Dee eye ess see oh

There’s a wonderful new documentary on BBC iPlayer (and on PBS in the US) called Disco: Soundtrack of a Revolution. It traces disco from its origins in the basement bars and warehouses of 1970s New York to its eventual world domination, and it’s a fantastic programme with a celestial soundtrack.

While the music is of course the focus, it’s also very good at putting that music in its wider context: disco was music by and for marginalised people from the Black, Latin and queer communities, and the backlash against it was often because of precisely that: the Disco Sucks protests, which the show covers and which included a “disco demolition night” in a Chicago stadium, were toddler tantrums by largely straight, cis, white men railing against music embraced by Black, Latin and queer people of all genders. As Mark Anderson would later write:

The chance to yell “disco sucks” meant more than simply a musical style choice. It was a chance to push back on a whole set of social dynamics that lay just beneath the surface of a minor battle between a DJ and a radio station that decided to change formats. More importantly, it was a chance for a whole lot of people to say they didn’t like the way the world was changing around them, or who they saw as the potential victors in a cultural and demographic war.

As one of the interviewees puts it in the first episode, disco was political because the dancers’ lives were political.



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