Disco Sucks?

When I was a kid, I had a button.  I carried it everywhere I went.  It was neon green and said the simple words, “Disco Sucks?”  I remembered everyone asked me where I got this button and I proudly stated that it was my stepdads.  I remember all the teachers would giggle when they saw it.  In fact, almost every ‘adult’ did. Now, I was told growing up, all about this disco period that my parents lived through.  I watched Saturday Night Fever, like everyone my age did. I even understood that there were many people that hated this time and music style.  This is where the button came to play.  Apparently there was an entire anti-disco movement, created mostly by musicians and music lovers.  They felt that disco promoted drug usage, homosexual acts, and took away from the sound of rock and roll.  Critics, among many others, started a wave of anti-disco phrases-one being “Disco Sucks.”  They would create merchandise and market it to anyone willing to make a statement.

After reading Love Saves the Day by Tim Lawrence, I now understand and appreciate what disco did for music.  To begin, disco created the DJ.  Francis Grasso was not a musician, he wanted to be one.  He used contemporary rock and soul songs (anywhere from Beatles to James Brown) and would “mix” them together.  Grasso was an artist.  His ability to segue a certain beat of one song into a separate beat of another song was unique and well favored.  This is the beginning of the true form of DJ-ing-creating a bridge between unrelated sounds.  Lawrence goes into detail on what Grasso’s tactic was: his left ear would listen to the incoming music while the right ear hears the produced sound.  He was able to combine a rock and roll song and transform it into a rhythmic dance piece while keeping true to the original artist work.  He was also able to combine two records with each other, regardless of the conflicting tempos.  Grasso was an artist. Because of him, I now have a better understanding and appreciation for DJ’s. 

Grasso’s beats formed a sexual revolution. 

One thing to point out is that music of this time was not recorded.  Since technology wasn’t as advanced as it is today, you could only hear this mix if you were there.  Records did not have the capacity to hold 3 hours worth of music-this is how long some sets ran.  Also, since it was created in the moment, the music was put together in the club.  The noise of the club caused the sound not to be clearly recorded onto disks.  So, not only was disco a type of beat, it was a lifestyle.

Lawrence explains the scene of these discotheques.  They were underground havens that attracted mostly gay men and encouraged drug usage.  The music brought on the need to dance and the dance was better experienced when they were ‘high.’  In a way, this was a place where people coped with a society that wasn’t ready to accept them for who they were.  You could be open with you sexuality and no one would judge. 

So when stating “Disco Suck?” it really meant that I was questioning why this movement was so opposed.  If anything, disco is underrated.  It should be thanked because today’s pop music, rap beats, and trance/dance/techo sounds would not exist.

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