A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘disco

[BLOG] Some Sunday links

  • Anthrodendum features a guest post from editors introducing a series on fieldwork and trauma.
  • Crooked Timber’s John Quiggin takes a stab at trying to define neoliberalism as an ideology, not just a catch-all phrase.
  • The Crux looks at desalination, a difficult process that we may need to use regardless of its difficulty.
  • D-Brief notes that narcissism is linked to lower levels of stress and depression.
  • Jezebel notes the return and legacy of Bratz dolls.
  • Joe. My. God. shares the Sam Smith cover of the Donna Summer classic “I Feel Love”, along with other versions of that song.
  • JSTOR Daily considers if graphene will ever become commercially usable.
  • Dan Nexon at Lawyers, Guns and Money links to an analysis warning about commercial debt. Another 2008?
  • Marginal Revolution points to some papers suggesting that cannabis usage does not harm cognition, that the relationship is if anything reversed.
  • Daphne Merkin at the NYR Daily looks back at her literary life, noting people now gone.
  • Drew Rowsome reviews the new Daniel MacIvor play Let’s Run Away.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy looks at how the Trump Administration lost two cases against sanctuary cities.
  • Window on Eurasia considers, briefly, the idea of Gorbachev giving to Germany Kaliningrad, last remnant of East Prussia.
  • Worthwhile Canadian Initiative looks at the rises in health spending directed towards young people. Is this a warning sign of poor health?
  • Arnold Zwicky looks at Gaysper, and then at other queer ghosts.

[MUSIC] Twelve music links: Beatles, Annie Lennox, Shakespears Sister, Céline Dion …

  • There is now a play expanding on the urban legend–is it?–that the Beatles came close to being reunited in a meeting in an Eastern Townships library divided by the Canadian-American border. CTV reports.
  • The Annie Lennox-curated exhibit “Now I let You Go …” at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art sounds amazing. The New York Times reports.
  • This Guardian feature on the reunification, after two and a half decades, of Siobhan Fahey and Marcella Detroit in Shakespears Sister made me very happy.
  • Céline Dion seems to be in the middle of an interesting sort of renaissance. Why not a headlining appearance on Carpool Karaoke? VICE reports.
  • CTV News profiles the Summerside-born and Montréal-based electropop fiddler Denique, gaining praise for his innovative music and videos.
  • Noisey recently reported on an interestingly different early version of the Beyoncé song “Sorry”.
  • Dangerous Minds shares footage of a 1977 Bryan Ferry concert in Japan.
  • Vice provides readers with an introduction and overview to the best songs of Elton John.
  • Vice did readers the service of providing readers with an entry point into the discography of PJ Harvey.
  • Le Devoir looks at the phenomenon of K-Pop.
  • Josh Terry at Noisey makes the accurate point that the decision of the Chicago White Sox to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Disco Sucks riot, given the racism and homophobia of that movement, is a bad misstep.

[MUSIC] Five music links: Queer pop, Charli XCX, Comiskey Park disco, Eurythmics, decline of albums

  • Noisey recently took a fun look at the representation of queerness in American pop music, by Hailey Kiyoko among others.
  • Charli XCX sounds like someone I should listen for. Noisey reports.
  • JSTOR Daily reports on the factors, including homophobia, that led to the 1979 Comiskey Park riots that heralded the fall of disco in the United States.
  • Adam Mason at Popmatters recently made the case, after their LP reissues, of the importance of the Eurythmics. I agree with this line of argument entirely.
  • Alan Cross made the argument that, with new digital technologies, the album as a unit of music makes little sense. Instead, singles and playlists will take its place. Global News hosts the argument.

[BLOG] Some Saturday links

  • James Bow calls for an end to the US-Canada Safe Third Country agreement prohibiting people coming from American soil from claiming refugee status in Canada.
  • D-Brief reports on the vast array of man-made minerals appearing in what is now being called the Anthropocene Era of Earth.
  • Dangerous Minds notes the efforts of the Disco Preservation Society to preserve DJ mixes from 1980s San Francisco.
  • Language Log takes issue with Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s argument that cryptographers, not linguists, would be needed in Arrival.
  • The LRB Blog notes impunity for murderers of civil society activists in Honduras.
  • Marginal Revolution’s Tyler Cowen talks about Joyce Gladwell’s autobiography Brown Face, Big Master.
  • The NYRB Daily celebrates the work of Hercules Segers.
  • The Planetary Society Blog is skeptical of the Space X plan to send tourists past the Moon by 2018.
  • Supernova Condensate lists 8 things we know about Proxima Centauri b.
  • Towleroad reports on new walking tours being offered of gay London.
  • Arnold Zwicky engages with a California exhibition comparing paintings with movies.

