which became a prominent part of mid-1970s disco songs. Early songs with disco elements include "You Keep Me Hangin' On" (The Supremes, 1966), "Only the Strong Survive" (Jerry Butler, 1968), "Message to Love" (The Jimi Hendrix Experience, 1969), "Soul Makossa" (Manu Dibango, 1972) and "The Love I Lost" (Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, 1973).

The early disco sound was largely an urban American phenomenon with producers and labels such as SalSoul Records (Ken, Joe and Stanley Cayre), Westend Records (Mel Cheren), Casablanca (Neil Bogart), and Prelude (Marvin Schlachter) to name a few. They inspired and influenced such prolific European dance-track producers as Giorgio Moroder and Jean-Marc Cerrone. Moroder was the Italian producer, keyboardist, and composer who produced many songs of the singer Donna Summer. These included the 1975 hit "Love to Love You Baby", a 17-minute-long song with "shimmering sound and sensual attitude". Allmusic.com calls Moroder "one of the principal architects of the disco sound".

The disco sound was also shaped by Tom Moulton who wanted to extend the enjoyment of the music — thus single-handedly creating the "Remix" which has influenced many other latter genres such as techno, and pop. DJs and remixers would often remix (i.e., re-edit) existing songs using reel-to-reel tape machines. Their remixed versions would add in percussion breaks, new sections, and new sounds. Other influential DJs and remixers who helped to establish what became known as the "disco sound" included David Mancuso, Nicky Siano, Shep Pettibone, the legendary and much-sought-after Larry Levan, Walter Gibbons, and later, New York–born Chicago "Godfather of House" Frankie Knuckles.

Disco was also shaped by nightclub DJs such as Francis Grasso, who used multiple record players to seamlessly mix tracks from genres such as soul, funk and pop music at discothèques, and was the forerunner to later styles such as house. Women also played important roles at the turntable. Karen Cook, the first female disco DJ in the United States, spun the vinyl hits from 1974–1977 at 'Elan, Houston, TX, and also programmed music for clubs throughout the US that were owned by McFaddin Ventures.

1974 - 1978: Chart-topping songs

From 1974 through 1978, Disco music continued to increase in popularity as many disco songs topped the charts. The Hues Corporation's 1974 "Rock The Boat", a U.S. #1 single and million-seller, was one of the early disco songs to hit #1. Other chart-topping songs included "Walking in Rhythm" by The Blackbyrds, "Rock Your Baby" by George McCrae and "Love's Theme" by Barry White's Love Unlimited Orchestra. Also in 1974, Gloria Gaynor released the first side-long disco mix vinyl album, which included a remake of The Jackson 5's "Never Can Say Goodbye" and two other songs, "Honey Bee" and "Reach Out (I'll Be There)". Also significant during this early disco period was Miami's KC and the Sunshine Band. Formed by Harry Wayne Casey ("KC") and Richard Finch, KC and the Sunshine Band had a string of disco-definitive top-five hits between 1975 and 1977, including "Get Down Tonight", "That's the Way (I Like It)", "(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty", "I'm Your Boogie Man" and "Keep It Comin' Love".

The Bee Gees used Barry Gibb's falsetto to garner hits such as "You Should Be Dancing", "Stayin' Alive", "Night Fever" and "More Than A Woman". In 1975, hits such as Van McCoy's "The Hustle" and Donna Summer's "Love to Love You Baby" and "Could It Be Magic" brought disco further into the mainstream. Other notable early disco hits include The Jacksons’s "Dancing Machine" (1974), Barry White’s "You're the First, the Last, My Everything" (1974), LaBelle’s "Lady Marmalade" (1975) and Silver Convention’s "Fly Robin Fly" (1975). Chic's "Le Freak" (1978) became a classic and is heard almost everywhere disco is mentioned; other hits by Chic include the often-sampled "Good Times" (1979) and "Everybody Dance" (1978). Michael Jackson also scored his first chart-topping solo hit in the disco genre with "Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough" (1979).

