Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Vintage Articles:
Cheap Thrills, Entertainment and Escapism -
by Christopher Stone // The Advocate -
August 13, 1975

Continuing with some more from the August 1975 Discos! issue of The Advocate. Admittedly, I’m posting this a little out of sequence. This was Christopher Stone’s introduction to their Disco coverage, just a couple of pages before their exclusive interview with The Supremes.

Interesting to note in this little time-capsule, the contextualization of Disco not as a novel juggernaut, but as a revival, or continuation of an earlier trend, one picked up by the gay underground as far back as 1971. Something “wild, free and outrageous,” originating in “[d]efunct factories, markets and restaurants” highlighting again, clear parallels to the origins of rave culture, for example.

Also notable in this time period - disco being cast, not as something restrictive or limiting (as some later press in the decade would) but as a force opening up musical opportunities. Success in disco is cast here as an antidote to “tight and restrictive” radio playlists, creating new stars and breathing new life into older acts.

More to come very soon.


Cheap Thrills, Entertainment and Escapism
by Christopher Stone

“Shame, shame, shame-shame on you, it you can’t dance too.”

From Hollywood’s Studio One to Le Jardin in Gotham, everybody’s doing it: the hustle, the bump, the time warp and the continental (not to be confused with the Fred & Ginger version).

For the entertainment industry, 1975 is the Year of the Discotheque. No doubt about it, the masses have turned on to what’s been getting us off for the last four years.

In the country discos were almost completely gay. During the last year, hetero clubs have been opening faster than Gloria Gaynor can say “goodbye.” Independent surveys indicate that at least 70% of the discos are still gay. Many straight people confess that they have more fun at the gay clubs.

The current disco revival began in 1971, spearheaded by the gay underground. Defunct factories, markets and restaurants were transformed into dance meccas where gay people boogyed their way to happiness. The atmosphere was wild, free and outrageous. Attire ranged from black tie to tie-dye. Discothequers lost themselves in a frantic world of non-stop music and madness. Nobody cared who did what to whom just as long as you didn’t stand still.

About two years ago discos surfaced, and now there are an estimated 500 in New York, 100 in Southern California and an additional 700 sprinkled between the coasts. The numbers seem to change daily.

The discotheque, which literally means disc library, originated in France during the ‘50s. The fad swept across Europe, becoming especially popular in London, and eventually reached our shores in the early ‘60s.

Back then, the clubs were primarily straight. The American Graffiti generation twisted, rugged, monkeyed, jerked and swam the night away to the Supremes, Martha and the Vandellas, Chubby Checker, Little Richard - even Bobby Rydell. Ann-Margret look-alikes set the pace from cages, which were sometimes suspended from the ceiling.

But with the advent of acid rock, the disco turntables stopped turning. Now they are spinning as never before.

The recession seems to be primarily responsible for the resurgence. At a time when money is as tight as one’s pants, discos offer cheap thrills, entertainment and escapism. (On the West Coast, admittance is usually free during the week, with cover charges ranging from $1-$3 on weekends; Eastern discos charge more.)

Discos make dollars and sense for club owners who can no longer afford the hefty fees commanded by the better “live” groups and attractions. And while rock groups were sometimes temperamental and undependable, hit records never have a bad night. Disco owners offer their patrons superstars at their recording studio best, seven nights a week.

Moreover, record companies are ecstatic over the disco boon. Platter pushers previously had to rely solely on radio airplay to make a hit record. Most radio playlists are tight and restrictive, so many discs were pressed and then never heard. Discos have changed all that.

Rock the Boat,” “I’ve Got the Music In Me,” “Never Can Say Goodbye,” “Love’s Theme,” “Get Dancin’,” “The Hustle” and “Shame, Shame, Shame ” are just a few of the smashes that owe their success to disco airplay.

Stars such as Gloria Gaynor, Disco Tex and the Sex-O-Lettes, Carol Douglas and Van McCoy were born in discos. Others such as Labelle, the Supremes and Shirley & Co. were re-born there. Now record companies have disco reps who monitor the clubs, listen to the jocks and supply them with new products. (Up until this year, most disco jocks had to supply their own records.) Major labels even supply the clubs with “special mixes” of certain songs, designed for optimum reproduction when played over a disco’s elaborate sound system.

Where all of this will end, no one seems to know.

No one wants it to end.

It looks like discos may just be here to stay. ■

vintage articles: wanna dance? get wrecked to the ass! - by vito russo // the advocate - august 13, 1975 (wednesday april 28, 2021)
vintage articles: exclusive supremes interview - by christopher stone // the advocate - august 13, 1975 (sunday march 21, 2021)
in defense of disco by richard dyer (tuesday march 13, 2008)

wikipedia: nightclub - post wwii: emergence of the disc jockey and the discothèque
wikipedia: twelve-inch single
library of dance: the bump
christopher stone - author


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