|Stylistic origins||Funk • Philadelphia sound • soul • Latin • pop rock|
|Cultural origins||Late 1960s – early 1970s; United States|
|Derivative forms||Afro-funky • Hi-NRG • house • post-disco • hip hop • new wave • garage • nu-disco • rave • synthpop • freestyle, techno|
|Italo disco • Euro disco • Space disco • Disco polo • Nu-disco|
|Disco-punk • Disco house • Manila Sound|
|US: NYC • Philadelphia • Atlanta • Miami • LA
|Discothèque • Nightclubs
Disco orchestration • Disco artists, old-school hip hop, new school hip hop
Disco is a genre of dance music containing elements of funk, soul, pop, and salsa that was most popular in the mid to late 1970s, though it has had brief resurgences. Its initial audiences were club-goers from the gay, African American, Italian American, Latino, and psychedelic communities in New York City and Philadelphia during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Disco also was a reaction against both the domination of rock music and the stigmatization of dance music by the counterculture during this period. Women embraced disco as well, and the music eventually expanded to several other marginalized communities of the time.
The disco sound has soaring vocals over a steady "four-on-the-floor" beat, an eighth note (quaver) or 16th note (semi-quaver) hi-hat pattern with an open hi-hat on the off-beat, and a prominent, syncopated electric bass line. In most disco tracks, strings, horns, electric pianos, and electric guitars create a lush background sound. Orchestral instruments such as the flute are often used for solo melodies, and lead guitar is less frequently used in disco than in rock. Many disco songs use electronic synthesizers.
Well-known 1970s disco performers included Donna Summer, the Bee Gees, Boney M, KC and the Sunshine Band, The Trammps, Gloria Gaynor and Chic. While performers and singers garnered some public attention, producers working behind the scenes played an important role. Many non-disco artists recorded disco songs at the height of disco's popularity, and films such as Saturday Night Fever and Thank God It's Friday contributed to disco's rise in mainstream popularity. Disco was the last mass popular music movement that was driven by the baby boom generation. Disco was a worldwide phenomenon, but its popularity declined in the United States in the late 1970s. On July 12, 1979, an anti-disco protest in Chicago called "Disco Demolition Night" had shown that an angry backlash against disco and its culture had emerged in the United States.
By the late 1970s most major U.S. cities had thriving disco club scenes, with Studio 54 being a well-known example of a disco club. Popular dances included The Hustle, a sexually suggestive dance. Discotheque-goers often wore expensive and extravagant fashions. There was also a thriving drug subculture in the disco scene, particularly for drugs that would enhance the experience of dancing to the loud music and the flashing lights, such as cocaine.
Disco was a key influence on the 1980s dance music style called House. A disco revival was seen, first in 2005 with Madonna's album Confessions on a Dance Floor, and again in 2013, as disco-styled songs by artists like Daft Punk (with Nile Rodgers), Justin Timberlake, Breakbot, and Bruno Mars filled the pop charts in the UK and the US.
Origins of the term and type of nightclub
The term is derived from discothèque (French for "library of phonograph records", but subsequently used as a term for nightclubs in Paris). By the early 1940s, the terms DJ and Disc Jockey were in use to describe radio presenters. Because of restrictions, jazz dance halls in Occupied France played records instead of using live music. Eventually more than one of these jazz venues had the proper name discothèque. By 1959, the term was used in Paris to describe any of these type of nightclubs. That year a young reporter Klaus Quirini spontaneously started to select and introduce records at the Scotch-Club in Aachen, West Germany. By the following year the term was being used in the United States to describe that type of club, and a type of dancing in those clubs. By 1964, discotheque and the shorthand disco were used to describe a type of sleeveless dress worn when going out to nightclubs. In September 1964, Playboy Magazine used the word disco as a shorthand for a discothèque-styled nightclub.
Proto-disco and early history of disco music
In New York City musicians and audiences from the female, homosexual, black, and Latino communities adopted several traits from the hippies and psychedelia. They included overwhelming sound, free-form dancing, trippy lighting, colorful costumes, and hallucinogens.Psychedelic soul groups like the Chambers Brothers and especially Sly and The Family Stone influenced proto-disco acts such as Isaac Hayes, Willie Hutch and the Philadelphia Sound. In addition, the perceived positivity, lack of irony, and earnestness of the hippies informed proto-disco music like M.F.S.B.'s album Love Is the Message. To the mainstream public M.F.S.B. stood for "Mother Father Sister Brother"; to the tough areas where they came from it was understood to stand for "Mother Fuckin' Son of a Bitch". Referring to their Playing Skill/Prowess.
A forerunner to disco-style clubs was the private parties held by New York City DJ David Mancuso in The Loft, a members-only club in his home in 1970. The first article about disco was written in 1973 by Vince Aletti for Rolling Stone magazine. In 1974 New York City's WPIX-FM premiered the first disco radio show.
Philadelphia and New York soul were evolutions of the Motown sound, and were typified by the lavish percussion and lush strings that became a prominent part of mid-1970s disco songs. Early songs with disco elements include "You Keep Me Hangin' On" (The Supremes, 1966), "Only the Strong Survive" (Jerry Butler, 1968), "The Love You Save" by Jackson 5 (1970), "Soul Makossa" (Manu Dibango, 1972), "Superstition" by Stevie Wonder (1972) Eddie Kendricks' "Keep on Truckin'" (1973) and "The Love I Lost" by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes (1973). "Love Train" by The O'Jays (1972), with M.F.S.B. as the backup band, hit Billboard Number 1 in March 1973, and has been called "disco".