Diana Ross was one of the first Motown artists to embrace the disco sound with her hugely successful 1976 outing "Love Hangover" from her self-entitled album. Ross would continue to score disco hits for the rest of the Disco era, including the 1980 dance classics "Upside Down" and "I'm Coming Out", (the latter immediately becoming a favorite in the gay community). Ironically enough, the group Ross led to superstardom during the 1960s, The Supremes, scored a handful of hits in the disco clubs themselves, most notably 1976's "I'm Gonna Let My Heart Do The Walking" and, their last charted single before disbanding, 1977's 'You're My Driving Wheel". Also noteworthy are Cheryl Lynn's "Got to Be Real" (1978), Evelyn "Champagne" King's "Shame", (also 1978), Sister Sledge's "We Are Family" (1979), Geraldine Hunt's "Can't Fake The Feeling" and Walter Murphy's various attempts to bring classical music to the mainstream, most notably his hit "A Fifth of Beethoven" (1976).

The rich orchestral accompaniment that became identified with the disco era conjured up the memories of the big band era which brought out several artists that recorded and disco-ized some Big Band Music including Perry Como, who re-recorded his 1929 and 1939 hit, Temptation, in 1975 as well as some unlikely Country artists such as Bill Anderson (Double S) and Ronnie Milsap (High Heel Sneakers). Even the I Love Lucy theme wasn't spared from being disco-ized.

Prominent European pop and disco groups were Luv' from the Netherlands and Boney M, a group of four West Indian singers and dancers masterminded by West German record producer Frank Farian. Boney M charted worldwide hits with such songs as "Daddy Cool", "Ma Baker" and "Rivers of Babylon". In France, Claude Francois who re-invented himself as the king of French disco, released "La plus belle chose du monde" a French version of the Bee Gees hit record, "Massachusetts" which became a big hit in Canada and Europe and "Alexandrie Alexandra" was posthumously released on the day of his burial which became a worldwide hit; "Dalida released "J'attendrai", which became a big hit in Canada and Japan, and Cerrone's early hit songs - "Love In C Minor", "Give Me Love" and "Supernature" - became major hits in the U.S. and Europe.

As one of the first movies to be scored with disco music before Saturday Night Fever, the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me garnered great popularity from composer Marvin Hamlisch's score, especially the disco-flavored Bond 77 opening track.

1978–1980: Pop pre-eminence

In 1977 the film Saturday Night Fever was released. The film was marketed specifically to broaden disco's popularity beyond its primarily gay and black audience. It was a huge success, helping to make disco a worldwide phenomenon. In December 1977, it became the best-selling soundtrack of all time. Disco's popularity led many non-disco artists to record disco songs at the height of its popularity.

Many of these songs were not "pure" disco, but were instead rock or pop songs with (sometimes inescapable) disco influence or overtones. Notable examples include Blondie's ""Heart of Glass" (1978), The Rolling Stones' "Miss You" (1978), Barry Manilow’s "Copacabana" (1978), David Bowie "John I'm Only Dancing (Again)" (1975), Rod Stewart's "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?" (1979), Electric Light Orchestra’s "Shine a Little Love" and "Last Train to London" (1979), George Benson's "Give Me the Night" (1980), Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" (1980), Paul McCartney & Wings' "Goodnight Tonight" (1979), and Kiss' "I Was Made For Lovin' You" (1979).

Disco hit the television airwaves with Soul Train in 1971 hosted by Don Cornelius, then Marty Angelo's Disco Step-by-Step Television Show in 1975, Steve Marcus' Disco Magic/Disco 77, Eddie Rivera's Soap Factory and Merv Griffin's, Dance Fever, hosted by Deney Terrio, who is credited with teaching actor John Travolta to dance for his upcoming role in the hit movie Saturday Night Fever.

