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20 June 2005

It didn't.
posted by kirkaracha 20 June | 15:12
This thread closed to further comments.
posted by Specklet 20 June | 15:17
It didn't so much suck as blow.
posted by Slack-a-gogo 20 June | 15:19
Actually, some disco stuff still holds up (or sounds even better now than it did then) - it was the culture that surrounded disco that sucked.
posted by Slack-a-gogo 20 June | 15:20
I don't find it particularly sucky.
posted by bugbread 20 June | 15:20
Disco sucked because it wasn't rock n' roll, dude! And you weren't allowed to wear torn black T-shirts and dirty jeans.

*once held up a corner of a Disco Sucks banner at an Allman Brothers concert*
posted by mygothlaundry 20 June | 15:30
Donít blame it on the sunshine,
Donít blame it on the moonlight,
Donít blame it on the good times,
Blame it on the boogie!
posted by veedubya 20 June | 15:31
Yeah, rawk on!!

*passes MGL joint and bottle of Boone's*

(although I have a soft spot for the Trammps, and EWF).
posted by jonmc 20 June | 15:31
Looking back on it, the music isn't bad if your only requirement is something to dance to. It never struck me as music you would actually want to listen to at any other time. It all had such a sameness, and a canned, prefab feel. And no soul or emotion - at least to me. No beauty. No depth. How much of that can you take, really?
posted by iconomy 20 June | 15:34
The 70's incarnation of genre had become a parody of itself, once the mainstream bought into it. But that was only one facet of club music, which continues evolving to this day.
posted by Smart Dalek 20 June | 15:35
Slightly OT, but I enjoy using the term "disco" to mean any club with dancing. I always get strange looks, which I counter with a look that says, "Well, what do you call it?"

It's one of my few pretensions (along with claiming to have few pretensions). That and the word "sysop," which I dangle at every chance.
posted by Hugh Janus 20 June | 15:38
disco only sucked in the 70's. it's cool now.
posted by quonsar 20 June | 15:41
well, maurice gibb sucked. but hey...
posted by quonsar 20 June | 15:42
Why did *INSERT MUSIC I DON'T LIKE* suck?
posted by AlexReynolds 20 June | 15:44
disco only sucked in the 70's. it's cool now.


I think that's the professor's point. It's not yet another indictment of disco in general, but an examination of why it was hated (by some) back in its hey-day.
posted by me3dia 20 June | 15:47
And no soul or emotion - at least to me. No beauty. No depth.

No beauty in the Bee-Gees? Well, to each his own.
I always get strange looks, which I counter with a look that says, "Well, what do you call it?"

A club.
That and the word "sysop," which I dangle at every chance.

Agreed. And I'm also partial to the word "handle".
posted by bugbread 20 June | 15:48
Note that the question isn't "Why does disco suck?" but rather "Why did disco suck?"
posted by me3dia 20 June | 15:49
But I could ask the same question about boy bands, you know? At any point in time, someone somewhere will not like something. The only thing that distinguishes this question is that people like a romanticized version of disco now, and some people back then didn't like the real thing.
posted by AlexReynolds 20 June | 15:52
It never ever sucked. It jumped the shark when all sorts of celebrities did disco albums tho, and novelty hits hurt it too--Disco Duck springs to mind.

*dances around, singing, "Get down, boogie oogie oogie..."*
posted by amberglow 20 June | 15:58
Does anyone remember the name of that dj who invited people to a huge disco album burning/bonfire? I guess it was late 70s or early 80s.
posted by iconomy 20 June | 16:02
But I could ask the same question about boy bands, you know?


Did you actually look at the link? He's asking for personal recollections as part of his research for a book. Yes, you could say that about any music, but that's beside the point.

iconomy: Steve Dahl, Disco Demolition.
posted by me3dia 20 June | 16:06
Ah thanks, me3dia! I couldn't narrow down a good google.
posted by iconomy 20 June | 16:11
At any point in time, someone somewhere will not like something. The only thing that distinguishes this question is that people like a romanticized version of disco now, and some people back then didn't like the real thing.

It's also one of the earliest and most vivid examples of a trend rapidly spinning out of control into the land of ridiculous hype. It didn't take very long to get to "Disco Duck."
posted by jonmc 20 June | 16:42
I blame Disco Duck.

