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lecture on punk rock, disco / 1970s - Popular Music History University of Glasgow

lecture on punk rock, disco / 1970s - Popular Music History University of Glasgow

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  • Interesting read, never thought Disco and Punk would be compard academically or otherwise as being similar apart from sharing a timeline!
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Punkdisco Punkdisco Presentation Transcript

  • Punk Rock & Disco: Popular music in the late seventies Popular Music History 13 March 2007
  • Punk: Definitions / Origins
    • American groups of the sixties - Velvet Underground, The Stooges, MC5, etc.
    • New York Dolls / Malcolm McLaren
    • Parallel / different ‘punk’ scenes in New York (first) and London
    • McNeil & Holdstrom / Punk magazine
  • Definitions
    • UK punk founded on revolt against society
      • ‘ punk came to stand for an attitude of mind rather than any special style of playing. When the movement lost its impetus in the late 1970s its residual effect could be seen as the displacement of the great rock start by a multitude of amateurish groups revolting against nothing in particular.’ (The Oxford Companion to Popular Music)
  • Definitions (dictionary)
    • Punk:
      • ‘ a worthless person’
      • ‘ a youth movement of the late seventies, characterised by anti-Establishment slogans, short spiky hair, and the wearing of worthless articles such as safety pins for decoration’
  • Other characteristics
    • Individualism
    • Fashion and art school element
    • Claims for authenticity but also manufactured
    • Media spectacles - Pistols at Buckingham Palace etc.
    • Nihilistic / ‘no future’
  • New York Story
    • Centred around key acts - Television, Talking Heads, Richard Hell & Voidoids, Patti Smith, Blondie, The Ramones, etc.
    • And venues - CBGBs, Max’s Kansas City
    • Ramones visit to UK in 1976
  • London precursors
    • Pub rock / rhythm & blues - e.g.
      • Dr Feelgood, Kilburn & The High Roads, 101ers
    • Pub rock predated punk’s back to basics approach/ rejection of rock superstardom / pomposity / alienation from audiences
  • Punk & the music industry
    • Oil crisis / industrial unrest/ economic problems
    • Recording industry in ‘crisis’ / playing it safe
    • Mick Farren (NME, 3 Jan 1976)
      • ‘ if rock becomes safe, it is all over. It may be a question of taking rock back to street level & starting all over again’. Putting the Beatles back together isn’t going to be the salvation of rock’n’roll. Four kids playign to their contemporaries in a dirty cellar club might’
    • Elton John:
      • “ what we are all waiting for is some brilliant kid to come crashing out of the woodwork and blow all us established ones away.”
  • Punk in the U.K.
    • McLaren / Westwood and ‘Sex’ boutique
    • Sex Pistols
    • Fanzines and the media
    • Record labels - independents and majors respond to punk
      • ‘ They are a band who are shocking up the music business. They’ve got to happen. I don’t think they’ll be any problems with their lyrics because I’ve got more than a little sympathy with what they are doing’ (David Mobbs, MM. 16 Oct 1976)
  • Punk in the U.K.
    • ‘ Today’ programme / Bill Grundy
    • Daily Mail - ‘a grotesque, insulting, anti-life, festival of moral and spiritual anarchy.’ (3 Dec 1976)
    • Press pressure on EMI after signing Sex Pistols - ‘sacked’ by label in 1977
    • BBC and Capital Radio bans
    • ‘ Anarchy in the U.K. tour’ - cancellations
    • A&M sacking of Sex Pistols - ‘God Save The Queen’
    • ‘ God Save The Queen’ and the Silver Jubilee
  • Punk in the U.K.
    • ‘ normalisation’ after Silver Jubilee - ‘Pretty Vacant’ on Top of the Pops
    • Album released in November 1977
    • Sex Pistols American tour - confrontation with rednecks
    • Second wave of punk bands in 1978 - e.g. Buzzcocks, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Slits, The Undertones, Sham 69, Rezillos, etc.
    • Punk / new wave / post -punk
  • Punk and Politics
    • Some overtly political acts - Tom Robinson, etc
    • Involvement in Rock Vs. Racism - but racism within punk scene. Reggae/ Dub.
    • Splintering of punk scene:
      • Bands renouncing punk / careerism?
      • ‘ hardcore’ bands - Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, etc.
      • Oi! - neo Nazi element
    • Continued reference to punk - grunge, Nu Metal, etc.
  • Punk : Overview
    • Fashion played important part but was also absorbed into mainstream
    • Subculture that was not based on affluence - again, contested legacy
