by Turtle Jones
70's week! This is where I get to tell you about the horrible clothes my mother made me wear and the Dorothy Hamill haircuts and reminisce in a melancholy way about how great things were back then.
Except they really weren't. I started out in the 70's as a little kid and when they ended, I was on the brink of graduating from high school and becoming a responsible (insert laugh here) adult. So the first part of the the decade was all about whatever it is I did when I was in elementary school and the last half of the decade is one big blur. And that blur smells like bong water and resin.
The one thing I do remember clearly about the 70's is the great war.
I am a veteran of the great war between Disco and Rock, circa 1976. I fought the good fight, guys. I did it for you. I did it for the future. I did it for rock and roll.
Some say it was more than a war over music. Historians have written miles of papers on the subject, some claiming that it was a battle over masculinity; disco was turning our men into girly boys. Others claim it was a battle of bigotry; the rockers represented "the man" and were looking to quash a rebellious movement by minorities and gays to grab the culture limelight.
As one who stood in the middle of the battlefields of that war (I think I was a sergeant or a gunnery captain or something like that. Or I just like the word gunnery), I can tell you that our battle cry had nothing to do with race or sexuality. It was about the music, stupid. Just the music.
While disco had been around in one form or another since the early 70's, the genre took hold of our country some time around 1976. That was the year when artists like Vicki Sue Robinson, the Andrea True Connection and Thelma Houston all had huge hits and discos starting popping up on every city corner. In fact, Newsweek printed an article at the time that said there were 10,000 discos in America in 1976. 10,000. That shit was viral.
Meanwhile, rock and roll was being pissed on in the charts. Sure, you can say that rock fans really didn't care about hits, but when music by Kiss and Blue Oyster Cult and Zeppelin were being gang raped by songs like Boogie Fever, it was disheartening. And kind of embarrassing.
What was a rocker to do? How could we battle the biggest trend to hit the nation since flower power when we didn't have the power of hit music to back it up? Oh, rock wasn't about the charts at all, but we were in desperate need of some firepower, some heavy hitting power chords to knock the dancing fools off the cover of weekly magazines. Who would save us? The state of rock music was abysmal. Prog rock and arena rock were not good weapons to be holding in this war because they were nothing more than different forms of the pretentiousness that was disco. We weren't unarmed, but our arsenal was kind of lame.
Little known to us suburban kids, A 1976 counter movement had already begun. Sure, we already knew of bands like The Ramones and The Sex Pistols, but we never thought they would form the soundtrack to our fight against polyester. Apparently, my little group of three or four disco haters were not the only ones who wanted to wage war against the Donna Summers of the world. Punk music would help us rise above. Punk music would bring our weaponry up to speed.
It got worse as 1976 became 1977. Saturday Night Fever hit the theaters and John Travolta's Tony Romero became the boilerplate for every guy who wanted to score with the babes. Polyester leisure suits became the norm and all we could do was stand and watch with our jaws dropped, horrified that this plastic, narcissistic culture was taking over not only our airwaves, but our country.
And thus, the Disco Sucks movement was born. No matter what anyone tells you, this was all about the music and the clothes. We hated those wide lapels. We despised the simplistic beats and the cheesy lyrics. We loathed the repetition of the 12" versions of every song to hit the charts. Disco, we decided, must die.
And so war was declared. We armed ourselves with Disco Sucks buttons and wore them proudly. We spiked our hair up, wore black leather jackets and thought about putting safety pins in our cheeks. Thought about it. And then decided to put them in our ears in place of earrings. Hey, we were in high school. We still had our parents to answer to.
Eventually we tired of taunting them. We were happy to sit in Marianne's basement, alternately reveling in our punk badness by listening to the Clash or getting high and tripping out to Pink Floyd. We were as unsure of who we were as the crowds of people dancing in Studio 54.
Years later, we would recognize that we weren't much different than our disco brothers. While they spent hours making themselves up in order to be accepted by the beautiful people inside the velvet ropes of the discos, we struggled to become outsiders, to make people's heads turn when they saw us with our spiked hair and ripped army jackets. We both wanted to be noticed in different ways. But the culture wars of the time forbade us from every forming a therapy group aimed at figuring out why we cared so much what everyone thought about us. Enemies until the bitter end.
And the end did come, in July of 1979 at Comiskey Park, in a blaze of glory. Well, not so glorious, really. The night was somewhat of a disaster. And it did not really mark the end of disco, but the end of our war against it.
A few years later, I got swept up in the new wave craze. One night while doing some drunken, spastic, new wavish dance to the extended mix version of Blue Monday, dressed to kill in torn fishnet stockings and the requisite black and pink mini skirt, I realized that I had become this era's version of the disco queen.
It's a war that wages on, I suppose, in various forms. Whether it's rap v. rock or prog rock v. hair metal, the battle remains even if the battlefield and weapons change hands every once in a while. But it's a passionate war. I'd rather spend my emotions fighting you to the death in a steel cage match to determine whether Dream Theater is really a better band than Queensryche than get dragged into another "let's secede from the nation!" argument.
And disco still sucks.
Michele admits to dancing to Funkytown every so often.
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