Several parodies of the disco style were created, most notably "Disco Duck" and "Dancin' Fool". Rick Dees, at the time a radio DJ in Memphis, Tennessee, recorded "Disco Duck"; Frank Zappa parodied the lifestyles of disco dancers in "Dancin' Fool" on his 1979 Sheik Yerbouti album.

Critique

Disco demolition night

'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

CD compilations discography

Etymology

1964, Amer.Eng. shortening of discotheque; sense extended 1975 to the kind of music played there. --Online Etymology Dictionary [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 (Tonight Is Party Time)

North-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 - Arthur Russell - Salsoul Orchestra - Gino Soccio - Donna Summer - Pam Todd - Christine Wiltshire - Village People - Earl Young

European recording artists

Giorgio Moroder

Production and development

The "disco sound" was much more costly to produce than many of the other popular music genres from the 1970s. Unlike the simpler, four-piece band sound of the funk, soul of the late 1960s, or the small jazz organ trios, disco music often included a large pop band, with several chordal instruments (guitar, keyboards, synthesizer), several drum or percussion instruments (drumkit, Latin percussion, electronic drums), a horn section, a string orchestra, and a variety of "classical" solo instruments (e.g., flute, piccolo, etc.).

Disco songs were arranged and composed by experienced arrangers and orchestrators, and producers added their creative touches to the overall sound. Recording complex arrangements with such a large number of instruments and sections required a team that included a conductor, copyists, record producers, and mixing engineers. Mixing engineers had an important role in the disco production process, because disco songs used as many as 64 tracks of vocals and instruments. Mixing engineers compiled these tracks into a fluid composition of verses, bridges, and refrains, complete with orchestral builds and breaks. Mixing engineers helped to develop the "disco sound" by creating a distinctive-sounding disco mix.

Early records were the "standard" 3 minute version until Tom Moulton, came up with a way to make songs longer, wanting to take a crowd to another level that was impossible with vinyl discs of the time (which could usually hold no more than 5 minutes of good-quality music). With the help of José Rodriguez, his remasterer, he pressed a single on a 10" disc instead of 7". They cut the next single on a 12" disc, the same format as a standard album. This method fast became the standard format for all DJs of the genre.

Because record sales were often dependent on floor play in clubs, DJs were also important to the development and popularization of disco music. Notable DJs include Rex Potts (Loft Lounge, Sarasota, FL), Jim Burgess, Walter Gibbons, John "Jellybean" Benitez, Richie Kaczar of Studio 54, Rick Gianatos, Francis Grasso of Sanctuary, Larry Levan, Ian Levine, Neil "Raz" Rasmussen & Mike Pace of L'amour Disco in Brooklyn, Preston Powell of Magique, Jennie Costa of Lemontrees, Tee Scott, John Luongo, Robert Ouimet of The Limelight, and David Mancuso.

The 12-inch single format also allowed longer dance time and format possibilities. In May, 1976, Salsoul Records released Walter Gibbons' remix of Double Exposure's "Ten Percent", the first commercially-available 12-inch single. Motown Records’ "Eye-Cue" label also marketed 12-inch singles; however, the play time remained the same length as the original 45s. In 1976, Scepter/Wand released the first 12-inch extended-version single, Jesse Green's "Nice and Slow." This single was packaged in a collectible picture sleeve, a relatively new concept at the time. Twelve-inch singles became commercially available after the first crossover, Tavares' "Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel."


DJs, producers and (re)mixers

Walter Gibbons - Francis Grasso - Norman Harris - Larry Levan - David Mancuso - Herb Powers - Tee Scott - Nicky Siano

Labels

Casablanca Records - Gold Mind Records - Philadelphia International Records - Prelude Records - Salsoul - West End Records

See also

dance music - disco sucks - discotheque - DJs - Euro disco - gay music - funk - groove - house music - italo disco - mix - New York music - Philly soul - soul music - twelve inch




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Disco" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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