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The Night That Disco Died: Open Discussion

Monday marks the anniversary of the official Death of Disco. It is my belief that this should be a national holiday, complete with parades, a line of greeting cards and a giant outdoor heavy metal/punk rock music festival. I thank DJ Steve Dahl for his Disco Demolition night. It was certainly the greatest thing to ever happen at Comiskey Park. Of course, there are those who think the Disco Sucks movement was nothing more than thinly vieled bigotry, but I beg to differ. It was just a backlash against sucky music and polyster suits. I'd really love to write more about this as I have so many disco memories of the era (including an especially good one involving Twisted Sister), but I have a full agenda today. So I'll leave this here as an open discussion for you all. And don't give me any of that "but you had to be there/Studio 54" crap. I lived the diso era, baby. I have the bad memories and nightmares to prove it. Did disco suck or did it not suck? And who wants to celebrate Disco Demolition Day with me on Monday? I'm buying the beer. You bring the punk albums. [I won't be back until much later, try to behave yourselves]


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference The Night That Disco Died: Open Discussion:

» On disco from Banana Oil!
Yes, Michelle, Disco really did suck. Did disco suck or did it not suck? And who wants to celebrate Disco Demolition Day with me on Monday? I'm buying the beer. You bring the punk albums. It did. It sucked, and sucks, hardcore. I won't bo... [Read More]

» Everybody's got a little light under the sun from Bookish Gardener
Today's the twenty-fifth anniversary of Disco Demolition Night (credit to A Small Victory for noting the anniversary, via Llama Butchers). I wasn't there, but a colleague at my campus job had been at Comiskey that night (Her take: "It was [Read More]

» Cultural semantics: an anniversary from protein wisdom
I don't mean to quibble, but disco didn't die so much as it got a little too coked up and drunk on gratis Moet, then stumbled off to a bathroom, where it accidentally banged six spindly polyester Lotharios at once... [Read More]


"Death of Disco"??????

Disco was born dead and died a million deaths afterward.

BTW, about that Executours asshole - Motown was almost exclusively black, but it didn't suck. And I am continually amused how people will decry racism with the term "trailer trash" and fail to see the irony.

During the seventies I was all Pink Floyd, Led Zep, Eagles; hated disco. But recently I bought the Bee Gees greatest hits; for some reason I like it. Its not just nostalgia, I'm learning the words and singing as I drive.

Most Disco music was awful in an unintentionally campy way, but certain individual songs are great. I'd take Disco over anything currently playing on Top 40 radio today, though.

Did a disco demolition gig as a DJ wherein we blew up disco records. All cool sound effects but in the early 80's they loved that schtick!

Crappiest musical genre ever. Some Rap comes close but I still have to give the edge to disco.

Disco doesnt suck, just some disco songs ("Disco Duck" anyone?) gave disco a bad rap (no pun intended).

Some days I really miss the dancing, the clubs and the coke parties of the era. (Nostrils flairing, jonesing.).

I can live the rest of my (un)natural life without listening to another Gloria Gainer song tho. Yes, I know you will freaking survive already biatch! Talk about the most overplayed song of all time... Sheesh.

Yeah, disco has never died. It just gets called something else from one generation to the next. Going to a club to dance is going to a club to dance... the essence remains the same essentially.

And vapid lyrics are vapid lyrics, whether coming from the Bee Gees, New Order, or Moby.

(And I love it all.)

They got the date wrong:
August 16, 1974: Ramones play first gig at CBGB.

1. I agree with the "thinly-veiled bigotry" critique of the Disco Sucks movement.

2. Even without getting into that, the music that the Disco Sucks people were championing was as bad or worse than Disco.

3. As someone said above, Disco, like all other popular music forms, died and came back a million times over, and still lives on today, arguably with more influence than the crappy mainstream rock that supposedly replaced it.

4. Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" is one of the greatest pieces of popular music, ever.

5. I'd greatly prefer disco not only to most of the mainstream pop today, but also the bland, dirge-like midtempo mainstream rock that's so popular now.

I gritted my teeth and tolerated disco through the 70s even though I hated it to the point where yes, I confess, I had a DISCO SUCKS t-shirt. I saw disco revivals over the years and tried to put up with them. I do wish that it was possible to express dislike for a particular style of music without being labeled a bigot, but people are so touchy!