I am embarrassed to acknowledge that I was among the millions that embraced said Duck, only to wake up a few months later with a Duck hangover.

We realized how stupid this and so many other disco songs were, when you listened to them.
posted by sarah connor 20 June | 16:46
Did you actually look at the link?

Yes, I did actually look at the link.
posted by AlexReynolds 20 June | 16:48
Whit Stillman's Last Days of Disco did not suck. I like to imagine ol' Whit filling this form out.
posted by safetyfork 20 June | 17:04
Personally, I don't think any genres suck - just artistes. If you want to look around then you can usually find something in any given genre that you'll like.
posted by dodgygeezer 20 June | 17:32
It was the white lounge suits and feathered hair.
posted by rumple 20 June | 17:52
Disco didn't suck - at the time. it sucks now, because we can look back on it with a more sober, mature (?) view and see it for what it really was - crap.

The "kids" of today will look back on the crap that is being pushed on them as actual music and realise that, not only is/was it crap, it was even crappier than disco. I was listening to the radio in my car last night and heard for the first time that crazy frog song tune track abortion. I slowly reached over and turned it off and that is the way any radio owned by me will stay until further notice. I shall now retreat into my little world consisting almost exclusively of pre-disco era music. I mean, I know there is some good new stuff around, but you have to listen to so much crap (much of which is recycled crap, adding insult to injury), that it is just not worth it. If modern music was a gold mine, it would have been closed down a decade ago because the yield rate is just not enough to make if viable.
posted by dg 20 June | 18:21
Umm, sorry, what were we talking about again?
posted by dg 20 June | 18:22
The "kids" of today will look back on the crap that is being pushed on them as actual music and realise that, not only is/was it crap, it was even crappier than disco.

I can see a "Why did electroclash suck?" thread happening in twenty-odd years. More things change...
posted by AlexReynolds 20 June | 18:50
I think popular music was less diverse back then, the available ways of accessing music were fewer, and hence the various musical tribes were less tolerant of each other. Nowadays, who cares if electroclash sucks, there are a million ways to avoid it, whatever it is.
posted by rumple 20 June | 19:18
dg, he's not asking why we think disco sucks now, he's asking why the various other music heads (whether it was punk or rock or whatever) held up great big signs that said "Disco Is Dead" at concerts. I wasn't exactly alive back then, but I think it was because all the cool kids listened to disco and went to night clubs, while all the so-called "social rejects" listened to music that didn't require coke (a social drug) and anonymous sex (a social endeavor) to enjoy.
posted by muddgirl 20 June | 19:25
Yes, muddgirl, I got off the track a little there (as usual).

I think, along the lines of what rumple is saying, people's musical tastes were more clearly defined then for some reason - if you liked disco, you weren't "allowed" to like metal as well.
posted by dg 20 June | 19:37
What kirkaracha and dodgy said. It didn't, and doesn't, suck on the whole; certain "artists" gave disco a bad name. Believe me, you - there's a whole lotta sucky [ insert genre here ] out there as well.
posted by deborah 20 June | 19:38
As someone who worked as a DJ for the Regine's chain I vote it sucked and with hindsight still does. While it had a beat you could dance to, it was dull. Thank god for punk.
posted by arse_hat 20 June | 19:45
This may be why I don't dislike disco. It isn't quite, as AlexReynolds said, that it's been "romanticized", as much as the truly bad has been forgotten (unless, like Disco Duck, it's so bad that it circles back to amusing), so what's left is the cream. People at the time had to listen to the whole lousy shebang if they went to a club or turned on the Disco radio station, whereas now the disco that remains is 90% less swill.

Works, to some extent, with classic rock as well, I'd assume (though I notice that the really good tracks from classic rock bands are often too long or quirky to get much radio play (thinking about Thick As A Brick, by Jethro Tull, which is a seldom radio-playable 22 minutes and change))
posted by bugbread 20 June | 19:50
I can see a "Why did electroclash suck?" thread happening in twenty-odd years. More things change...

