60 Minutes look at 1978's Disco Culture

Originally published at: 60 Minutes look at 1978's Disco Culture | Boing Boing


In 1978, I joined fellow UD students wearing “Disco Sucks” T-Shirts.

Yeah, I was happy when a friend taught me “the pretzel,” but I REALLY. DIDN’T. LIKE. THE. MUSIC!


IMHO disco’s greatest contribution to popular culture was providing Guybrush Threepwood the opportunity to inhale a balloon full of helium and start dancing “Stayin’ Alive.”

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The fact that Dan Rather is amazed “there’s no band playing, it’s all records” is one more example of how technology drove popular culture in the 20th century, in this case the ability to record tight, highly produced dance music in a studio with a standard metronomic beat, and then play the records though loud systems in a club. The same thing happened with Jamaican sound systems, and the party culture of both also drove the sound of the records-- dubs and extended dance mixes.

It also still amazes me that there’s a style of music named “record” in Spanish.


Disco never died. It just evolved into pop, electronica, house, etc.


Disco was an evil plot to keep roller rinks in business.


Funny thing. All the disco documentaries feature Studio 54. But it was roller rinks where I heard it most.


Growing up in Detroit I had my DREAD card credited as the first loyalty card in the 70s. It started out getting discounts at Harmony House on record albums and later evolved into a discount card for many businesses in and around Detroit.

Detroit Rockers Engaged in the Abolition of Disco

I also grew up at the roller rink listening to disco.

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i am vindicated that disco never died, while rock is now wheezing along. not that i don’t love rock – far from it – but the racism, homophobia, and misogyny in the “disco sucks” movement just turned me off. disco was FUN, and what’s wrong with that.

all that aside, the part about “PAYOLA? in DISCO?? my stars!” portion of this made me snort.


IIRC, 1956 was the first year that recorded music outsold sheet music. Which predates the 60 Minutes piece by a generation, but feels like a data point in the trend of how tech was driving popular culture.


I’m of the opinion that Disco started in 1975 with the release of “Dreamin’ a Dream” by Crown Heights Affair. It wasn’t actually called Disco in my neck of the woods at the time but it was definitely different. Three years later, 1978. Disco truly became a thing with the release of “Saturday Night Fever” by various artists and “Dance wit Me” by Thom Browne. Big business got really interested after that. Two years after that, 1980, Disco was dead. I blame big business for just taking the highhat sound from “Dreamin a Dream” slapping it on any song from any genre and calling it Disco. That’s what truly sucked.


I think the only reason “rock” hasn’t died is we have extremely flexible definitions of what qualifies as rock. It includes Chuck Berry, Ozzy Osbourne, Wilco, Elton John, Pink Floyd, etc. Rock is more of a signifier of “approved by the masses” than a musical style.

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I’d argue it’s become more of a “signifier of approval of white rock critics” than of the masses, though. It’s true it’s flexible and popular, but so is lots of pop music that gets dismissed by many critics, because it’s not popular with the “right” people… the Rock Critic has become the voice of artistic authority on what is “art” and what is “pop” since the age of Lester Bangs. He (and Shaw and Marsh) really elevated rock music into the sort of “art” category that rock enjoys today… But many of those same critics operating in that style will dismiss a wildly popular album like Beyonce, Taylor Swift, etc, because that’s not “real” art…

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We were working early this morning in a pretty big facility that was shut down for the holiday so our music cranked up on the JBL Charge (great speaker).

I put on the Donna Summer Pandora channel. As the extended 18 minute Macarthur’s Park was playing and I was singing along out of key someone else showed up so I had to tone it down.

In the immortal words of Tony P…

“Disco is NOT dead! Disco is LIFE!”

And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.

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This is genius. Pure genius.

At that time payola had a LOT of people snorting…

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