I was a Deadhead too, and despite the fact that many people derided their music, I never thought people who hated the Dead were bigots. Liking or hating certain music is a human right!

I think what sucked was disco as a movement, not so much the music--the best of it, anyway. It was the whole Studio 54-Eurotrash-decadence-hairy-chested dorks with humungous medallions thing that turned people off. And I think that by 1979, disco had gotten so dominant on the radio that a backlash was inevitable. I always thought "Ring My Bell" was the last straw.

And while the summer of '79 was pretty miserable, the music was great. I'm not even talking solely about "My Sharona", which is generally credited with killing off disco, but Cheap Trick's Budokan album, Candy-O, and John Stewart's "Gold", possibly the only song ever enhanced by the presence of Stevie Nicks.

Eric, the "thinly veiled bigotry" is a load of nonsense. I detest disco. I detested it in the 70s and I detest it now, largely on artistic grounds, partly because of the party/drug/irresponsibility attitude it reeked of. It had nothing to do with race - many of the biggest names in disco were white (and the only two disco songs ever worth listening to were by black women).

I love Motown, jazz, blues, as do most people I know in my age group. Where is the bigotry (outside of that stupid "trailer trash" remark in the link)?

Disco never pretended to be anything but junk food...fun, had a good beat, one can dance to it, and no-calories whatsoever. I'll take Disco over the pretentious "art" of whatever gangsta rapper du jour is proving his street creds with how many times he can use the words "ho" and "f*ck" in 3 minutes.

Rock was the death of dancing. I love rock, but I was sorely disappointed that by the time I was allowed to date dancing was no longer a thing to do. My grand parents nightclubbed in the days of real nightclubs..dressing up, dining and doing wonderful moves infront of big bands. My grandfather taught me to foxtrot, etc. My mom and her brother can swing dance even to this day. IMO disco was a way to try and get back the elegance of couple dancing.

Swing tried a comeback in clubs over the past few years, now its Salsa. And one of my biggest surprises was being talked into going with some friends to a country-western place (Montanas in San Dimas, CA)... huge dance floor filled with couples dancing together! And a place where men were polite to the women. Wow.

The post and some of the comments give the impression that the Disco sucks movement was filled with people who were into punk. I'm not old enough to really remember, but my impression was that it was a movement of people who were into Foghat and Eddie Money and stupid crap like that. That's what I meant by saying that music proferred as a replacement was equally questionable.

The bigotry I was talking about was against homosexuals, not african-americans.

Crap - Disco died? You people need to let me know these things earlier.

Come on, NONE of you bought the Saturday Night Fever album? It was a necessary evil; it took the crappy pop of Leo Sayer and one hit wonders of the mid-70s off the chart, and made the path to 80s music possible.

Best quote that sums up the disco era:
"The soundtrack to the blockbuster Saturday Night Fever marks both the zenith and the nadir of disco", from super70s.com

What amazes me is at the time, the solo dance scenes of Travolta in SNF were considered to be the pinnacle of dance moves and now any dork who can't even hit a beat except by accident can copy the moves when making fun of the movie.

Disco was very much like rap is now...after a while, it all just sounded the same. No originality, no artistry, no sense of purpose beyond providing a beat that people could dance to, and a forum for empty, stupid lyrics. And even THAT was questionable, when you compare it to funk. Tell the truth, folks, who would you rather shake yer moneymaker to: Ohio Players, or Donna Summer? I rest my case.

As several people have already pointed out, there was no bigoted backlash against Motown. People understood on an instinctive level that those musicians, for the most part, were artists, and disco was like the opposite of art.

I don't know if disco necessarily emanated from black culture entirely, but even if it did, it's worth noting that not every product of black culture has to be lauded. If disco was really "black" music, then I'm thinking that the culture collectively made a big mistake.

See, they should have come to me first. I could have saved us all the agony of going through the disco phase, and we could have cut straight to New Wave.


With a few individual exceptions, disco sucked. Some of its detractors were bigoted, but most of them were simply familiar with Motown and thought disco suffered by comparison. The fashions were embarrassing even at the time. But, God, rock sucked almost as badly at the time, too. Yeah, you had your Cars and your Cheap Trick, but you also had a lot of sludge (punk had yet to break out of the underground when disco got huge).

