On this day 30 years ago in 1979, Disco Demolition Night heralded the last days of disco.
Disco started in small nightclubs in American urban centers in the early seventies with imported records such as “Soul Makossa.” During the 1970s disco steadily increased in popularity reaching a high point with Saturday Night Fever in 1977.
This was followed with a homophobic, racist backlash two years later when rock music fans started to consider disco culture — with its perceived drug-fuelled sexual promiscuity — silly and effeminate, and objected to the idea of centering music around an electronic drum beat and synthesizers instead of live performers.
Another (more masculine) subculture, punk music, arrived on the scene.
Parodies of disco music became common. The backlash was epitomized in Chicago by the riotous Disco Demolition Night.
Nile Rodgers, guitarist for the popular disco era group Chic said “It felt to us like Nazi book-burning, This is America, the home of jazz and rock and people were now afraid even to say the word ‘disco’.”
There was never a focused backlash against disco in Europe.
Now, for the first time on this blog: local news coverage of this Dionysian moment.
RIP Pina Bausch (1940 – 2009)
Le Sacre du printemps by Igor Stravinsky choreographed by Pina Bausch.
Philippine “Pina” Bausch (July 27, 1940 – June 30, 2009) was a German-born modern dance choreographer, best-known for her piece Café Müller (1978).
Modern dance is a dance form developed in the early 20th century with its golden age in the 1960s and 1970s. Although the term Modern dances has also been applied to a category of 20th century ballroom dances, Modern dance as a term usually refers to 20th century concert dance. Generally mentioned in this category are Loie Fuller, Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham.
Pina Bausch also had a small part in Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar‘s Talk to Her (2002), where she is a bailarina in Café Müller. Bausch also appeared in Federico Fellini‘s 1983 film And the Ship Sails On.
RIP Michael Jackson (1958 – 2009)
Thriller (1982) – Michael Jackson [Amazon.com]
I’ve mentioned Michael Jackson twice on this blog, once when I was amazed by his choice of footage in “They Don’t Care About Us“, and once when I did the obituary of James Brown when I mentioned that Brown’s “rapid-footed dancing inspired Mick Jagger and Michael Jackson”.
Jackson was the embodiment of things gone awry as the result of mediated fame in the 20th century, when he was catapulted from child prodigy to natural freak.
With more than 100 million albums sold, Thriller (1982) is the bestselling album of all time and is iconic in the history of 20th century popular music, where he is the natural heir to Elvis Presley. Beyond both dying from an abuse of prescription drugs, parallels beween Presley and Jackson are numerous (Graceland/Neverland). Lisa Marie Presley, for a short time married to Jackson in the nineties wrote at the time of Jackson’s death that he knew “exactly how his fate would be played out” and feared his death would echo that of Elvis Presley.
Jackson dies, long live Jackson.
Shinehead‘s reggae version of “Billie Jean.”
Here he is reincarnated in Shinehead‘s reggae version of “Billie Jean.”. But one of the earliest samples of “Billie Jean” was in 1983, when Italian studio project Clubhouse mixed Steely Dan‘s “Do It Again” (1981) with “Billie Jean” as the “Do It Again Medley with Billie Jean“ .
*Daryl Hall has claimed that Michael Jackson admitted to copying the bassline from “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)“ in his song “Billie Jean“.
PS. For those of you who miss the Jahsonic old style of haphazard blogging about anything he finds, please check Jahsonic’s microblog at Tumblr.
Dansen met de Dood
A friend lent me her copy of the book above, an excellent compendium of visuals of the perennial favourite dance of death theme. Dansen met de Dood is a Dutch language book on the iconography of dance of death by Johan De Soete, Harry Van Royen and Dirk Vanclooster. Dance of Death, also variously called Danse Macabre (French), Danza Macabra (Italian) or Totentanz (German), is a late-medieval allegory on the universality of death: no matter one’s station in life, the dance of death unites all. La Danse Macabre consists of the personified death leading a row of dancing figures from all walks of life to the grave—typically with an emperor, king, pope, monk, youngster, beautiful girl, all skeletal. They were produced to remind people of how fragile their lives were and how vain the glories of earthly life were. Its origins are postulated from illustrated sermon texts; the earliest artistic examples are in a cemetery (Cimetière des Innocents) in Paris from 1424.
The book was based on a 2008 exhibition in the Flemish city of Koksijde. It featured manuscripts of the Great Seminary in Bruges and the Catharijne convent in Utrecht, objects and graphic work by Wim Delvoye, Pierre Alechinsky, Paul Delvaux, Frans Masereel, James Ensor, Käthe Kollwitz, Félicien Rops and Hans Holbein.
The images below were new to me.
Island Records @50
Island Records celebrates its 50th in May. Props to Simon Reynolds for summarizing Island’s succes as managing “in its heyday to achieve that rare feat: combining commercial success with artistic integrity.”
