Disco: often accused of rootlessness, it didn’t come from nowhere. The Vietnam War was dying. Black rights were raging. Folk were fed up. Disco was queer, promiscuous and multi-coloured.
Iconic club founder Ian Shrager, looking back in this summer’s film, Studio 54, has called disco a “social experiment”. But, hissing and pumping, where was it going? Choral harmonies, in melancholy tales like ‘Native New Yorker’, were resolutely happy. Heartbreak never hurts, in a disco song, not with so many female vocals having orgasms. Every dancer was a superstar, rocketing into the future. The racing chord swerves of Giorgio Moroder and Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’, continue to raise the bar for house music, today.
However, beneath the ecstasy was conflict. Expensive orchestras fought money disputes. The exclusivity of Studio 54 birthed the beginning of bourgeois, narcissistic pop (Nile Rodgers, creator of Chic, originally wrote ‘Freak Out’ as ‘Fuck Off’, having been denied entry, on New Year’s Eve). Maybe cocaine, the money drug, was to blame – but the cynicism of fake bands like Boney M or Rod Stewart cashing in with the ‘Do Ya Think I’m Sexy’ are undeniable.
Yet… at a time when the xenophobic tyrants are back, so is disco. This month, we offer readers a pair of VIP tickets to October’s Liverpool Disco Festival to dance like superstars. We launch our monthly playlist with ‘Disco Queens’ by Resident DJ, Caoimhe Lavelle. The inheritors of the experiment speak out: disco expert & international DJ Daniel Wang, fusion queen Bishi, Manchester rave mistress Gina Breeze. Lisa Jenkins writes on disability and disco while protégé Marva King reveals advice on gender and genre from her mentor, the ultimate dancefloor rebel, Prince.
No rules, forever, except Love 4 One Another,
Main pic: DJ Caoimhe Lavelle, by Laelia Milleri