Ken Summers almost has it right when he says that :"the 'thinly veiled bigotry' is a load of nonsense." I remember the time well. The most stridently anti-disco people I knew in college were not bigoted toward anyone, including homosexuals. These people just happened to hate disco artistically and usually prefered punk, which served as a kind of anti-disco. The people who were making the "thinly veiled bigotry" argument were all people who wanted to show everyone how they where more moral than the common herd. So I would slightly modify Ken's statement to read:

The "thinly veiled bigotry" argument is a load of self-congratulation.

Yeah, 'cause no Motown, Jazz, or Blues artists ever sang about or did drugs.

You forgot the giant paper mache puppets for your parade. It's not really a celebration without the giant puppets. I understand the ex-Dean campaign has a few not in use.

I hated disco, as any right-thinking skinny-tie wearing devotee of really important music did. The incessant high-hats, the echoey strings with those swooping glissandos, the sub-Moroder sythn burble beats, the desperate attempts by aging cock-rockers to clamber on the bandwagon ("Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" comes to mind) and all the rest of the mass-produced dreck that swamped the radio. But I loved "You Should Be Dancing." That, ladies and gentlemen, is a hook. That's a hook you could use to reel in an orca.

Liked Chic, too.

The incessant high-hats

Are you sure those were hats or hair?

I loathed disco at the time. As was mentioned earlier in the comments, 70's disco does seem pretty tolerable compared to today's top 40, which consistd in large part of Britney Spears types and 50 Cent types. However, a good case can also be made that disco BEGAN the trend toward wholly manufactured music that we see in full bloom in most mainstream circles today. So yeah, screw it, disco still sucks. ;-)

The post and some of the comments give the impression that the Disco sucks movement was filled with people who were into punk. I'm not old enough to really remember, but my impression was that it was a movement of people who were into Foghat and Eddie Money and stupid crap like that.

That was definitely true in my circles, where Van Halen ruled all and owning a Cars album was considered vaguely faggy. A Chicagoan can correct me if I'm wrong, but I think Steve Dahl worked at what would now be considered a "classic rock" station. I don't think punk took much notice of disco; its primary target was always Spinal Tap-esque mid-70s arena rock.

I think I was the only student in my entire grade school to be such a nerd as to not own a "Saturday Night Fever" T-Shirt (let alone a closet full of them).

One year when we all came back from Summer vacation, the motto among the students was "Disco sucks!"

I always thought it was strange. What happened to all the BeeGees motif schoolwear?! Any of them would have traded their kid brother for a Travolta autograph just a few scant months before.

School children are the perfect mob.

OMG. Lileks was a punker? Whoa, that's weird.

No, I wasn't a punker. I remember construction workers beating up hippies in the 60s strictly based on the way they looked, and I never understood that until punk came around. Gawd, I wanted to beat up the punkers.

When disco hit the airwaves I tuned into oldies, and never discovered some of the better "classic rock" until later. Yes, rock mostly sucked in the 70s. Pretty much everything sucked in the 70s. The difference, to me at least, was that with rock, partying, drinking, and drugs was what you did after work. With disco, it seemed like partying, drinking, and drugs was the point of life.

And maybe I'm wrong, but I never associated gays with disco. I always thought they had better taste than that.

I can easily understand why people who were around in the 70's hate disco because it would have seemed trendily omnipotent and irritating much like 90's dance culture felt to me.

But disco was a radical movement in its own way, Chic, Giorgio Moroder and the early 80's mutant disco that crossed over with punk were very good. I don't know, I always thought Grace Jones' post-punk covers were kinda clever, especially Warm Leatherette.

Saturday Night Fever was the height of Disco.
I always thought that the death of Disoc was when Blondie released a disco mix of Heart of Glass.
I could be wrong but I was bartending in a punk club at the time and on Monday's, when 54 was closed, they all started to come down to our place. Then they started coming down on other days. Pretty soon only tourists went to 54 but they still made good money till Steve and Ian got busted.

I almost went to Disco Demolition, but was later glad I didn't ... ;-)

I like all kinds of music, including much black music of the 60s and 70s, plus older blues/jazz/soul, but was never into disco at all. I find though that the music of the Bee Gees in particular has aged pretty well, and I actually like hearing an occasional tune. The rest of it you can have.

So, yeah, in general Disco Sucked.