    • Politics of anger vs. society (and to lesser degree) industry
    • More space for women / female voice than other youth movements / not based on love songs
    • Parsons : ‘Punk was a mixture of idealism and hedonism.’
  • Punk as a Genre
    • Singles orientated genre
    • Espoused amateurism over technical ability
    • Located in short period of time - 1976-78
    • Importance of ‘attitude’ - but was it political?
      • Sexism?
      • Racism?
      • Individualism / pre-Thatcher
      • Media reaction.
  • Disco - similarities
    • Timescale coincided with punk -some things in common:
      • Location
      • Short time period between rise and fall
      • Emergence of new record labels
      • Similar economic precursors
      • Neither made as big a long-term commercial impact as originally expected by major labels
      • Media heavily involved in the ‘downfall’ of the genre
  • Disco - differences
    • Authenticity issues:
      • Caviano : ‘35% of all disco acts are a figment of some producer’s imagination.’
      • Dahl : ‘disco represented superficiality. The whole lifestyle seemed to be based on style over substance.’
    • Disco was predominantly black music form (audiences were more mixed) and emerged from gay popular culture diametrically opposed to rock
    • Lack of superstars - often the case in dance music (‘shy, sometimes dysfunctional, sometimes slightly unsightly DJs and remixers)
  • Disco and the music industry
    • Huge sales of Saturday Night Fever soundtrack album - 15 million copies
    • 8 out of 14 Grammy awards in 1979 for disco
    • Advent of 12” singles - extended mixes, but low profit format.
    • Disco acts did not sell albums - hits + filler
    • Newsweek (April 79) “Disco Takeover” cover
    • Billboard (May 79): ‘Disco Rules, But Where are the Big Disc Sales?’
  • Decline of disco
    • Disco was treated with some ambivalence in the black music community
      • George : ‘disco has definitely put money in the pockets of many blacks’
      • Ochs : ‘disco has opened the door for some black musicians but closed minds to a wide spectrum of black artistry, washing out, some fear, meaningful bridges to an entire black music culture.’
    • But predominant opposition came from radio - many DJs lost jobs in change of format.
  • Decline of disco
    • Steve Dahl - shock jock at WLUP-FM in Chicago
    • Formed ‘Insane Coho Lips’ - an “army” dedicated to ending the dreaded musical disease known as disco”
    • Appearance of “Disco Sucks” merchandise
    • Blowing Up records on air
    • Police called to 2 of Dahl’s live appearances
    • 12 July 1979 - Chicago Whitesox v. Detroit Tigers @ Comiskey Park.
  • Comiskey Park
    • 98 cents admission if crowd brought disco records for burning.
    • 40 000 in the stadium, 30 000 turned up but could not get in. Chants of ‘disco sucks’ / banners, etc.
    • Full blown riot after detonation of the records - Dahl dressed in army fatigues - echoes of fascist rallies of 1930s / Lennon’s ‘bigger than Jesus’ remark
      • ‘ the public detonation of disco music, which was closely associated with gay men and Afro Americans, mirrored the fascist style burnings of jazz, which was tied to African Americans and Jews.’ (Lawrence, 374)
  • Comiskey Park
  • Decline of Disco
    • Copycat events throughout the US:
      • W4 radio in Detroit - Disco Ducks Klan
      • WRIF (Detroit) - Detroit Rockers Engaged in the Abolition of Disco (DREAD) - on air ‘electrocutions’ of disco lovers
    • In UK, BNP’s ‘Young Nationalist magazine joined the onslaught:
      • ‘ disco’s melting pot pseudo-philosophy must be fought or Britain’s streets will be full of black worshipping soul boys’
    • Research at University of Ankara claimed that listening to disco music made pigs go deaf and mice become homosexual.
  • The outcomes
    • Sonic innovations of disco were largely overlooked at the time - a combination of musical snobbery with thinly veiled racism and homophobia.
    • Disco music went largely underground in period from 1979 onwards - larger acts (Chic, Donna Summer, Village People’s sales went into decline)
    • Disco did provide a starting point for hip-hop - samples used by Grandmaster Flash, etc.
    • Disco has been subsequently reassessed in a more favourable light - see Dyer (1979) and Gilbert/ Lawrence (2006)
    • Eventual mixing of 2 genres in post-punk - Liquid Liquid, James Chance, etc.
  • Questions
    • Which of the 2 genres do you think has had the most lasting musical and cultural impact? Why?
    • Did either radically change the nature of the music industries?