Here’s a short overview I wrote for DJ Mag’s Disco edition last year, outlining some of the musical threads that resulted in the evolving Disco movement’s expansion from the underground into the eye of mainstream attention as the ‘70s unfurled.
Back in the early 2000s, when I began to explore the internet properly, discovering a number of DJ forums discussing dance culture and its history, it was clear that the early ’80s had been largely obscured. This was the period that followed the supposed death of Disco in 1979 (prompted by the vitriolic racist / homophobic ‘’Disco Sucks’ campaign fronted by WLUP Chicago shock jock Steve Dahl), and preceded the emergence of House music during the mid-’80s.
Today marks the 40th anniversary of my first club appearance. Last night I played for 5 hours at The Garage and tonight I’m at The Jacaranda to conclude a celebratory weekend in my home city of Liverpool with a talk about what it was like to be a DJ back in those proto-Disco days.
A few years ago I wanted to show a friend Tracey Emin’s 1995 short film, ‘Why I Never Became A Dancer’, but couldn’t find it anywhere online. The last time I’d seen it was perhaps a decade earlier, at The Tate Gallery in Liverpool, so I surmised that, given it’s part of the Tate Collection, it would only be possible to view in an arts space, and not on the internet. I looked to see if I could buy a copy, but no luck there either. Anyhow, it came up in conversation again a few nights ago so I had another look online and, lo and behold, there it was on Vimeo, in all of its grainy Super 8 splendour. It was Emin’s first film, and for me it was a major key to understanding where she was coming from, both as an artist and a person (for her confessional art is, by nature, informed by her personal experience – her approach often brutally honest).
I’ve just gone and bought myself a painting – a first for me. It’s only a small one, not quite the size of an A4 sheet, acrylic paint on canvas, but when I realised it was for sale I figured it would be rude not to buy it.
In 2009 I wrote an article on the history of mixing in this country called ‘How The Talking Stopped’. It was the most in depth piece I’d ever written, the research alone had taken many months, including a couple of trips to the British Library in London to comb through the copies of Record Mirror they have archived there, for it was within this magazine that the person who I’d certainly argue did more to promote UK DJ culture than any other human being, connected (via his essential weekly dance column) with fellow DJs in every corner of the country. This was the literally larger than life James Hamilton (1942-1996), and if you’re a British DJ, whether you’ve heard of him or not, you can’t have escaped his influence, for he’s part of the very fabric of our DJ / club heritage.
David Mancuso’s London Loft party, ‘Journey Through The Light’, celebrates its 10th anniversary on June 23rd. Held Upstairs @ The Light in Shoreditch, it’s a party like no other, underpinned by a high-end audiophile sound system that has to be heard to be believed. Although its originator, now approaching his 70s, hasn’t been able to make it in person during recent times, the party continues in his absence, Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy his chosen stand in (he hopes to return for future dates though).
The most talked about album in many years, Daft Punk’s ‘Random Access Memories’, is released in the UK today, and, as discussed in my post from the beginning of the month, ‘Disco Now Disco Then’ (//blog.gregwilson.co.uk/2013/05/disco-now-disco-then-2), it’s all set to blitz the charts worldwide.
Given the current fascination with Disco, and a fresh wave of interest in its history, I thought it would be good time to flag up what many would regard as the must read book on the subject, outlining the development of the movement in downtown New York during the ’70s. Here’s my review for Grandslam magazine back in 2003, when Tim Lawrence’s epic ‘Love Saves The Day – A History Of American Dance Music Culture, 1970-1979’ was first published:
Daft Punk are sitting pretty at the top of the UK singles chart for the first time. The track in question, ‘Get Lucky’, taken from their forthcoming album, ‘Random Access Memories’, came as something of a surprise, for instead of hitching itself to the current EDM juggernaut that’s sweeping America, the French duo have completely bucked the trend by drawing their influence from Disco, featuring its most celebrated guitarist, the great Nile Rodgers of the Chic Organisation (as well as R&B vocalist, Pharrell Williams). A media sensation, it’s everywhere at the moment – on the radio, on the TV, in the clubs and, of course, all over the internet, becoming the most streamed new release in Spotify history. It’s already been re-edited by a whole host of DJs and is pretty much nailed on to be the single of the summer.