The early disco was dominated with producers and labels such as Salsoul Records (Ken, Stanley, and Joseph Cayre), West End Records (Mel Cheren), Casablanca (Neil Bogart), and Prelude (Marvin Schlachter) to name a few. The genre was also shaped by Tom Moulton, who wanted to extend the enjoyment — thus creating the extended mix or "remix". Other influential DJs and remixers who helped to establish what became known as the "disco sound" included David Mancuso, Nicky Siano, Shep Pettibone, Larry Levan, Walter Gibbons, and Chicago-based "Godfather of House" Frankie Knuckles.
Disco-era DJs would often remix (re-edit) existing songs using reel-to-reel tape machines, and add in percussion breaks, new sections, and new sounds. DJs would select songs and grooves according to what the dancers wanted, transitioning from one song to another with a DJ mixer and using a microphone to introduce songs and speak to the audiences. Other equipment was added to the basic DJ setup, providing unique sound manipulations, such as reverb, equalization, and echo. Using this equipment, a DJ could do effects such as cutting out all but the throbbing bassline of a song, and then slowly mixing in the beginning of another song using the DJ mixer crossfader.
Disco hit the television airwaves with Soul Train in 1971 hosted by Don Cornelius, then Marty Angelo's Disco Step-by-Step Television Show in 1975, Steve Marcus' Disco Magic/Disco 77, Eddie Rivera's Soap Factory, and Merv Griffin's Dance Fever, hosted by Deney Terrio, who is credited with teaching actor John Travolta to dance for his role in the hit movie Saturday Night Fever, as well as DANCE based out of Columbia, South Carolina.
Rise to the mainstream
Carl Douglas feat. Biddu - "Kung Fu Fighting" (1974)
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From 1974 through 1977, disco music continued to increase in popularity as many disco songs topped the charts. In 1974, "Love's Theme" by Barry White's Love Unlimited Orchestra became the second disco song to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100, after "Love Train". MFSB also released "TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)", featuring vocals by The Three Degrees, and this was the third disco song to hit number one; "TSOP" was written as the theme song for Soul Train.
The Hues Corporation's 1974 "Rock the Boat", a U.S. #1 single and million-seller, was one of the early disco songs to hit #1. The same year saw the release of "Kung Fu Fighting", performed by Carl Douglas and produced by Biddu, which reached #1 in both the U.K. and U.S., and became the best-selling single of the year and one of the best-selling singles of all time with eleven million records sold worldwide, helping to popularize disco music to a great extent. Other chart-topping disco hits that year included "Rock Your Baby" by George McCrae.
In the northwestern sections of the United Kingdom the Northern Soul explosion, which started in late 1960s and peaked in 1974, made the region receptive to Disco which the region's Disc Jockeys were bringing back from New York. George McCrae's "Rock Your Baby" became the United Kingdom's first number one disco single.
Also in 1974, Gloria Gaynor released the first side-long disco mix vinyl album, which included a remake of The Jackson 5's "Never Can Say Goodbye" and two other songs, "Honey Bee" and "Reach Out (I'll Be There)". Formed by Harry Wayne Casey ("KC") and Richard Finch, Miami's KC and the Sunshine Band had a string of disco-definitive top-five hits between 1975 and 1977, including "Get Down Tonight", "That's the Way (I Like It)", "(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty", "I'm Your Boogie Man" and "Keep It Comin' Love". Electric Light Orchestra's 1975 hit Evil Woman, although described as Orchestral Rock, featured a violin sound that became a staple of disco. In 1979, however, ELO did release two "true" disco songs: "Last Train To London" and "Shine A Little Love".
In 1975, American singer and songwriter Donna Summer recorded a song which she brought to her producer Giorgio Moroder entitled "Love to Love You Baby" which contained a series of simulated orgasms. The song was never intended for release but when Moroder played it in the clubs it caused a sensation. Moroder released it and it went to number 2. It has been described as the arrival of the expression of raw female sexual desire in pop music. A 17-minute 12 inch single was released. The 12" single became and remains a standard in discos today.
In 1978, a multi-million selling vinyl single disco version of "MacArthur Park" by Summer was number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for three weeks and was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. Summer's recording, which was included as part of the "MacArthur Park Suite" on her double album Live and More, was eight minutes and forty seconds long on the album. The shorter seven-inch vinyl single version of the MacArthur Park was Summer's first single to reach number one on the Hot 100; it doesn't include the balladic second movement of the song, however. A 2013 remix of "Mac Arthur Park" by Summer hit #1 on the Billboard Dance Charts marking five consecutive decades with a #1 hit on the charts. From 1978 to 1979, Summer continued to release hits such as "Last Dance", "Bad Girls", "Heaven Knows", "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)", "Hot Stuff" and "On the Radio", all very successful disco songs.
The Bee Gees used Barry Gibb's falsetto to garner hits such as "You Should Be Dancing", "Stayin' Alive", "Night Fever", "More Than A Woman" and "Love You Inside Out". Andy Gibb, a younger brother to the Bee Gees, followed with similarly-styled solo hits such as "I Just Want to Be Your Everything", "(Love Is) Thicker Than Water" and "Shadow Dancing". In 1975, hits such as Van McCoy's "The Hustle" and "Could It Be Magic" brought disco further into the mainstream. Other notable early disco hits include The Jackson 5's "Dancing Machine" (1974), Barry White's "You're the First, the Last, My Everything" (1974), LaBelle's "Lady Marmalade" (1975) and Silver Convention's "Fly Robin Fly" (1975).
