Five reasons we should all LOVE DISCO!🕺
At The Cambridge Club Festival, we love a healthy dose of disco. Anyone who’s joined us in June on Haggis Farm will know that well - disco dancing is a big part of our annual get together, whether that’s last year’s rip-roaring set from Uncle Funk or the soulful selections of our DJs.
But as well as being fun and funky music to dance to, we have a lot to thank Disco music for. Expert Professor Tim Lawrence, from the University of East London and author of dance music history Love Saves the Day, has shed light on 5 ways in which the genre changed the world…
1. IT SAVED DANCING!
Who doesn’t dance when they hear disco? The genre was one of the most influential and infectious musical styles of the 1970s, and it made social dancing popular again - introducing a new freeform style. Whereas previously you’d have to bring along a partner to dance with, disco was every man and woman for themselves. Disco dancing was the first time people could go onto the dance floor as an individual, allowing for more freedom and expression. Plus you didn’t have to worry about stepping on your partners toes!
2. IT CREATED THE MODERN DJ
It’s the first time that DJs really selected music in response to the crowd. Mixing techniques and the rise of DJs as we know them started in New York City in the 1970s. In the UK, we still had the classic cringey wedding-DJ style of announcing songs over a microphone, which meant the dancing stopped. The New York DJs wanted the flow of music and dance moves to continue all night, so the trend began of using headphones to listen to the incoming record and mix songs together to keep the rhythm going. That way, people could truly lose themselves in the music.
3. IT INSPIRED SOCIAL LIBERATION
It was actually illegal until 1971 in New York for two men to dance with one another, so this new form of non-coupled dancing had a big impact for New York’s gay scene. Disco crowds were very diverse in the early years, so a lot of other minority groups also found a home here. People of all different identities, who in everyday life were often being marginalised or facing discrimination, underpinned the energy of the genre. The lyrics of disco divas Gloria Gaynor and Donna Summer became popular with these crowds, as they touched upon hardship and emotional resilience. It’s no understatement to say that disco was a huge liberating force during this time.
4. IT INVENTED THE REMIX
Remixing doesn’t only come out of disco – there was a culture of it in Jamaica too – but the art really took off in New York in the 1970s. Salsoul (a popular disco record label) in 1976 commissioned a remix of Double Exposure’s song Ten Percent, an explosive moment in music making. The key difference was they invited a DJ, Walter Gibbons, to remix the record for the dance floor specifically. This proved pretty scandalous for the time, and lots of producers were up in arms - but the DJs were in a much better position to do remixes because they were actually at the clubs, selecting the music for the crowd, and knew what made people dance. So remixes, which are now ubiquitous, came to the fore thanks to disco (whether you like them or not!).
5. IT’S STILL CHANGING THE WORLD
Disco’s problem is that it became massively commercialised at the end of the 1970s. Whereas the original music and dancing was varied, innovative and culturally progressive, mainstream culture only copied certain bits. Saturday Night Fever has become synonymous with disco, but it’s a cheesy imitation - a return to couples dancing, the flashing lights are over top, and you can’t dance in a polyester suit (whatever John Travolta might say). Disco’s best bits unfortunately tend to be forgotten, but they are still shaping music today. It helped to develop sound system technology, mixers, loudspeakers, lighting - basically creating modern nightclubs and music studios - whilst also bringing synthesisers onto popular records. Disco definitely provided the foundations for our contemporary dance music culture of today.
So there you have it - a love letter to disco and its daring danceability. Bet you didn’t know all of that tasty trivia, eh?!
Join us next June and we promise we’ll show you our best moves on the dance floor too…
All that’s got us in the mood for a boogie! 🕺
Over and out,
The CC Team