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DISCO: It Never Really Died, Did It? Pt. 2
'70s Dance Craze Lives On In Many Different Forms
By John Bisci


 

Disco also entered your home as Marty Angelo debuted America's first disco television show, Disco Step-By-Step TM,  in January 1977.  Disco '77, Invitation To Dance (a spinoff/ripoff of Angelo's show) and Denny Terrio's Dance Fever soon followed as the networks hopped aboard the disco gravy train.

Then came that damned Saturday Night Fever movie.  The mainstream media discovered disco.  Everything was Fever this and Fever that.  White suits and silly dance floor poses abounded as grandma and the tragically un-hip shook their collective booties to shrill Bee Gees tunes.  It was in your face, on your radio and in your bar.  There was no escape.  And make no mistake: this disco trend was mighty exclusive.  You were either "in," or you were out.

As the '70s boogied to a close, record companies pumped out disco records by the ton.  Quantity replaced quality.  A lot of the music simply sucked.  Sales dropped and the recording industry pushed the panic button.  And then came the backlash.

A glorious decade of dancing and social interaction was reduced to two tragic clich's: polyester and Saturday Night Fever.  Disco music-which offered temporary escape from our low-paying jobs, high unemployment rates and energy crises-wasn't cool anymore.  Disco now sucked.  It became the "d-word." Disco was officially pronounced dead by the mainstream media.  A "disco is dead" fest at a ballpark sparked a riot.  Punk, New Wave and glitzy, overproduced Top 40 became the new flavors-of-the-month.  Nightclubbers, perhaps weary of a good seven or eight years of disco-style entertainment, sought alternative distractions.   Buildings which once housed discotheques became party bars, closed down or succumbed to early-morning fires of dubious origin.

But disco didn't die.  America didn't want to stop dancing.  Wounded, the entertainment form slipped back to its "underground" origins to heal.  Gay clubs imported Eurodisco records long after the American labels abandoned the genre.  As the "Me Decade" dawned, patrons were still able to dance to disco music-they just had to look a little harder to find it.  Disco was now referred to as "dance music."  Citing the alienation factor of the d-word, Disco Magazine changed its name to Dance Music Magazine.  The legendary Billboard Magazine Disco Conventions held in New York in the '70s gave way to the New Music Seminar.   Dance clubs played mixtures of rap, dance, hip-hop and New Music.  House music became prominent in the late '80s, followed by acid house and techno.  No matter how it was labeled, the music shared a common concept: humans dancing to a steady drumbeat.  Dance parties are now referred to as raves.

Just as big band and '50s greaser music experienced resurgences, disco music is enjoying newfound popularity.  Young adults shake their Dockers-covered backsides to sounds produced before many of them were born.  Peter Brown and Village People have completely new followings.  Disco records-now re-released on CDs-are the "oldies" of the new millennium.  The

Commodores' Lionel Richie is back in the studios while Donna Summer recently covered an Andrea Bocelli ballad backed by uptempo drumbeats.  Curiously, club owners and radio stations-still wary of the dreaded d-word-refuse to call it what it really is: disco music.  Instead, they advertise it as "old school" or "classics."

Disco never really died-it simply evolved.  We don't care what you call it -- just promise us you'll never, ever strike another one of those ridiculous Travolta poses on the dance floor again.

 

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