Music

The Great Disco Conspiracy

The mirror-ball plots.

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I have an article in The New Inquiry today about disco, conspiracies—you know, stuff like that. Here's an excerpt:

Or hey, it could always be ZOG.
Hed Arzi

If you asked the grumblers to come up with a conspiracy theory to explain the music's rise, they might say its secret agenda was to stifle people's political consciousness, a version of Abbie Hoffman's complaint that disco was "Elegant. Ruling class…Music not exactly designed to promote community or kindle the passion for social change." They might denounce it as a scheme to undermine black radio, à la the critic Greg Tate's angry joke that disco could be called DisCOINTELPRO.

Most likely, they'd attack it as a plot against rock's gritty authenticity, a kind of mind control at work on the dance floor. Steve Dahl—the Chicago DJ behind the infamous Disco Demolition Night of 1979, when disco-hating rockers blew up a bunch of dance records in a baseball stadium—called disco a "disease" whose victims "walk around like zombies." In "Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night," a largely fabricated report in New York magazine that was the basis for the movie Saturday Night Fever, Nick Cohn described disco as an "automaton chugging" while "impassive" dancers went through the required motions. It wouldn't have taken too much work to turn that sort of rhetoric into a full-fledged Invasion of the Body Snatchers scenario.

Today, by contrast, we get Jamie Kastner's The Secret Disco Revolution, a documentary/mockumentary hybrid from 2012. In this telling, "beneath disco's carefully vapid veneer, its true aim [was] the mass liberation of gays, blacks, and women from the clutches of a conservative, rock-dominated world." The narrator informs us that "a revolution of this scale required revolutionary masterminds," though "we can only speculate as to their actual identity."

You can read the rest here.

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  1. explain the music’s rise

    I blame Boogie Fever, which created a Disco Inferno, leading to people to do The Hustle over to escape their Love Hangover in the hands of a Macho Man.

    You just wanna tell those people, “You SHould Be Dancing” when they gots the Saturday Night Fever. Maybe go cool off at the Car Wash with the Rubberband Man, or something.

    Le Freak – c’est Chic.

  2. “Fry, it’s been three days. You can’t keep boogie-ing like this. You’ll come down with a fever of some sort.”

  3. Gee, I think there’s a great video game conspiracy!

  4. 3 Gibbs down, 1 to go.

    1. no he’s touring with his nephews

  5. Since – I don’t know, maybe the 20’s? – there has always been two types of popular music:

    “Real music” and “dance music”.

    The people who like “real music” always have lots of reasons for doing so. And they always talk about how bad “dance music” is, and how unmusical.

    The people who like “dance music” ignore this, though, because they’re too busy getting laid to respond. They COULD maybe present an argument in favor of their music – but all that argument-composition time would detract from the time they have available to fuck, so they don’t.

    Seriously, “rock” vs. “disco” in the 70’s wasn’t about white vs. black, or rural vs. urban, or conservative vs. liberal. It was about people not getting laid vs. people getting laid.

    1. Are you saying that Ronnie van Zandt didn’t get his share of pussy?

      1. He’s saying that losers who listen to that southern rock crap get far less pussy than people who go to dance clubs.

        1. Don’t be too sure that I will give you three steps mister before you head out the door of the Copacabana.

        2. True, but its pussy that intentionally goes to dance clubs.

    2. I liked this argument better when Frank Zappa made it in the 70s

      Also, its mostly wrong. at least in assuming one kind of music is ‘real’ and another is not.

      1. I can’t hear you, I am listening to EDM turned up really loud with a bunch of college chicks on MDMA

    3. What of those who aren’t gay, so that the type of laid you get from dance music isn’t relevant to them?

      Good argument for homosexuals, though! Top shelf.

  6. Thanks to GTAV I stumbled in to Thundercat and that song “Oh Sheit, it’s X!”

    Youtube here-

    http://youtu.be/VgaoHgbKIBM

    So the question is, would you qualify this as disco? Or is it just straight funk?

    1. See my link below

      That’s a modern revisit of late 70s/early 80s disco/funk; albeit with a bass player with an Alphonso Johnson/Stanley Clarke bug up his ass.

      Disco/Funk was a definable genre in the mid-late 70s distinct from proper-Mecco-style pop-orchestral disco

      e.g.
      pop disco=
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yn4IT7SMk3U

      early disco-funk
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZcbDESaxhY

      1. a bass player with an Alphonso Johnson/Stanley Clarke bug up his ass

        Ok that was funny.

  7. Apparently Abbie Hoffman didn’t learn a thing about reappropriating art for social change when Pete Townsend clobbered him on the head with a guitar at Woodstock.

  8. Soooo…

    No quotes from The Last Days of Disco?

    Also:

    Is it possible that cocaine induces apolitical tenancies?

  9. Conspiracies you say?

    I suspect that dude with the beard in the background to be a time traveling hipster.

    Note the cell phone in his right hand.

  10. I’m a big fan of both the proto/early-phase disco, most notably pioneered by Hamilton Bohannon…

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FLCHN7gIT8Q

    … and late-phase funk/disco

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KhXMcoRfEY0

    There is really no reason to ever hate on Earth Wind & Fire, Kool & The Gang, Chic, Fatback, Gap Band, Brick, Zapp, etc. It has been the highlight of Bar Mitzvas and Weddings for 30+ years now. Someone did something right!

    1. Agreed.

      Don’t forget the likes of Barry Manilow (Copacabana), Frankie Vallie and the Four Seasons (Oh what a Night)(Swearin’ to God), Vicky Sue Robinson (Turn the Beat Around), Andre True Connection (More, More, More), Abba (Dancing Queen), Tavares (It only takes a Minute Girl), Hues Corporation (Rock the Boat), Yvonee Elliman (If I can’t have You) and how about

      Sir Paul McCartney? (Silly Love Songs)

      1. Sir Paul’s disco era would be much better represented by “Goodnight Tonight”.

        Or “Wonderful Christmastime”. McCartney gave us a whole bunch of stuff that’s just fun to sing along to, devoid of any great meaning. As opposed to John Lennon, who gave us garbage like “Happy Christams (War Is Over)”, but dammit, it’s got the “right” political views, at least in the minds of the critics.

        1. Okay, I agree with “Goodnight Tonight” and “Wonderful Christmas Time” being good representations.

          But, what about Silly Love Songs? One of the baddest, extended percussion riffs in all of pop / rock music history, imo.

  11. “If you asked the grumblers to come up with a conspiracy theory to explain the music’s rise,”
    The tunes were catchy and easy to dance to, what else is there to know?

  12. People have been projecting politics onto music since the first monkey liked the sound a femur made when whacked on skulls.

  13. So Lynyrnd Skynyrd’s plane crash and Elvis’s death were really assassinations by the Illuminated Disco-rdians or something?

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