Exactly. The trappings and sound may change somewhat, but the crucial demographics stay the same. Whether you call it rockabilly, garage rock, hard rock, heavy metal, punk or grunge, there's always gonna be young men full of testosterone who need loud guitars. Whether you call it jump blues, Motown, soul, funk, disco, hip-hop or house, as long as people want to shake their booty, theres goona be some kind of beat heavy music to satisfy that need. I could go on forever, but you get the idea. And this is a good thing, especially for music geeks.

(though I notice that the really good tracks from classic rock bands are often too long or quirky to get much radio play (thinking about Thick As A Brick, by Jethro Tull, which is a seldom radio-playable 22 minutes and change))

This is where we have to agree to disagree, bugbread. The prog-rok/art-rock bands were at their best when the balanced their artistic ambitions with their love of basic gutbocket rock. Tull did this quite often ("Hymn 49," "Bouree" "Too Old To Rock And Roll") as did Pink Floyd, Genesis, Hawkwind, King Crimson (check out Adrain Belew's excellent cover of the Beatles "I'm Down") and a lot of the German bands like Amon Duul. But the longer conceptual stuff comes across as self indulgent to these ears. YMMV.
posted by jonmc 20 June | 19:58
Works, to some extent, with classic rock as well, I'd assume (though I notice that the really good tracks from classic rock bands are often too long or quirky to get much radio play (thinking about Thick As A Brick, by Jethro Tull, which is a seldom radio-playable 22 minutes and change))
I have to agree with this - except that many of those long tracks had shorter versions made particularly for radio's (at the time) "3 minutes is long enough for any song" format.

But the longer conceptual stuff comes across as self indulgent to these ears. YMMV.
My mileage does, indeed, vary - the longer, therefore less commercial stuff is what really interests me. It seems to me that this is the stuff that musicians really wanted to make, but had to find a way to buy weed and guitar strings that didn't involve getting an actual job. Not that I claim any sort of expertise at all, but it seems that quite often, bands such as Pink Floyd include one track that is suitable for radio (which was the only really effective way for music to spread to the masses back then). Perhaps I am just too cynical, though. Otherwise, they made shorter (often without the nasty words) versions to release as singles with the hope of selling albums on the strength of that one song - who here has never bought an album after loving the single and then finding that they hate the rest of the album?

Generally, although I prefer to think that what we now call "classic rock" is a representative sample of the music in those times, it is really just the cream - there was a lot of very awful crap back then, too.

Sorry, we were talking about disco, weren't we?
posted by dg 20 June | 20:15
Generally, although I prefer to think that what we now call "classic rock" is a representative sample of the music in those times, it is really just the cream - there was a lot of very awful crap back then, too.

This is true. But it's the nuggets buried in that BritBoogie/southern rock/prog/proto-metal slag heap that are rarely played. When was the last time you heard a Mountain song on the radio that wasn't "Missippi Queen?" A Humble Pie song? Frijid Pink? Quicksilver Messenger Service? Potliquor? Birth Control? Savoy Brown?

And the term classic rock is annoying since it tells you noting about what the music sounds like like. Skynyrd isn't a classick rock band, they're a southern rock band. Uriah Heep is Heavy Metal. Mott The hoople is Glam Rock. etc, etc.
posted by jonmc 20 June | 20:24
Hmm, Humble Pie - haven't heard anything from them for ages.

Well, maybe I have misunderstood the whole concept of classic rock, then - I have always viewed it as exactly what I said above - the cream of the music from the "golden years" (my description only, of course). I really don't care if you want to call it glam rock or metal or southern rock or whatever - if it is good enough to surivive, it is a classic in my book. But then I am just a simple man with simple tastes.
posted by dg 20 June | 20:39
Thick as a Brick is more like 40 minutes.

I like it lots. Maybe too lots.
posted by kenko 20 June | 20:44
I really don't care if you want to call it glam rock or metal or southern rock or whatever

Well, to put those old warhorses in their proper context is to allow them their own identity again, as heratfelt works of art instead of time-filling fodder. I've always argued that one of the bigest problems with ClerChannel style-programming is that it's killed people's chances of enjoying great music by destroying it with overplay. If Skynyrd was played along side Wilco, or Cream alongside the Buzzocks, appreciation of both would be increased. But that's just a theory.

