Friday, June 15, 2007

Does Disco Suck?

There is a debate going on right now on the AMS-L list about Disco music. The question is whether opposition to Disco arose because it was soulless and insincere, or because it came from the gay club subculture. Was Disco Demolition Night an act of aesthetic outrage, or homophobia? Of course, I find it hard to separate the two issues. I think many of my peers didn't like disco music because of its homosexual flavor, even if they weren't able to label it as such. What do you think?

Update: Barnet Bound has his own take on the Disco discussion, including a mini-rant on the AMS-L list itself.


the improvising guitarist said...

Q/ Can the political be separated out from other (e.g. aesthetic) dimensions of music?

Q/ Once confronted with the (undesirable) political dimensions of our own tastes / sensibilities / aesthetics, are we then able to extricate ourselves (gracefully)?

To the first question, I tend to agree with you that the homophobic and the ‘pure musical’ concerns of disco are not easily separable. (I’d probably go farther and posit that all expressions of taste / sensibility / aesthetics are political.) Positioning, say, prog-rock as diametrically opposite, and superior to, disco seems to demonstrate a particular largely heterosexual, masculine, white value system.
Either way, having been observing the AMS list discussion from afar, it’s the second question is the one that I find interesting (especially in our current political climate). If I value one form of music over another, and when confronted with an unfortunate political consequence of that alignment, what should I do? And this goes further than the question of whether disco sucks (e.g. Wagner in Israel).

S, tig

Daniel Wolf said...

Scott --

In my college years (too long ago), the great opposition was between disco and new wave musics, and more than any critique of the music iteself, the new wave critique of disco was one of its culture. In the cultural critique, the hedonism and capitalism (which perhaps found their ideal combined expression in the huge cocaine economy that accompanied the disco era) were decidedly more contentious than issues of sexual orientation; conversely, it might be argued that the New Wave was excessively macho, but it did have its own complete spectrum of orientations.

Scott Spiegelberg said...

Daniel, those are good distinctions, between music and culture and between sexual identity and culture.

Hucbald said...

I was one of those guys carving "Disco Sucks" into desktops in high school, and I can assure you that the thought that disco was gay music or not never entered my mind. It was just musically garbage in my estimation compared to the Who/Hendrix/Zeppelin stuff I was into at the time. It also killed a lot of gigs: Clubs that had once hired bands saved money and attracted more well-heeled clientele by installing hideously loud sound systems and hiring DJ's.

In fact, I equated disco with John Travolta's "Tony" character from Saturday Night Fever, who was not gay at all, but who was a shallow, superficial idiot (Like all of the "Socials" I went to high school with - I was a "Freak" or "Head").

The best sendup of disco ever was, of course, Frank Zappa's masterstroke, "Disco Boy" which came out my freshman year of college, I believe. There was nothing anti-gay about it either. It was simply anti-idiot.

mp3 said...

NO !!! why you think what disco is suck??? it`s NORMAL music !!!

Anonymous said...

It's not a matter of wether disco sucks or not. It is a matter of musical taste, and what one perceives as "good" music. We could have tha same discussion about hip-hop. It is only what a person enjoys at that moment in time and how the music moves them.

Anonymous said...

As a young woman who went to discos just to dance, I LOVED it. When disco was killed, so the dancing died. Back then, those who went too discos did not care about subculture, or the sexual orientation of the village people. We danced, we made friends, and we danced, some more. We didn't do anything harder than occasional pot and pitchers of beer. If "gay" was an issue, the music, especially that of The Village People, would not have been played and still are played at many events, dances, weddings, mtizvahs, etc.

Exactly how Disco was killed, I haven't a clue. As I remember, one day the BeeGees and disco were out and Blondie and New Wave, was in. Everything was more stoically controlled by radio and media $$ and rather than some anti disco groups. Some people thought that disco was tasteless and lyricless, when all it was, was FUN. I still love it, have fond memories of my dancing days, and mostly, I wish that kids today had a place to go where they could shake their groove thing just because they like to move and groove and have fun, and dance more coordinated steps than moshing or bumping. Finally, the cardio is awesome, and the coordination learned structured dance is a step toward confidence building.