Disco and house music are intrinsically linked. As the saying goes “Know Disco; Know House. No Disco; No House.” Artists such as The Black Madonna, Ben UFO, Motor City Drum Ensemble and Jeremy Underground have long been peddling a disco-leaning brand of house music, and it’s fair to say that the disco influence has never been more popular. Mella Dee’s Techno Disco Tool has recently been track of the week on Radio 1 Breakfast and Patrick Topping’s latest monster hit on Hot Creations Be Sharp Say Nowt gives us the disco-feels!
But it hasn’t always been the case. Following news that New Zealand are about to launch a disco-ball inspired satellite called The Humanity Star into orbit, we chart the trials and tribulations of a movement that paved the way for modern house music:
Saturday Night Fever Is Released
Originally only intended to be stop-gap in filling a void by the delayed Grease project, yet went on to become a cultural phenomenon. As with most cult films, the premise was simple: Travolta, a young working-class man, spends his weekends dancing, drinking and making romantic advances in a Brooklyn discotheque. If disco had somehow passed you by, Saturday Night Fever’s release in 1977 made it unavoidable and brought it to the masses, cementing its protagonist as a bonafide movie star. The soundtrack is as legendary as the story. Undeniably one of the greatest movies of the entire century, let alone decade! Admit it: we’ve all tried the walk.
Studio 54 Is Shut Down
It was the home of disco, and arguably also gave birth to the superclub. NYC’s Studio 54 was at the epicentre of the disco explosion. It was the ultimate celeb hangout, with its clientele boasting Diana Ross, Madonna, Nile Rodgers and even Donald Trump! But throughout its tenure it courted controversy with its hedonistic vibe and outrageous antics. In 1978, the venue was raided by the IRS after owners Rubell and Schrager had publicly bragged about undeclared earnings and mafia connections. Both were subsequently indicted for skimming $2.5m and the venue was forced to close its door in 1980. Of course, it went out with a bang! But it’s departure left a gaping hole in New York’s nightlife which is still felt today.
The Disco Sucks Movement
By 1979 disco was everywhere. It was dominating the charts and the airways. One radio presents – Steve Dahl – took objection to its soaring popularity, as his favourite rock bands were slowly ousted from playlists. In retaliation, he launched the “Disco Sucks” campaign, and actively sabotaged any listener disco requests. The protest was quickly picked-up by mainstream media outlets, and snowballed. Whilst it all sounds a little trivial, the campaign was a successful one – fuelled by sinister undertones of racism and homophobia. By the start of the 80s, record labels had accepted defeat and moved onto new romanticism and R&B.
Nile Rodgers Ends His Self-Imposed Exile
Having kept himself largely off-radar for the noughties in order to survive prostate cancer, producer to the stars Nile quashed any rumours of retirement by bursting back onto the international stage. Indeed 2011 to the presentday marks one of his most productive periods in a storied career. He was instrumental in Daft Punk’s Random Access Memory campaign but also found time to collab with Tensnake, Eats Everything and resurrect CHIC, including a phenomenal performance at Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage. Disco dead? NO WAY!
If you need any more convincing that disco is alive and well, then check-out a handful of events coming-up over the next month:
Disco Yoga: Bend It Like Peckham! at Prince of Peckham on Wednesday 31st January
The Bop Shop: Cocktail Disco with Hoxton Whores at TBA on Friday 2nd March
Shut The Front Door Opening Fiesta with Lil' Louis & Jeremy Underground at Electric Brixton on Saturday 3rd February
Move Disco Loft Party with Fingerman at Shoreditch Platform on Saturday 10th February
Tickets for all the above events are on sale now.