Yvonne Elliman - "If I Can't Have You" (1977)
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In December 1977, the film Saturday Night Fever was released. The film was marketed specifically to broaden disco's popularity beyond its primarily black and Latin audiences. It was a huge success and its soundtrack became one of the best-selling albums of all time. The idea for the film was sparked by a 1976 New York magazine article titled: "Tribal Rites Of The New Saturday Night" which chronicled the disco culture in mid-1970's New York City.
Chic was formed by Nile Rodgers — a self described "street hippie" from late 1960s New York — and Martin Dow, a DJ from Key West, Florida who pioneered the NYC sound across that state. "Le Freak" was a popular 1978 single that is regarded as an iconic song of the genre. Other hits by Chic include the often-sampled "Good Times" (1979) and "Everybody Dance". The group regarded themselves as the disco movement's rock band that made good on the hippie movement's ideals of peace, love, and freedom. Every song they wrote was written with an eye toward giving it "deep hidden meaning" or D.H.M.
The Jacksons (previously The Jackson 5) did many disco songs from 1975 to 1980, including "Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)" (1978), "Blame it on the Boogie" (1978), "Lovely One" (1980), and "Can You Feel It" (1980)—all sung by Michael Jackson, whose 1979 solo album, Off the Wall, included several disco hits, including the album's title song, "Rock with You", "Workin' Day and Night", and his second chart-topping solo hit in the disco genre, "Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough".
Blondie - "Heart of Glass" (1978)
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Disco's popularity led many non-disco artists to record disco songs at the height of its popularity. Many of their songs were not "pure" disco, but were instead rock or pop songs with (sometimes inescapable) disco influence or overtones. Notable examples include Earth Wind & Fire's "Boogie Wonderland" with The Emotions (1979), Mike Oldfield's "Guilty" (1979) Blondie's "Heart of Glass" (1978), Cher's "Hell on Wheels" and "Take Me Home" (both 1979), Barry Manilow's "Copacabana" (1978), David Bowie's "John I'm Only Dancing (Again)" (1975), Rod Stewart's "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?" (1979), Electric Light Orchestra's "Shine a Little Love" and "Last Train to London" (both 1979), George Benson's "Give Me the Night" (1980), Elton John and Kiki Dee's "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" (1976), M's "Pop Muzik" (1979), Barbra Streisand's "The Main Event"(1979) and Diana Ross' "Upside Down" (1980). The biggest hit by Ian Dury and the Blockheads, best known as a new wave band, was "Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick" (1978), featuring a strong disco sound.
Even hard-core mainstream rockers mixed elements of disco with their typical rock 'n roll style in songs. Progressive rock group Pink Floyd, when creating their rock opera The Wall, used disco-style components in their song, "Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2" (1979)—which became the group's only #1 hit single (in both the US and UK). The Eagles gave nods to disco with "One of These Nights" (1975) and "Disco Strangler" (1979), Paul McCartney & Wings did "Goodnight Tonight" (1979), Queen did "Another One Bites the Dust" (1980), The Rolling Stones did "Miss You" (1978) and "Emotional Rescue" (1980), Chicago did "Street Player" (1979), The Beach Boys did "Here Comes the Night" (1979), The Kinks did "(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman" (1979), and the J. Geils Band did "Come Back" (1980). Even heavy metal music group KISS jumped in with "I Was Made For Lovin' You" (1979).Ringo Starr's album Ringo the 4th (1978) features strong disco influence.
[clarification needed]The disco fad was also picked up even by "non-pop" artists, including the 1979 U.S. number one hit "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)" by Easy listening singer Barbra Streisand in a duet with Donna Summer. Country music artist, Connie Smith covered Andy Gibb's "I Just Want to Be Your Everything" in 1977, Bill Anderson did "Double S" in 1978, and Ronnie Milsap covered Tommy Tucker's "High Heel Sneakers" in 1979.
Disco revisions of songs
Pre-existing non-disco songs and standards would frequently be "disco-ized" in the 1970s. The rich orchestral accompaniment that became identified with the disco era conjured up the memories of the big band era—which brought out several artists that recorded and disco-ized some big band arrangements including Perry Como, who re-recorded his 1929 and 1939 hit, "Temptation", in 1975, as well as Ethel Merman, who released an album of disco songs entitled The Ethel Merman Disco Album in 1979.
Myron Floren, second-in-command on The Lawrence Welk Show, released a recording of the Clarinet Polka entitled "Disco Accordion." Similarly, Bobby Vinton adapted The Pennsylvania Polka into a song named "Disco Polka." Easy listening icon Percy Faith, in one of his last recordings, released an album entitled Disco Party (1975) and recorded a disco version of his famous "Theme from A Summer Place" in 1976. Classical music was even adapted for disco, notably Walter Murphy's "A Fifth of Beethoven" (1976, based on the first movement of Beethoven's 5th Symphony) and "Flight 76" (1976, based on Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee"), and Louis Clark's Hooked On Classics series of albums and singles.
Notable disco hits based on movie and television themes included a medley from Star Wars, "Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band" (1977) by Meco, and "Twilight Zone/Twilight Tone" (1979) by The Manhattan Transfer. Even the I Love Lucy theme wasn't spared from being disco-ized. Many original television theme songs of the era also showed a strong disco influence, such as "Keep Your Eye On The Sparrow" (theme from Baretta, performed by Sammy Davis, Jr. and later a hit single for Rhythm Heritage), "Theme from S.W.A.T." (from S.W.A.T, original and single versions by Rhythm Heritage), and Mike Post's "Theme from Magnum, P.I.".
