September 14, 2012

Put a Bullet through the Jukebox

Jim Testa posted this video on facebook with the following tale:

Back in 1978, Robert Christgau wrote a piece in the Voice saying that punk rockers who hated disco were inherently homophobic. I disagreed. We didn't like disco because the music wasn't any good. So I wrote a song, and somehow it made its way into the hands of the brilliant Kim Kane, and he wrote new music for it and turned it into a Slickee Boys song. I hear this track was huge in Germany.

I'd never heard the song, and I hadn't known about Testa's efforts in the Disco Sucks Movement till now. Cool story.

Anyway, I started to type up a comment over there but it got too long so I'm putting it here instead. For I, too, was a Disco Sucks activist way back when.

The vehemence and passion of the Disco Sucks movement is hard to grasp now and impossible to communicate to people who weren't "there." It wasn't simply that the music wasn't any good, though much of it was not, obviously. It was a cultural attitude that crossed through many subcultures, each adopting it -- perhaps a bit hypocritically in many cases -- as a part of a vague disapproval of inauthenticity, mass culture, etc. It certainly wasn't simple identity politics in the crude way Christgau appears to have understood it.

Passion for rock and roll needs no defense or explanation. As to culture, however, the main sociological complaint I remember hearing had nothing at all to do with gays or gay culture: it was that most girls liked disco so it was hard to have a girlfriend if you weren't willing to be exposed to it and its culture and dancing and clothing at least a bit. cf. "I Want to be with a Rock and Roll Girl" -- a genuine wish, quite elusive for many white suburban dudes. I remember hearing Eddie Money lament his girlfriend's affection for disco on an FM radio interview and thinking: ah yes, we agree on something at least, women and disco, can't live with 'em can't live without 'em. That Beat song was an anthem (though to be honest, at that point I imagine I'd have taken anything you'd got.)

Well, I was thirteen. I wrote "Disco Sucks" on my textbook covers like anyone else, and never got to "be with" a rock and roll girl till much, much later. I was mad when KISS went disco. Of course I like a lot of disco now. What changed? Maybe it was the girls, simple as that.

Posted by Dr. Frank at September 14, 2012 04:22 PM