*fires up "I Don't need No Doctor," on dg's behalf*
posted by jonmc 20 June | 20:45
Actually, kenko, Thick as a Brick was what alerted me to the fact that there may be music that wasn't played on the radio and has led to a lifelong love of long, involved musical tracks. I thought it was longer than 22 minutes, because I recall it taking up both sides of the album. It is a very different animal to the short version that use to be played on radio. But then I can't truly enjoy a book that I can read in one day, either - anything under 1,000 pages seems to be missing something to me.

jonmc, I have no idea what ClearChannel plays, but assume you mean that, but playing only "classic rock", it is somehow out of context? If so, I agree - to hear a whole range of music mixed together is to truly be able to appreciate the differences (and the similiarities) - playing any one narrowly defined genre doesn't give you any contrast. But perhaps I have missed your point completely?

*fires up 23m version of "Whole Lotta Love" to demonstrate how different a popular song can sound without commercial airplay requirements restricting it*
posted by dg 20 June | 21:02
jonmc, I have no idea what ClearChannel plays,

ClerChannel is a corporation that owns roughly 5 bazillion american radio stations. They tend to follow the "we're now going to play "Freebird," "Whole Lotta Love," and "All The Young Dudes," for the 10 billionth time" format. And you know what? I love all three of those songs, and any serious scholar of popular music will gladly cop to their importance. But reducing them to amplified muzak through overplay, lack of context and sheer inertia, does a disservice to both the listeners and to the musicians who created them.
posted by jonmc 20 June | 21:07
And to hear some of these old bastards in their proper context is something of a revelation. I have an mp3 of Skynyrd's first locally released single* ("Michelle") recorded back in 1971 when they were a bunch of white trash high school dropouts living 6 guys in a 3 room house in a bad Jacksonville neighborhood. The sound quality is mediocre but you can definitely hear the birth of a vision; these guys were raised on their native country music, rockabilly and blues, but theyd obviously been listening to The Who, The Allman Brothers and Cream, and you can hear them reaching for some way to cobine that all into something new. In this context they seem almost (dare I say it), punk. And therein lies the lesson, a lot of these warhorses were punks in their historical context, which ClearChannel robs them of.

*I'll gladly email the song to anyone who emails me.
posted by jonmc 20 June | 21:28
Consider yourself e-mailed.
posted by dg 20 June | 21:43
Gimme dat song, ya' redneck.

And only The Eagles really sucked.
posted by yhbc 20 June | 22:16
It didn't.
posted by kirkaracha 20 June | 15:12
This thread closed to further comments.
posted by Specklet 20 June | 15:17


Hahahahahhahahaha!
But seriously, it didn't.

I'm renting a car and travelling with my girlfriend and her gorgeous sister (another story, another time) and they crank out the vintage country music and start hollerin to it. Well, what the hell. Once I get past the shame of it, it's fun. Disco is like that.
posted by dreamsign 20 June | 22:35
"Disco is like that."
No, it's not.
posted by arse_hat 20 June | 22:43
No, it's not. Well, perhaps for dreamsign, but not for any other carbon-based life form.

And only The Eagles really sucked.
Them's fightin' woids, commish!
posted by dg 20 June | 22:51
They're overrated to be sure but they had their moments. "Take It To The Limit" was great fake Elton John and "Already Gone" was good country rock.
posted by jonmc 20 June | 22:57
In their favor the Eagles were not disco!
posted by arse_hat 20 June | 22:59
Well, fake early Elton John, perhaps. I actually like The Last Resort, which says more about me than any real greatness on the part of The Eagles. I am a sucker for songs like this - Telegraph Road by Dire Straits is another one in a similar vein.
posted by dg 20 June | 23:08
That's a very interesting song, jon. If I didn't know it was Skynyrd (and if not for the ultra-fast speed guitar bridge) I would have thought it was a band that played primarily blues music, and not so-called "southern rock". And yes, they had definitely been listening to the Allman Brothers and Cream.
posted by yhbc 20 June | 23:09
Evelyn 'Champagne' King's Shame did not suck. Dr. Buzzard's Savannah Band's Cherchez La Femme did not suck. Disco was not kind to soul music and the careers of some soul artists but those who jumped on the funk end of dance music did well enough. Johnny "Guitar" Watson comes to mind. But people at the time did not seem differentiate between disco and funk. I saw the Clash in '79 and they played rap, reggae and funk prior to coming on stage. Disco sucks! Fuck this shit! Turn off that nigger music! was the response of the crowd. Funny, I saw johnny 'Guitar' Watson in '79, too, and that was about the best live musical experience of my life. But the Clash--man, pompous, overblown and more pretentious than any band I ever saw, save U2. And they played so loud and their PA was so distorted, that you couldn't hear a word or note. People were screaming but it was so awful. Man, did they suck. That was a horrendously awful concert.
posted by y2karl 21 June | 01:35
Yeah, interesting song, jonmc - I can hear lots of influences in there, but it will me take several listens to really get a feel for it.
posted by dg 21 June | 02:55
Dr. Buzzard's Savannah Band's Cherchez La Femme did not suck. Disco was not kind to soul music and the careers of some soul artists but those who jumped on the funk end of dance music did well enough. Johnny "Guitar" Watson comes to mind.

