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C O U R S E 
History of Rock, 1970-Present
John Covach, University of Rochester
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
The Backlash Against Disco
Notes taken on August 14, 2015 by Edward Tanguay
just the word is enough to anger 1970s rock and rollers
how can you get so upset about a style of popular music?
as if you wanted to stamp it out
and wish it never existed in the first place
it was a dance craze for sure
rejects some important elements of the hippy aesthetic
the reaction may have to do with the misunderstanding of black pop
most white rock music listeners didn't know much black pop music
they may have heard the Ohio Players Funky Worm
they'd seen Curtis Mayfield on TV talking about Freddy's Dead or The Pusherman
they'd heard Isaac Hayes talking about Shaft or Can you Dig It
they knew some Stevie Wonder and listened to the Average White Band
early days
the idea of disco was not unlike what was happening at American Bandstand
when you went to a disco, people played records, and you danced
there might not be a guitar or a drum set or a base guitar anywhere to be found
this sort of situation is familiar now but back in the 70s, it wasn't that way, when you went to a club, you went to see that band that was playing there, the people performing
one reason why disco evolved the way it did
in the gay community, people who ran a gay club would want there to be music for dancing, but many bands wouldn't play those gigs
so they were in a way forced to use records for dancing
developed in urban areas
people discovered that certain recordings were better for dancing
bands began to create extended versions for dancing
disco records began to pop up on the chart almost as novelty records at first
1973 Barry White's Love Unlimited Orchestra
Love's Theme
was called a disco record but didn't get too many people upset yet
1975 Van McCoy "The Hustle"
that still didn't get anyone too riled up
it was just another one of these AM hits, who cares
1975 KC and the Sunshine Band
That's the Way I Like It
but in 1977 there's a film, "Saturday Night Fever"
features a young John Travolta
who know John Travolta could dance
at the time he had pretty much only been a character on a television show called Welcome Back Kotter
this film launched Disco as popular music
it became the craze in America
1977 Saturday Night Fever, Bee Gees
Staying Alive
How Deep Is Your Love
Night Fever
Yvonne Elliman
Yvonne Elliman: If I Can't Have You
part of the cast of the original Jesus Christ Superstar
when the disco craze breaks, every artist was running for their disco craze hit
Rod Stewart
The Rolling Stones
even KISS
was a return of the producers
Jacques Morali
Giorgio Moroder
more euro disco based
drum machine that could do the beats exactly metronomically
Donna Summer
1976 Love to Love you Baby
patently sexual piece
you can hear her enjoy the sexual act
meant to be heard to draw you in
1979 Bad Girls
Disco concept album
about ladies of the night and the various situations they get into
Hot Stuff
Bad Girls
Dim All the Lights
The Village People
assembled and produced by Jacques Morali
didn't speak much English
brought together as a kind of gay monkees
based on fantasies gay stereotypes drawn from Greenwich Village in New York City
weren't taking it entirely serious
most people didn't know, they just like the costumes
had no sense that the village people had anything to do with gay culture
a playful approach to the gay underground that for the most part went over the heads of most white, middle-class listeners
it was so not understood, that the song YMCA (1978)
essentially about gay guys hooking up at the YMCA
and still isn't, if you go to a minor league baseball game, in the 7th inning stretch, they will play YMCA over the stadium speakers
and everybody, Mom, Dad, grandma, the kids will all stand up and sing YMCA without the slightest idea that it has anything to do with gay culture
they still haven't gotten the joke yet
1979 "In the Navy"
The United States Navy licensed the song for recruiting purposes
on the condition that the Village People could do a video one of the Navy boats
when they found out what the village people were doing they pulled the plug on it
backlash against disco
rock stations start to change format from rock to disco
the rock fans felt that their stations were being taken away
Steve Dahl
shock jock
1978 moved from Detroit to Chicago
was fired because the station he was at changed formats from rock to disco
went to another Chicago station
July 1979: Anti-Disco Rally in Chicago
put a big box full of disco records and blew it up
people started streaming onto the field
the second game of the double header had to be cancelled
spurred the "disco sucks" movement
what upset rock fans so much about disco?
disco was about finding someone to dance with and then have a one-night stand
but when have rock fans been against promiscuity
not a good reason
they saw it was from the gay community
not many people really realized this
not a good reason
certainly racial
a lot of white rockers thought that disco was black music
if so, it was not a proud moment in the history of rock and roll
disco was a music that was fun rather than about serious issues
about the producers and not the artists
it wasn't about artistic anything
it was an assault on the hippy aesthetic
1966 - 1979 Pink Floyd's The Wall
it seemed to be gaining ground with radio stations changing format
along with disco, punk was arising in England in 1977 and into 1978 in America
two musical genres rejecting the hippy aesthetic