Several parodies of the disco style were created. Rick Dees, at the time a radio DJ in Memphis, Tennessee, recorded "Disco Duck" (1976) and "Dis-Gorilla" (1977); Frank Zappa parodied the lifestyles of disco dancers in "Disco Boy" on his 1976 Zoot Allures album, and in "Dancin' Fool" on his 1979 Sheik Yerbouti album; "Weird Al" Yankovic's eponymous 1983 debut album includes a disco song called "Gotta Boogie", an extended pun on the similarity of the disco move to the American slang word "booger".
Backlash and decline
By the late 1970s, a strong anti-disco sentiment developed among rock fans and musicians, particularly in the United States. The slogans "disco sucks" and "death to disco" became common. Rock artists such as Rod Stewart and David Bowie who added disco elements to their music were accused of being sell outs.
The punk subculture in the United States and United Kingdom was often hostile to disco.Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys, in the song "Saturday Night Holocaust", likened disco to the cabaret culture of Weimar-era Germany for its apathy towards government policies and its escapism. Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo said that disco was "like a beautiful woman with a great body and no brains", and a product of political apathy of that era. New Jersey rock critic Jim Testa wrote "Put a Bullet Through the Jukebox", a vitriolic screed attacking disco that was considered a punk call to arms.
Anti-disco sentiment was expressed in some television shows and films. A recurring theme on the show WKRP in Cincinnati was a hostile attitude towards disco music. In one scene of the 1980 comedy film Airplane!, a city skyline features a radio tower with a neon-lighted station callsign. A disc jockey voiceover says: "WZAZ in Chicago, where disco lives forever!" Then a wayward airplane slices the radio tower with its wing, the voiceover goes silent, and the lighted callsign goes dark.
July 12, 1979 became known as "the day disco died" because of Disco Demolition Night, an anti-disco demonstration in a baseball double-header at Comiskey Park in Chicago. Rock-station DJs Steve Dahl and Garry Meier, along with Michael Veeck, son of Chicago White Sox owner Bill Veeck, staged the promotional event for disgruntled rock fans between the games of a White Sox doubleheader. The event, which involved exploding disco records, ended with a riot, during which the raucous crowd tore out seats and pieces of turf, and caused other damage. The Chicago Police Department made numerous arrests, and the extensive damage to the field forced the White Sox to forfeit the second game to the Detroit Tigers, who had won the first game. Six months prior to the chaotic event, popular progressive rock radio station WDAI (WLS-FM) had suddenly switched to an all disco format, disenfranchising thousands of Chicago rock fans and leaving Dahl unemployed.
On July 21, 1979, the top six records on the U.S. music charts were disco songs. By September 22 there were no disco songs in the US Top 10 chart. Some in the media, in celebratory tones, declared disco "dead" and rock revived.
Impact on music industry
The anti-disco backlash, combined with other societal and radio industry factors, changed the face of pop radio in the years following Disco Demolition Night. Starting in the 1980s, country music began a slow rise in American main pop charts. Emblematic of country music's rise to mainstream popularity was the commercially successful 1980 movie Urban Cowboy. Somewhat ironically, the star of the film was John Travolta, who only three years before had starred in Saturday Night Fever, a film that featured disco culture.
During this period of decline in disco's popularity, several record companies folded, were reorganized, or were sold. In 1979, MCA Records purchased ABC Records, absorbed some of its artists, and then shut the label down. RSO Records founder Robert Stigwood left the label in 1981 and TK Records closed in the same year. Salsoul Records continues to exist today, but primarily is used as a reissue brand.Casablanca Records had been releasing fewer records in the 1980s, and was shut down in 1986 by parent company PolyGram.
Many groups that were popular during the disco period subsequently struggled to maintain their success—even those that tried to adapt to evolving musical tastes. The Bee Gees, for instance, only had 4 top-40 hits in the United States after the 1970s even though later songs they wrote and had others perform were successful. Of the handful of groups not taken down by disco's fall from favor, Kool and the Gang, The Jacksons—and Michael Jackson in particular—stand out: In spite of having helped define the disco sound early on, they continued to make popular and danceable, if more refined, songs for yet another generation of music fans in the 1980s and beyond.
Factors contributing to disco's decline
Factors that have been cited as leading to the decline of disco in the United States include economic and political changes at the end of the 1970s as well as burnout from the hedonistic lifestyles led by participants. In the years since Disco Demolition Night, some social critics have described the backlash as implicitly macho and bigoted, and an attack on non-white and non-heterosexual cultures.
In January 1979, rock critic Robert Christgau argued that homophobia, and most likely racism, were reasons behind the backlash, a conclusion seconded by John Rockwell. Craig Werner wrote: "The Anti-disco movement represented an unholy alliance of funkateers and feminists, progressives and puritans, rockers and reactionaries. Nonetheless, the attacks on disco gave respectable voice to the ugliest kinds of unacknowledged racism, sexism and homophobia."Legs McNeil, founder of the fanzine Punk, was quoted in an interview as saying, "the hippies always wanted to be black. We were going, 'fuck the blues, fuck the black experience'." He also said that disco was the result of an "unholy" union between homosexuals and blacks.
Steve Dahl, who had spearheaded Disco Demolition Night, denied any racist or homophobic undertones to the promotion, saying, "It's really easy to look at it historically, from this perspective, and attach all those things to it. But we weren't thinking like that." It has been noted that British punk rock critics of disco were very supportive of the pro-black/anti-racist reggae genre.Robert Christgau and Jim Testa have said that there were legitimate artistic reasons for being critical of disco.
