The decline of the Disco

At the end of the 70s , with the worldwide diffusion of the disco, the first crusades against it also begin: disco music begins its decline .

The record is too far from everything that critics have been praising up to that point. Its lack of social commitment, its studied artificiality that contrasts with the spontaneity of blues and rock , the absolute lack of cultural presuppositions, make it too different. Drugs are also different: from smoking, LSD and heroin made ‘to think’, to coke, Quaalude and Popper made ‘to act’. In 1978, various clubs opened in New York where you can listen to rock music (Hurrah’s, Mudd…). At the end of 1979 many record companies cut their earnings in half and run into a major sales crisis. The record is the victim of a strong ” abuse “, it is overexposed and commercialized: it is everywhere, omnipresent, almost “unbearable”.


In 19 79 disco musicdies in a week “. America, a country bombarded with the myths of masculinity and success, reserves a special place for professional sport , especially baseball which, after the Watergate affair, social tensions and the Vietnam War, remains the only thing to believe in. . The disco, with its problematic relationship with masculinity, has always had an ambiguous relationship with baseball in popular culture. Thus, in the mid-70s, they began a series of campaigns aimed at the destruction of the record.

In July of ’79 Michael Veeck , promoter of the White Sox, to increase the influx of fans, stages a “Disco Demolition Derby ”during the break between matches: all fans who showed up with a disc music vinyl to be scrapped would have paid the ticket only 98 cents. DJ Steve Dahl is an accomplice of Veeck by promoting the initiative in the radio he works for, the Wlup. Thus the “Disco Demolition Derby” has great resonance: the game is sold out, with an audience of 50,000 people . Dahl’s anti-disco campaign is not an isolated case. DREAD, Detroit Rockers Engaged in the Abolition of Disco, is an organization supported by the rock radio station Wrif and offers its members, in exchange for an anti-disco oath, discounts for shows or purchases in music stores. In January 1979 the Wpix, New York radio , introduces a new format, “only rock”, aimed at boycotting the record. Operations against the disc universe are expanding like wildfire: to Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, Oklahoma, up to England, Turkey and all over the world. The eclipse of the record follows the boycott campaigns made by Dahl and Reagan , but not only.


Peter Shapiro : “Like all subcultures and artistic movements, the record alone sowed the seeds of its own destruction. […] The disc contained within itself the germ of the next generation, which sprouted from within. The clearest clue was the behavior of the VIPs, who left the disc as soon as the cultural turning point loomed on the horizon. At the dawn of the 1980s , the important thing was to go back to “American values”: enough with the extravagances and European welfare programs, just plain homely truths, hard work and John Wayne on his white horse. […] The record as a musical genre (rather than as a state of mind) rapidly began to decline in the United States from the end of ’79; the only New York clubs to stay afloat were those that encouraged originality and experimentation. […] While in the United States the record was covered with pitch and feathers, taken and torn to pieces, in Europe it never really died . She was never dragged through the mud, her name was never even uttered in vain. Indeed, the record became part, if not the foundation, of the continent’s pop infrastructure. Whatever the reason, the record’s importance in Europe was perhaps even greater after his death in America in 1979. In part this was due to the laws of many European countries, which imposed a certain quota of national music on radio stations. But it is also undeniable that, protectionism or not, the album flourished in the hands of European producers in the 1980s, and to a great extent in Italy ”.


Posted on

31 March 2022

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