DISCO: Soundtrack of a Revolution Overview: The first episode in the series Disco: Soundtrack of a Revolution, which explores the 70s music scene. Like everything else, disco has a history, a piece of which is presented in this three-episode series. “Everything that happened at the Stonewall that night happened because people were dancing.”, said DJ Nicky Siano about the birth of disco. This wonderful series documents the passion and idealism of the 70s music scene. It’s an immaculately soundtracked history lesson – and so much more besides.
In addition to the historical threads, they show how this subculture evolved and became what we know today from several perspectives. And of course, a music series cannot be complete without music to represent the whole phenomenon, so there is no shortage of that! The three-part series features interviews with music greats including DJ Nicky Siano, Honey Dijon, Kim Petras, Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy, François K, and many others. This, in a unique format, helps us to look at how and where disco culture developed and how it has become the dance industry that we can now look at anywhere in the world thanks to the internet.
As the DJ Nicky Siano puts it, “disco has a history”, and truly, it is a great one. This floats two compatible theories about the birth of disco nightlife. One, that gay liberation emerged as a reaction to the oppressive policing of gay bars, mostly run by the mafia, where same-sex couples were strictly forbidden from dancing together. “Everything that happened at the Stonewall that night happened because people were dancing,” suggests Siano, who is excellent value throughout the film.
It also shows the dire financial straits in New York City at this time, which led to two things. First was an excess of empty warehouse buildings, which were put to good use by artists and people who wanted to party. Disco documents the birth of the Loft, the night thrown by David Mancuso at his warehouse apartment in Manhattan in 1970, where a crowd of mostly Black and Latin partygoers could dance in private, away from the police, freely. They listened to music known as “danceable R&B” and took LSD. “I felt like Pac-Man, like these bubbles were gonna eat me,” recalls David DePino, who had dipped into the spiked punch that was served from a coffee urn. “And that’s when I said, I think I love acid.”
The other consequence of an economy in crisis came three years later, when New York restaurants in Manhattan were forced to rent out their venues at night, because of the great beef shortage of 1973. This meant that in some cases, the restaurants’ Black and Latin members of staff would end up at the parties there. “Unheard of” in Manhattan, says DJ Hollywood, describing these events in which different social groups would dance together “below 52nd Street”. It was at this point that the music critic Vince Aletti wrote about what he called “discotheque rock” for Rolling Stone magazine. The name was soon shortened to “disco”.
This is a comprehensive series, featuring a long list of interviews from people who were there to people who know their history and the musical debts they owe, such as Jake Shears, Jessie Ware and Kim Petras. It picks a handful of key tracks and explains how they became popular and which clubs and DJs championed them. It speaks to the inventors of disco innovations, from remixes to sound effects to speakers that faced four ways. There are interviews with the drummer Earl Young. Earl discusses performing the backbeat for what was an original ballad from Harold Melvin Bell and The Blue Notes called “The Love I Lost”. Earl suggested a more up-tempo beat which many argue became the very first disco song ever. Earl also demonstrates what became the standard disco beat on camera fro this documentary – “That’s why they call me the disco daddy,” he says, fabulously – and with George McCrae, whose Rock Your Baby is given as one of the three tracks that took disco out of the gay clubs and into the mainstream.
There is a lot more to come, but this portrait of its early days is wonderful, documenting an idealistic and passionate scene that was created by and for outsiders, who pushed culture onwards, upwards and into the future. “Dancefloors unite people through sound in a way that our governments and religions try to separate us,” says the DJ and producer Honey Dijon. “It’s the great equaliser.”
Episode 1: “Rock The Boat” Air Date 16th of December 2023: From the sweaty basement bars of 70s New York to the glittering peak of the global charts, how disco conquered the world – its origins, its triumphs, its fall and its legacy. It begins not with sequins and glitter balls, but with protests and activism, as the 1960s marched forwards into a tough new decade. There was, as the radio presenter Mark Riley (not that one) says, “a fuck-you attitude among a lot of people, younger people generally”. There were mass marches for peace and women’s rights, young men were burning their draft cards for the Vietnam war, and LGBTQ+ people were rioting at the Stonewall Inn. The first episode covers the political environment of gays specifically in New York and how it was illegal for two men to be dancing up until early 1970s where eventually small bars including Stonewall started the boom that would become gay clubs in New York City that were run by the mafia and had to pay off cops to keep it open during the early 1970s, and the arrival of a new sound, and wraps it all up in a thrilling social history. (59 Minutes)
Episode 2: “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” Air Date 23rd of December 2023: A look at the high watermark of disco in the middle of the 1970s, from Donna Summer’s anthemic, provocative single Love to Love You Baby to Sylvester’s You Make Me Feel Mighty Real. At a time when the post-civil rights generation struggled to be heard politically and socially, their call for liberation was found in disco. (59 Minutes)
Episode 3: “Stayin’ Alive” Air Date 30th of December 2023: At the end of the 1970s, the founding principles of disco – queerness, diversity and feminism – were coming under increasing attack from a predominantly white, straight, rock-loving audience. By the summer of 1978, disco appeared untouchable, but mass marketing and rampant commercialism were beginning to turn the tide. A glut of bad disco singles and the perceived elitism of clubs like Studio 54 fuelled a surge in anti-disco feeling. This is the story of how disco died – and where it went. (59 Minutes)
This 3 Episode Documentary total a staggering 3 HOURS LONG. A must have DVD Set for any diehard collector of Disco classics!
Top Of The Pops 2: Tribute to Donna Summer Special Air Date: June 3rd 2012: This rare collection of live performances of Donna Summer aired mostly in the UK with additional performances from Germany as well as the USA. These rare performances were compiled and presented in a rare airing in England in honor of her passing over 14 years ago.
This archive tribute to the Queen of Disco, who died in 2012. As a singer, Donna Summer had many strings to her bow as this compilation shows. Including footage from her VERY FIRST performances on Top of the Pops with I Remember Yesterday and Winter Melody in 1977, to her last studio performance on Later with Jools Holland in 2004, as well as promo video of some key hits like I Feel Love and Enough is Enough.
The following collection of performances are comprised of both pantomime performances as well as full on live performances with a small amount of music videos but mostly performances. Each performance will also include the show title the segment originally aired on and any performance that are detectably live will be noted as such at the end of each track listing. A special bonus throughout the three volume over three hour collection are interesting trivia shown on occasion as text about the band/artist and the historical impact of the song itself.
1. Love To Love You Baby (LIVE – Disco Show Germany)
2. I Remember Yesterday (music video Top of The Pops 1977)
3. I Feel Love (LIVE – 1977 No show title provided this performance has been used in small clips in many documentaries see the song in it’s entirety here)
4. Last Dance (pantomime performance shot on the set of “Thank God it’s Friday” film 1978)
5. MacArthur Park (LIVE – 1978)
6. Hot Stuff (LIVE – Dinah! 1979)
7. Bad Girl (LIVE – 1979)
8. State of Independence (The Late Late Breakfast Show 1982) RARE
9. Dinner with Gershwin (TOTP 1987)
10. This Time I Know It’s For Real (TOTP 1989)
11. Let It Be (LIVE – Later with Jools Holland 2004)
Total Running Time for the entire 2 DVD Set is 3 HOURS 28 Minutes LONG!