[URBAN NOTE] “Once Upon A City: Glamour, disco transform suburban North York”

Writing in the Toronto Star, Janice Bradbeer describes the perhaps too-brief episode of the Inn on the Hill, disco-themed staycation retreat in North York.

It was a swinging place that attracted the rich and famous, as well as the average Torontonian.

The Inn on the Park, which opened in May 1963, featured what it said to be Canada’s first disco, Café Discotheque. “Killer Joe” Piro, a famous dance instructor, was brought up from Manhattan to teach guests to do the frug and Watusi when the disco opened in 1964. The discotheque promised “indigo mood music and pulsating rhythms” for its patrons.

The $4 million Inn on the Park resort rose up at the northeast corner of Leslie and Eglinton Ave. E., in what was then considered a suburban wasteland.

It was the start of the trend toward staycations, where the middle class could travel 15-minutes from downtown to an oasis for some R & R. The Inn on the Park, surrounded by parkland and set on a small hill, offered tennis, 6-hole golf course, heliport, shuffleboard, two swimming pools and skating in winter. There was also something new known as a “health club” called The Fitness Institute, headed up by Canadian fitness expert Lloyd Percival.

When the Inn on the Park closed its doors in 2004, staff recalled who had passed through the Inn — and not just the average Joe who wanted a taste of the good life.

Written by Randy McDonald

December 12, 2016 at 6:30 pm

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • The Big Picture shares photos of motorbike racing in South Africa.
  • Centauri Dreams considers the stellar weather that planets of red dwarf stars might encounter.
  • Dead Things looks at two genetic studies which complicate the narrative of humanity’s spread.
  • Dangerous Minds shares the infamous anti-disco night of 1979 that spelled the end of the genre in North America.
  • The Everyday Sociology Blog considers how one makes a home among strangers.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that the UKIP MP claims the sun is responsible for the bulk of the Earth’s tides not the moon, and reports on a Kentucky judge who says gays ruined straight men’s ability to hug.
  • Language Log looks at changing patterns of language usage in Japanese.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money mocks the cosmic perspective of Gary Johnson.
  • The LRB Blog reports from devastated Lesbos.
  • Maximos62 maps the smoke from this year’s Indonesian fires.
  • The NYRB Daily shares vintage photos from mid-1960s Cuba.
  • The Planetary Society Blog reports on a recent tour of NASA facilities.
  • Window on Eurasia reports on a call for a single Circassian alphabet, suggests a Russian initiative to use sufism to unite Russian Muslims will end badly, and argues that Russian criticism of language policy in post-Soviet countries is linked to geopolitics.

[VIDEO] You Spin Me Round at Honest Ed’s

Touring Toronto with my visiting parents today, in the basement of Honest Ed’s I came across Jessar’s Disco Spinlite in action, a sphere 15 centimetres in diameter and using a 25 watt bulb, UPC 6211396706320.

"You spin me round" #toronto #honesteds #disco #spinlite

I also took a video of it, playing below now on automatic loop for full effect.

Written by Randy McDonald

November 29, 2015 at 10:45 pm

[LINK] “Long live disco”

I largely approve of Dorian Lynskey’s Guardian article arguing that, whatever it’s called, disco is a dominant strain in pop music.

To understand the scale of disco’s triumph you have to appreciate the magnitude of its initial rise and fall. Pop music has always been susceptible to fads but disco’s imperial phase is the closest it has ever got to the irrational exuberance of a stock-market bubble. Between July 1977 and August 1979 30 out of 38 US Billboard No 1 singles were disco records, whether by titans of the form (Chic, the Bee Gees, Donna Summer), canny dilettantes (Blondie, the Rolling Stones) or corny opportunists (Meco, with his glitterball Star Wars medley). The Saturday Night Fever soundtrack remains the seventh biggest-selling album ever made. Passengers on the bandwagon included KISS, the Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra, Ethel Merman and the Cookie Monster.