In 1979 the music industry in the United States was undergoing its worst slump in decades, and disco, despite its mass popularity, was blamed. The producer-oriented sound was having difficulty mixing well with the industry's artist-oriented marketing system. Harold Childs, senior vice president at A&M Records, told the Los Angeles Times that "radio is really desperate for rock product" and "they're all looking for some white rock-n-roll".Gloria Gaynor argued that the music industry supported the destruction of disco because rock music producers were losing money and rock musicians were losing the spotlight. However, disco music remained relatively successful in the early 1980s, with big hits like Irene Cara's "Flashdance... What a Feeling", K.C. & The Sunshine Band's last major hit, "Give It Up", "Running With The Night" by Lionel Richie and Madonna's first album had strong disco influences. Giorgio Moroder's soundtracks to American Gigolo, Flashdance and Scarface (which also had a heavy disco influence) proved to be successful. Also, Queen's 1982 album, Hot Space was inspired by the genre as well.
In the 1990s, disco and its legacy became more accepted by music artists and listeners alike, as more songs and films were released that referenced disco. Examples of songs during this time that were influenced by disco included Deee-Lite's "Groove Is in the Heart" (1990), U2's "Lemon" (1993), Blur's "Girls & Boys" (1994) & "Entertain Me" (1995), and Pulp's "Disco 2000" (1995), while films such as Boogie Nights (1997) and The Last Days of Disco (1998) featured primarily disco soundtracks. Even some heavy metal songs released during the later part of the decade utilized the hi-hat cymbal beat so reminiscent of disco.
2000s - present: The success of nu-disco and disco revival.
In the early 2000s, an updated genre of disco called "nu-disco" began breaking into the mainstream. A select few examples would be songs like Daft Punk's "One More Time" and Kylie Minogue's "Love At First Sight" became club favorites and commercial successes. Several nu-disco songs were crossovers with funky house, such as Spiller's "Groovejet (If This Ain't Love)" and Modjo's "Lady (Hear Me Tonight)", both songs sampling older disco songs and both reaching number 1 on the UK Singles Chart in 2000. Robbie Williams' disco hit "Rock DJ" was the UK's fourth best-selling single the same year. Rock band Manic Street Preachers released a disco song, "Miss Europa Disco Dancer", in 2001. The song's disco influence, which appears on Know Your Enemy, was described as being "much-discussed". In 2005, Madonna immersed herself in the disco music of the 1970s, and released her album Confessions on a Dance Floor to rave reviews. In addition to that, her song "Hung Up" became a major top ten hit and club staple, and sampled ABBA's 1970s hit "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)". In addition to her disco-influenced attire to award shows and interviews, her Confessions Tour also incorporated various elements of the 1970s, such as disco balls, a mirrored stage design, and the roller derby.
In 2013, several 1970s-style disco and funk songs charted, and the pop charts had more dance songs than at any other point since the late 1970s. The biggest disco hit of the year as of June was "Get Lucky" by Daft Punk, featuring Nile Rodgers on guitar. Random Access Memories also ended up winning Album of the Year at the 2014 Grammys. Other disco-styled songs that made it into the top 40 were Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" (No. 1), Justin Timberlake's "Take Back The Night" (No. 29), Bruno Mars' "Treasure" (No. 5) and Michael Jackson's posthumous release "Love Never Felt So Good" (No. 9). In addition, Arcade Fire's Reflektor featured strong disco elements. In 2014, disco music could be found in Lady Gaga's Artpop and Katy Perry's "Birthday". Other disco songs from 2014 include "I Want It All" By Karmin and 'Wrong Club" by The Ting Tings. Other top ten hits from 2015 like Mark Ronson's "Uptown Funk", Maroon 5's "Sugar", The Weeknd's "Can't Feel My Face" and Jason Derulo's "Want To Want Me" also ascended the charts and have a strong disco influence. Disco mogul and producer Giorgio Moroder has also re-appeared with his new album Déjà Vu in 2015 which has proved to be a modest success.Other songs from 2015 like "I Don't Like It, I Love It" by Flo Rida, "Back Together (Robin Thicke song)" by Robin Thicke and "Levels (Nick Jonas song)" by Nick Jonas feature disco elements as well
Donna Summer - "I Feel Love" (1977)
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As disco's popularity sharply declined in the United States, abandoned by major U.S. record labels and producers, European disco continued evolving within the broad mainstream pop music scene. European acts Silver Convention, Love and Kisses, Munich Machine, and American acts Donna Summer and the Village People, were acts that defined the late 1970s Euro disco sound. Producers Giorgio Moroder, whom AllMusic described as "one of the principal architects of the disco sound" with the Donna Summer hit "I Feel Love" (1977), and Jean-Marc Cerrone were involved with Euro disco. The German group Kraftwerk also had an influence on Euro disco.
By far the most successful Euro disco act was ABBA. This Swedish quartet—with such hits as "Waterloo" (1974), "Fernando" (1976), "Take a Chance on Me" (1978), "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)" (1979), and their signature smash "Dancing Queen" (1976)—ranks as the eighth best-selling act of all time. Other prominent European pop and disco groups were Luv' from the Netherlands and Boney M., a group of four West Indian singers and dancers masterminded by West German record producer Frank Farian. Boney M. charted worldwide hits with such songs as "Daddy Cool", "Ma Baker" and "Rivers of Babylon".
Another Euro disco act was Amanda Lear, where euro-disco sound is most heard in Enigma ("Give a bit of Mmh to me") song (1978).