I remember reading "The Lords of The Realm," John Helyar's excellent book about the history of labor relations in baseball, which mentioned Disco Demolition night. It was the idea of Mike Veeck, the son of legendary baseball promoter Bill Veeck (who was most notorious for sending midget Eddie Gaedel up to hit in a game in 1951). Bill Veeck had bought the White Sox a few years before, and was trying to run them on a shoestring budget in the early days of free agency. Mike sold him on the idea as a way to drum up a big crowd, and he succeeded. The riot was a nasty surprise, and Comiskey's security force was utterly inadequate to deal with it. Helyar wrote of the sad sight of Bill Veeck--by then an old man in poor health--begging in vain to get the crowd to go back to their seats. That was the beginning of the end for old Bill--he sold the White Sox not long afterwards and left the game for good. Quite a sad ending for a baseball legend.

since i was born in '70, all my memories of disco and arena rock are through the lens of a little kid. And my friends and i boogied out. But i have harbored a secret adoration for KC & the Sunshine band for a looooong time. Even through the mohawk years. yes. Get down tonight.

Disco was horrible, the absolute nadir of civilization, a bottoming out of the culture in very possible way. The big hair bands and some of the crappy dance music of the 80s were pretty bad ["White Lines"], but not as bad as disco.

And John Travolta looks like an idiot in Saturday Night Fever.

Civilization has only gone up since then.

Oh my gosh, pril, I completely forgot about KC and the Sunshine Band. Okay, everything I said about disco earlier still applies, but NOT to KC and the Sunshine Band. They were the exception to the rule.

I could dance to that funky stuff all night long...which is really saying something, because I can't dance.

I hated Disco!
When I was in HS, I was in a Punk Rock band & we hated glam rock too! Then a few years ago I discovered that Led Zeppelin was really pretty good. I started listening to old bands I wouldn't pay attention to in HS.
The worst music of the Seventies is better than anything on the radio these days. If you hear a really good hook on the radio, it was probably sampled from some record we threw into a bonfire 25 years ago.
Now I still say DISCO SUCKS, but I must confess that when I'm home alone I break out that KC & the Sunshine Band's Greatest Hits I keep hidden in the back & put on I'm Your Boogie Man" real loud...

The passage of time renders all malignancies benign. Disco was indeed wretched. Disco was to Funk as New Wave was to punk.

Try listening to the SNF soundtrack then listen to the Ramones first album.

Disco was great!!! I happen to have loved Disco and have the vinyl to prove it. To each his/her own. Personally, I hate heavy metal and punk rock! LOL

Disco became rap, or more specifically the break-dancing fad. Consider Supersonic by JJFad, Pump Up the Volume by Marrs, Jam On It by Neucleus. All this was disco inspired. We wanted it to die. We needed it to die, even if it was only to get rid of Danny Terrio, but due to the fact that we all still know who Danny Terrio is is proof it isn't dead. It may be the old annoying guy in the corner with the bad toupee and beer gut, but it's still alive. I was born in 70 also but I still have the interesting memory of being in a cart at Sears singing at the top of my lungs, "Shake your boobies, shake your boobies," and I remember the discussion my mother and I had about the correct lyrics. I still think KC wrote it my way! :)

Saw George Clinton interviewed on a TV show about the history of funk a long time ago. Disco was really a subgenre of funk, and GC put it pretty much spot-on: many disco songs could be funky when you took them one song at a time. Chic, for instance, had some incredible songs, like "Le Freak" or "Chic Cheer." Even the Stones' "Miss You" was a good song. So there was good stuff here ane there. But what went wrong was that as the craze took hold, it was done to death, and every song that came out had the same exact beat. As GC put it in that interview: "Ain't nothin' get on your nerves faster than the same exact beat every song ... it's like makin' love with one stroke; might as well fax it in."

And let me give a ditto to the previous comment about Gloria Gaynor ... I could go the rest of my life without hearing that goddamn song and it would be too soon -- even without a gaggle of drunk 20-30-something former sorority girls in the room ready to all squeal and sing along. That and "YMCA."

Best thing about Dahl's Disco Demolition was the news interview afterward with a participant who asserted that "This is the great social issue of our generation."

wait...late to the party as usual but...you mean there was a time when people actually liked disco? and didn't just make fun of it?

woah, that's weird.