At the same time it was hated: by older black artists who resented the way it replaced the muscle and grit of funk with a mindless, frictionless groove; by punks who saw it as crass, bubbleheaded capitalism incarnate; by macho rock fans who believed its effeminacy was infecting even some of their favourite artists; by pundits who made it a cultural lightning rod for their growing angst about national decline and America’s place in the world. In a telling coincidence, the summer of 1979, when baseball fans trashed disco records at Chicago’s Comiskey Park and the Knack’s My Sharona ousted Chic’s Good Times from the top of the Billboard chart, also saw the launch of Jerry Falwell’s ultra-conservative lobby group The Moral Majority. And of course some people hated it, as people tend to, simply because it was everywhere.

To Chic’s Nile Rodgers the backlash “felt like it was racism, like it was book-burning”, but a more potent driver than prejudice was embarrassment. To some longstanding opponents it might have been too black, too gay, too European or too female, but it only lost the public when it became too naff. The industry’s attitude was, roughly, let us never speak of this again. “Disco was dead by 81,” says pioneering house DJ Frankie Knuckles. “Overnight it went from disco to country-and-western and heavy rock. The industry was trying to get 360 degrees from what was going on the day before and they didn’t want anything that in the slightest way resembled disco.”

Knuckles and the other gay African Americans who invented house music began the process of rescuing disco from its own excesses by stripping away the cliches and reconnecting it with its subversive counter-cultural roots. Tough and electronic, house was disco in the raw. Years later the house producer Gusto looped a sample of Harvey Mason’s Groovin’ You over a drum machine and pointedly called the result Disco’s Revenge. But disco bounced back quickly in the mainstream, too, just with a different identity and updated production. Michael Jackson’s Thriller retained the lessons he learned on Off the Wall while Madonna approached Nile Rodgers to produce Like a Virgin. Like beneficiaries of a musical witness relocation programme, Billie Jean and Into the Groove were disco records in all but name, as were the early Hi-NRG productions of Stock Aitken Waterman. “No one has named the dominant trend in 80s music because they’re afraid to: it’s disco, and all the critics know it,” wrote proud fan Bentley Boyd in 1987. “They know it and fear it. It is the strange uncle who lives in the attic and can’t be acknowledged.”

This was the strange thing. Disco had so thoroughly reconfigured pop that even as some of the biggest musicians of the 80s assimiliated its tenets – the synthetic four-to-the-floor beat, the celebration of dancing and community, the dominance of black and female artists, the hints of sexual ambiguity in someone such as Prince – audiences regarded their music as a different entity because nobody was wearing polyester jumpsuits and employing a Barry Gibb falsetto. It was just a matter of time before the spectre of ridicule passed and the continuum became more obvious.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 2, 2013 at 2:00 am

[MUSIC] Sin with Sebastian, “Shut Up (And Sleep With Me)”

Let’s play Sin With Sebastian‘s massive 1995 European hit song “Shut Up (And Sleep With Me)”.

Disposable songs are always fun, and yes, as far as I can determine Sin with Sebastian was a one-hit wonder. It’s worth noting that while it was a Top Ten, frequently #1, hit in Europe, it charted considerably lower in the United States and presumably Canada, this latter even though MuchMusic played the above video frequently. Yes, I watched it. Yes, even at the time it was enjoyable. As a point of fact, even though I don’t have that much fondness for the song, I do tend to quite like the sort of New Wave songs and their synthesized descendants and cousins that are closely related to this song. I’ve even looked up Donna Summer on YouTube, and I have a dozen remixes of “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” on my laptop. A friend once remarked that even though I pass for straight reasonably well, or did at the time, at least, my three thousand mp3s and assorted CDs would out me.

You know, it’s funny that music could out you. Why would a fondness for remixes reveal one to be queer? It’s worth noting that this attitude seems to prevail only in North America, as evidenced not only by the popularity of the above song. Take the Scissor Sisters.

Scissor Sisters are certified superstars who sell millions of records and fill massive arenas with their funky mix of retro disco pop — well, at least in England and the rest of Europe.

There, the quintet is an international hit. But in the United States, their home country, the New York-based band has yet to break through the “cult” barrier — critically acclaimed but commercially on mainstream’s bubble.

Still, Ana Matronic, the group’s lone female member, doesn’t seem too vexed about the group’s inability to pop that bubble stateside.

“I’m not interested in any of what is successful in America right now,” says the vocalist. “The last thing I want to be is fodder for American tabloids. That’s not the kind of success I want.”

Disco is one of several ancestors to New Wave music, synthpop music, dance music, et cetera. In North America, the music’s social associations seem to have fueled a nasty disco backlash.

