History Of Disco

Great Essays
Throughout its years of prevalence in the popular music industry, the disco genre has always polarised opinions. The subject of some quite literally explosive protests, many have hated disco for its supposed vapidity and homogeneity, and few have defended it. I will assert that the “disco sucks” movement was a populist declaration of difference and supposedly superior taste, musical purism built on racist, homophobic and hyper-masculine ideologies. My essay will be based on ideas from Richard Dyer’s In Defence of Disco (originally published in Gay Left magazine, 1979), as well as more recent writings analysing Dyer’s work. I will also use Pierre Bourdieu’s concepts of distinction and cultural capital found in Distinction, as well as Nicholas …show more content…
Early disco was characterised by soul-influenced beats, fast tempos, lush orchestral instrumentation and simplistic, repeating lyrics concerned with dancing, sex and love. Disco reached the height of its exposure after the release of the film Saturday Night Fever in 1977, during which time white disco artists like The Bee Gees also gained prevalence and Studio 54 opened. Though disco was commercially popular, these phenomena meant the genre had a near-equal number of protesters to its proponents. Saturday Night Fever, which focused on white, heterosexual dancers, provided an account of the disco scene that was largely inaccurate, and Studio 54 evolved a disco culture concerned with the decadent, materialistic lifestyle of the wealthy and beautiful. Disco was a highly publicised genre with an expensive, studio-manufactured style, leading most to believe it was a fundamentally capitalist genre. The significant backlash to disco from fans and professionals alike culminated in 1979, when AOR radio disk jockey Steve Dahl exploded a crate of thousands of disco records in front of hoards of baseball and rock fans before a White Sox game “igniting a drunken rampage that trashed the field” (Werner, 209). With a “thunderous chant of “Disco sucks!” this event initiated on a large scale an outcry against disco, which was ultimately nearly as …show more content…
The “Disco sucks” movement professed to detest disco for its capitalist overtones and manufactured sound, but this was only part of the reason. By the end of the 1970s disco was being used as a scapegoat for all of the United States’ supposed ills. Tim Lawrence suggests that white America was dissatisfied with the laws pandering to the needs of racial minorities, women and gays that were passed under the Carter administration, and therefore used disco as a scapegoat for the liberal immorality they believed America had fallen to (129). Due to the fact that disco’s success was largely proliferated by these minorities and was characterized and enhanced by sexualised dancing, a materialistic club lifestyle and drug use, the “new Right” saw the genre’s popularity as a threat. Disco was “displacing white straight men from the centre of American popular music culture” (Lawrence, 131).

Disco was significant through the way in which public opposition to it asserted identity through revealing the disco-defamer’s ‘strong moral conservative values’ and masculinity. Disco was one of the only ways gay culture was given mainstream attention in the 1970s, and the homophobic undertones of the “disco sucks” movement were clear. Quoting Walter Hughes, Lawrence outlined the

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