In France, Claude François who re-invented himself as the king of French disco, released "La plus belle chose du monde", a French version of the Bee Gees hit record, "Massachusetts", which became a big hit in Canada and Europe and "Alexandrie Alexandra" was posthumously released on the day of his burial and became a worldwide hit. Dalida released "J'attendrai", which became a big hit in Canada and Japan, and Cerrone's early hit songs, "Love in C Minor", "Give Me Love" and "Supernature" became major hits in the U.S. and Europe.
Role of Motown
Diana Ross was one of the first Motown artists to embrace the disco sound with her hugely successful 1976 outing "Love Hangover" from her self-titled album. Ross would continue to score disco hits for the rest of the disco era, including the 1980 dance classics "Upside Down" and "I'm Coming Out" (the latter immediately becoming a favorite in the gay community). The Supremes, the group that made Ross famous, scored a handful of hits in the disco clubs without Ross, most notably 1976's "I'm Gonna Let My Heart Do the Walking" and, their last charted single before disbanding, 1977's "You're My Driving Wheel".
Also noteworthy are Cheryl Lynn's "Got to Be Real" (1978), Evelyn "Champagne" King's "Shame" (1978), Cher's "Take Me Home" (1979), Sister Sledge's "We Are Family" (1979), Geraldine Hunt's "Can't Fake the Feeling" (1980), and Walter Murphy's various attempts to bring classical music to the mainstream, most notably his hit "A Fifth of Beethoven" (1976).
Chic – "Le Freak"
Sister Sledge – "Got to Love Somebody"
Sister Sledge – "Got to Love Somebody" (1979). Example demonstrates the use of keyboards and horns in disco music.
Sister Sledge – "Reach Your Peak"
Sister Sledge – "Reach Your Peak" (1980). Example demonstrates the use of electric guitar and vocals in disco music.
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The music tended to layer soaring, often-reverberated vocals, which are often doubled by horns, over a background "pad" of electric pianos and "chicken-scratch" rhythm guitars. Other backing keyboard instruments include the piano, organ (during early years), string synth, and electroacoustic keyboards such as the Fender Rhodes piano, Wurlitzer electric piano, and Hohner Clavinet. Synthesizers are also fairly common in disco, especially in the late 1970s.
The rhythm is laid down by prominent, syncopated basslines (with heavy use of octaves) played on the bass guitar and by drummers using a drum kit, African/Latin percussion, and electronic drums such as Simmons and Roland drum modules. The sound is enriched with solo lines and harmony parts played by a variety of orchestral instruments, such as harp, violin, viola, cello, trumpet, saxophone, trombone, clarinet, flugelhorn, French horn, tuba, English horn, oboe, flute (sometimes especially the alto flute and occasionally bass flute), piccolo, timpani and synth strings or a full-blown string orchestra.
Most disco songs have a steady four-on-the-floor beat, a quaver or semi-quaver hi-hat pattern with an open hi-hat on the off-beat, and a heavy, syncopated bass line. Other Latin rhythms such as the rhumba, the samba and the cha-cha-cha are also found in disco recordings, and Latin polyrhythms, such as a rhumba beat layered over a merengue, are commonplace. The quaver pattern is often supported by other instruments such as the rhythm guitar and may be implied rather than explicitly present.
It often involves syncopation, rarely occurring on the beat unless a synthesizer is used to replace the bass guitar. In general, the difference between a disco, or any dance song, and a rock or popular song is that in dance music the bass hits four to the floor, at least once a beat (which in 4/4 time is 4 beats per measure), whereas in rock the bass hits on one and three and lets the snare take the lead on two and four. Disco is further characterized by a 16th note division of the quarter notes established by the bass as shown in the second drum pattern below, after a typical rock drum pattern.
The orchestral sound usually known as "disco sound" relies heavily on strings and horns playing linear phrases, in unison with the soaring, often reverberated vocals or playing instrumental fills, while electric pianos and chicken-scratch guitars create the background "pad" sound defining the harmony progression. Typically, a rich "wall of sound" results. There are, however, more minimalistic flavors of disco with reduced, transparent instrumentation, pioneered by Chic (band).
In 1977, Giorgio Moroder again became responsible for a development in disco. Alongside Donna Summer and Pete Bellotte he wrote the song "I Feel Love" for Summer to perform. It became the first well-known disco hit to have a completely synthesised backing track. The song is still considered to have been well ahead of its time. Other disco producers, most famously Tom Moulton, grabbed ideas and techniques from dub music (which came with the increased Jamaican migration to New York City in the seventies) to provide alternatives to the four on the floor style that dominated. Larry Levan utilized style keys from dub and jazz and more as one of the most successful remixers of all time to create early versions of house music that sparked the genre.
The "disco sound" was much more costly to produce than many of the other popular music genres from the 1970s. Unlike the simpler, four-piece band sound of the funk, soul of the late 1960s, or the small jazz organ trios, disco music often included a large pop band, with several chordal instruments (guitar, keyboards, synthesizer), several drum or percussion instruments (drumkit, Latin percussion, electronic drums), a horn section, a string orchestra, and a variety of "classical" solo instruments (for example, flute, piccolo, and so on).
Disco songs were arranged and composed by experienced arrangers and orchestrators, and producers added their creative touches to the overall sound. Recording complex arrangements with such a large number of instruments and sections required a team that included a conductor, copyists, record producers, and mixing engineers. Mixing engineers had an important role in the disco production process, because disco songs used as many as 64 tracks of vocals and instruments. Mixing engineers compiled these tracks into a fluid composition of verses, bridges, and refrains, complete with orchestral builds and breaks. Mixing engineers helped to develop the "disco sound" by creating a distinctive-sounding disco mix.