That's where it all gets murky. Say "disco" to someone my age and it conjures up images of "Disco Duck," and "I Love The Nightlife." Whereas people like Johnny "Guitar" Watson or Earth, Wind & Fire I think of as funky soul. Stuff like Funkadelic and the Commodores almost seems like hard rock with danceable rhythms, but I've heard people (usually Europeans) refer to them as Disco. So confusion clouds a lot of the issues.
posted by jonmc 21 June | 09:34
Does anyone remember the name of that dj who invited people to a huge disco album burning/bonfire? I guess it was late 70s or early 80s.


When Disco Demolition happened in 1979, I was five years old and Steve Dahl was my next-door neighbor. I remember seeing that on the news and being absolutely terrified that Steve Dahl was going to break into my house, take my Sesame Street Fever record (with the cover that looked like the Saturday Night Fever cover) and burn it like I saw him doing on TV. My mom had to get him to come over and tell me he wasn't going to take my record. : )
posted by sisterhavana 21 June | 09:51
And only The Eagles really sucked.

The Commish is wise. Heed the words of the Commish.

Oh, and the Dave Matthews Band.
posted by Tacky O. Assis 21 June | 10:25
Thick as a Brick is more like 40 minutes.

Yeah, I had to consider how I was going to phrase it. The tune is 44 minutes and change, split over the back and front of the album, with each side being 22 minutes. I think I decided that, regardless of what a band calls a song, I tend to think of a song as having a maximum size of one side of an album, after which I consider it perhaps a "work" made of two or more "parts".

Or, rephrased, 22 minutes is how long it would take to play Thick As A Brick from one start position to one stop position without having to fade the song out. I probably shouldn't have used the word "song" so much as "complete part" or "discrete element". But that was kinda awkward.

Oh, and jonmc, my email addy is "misc the-symbol-like-an-a-with-a-circle-around-it bugbread full-stop(us-yanks-say-period) com".
posted by bugbread 21 June | 10:28
check your inbox, bugbread, my man.
posted by jonmc 21 June | 10:33
The Skynyrd was...ok. Didn't quite float my boat. Sounded too much like the parts of Zeppelin that I don't get into. If that recording was from 1971, it seems that they were less trying out new things with strong DIY spirit as trying to sound a lot like Zeppelin. Then again, the weight of my opinion is greatly weakened by the fact that I'm just not a blues man. And being a Texan and not liking Stevie Ray Vaughn was always kinda awkward.
posted by bugbread 21 June | 11:09
If that recording was from 1971, it seems that they were less trying out new things with strong DIY spirit as trying to sound a lot like Zeppelin.

Well, in the sense that they were unknowns putting out an independent record on a small label, they were definitely DIY, IMO. And while the sound they came up with is old news now, I can hear Ronnie & the boys creating what came to be known as the Skynyrd sound (the southern blues/country flavor of the Allman's but with British hard rock punch replacing the Allman's jazz-based jam tendencies), so that makes it intersting.

I don't really see the Zep comparison, Van Zant's vocals are far more restrained than Plant, and the song is more compactly constructed. Unless any loud, blues guitar based music makes you think of Zep.
posted by jonmc 21 June | 11:17
DIY was probably the wrong phrase (after all, a Coldplay cover band can be DIY). I guess I should have said "groundbreaking" or "explorative" or, as you put it, "punk".