In other words: not selling out.
Padlock EP, one of my most prized Island Records releases
Click the footnotes to hear all four tracks.
The Padlock EP is a compilation of 4 musical compositions written for Gwen Guthrie. The rhythm section to the studio project consisted of Sly and Robbie, keyboards were by Wally Badarou, and mixing and remixing was done by Larry Levan. The Padlock mini-LP was released in 1983 on the Garage Records label and included “Hopscotch“, “Seventh Heaven“, “Getting Hot“, “Peanut Butter“ and ends with the title track “Padlock”. The sleeve of the German Island pressing was designed by Tony Wright, the illustrator who was also responsible for the artwork to Lee Perry‘s Return of Super Ape album.
RIP Joe Cuba
I discovered Cuba’s work via the Nu Yorica and Nova Classics 01 compilations. Tracks from those compilations that have acquired cult status include “Do You Feel It?” (most likely his interpretation of the Latin traditional “El Ratón“), and “El Pito (I’ll Never Go Back to Georgia).”
“Do You Feel It?“
His biggest hit was the 1966 “Bang! Bang!,” which achieved unprecedented success for Latin music in the United States.
Joe Cuba (1931 – February 15, 2009), was a Puerto Rican musician who was considered to be the “Father of Latin Boogaloo“. The lyrics to Cuba’s music used Spanglish, a mixture of Spanish and English, becoming an important part of the Nuyorican Movement, somewhat the Latin version of the Harlem Renaissance.
RIP French singer Gérard Blanc
Can someone ID Gérard in this clip
Gérard Blanc (December 8, 1947 – January 24, 2009) was a French singer and guitarist, internationally best-known for his work with Martin Circus.
Martin Circus is a French rock group formed in 1969. They are best-known for their single “Disco Circus,” released in 1978 in France and licensed by in the US by Prelude Records label, which commissioned additional remixes by New York-based French expat François Kevorkian.
Disco Circus (1978) – Martin Circus
Released as an album and a twelve inch single on the New York Prelude record label, Disco Circus by French outfit Martin Circus which first came to my attention as a favourite of the Detroit techno artists such as Juan Atkins and Derrick May (who listed it as his top 5 record in the late eighties). It is an example of the cross-fertilization of the European and North American disco markets of the late 1970s. Other examples of which are Orlando Riva Sound‘s Moon Boots single which was released on the American imprint Salsoul records
See French disco.
Our musical correspondent Scott Carpenter asked me to make this.
You may have read Scott’s comments on this blog:
“I am an acolyte of jahsonic, mudd up!, Mutant Sounds and Analog Africa. … for the disco, cosmic, Balearic sounds you cannot go wrong with Another Night on Earth and alainfinkielkrautrock . –Scott Carpenter via “
Here we go.
If we assume disco started with “Soul Makossa” by Manu Dibango in 1972 we can make a top ten of disco tracks by moving chronologically from 1972 to 1981, and moving from proto-disco, to disco and touching the beginnings of post-disco.
Looking at this list after making it, I can’t fail to notice that I have not included enough of the gay thing in this list. Only “Free Man“and “There but for the Grace of God Go I” fit that bill.
Making top tens is difficult.
Do Ya Wanna Funk (1982) Sylvester [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
Gay icon Sylvester James would have turned 60 today if he had not died from AIDS 20 years ago.
“Over and Over,” released in 1977 on Fantasy Records is WMC#75.
From a set-theoretical point of view, the Venn diagram of “Over and Over“intersects via whatlinkshere with the following compilations:
- François Kevorkian‘s Choice: A Collection of Classics
- Dave Lee‘s Jumpin’ series
- Brian Chin‘s Club Classics & House Foundations series
- Norman Jay‘s Good Times series
–Sholem Stein, musicologist, dance music connoisseur and genre theorist
What S. Stein means in the above quote is that “Over and Over” is featured on the mentioned albums.
Sylvester was firmly planted in the American disco scene but was popular too in Europe at the time and the rest of the jet set world.
His best-known songs are the Hi-NRG classics “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)“ (a previous WMC) and “Do You Wanna Funk,” songs of simultaneously gay liberation in the United States and Saint-Tropez chic in Europe.
“Do You Wanna Funk“ is World Music Classic #76.
“Strange Overtones” is the first single by David Byrne and Brian Eno from their new album Everything That Happens Will Happen Today.
“This groove is out of fashion, these beats are twenty years old,” state the lyrics and yes indeed, it has been 20 years since the beat has been self-consciously celebrated during late 20th century electronic dance music revolution brought on by Japanese music machines such as the Roland 808.
But the beats (some of them by Robert Wyatt) in this track are actually very intricate and danceable too.
Most of the drumming and programming reminds me of “Riot in Lagos“, from B2-Unit, Ryuichi Sakamoto second solo album.