Early records were the "standard" 3 minute version until Tom Moulton came up with a way to make songs longer, wanting to take a crowd to another level that was impossible with 45-RPM vinyl discs of the time (which could usually hold no more than 5 minutes of good-quality music). With the help of José Rodriguez, his remasterer, he pressed a single on a 10" disc instead of 7". They cut the next single on a 12" disc, the same format as a standard album. This method fast became the standard format for all DJs of the genre.
Because record sales were often dependent on floor play in clubs, DJs were also important to the development and popularization of disco music. Notable DJs include Rex Potts (Loft Lounge, Sarasota, Florida), Karen Cook, Jim Burgess, Walter Gibbons, John "Jellybean" Benitez, Richie Kaczar of Studio 54, Rick Gianatos, Francis Grasso of Sanctuary, Larry Levan, Ian Levine, Neil "Raz" Rasmussen & Mike Pace of L'amour Disco in Brooklyn, Preston Powell of Magique, Jennie Costa of Lemontrees, Tee Scott, Tony Smith of Xenon, John Luongo, Robert Ouimet of The Limelight, and David Mancuso.
Disco clubs and culture
By the late 1970s most major U.S. cities had thriving disco club scenes, but the largest scenes were in San Francisco, Miami, and most notably New York City. The scene was centered on discotheques, nightclubs, and private loft parties where DJs would play disco hits through powerful PA systems for the patrons who came to dance. The DJs played "... a smooth mix of long single records to keep people 'dancing all night long'". Some of the most prestigious clubs had elaborate lighting systems that throbbed to the beat of the music.
In October 1975 notable discos included "Studio One" in Los Angeles, "Leviticus" in New York and "The Library" in Atlanta. The library Disco chain had locations in New City, Syracuse N.Y., Pittsburgh Pa., a short lived version in Denver, Co. as well as Atlanta Ga.
In the early years dancers in discos danced in a "hang loose" style. Popular dances included "Bump", "Penguin", "Boogaloo", "Watergate" and the "Robot". By October 1975 The Hustle reigned. It was highly stylized, sophisticated and overtly sexual. Variations included the Brooklyn Hustle, New York Hustle and Latin Hustle.
During the disco era, many nightclubs would commonly host disco dance competitions or offer free instructional lessons. Some cities had disco dance instructors or dance schools, which taught people how to do popular disco dances such as "touch dancing, "the hustle, and the cha cha. The pioneer of disco dance instruction was Karen Lustgarten in San Francisco in 1973. Her book The Complete Guide to Disco Dancing (Warner Books, 1978) was the first to name, break down and codify popular disco dances as a dance form and distinguish between disco freestyle, partner and line dances. The book hit the New York Time bestseller List for 13 weeks and was translated into Chinese, German and French.
In Chicago, Step By Step launched with the sponsorship support of the Coca-Cola company. Produced in the same studio that Don Cornelius used for the nationally syndicated television show, Soul Train, Step by Step's audience grew and became a success. The dynamic dance duo, Robin and Reggie spent the week teaching disco dancing in the disco clubs. The instructional show which aired on Saturday mornings had a following that would stay up all night on Fridays so they could be on the set the next morning, ready to return to the disco Saturday night equipped with the latest personalized dance steps. The producers of the show, John Reid and Greg Roselli routinely made appearances at disco functions with Robin and Reggie to scout out talent and promote upcoming events such as Disco Night at White Sox Park.
Some notable professional dance troupes of the 1970s included Pan's People and Hot Gossip. For many dancers, the primary influence of the 1970s disco age is still predominantly the film Saturday Night Fever (1977). This developed into the music and dance style of such films as Fame (1980), Disco Dancer (1982), Flashdance (1983), and The Last Days of Disco (1998). It also helped spawn dance competition TV shows such as Dance Fever (1979).
Disco fashions were very trendy in the late 1970s. Discothèque-goers often wore expensive and extravagant fashions for nights out at their local disco, such as sheer, flowing Halston dresses for women and shiny polyester Qiana shirts for men with pointy collars, preferably open at the chest, often worn with double-knit polyester shirt jackets with matching trousers known as the leisure suit. Necklaces and medallions were a common fashion accessory.
Drug subculture and sexual promiscuity
In addition to the dance and fashion aspects of the disco club scene, there was also a thriving drug subculture, particularly for drugs that would enhance the experience of dancing to the loud music and the flashing lights, such as cocaine (nicknamed "blow"), amyl nitrite "poppers", and the "... other quintessential 1970s club drug Quaalude, which suspended motor coordination and gave the sensation that one's arms and legs had turned to "Jell-O."
According to Peter Braunstein, the "massive quantities of drugs ingested in discotheques produced the next cultural phenomenon of the disco era: rampant promiscuity and public sex. While the dance floor was the central arena of seduction, actual sex usually took place in the nether regions of the disco: bathroom stalls, exit stairwells, and so on. In other cases the disco became a kind of 'main course' in a hedonist's menu for a night out."
Famous disco bars included the very important Paradise Garage and as well as "... cocaine-filled celeb hangouts such as Manhattan's Studio 54," which was operated by Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager. Studio 54 was notorious for the hedonism that went on within; the balconies were known for sexual encounters, and drug use was rampant. Its dance floor was decorated with an image of the "Man in the Moon" that included an animated cocaine spoon.
Influence on other music
1982–1990: Post-disco and dance
The transition from the late-1970s disco styles to the early-1980s dance styles was marked primarily by the change from complex arrangements performed by large ensembles of studio session musicians (including a horn section and an orchestral string section), to a leaner sound, in which one or two singers would perform to the accompaniment of synthesizer keyboards and drum machines.