I guess I'm saying that I think their later work is more "punk" (even though now everyone thinks of Freebird as the epitomy of "the old establishment") than this track.

And I'm not saying they sound identical to Led Zep. They're obviously different. And I'm also referring mainly to the slow part at the start. When it speeds up, it stops sounding like Zep. But it gives me the same impression that the first Rush album did: trying to sound kinda like Zep, but not too like Zep.

Which, again, isn't saying it's in any way bad. A lot of bands I like sound similar to other bands, some of which I like, some of which I don't. No band is an island. I'm just saying it doesn't sound as explorative as the impression I'd gotten from y'all's discussion.
posted by bugbread 21 June | 11:27
And, for reference, I use the expression "punk" really reservedly. Every discussion I've seen about "punk" on Mefi uses the word in a totally alien way to the way I interpret it. Y'all all seem to be communicating just fine, so I guess the word works, but it reminds me of the Twilight Zone episode where a guy wakes up and everybody speaks in English but with certain words replaced (like everyone says "dinosaur" to refer to the thing with wheels you drive to work). If memory serves me, he starts out thinking they're all nuts, but everyone acts like he's the nut, and as the day progresses more and more words are getting switched, until he ends out thinking he's the nut. So when it comes to the word "punk", I'm the nut.
posted by bugbread 21 June | 11:31
When Disco Demolition happened in 1979, I was five years old and Steve Dahl was my next-door neighbor.

Oh god, listening to that man argue with his wife on the radio sent me off to 7th grade every morning with the beginnings of an ulcer. I hope he was getting all his marital strife out of his system on-air, for your sake.
(I could've listened to Wally Phillips, but how lame was that?)
posted by maryh 21 June | 12:37
This is a long thread, so maybe I missed somebody else saying this, but: why did people attack disco in the '70s? Homophobia and racism, mostly (exception made for hard-core rockers like jonmc). Disco was perceived as music for dancing (strike one), and it was popular among black people and gays (strikes two and three, yer out). I was there, I remember.

On purely musical grounds, sure, disco is simple-minded and you wouldn't want to listen to it as a steady diet, but the same is true of two-chord rock and lots of other musical genres. But good disco is tremendous fun, and I feel sorry for people who've closed their ears to it.
posted by languagehat 22 June | 12:18
why did people attack disco in the '70s?
Homophobia and racism, mostly


Exactly. Disco was more than one sort of music played in more than one sort of disco, which, more often than not, was either a black or a gay nightclub or both.

And I forgot to mention Chic in my list above--now there was a groove. Never were bass, guitar and drums ever
tighter.
posted by y2karl 23 June | 09:53
From 1978:

All this is so obvious I feel dumb writing it. But it bears reiteration in the year of Saturday Night Fever and its pathetic, homophobic rebuttal, "Disco Sucks." Whatever the real dangers and deficiencies of disco as a genre and a mentality, some disco records do more than just succeed on their own terms, as dance music--some of
them are wonderful rock and roll. The Best of the Trammps (ineligible for the poll, like all best-ofs) is rough, driving soul in the great tradition of Wilson Pickett; the Bee Gees' side of Saturday Night Fever (which broke--broke the ice, broke records, broke the bank--in 1978 but is ineligible because it was released in 1977) is inspired silliness in the great tradition of "Carrie-Anne" and "Itchychoo Park." But the disco-sucks crowd can't hear that any more than they can hear a Charlie Parker solo or a Joni Mitchell song. These assholes are such fanatics that they seize upon the first hint of synthesized percussion or rhythmic strings or chukka-chukka guitar--hell, the first lilt--as proof that anybody from Bowie to Poco has "gone disco," though most often the discos could care less even when it's true. They turn the fatuity, monotonousness, and wimpoid tendencies of the worst (or most monofunctional) disco into an excuse for rejecting all contemporary black music except perhaps reggae, and I bet they don't listen much to Otis Redding either. One hesitates to cry racism. But this is certainly a good imitation.


Robert Christgau: New Wave Hegemony and the Bebop Question
posted by y2karl 23 June | 10:00
MeCha Mix Project: Your Mix in Others' Words || When is the new mix swap?

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