New Jersey rock critic Jim Testa wrote “Put a Bullet Through The Jukebox”, a vitriolic screed attacking disco that was a punk call to arms. Testa argued that “there were a lot of legitimate, artistic reasons to hate disco that didn’t have anything to do with hating black or gay people.” A number of punk bands wrote and recorded anti-disco songs out of contempt for what they belived disco ideologically stood for: Namely, what they considered its vacuousness, superficiality, the use of drum machines, electronic backing, the hedonism, elitism and its political apathy (portrayed in “Saturday Night Holocaust”). In the late 1970s, Disco music and dancing fads began to be depicted by other rock music fans as silly and effeminate, such as in Frank Zappa’s satirical song “Dancin’ Fool”. Some listeners objected to the perceived sexual promiscuity and illegal drug use that had become associated with disco music. Others were put off by the exclusivity of the disco scene, especially in major clubs in large cities such as the Studio 54 discothèque, where bouncers only let in fashionably-dressed club-goers, celebrities, and their hangers-on. Rock fans objected to the idea of centering music around an electronic drum beat and synthesizers instead of live performers.

Some historians have referred to July 12, 1979 as “the day disco died” because of an anti-disco demonstration that was held in Chicago. Rock station DJs Steve Dahl and Garry Meier, along with Michael Veeck, son of Chicago White Sox owner Bill Veeck, staged Disco Demolition Night, a promotional event with an anti-disco theme, between games at a White Sox doubleheader for disgruntled rock fans. During this event, which involved exploding disco records, the raucous crowd tore out seats and turf in the field and did other damage to Comiskey Park. It ended in a riot in which police made numerous arrests. The damage done to the field forced the Sox to forfeit the second game to the Detroit Tigers who won the first game. The stadium suffered thousands of dollars in damage.

On July 21 six days after the riot the top six records on the U.S. charts were of the disco genre. By September 22 there were no disco records in the top 10. The media in celebratory tones declared disco dead and rock revived.

“Blacks and gays.” Um. Hi there.

Europe didn’t suffer that backlash, and European popular musics continued to diverge from American popular musics, hence the continued acceptability of song stylings like the above.

I recognize the importance of songs related to the above, however, to the GLBT community. What continues to perplex me is the question of how I managed to latch onto these musics. I mean, I didn’t grow up with much if any contact with queer culture, and by the time that I learned of the associations my tastes were already set. Unconscious osmosis?

Written by Randy McDonald

August 27, 2009 at 1:51 pm

[MUSIC] Boney M, “Rasputin”

I was dancing at Zipperz very early Monday morning with Jerry when Boney M‘s 1978 hit song “Rasputin” came on. The dance floor erupted in cheers.

I first heard “Rasputin” in Grade Canada’s intervention in the Russian Civil War and the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919. The charismatic Grigori Rasputin, Mr. Morrison said, helped contribute to the breakdown of the Russian Empire and to the rise of socialist radicalism all over the world, including Canada, hence his choice of this background music.

He wasn’t half-wrong. As pointed out at the BBC’s h2g2 site, while the awkwardly phrased the song’s lyrics were actually reasonably accurate.

There lived a certain man in Russia long ago
He was big and strong, in his eyes a flaming glow
Most people looked at him with terror and with fear
But to Moscow chicks he was such a lovely dear
He could preach the bible like a preacher
Full of ecstacy and fire
But he also was the kind of teacher
Women would desire

[. . .]

He ruled the Russian land and never mind the czar
But the kasachok he danced really wunderbar
In all affairs of state he was the man to please
But he was real great when he had a girl to squeeze
For the queen he was no wheeler dealer
Though she’d heard the things he’d done
She believed he was a holy healer
Who would heal her son

The song is pure cheese, of course, with the aforementioned awkward lyrics and the Boney M choruses and the Frank Farian disco music which, it turns out, was pirated from the folk songs of the Ottoman Empire. Some of the characteristic melodies of “Rasputin” are recognizable in Eartha Kitt‘s “Uska Dara.”

Still, why shouldn’t Farian have done this? If anything, our era is one of bricolage. What’s wrong with enjoying whatever products we enjoy? It is interesting how Boney M makes use of southeastern European/Anatolian folk music to describe Russia. The Orientalization of Russia, perhaps?

Written by Randy McDonald

April 30, 2008 at 7:06 pm

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