In addition, dance music during the 1981–83 period borrowed elements from blues and jazz, creating a style different from the disco of the 1970s. This emerging music was still known as disco for a short time, as the word had become associated with any kind of dance music played in discothèques. Examples of early 1980s dance sound performers include D. Train, Kashif, and Patrice Rushen. These changes were influenced by some of the notable R&B and jazz musicians of the 1970s, such as Stevie Wonder, Kashif and Herbie Hancock, who had pioneered "one-man-band"-type keyboard techniques. Some of these influences had already begun to emerge during the mid-1970s, at the height of disco's popularity.
During the first years of the 1980s, the disco sound began to be phased out, and faster tempos and synthesized effects, accompanied by guitar and simplified backgrounds, moved dance music toward the funk and pop genres. This trend can be seen in singer Billy Ocean's recordings between 1979 and 1981. Whereas Ocean's 1979 song American Hearts was backed with an orchestral arrangement played by the Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra, his 1981 song "One of Those Nights (Feel Like Gettin' Down)" had a more bare, stripped-down sound, with no orchestration or symphonic arrangements. This drift from the original disco sound is called post-disco. In this music scene there are rooted subgenres, such as Italo disco, techno, house, dance-pop, boogie, and early alternative dance. During the early 1980s, dance music dropped the complicated melodic structure and orchestration that typified the disco sound.
During the 1970s, many TV theme songs were produced (or older themes updated) with disco influenced music. Examples include S.W.A.T. (1975), Wonder Woman (1975), Charlie's Angels (1976), NBC Saturday Night At The Movies (1976), The Love Boat (1977), The Donahue Show (1977), CHiPs (1977), The Professionals (1977), Three's Company (1977), Dallas (1978), Kojak (1978), The Hollywood Squares (1979). The British Science Fiction program Space: 1999 (1975) also featured a soundtrack strongly influenced by disco. This was especially evident in the show's second season.
The rising popularity of disco came in tandem with developments in turntablism and the use of records to create a continuous mix of songs. The resulting DJ mix differed from previous forms of dance music, which were oriented towards live performances by musicians. This in turn affected the arrangement of dance music, with songs since the disco era typically containing beginnings and endings marked by a simple beat or riff that can be easily slipped into the mix.
As the Disco era came to a close in the late 1970s, rave culture began to see significant growth. Rave culture incorporated disco culture's same love of dance music, drug exploration, sexual promiscuity, and hedonism. Although disco culture had thrived in the mainstream, the rave culture would make an effort to stay underground to avoid the animosity that was still surrounding disco and dance music.
Hip hop and electro
The disco sound had a strong influence on early hip hop. Most of the early rap/hip-hop songs were created by isolating existing disco bass-guitar lines and dubbing over them with MC rhymes. The Sugarhill Gang used Chic's "Good Times" as the foundation for their 1979 hit "Rapper's Delight", generally considered to be the song that first popularized rap music in the United States and around the world. In 1982, Afrika Bambataa released the single "Planet Rock", which incorporated electronica elements from Kraftwerk's "Trans-Europe Express" and "Numbers" as well as YMO's "Riot in Lagos".
The Planet Rock sound also spawned a hip-hop electronic dance trend, electro music, which included songs such as Planet Patrol's "Play at Your Own Risk" (1982), C Bank's "One More Shot" (1982), Cerrone's "Club Underworld" (1984), Shannon's "Let the Music Play" (1983), Freeez's "I.O.U." (1983), Midnight Star's "Freak-a-Zoid" (1983), Chaka Khan's "I Feel For You" (1984).
The post-punk movement that originated in the late 1970s both supported punk rock's rule breaking while rejecting its back to raw rock music element. Post-punk's mantra of constantly moving forward lent itself to both openness to and experimentation with elements of disco and other styles.Public Image Limited is considered the first post-punk group. The group's second album Metal Box fully embraced the studio as instrument methodology of disco. The group's founder John Lydon told the press that disco was the only music he cared for at the time. No wave was a subgenre of post-punk centered in New York City.
For shock value, James Chance who was a notable member of the no wave scene penned an article in the East Village Eye urging his readers to move uptown and get "trancin' with some superadioactive disco voodoo funk". His band James White and the Blacks wrote a disco album Off White. Their performances resembled those of disco performers (horn section, dancers and so on). In 1981 ZE Records led the transition from no wave into the more subtle mutant disco (post-disco/punk) genre. Mutant disco acts such as Kid Creole and the Coconuts, Was Not Was, ESG and Liquid Liquid influenced several British post-punk acts such as New Order, Orange Juice and A Certain Ratio.
In the early 2000s the dance-punk (new rave in the United Kingdom) emerged as a part of a broader post punk revival. It fused elements of punk related rock with different forms of dance music including disco. Klaxons, LCD Soundsystem, Death From Above 1979, The Rapture and Shitdisco were among acts associated with the genre.
Nu-disco is a 21st-century dance music genre associated with the renewed interest in 1970s and early 1980s disco, mid-1980s Italo disco, and the synthesizer-heavy Euro disco aesthetics. The moniker appeared in print as early as 2002, and by mid-2008 was used by record shops such as the online retailers Juno and Beatport. These vendors often associate it with re-edits of original-era disco music, as well as with music from European producers who make dance music inspired by original-era American disco, electro and other genres popular in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It is also used to describe the music on several American labels that were previously associated with the genres electroclash and french house.