IT’S actually amazing when you stop and think about it. A counter-culture movement originating in homosexual night clubs somehow wound up overtaking every nook and cranny of the pop culture landscape. From Hollywood to the fashion industry to ridiculous albums like the one pictured above – nothing was safe from the marauding cash cow called Disco.
So, why did it die a horrible death in the early 1980s?
There were plenty factors at work, such as a very real homophobic backlash. But that is an issue best reserved for a more serious discussion. Instead, let’s focus on 7 other primary suspects all wanted for “discocide”.
Without question, the primary reason disco died was that it had over-saturated pop culture. Any credibility it once possessed was washed away by a tsunami of disco-garbage riding the gravy train all the way to the bank. As evidenced by the album above, it was a global problem, and there seemed to be no bottom to this barrel.
Can’t Stop the Music – a major motion picture starring Bruce Jenner, Steve Guttenberg, and The Village People. Need I say more? Hollywood took the success of Saturday Night Fever, a genuinely good film with an epic soundtrack, and ran the idea into the ground. Overnight, films became awash with oceans of polyester, roller-skating, and indiscriminate use of neon. Movies like Thank God It’s Friday, Xanadu, Roller Boogie, The Apple, and Stayin’ Alive glutted theaters, making audiences pray to their gods that disco would go away – forever.
Aretha was just one of an unsettling number of musicians that suddenly found their disco groove in the late seventies. Were they inspired by the new brand of music or simply inspired by the dollar bills that came with it? We may never know. (Well, actually we do. It was the dollars.) There was never anything so pathetic as a completely non-disco act suddenly found shaking their groove thing in a mad grab for cash.
When Herb Alpert and Streisand went disco, we took it in stride and no alarms were sounded. However, once musicians like Rod Stewart, Blondie and The Stones got on board, we knew disco had officially jumped the shark.
A few notable examples: Chicago – Street Player (1979), Kiss – I Was Made for Loving You (1978), and The Beach Boys – Here Comes the Night
I get that disco is all about fun, and it has its origins in gay clubs – so, over-the-top gaudy fashions should’ve been expected. That being said, did this mean people should dress up like homeless mental patients? The uniform for the disco movement could be found in the closet of any circus performer, but you needed to have an almost lethal amount of cocaine in the bloodstream to wear it appropriately
5. CHILDREN’S PRODUCTS
Everyone knows that once something is embraced by the kiddie population, it is officially “uncool” for all eternity. The same thing that happened to psychedelia and breakdancing, happened to disco: it became diluted and homogenized enough for the kindergarten set, and subsequently killed any lingering street cred the movement may still possess.
For those into self-abuse, check out “Disco Rubber Duckie”
6. EZ LISTENING
What’s even worse than little kids embracing your underground cultural movement? That’s right – when the older generation gets into the act. Nothing spells death for a hip trend quite like when the geezers decide to join the party. Ethel Merman (below) was just one of the many performers of an older generation to put a bullet in the head of disco.
Another EZ Listening perpetrator was Arthur Fiedler. From 1930 to 1979, Boston’s native son conducted the Boston Pops orchestra. Listen to a Saturday Night Fever to hear him piss it all away…
7. COMIC BOOKS
If you’re looking for a cultural low point, you can’t do much worse than “The Spider Hustle”. Then, again no comic book was immune from disco infiltration. It may not have directly contributed to disco’s demise; but it was definitely an accomplice.
Of course, one comic book stands out among all others in terms of delivering the disco dynamite: Dazzler – a full-fledged disco superhero.
But Dazzler was no flash in the pan. Long after Donna Summer and the other disco divas went away, Dazzler kept on truckin’. She simply changed her image and pretended like it never happened – which is precisely what all survivors of the disco era did.