Discotheques before "disco"??

As far as I know, disco music dates from around 1975 or so, and fizzled out around 1980, before becoming revonfigured into what we would now call ‘dance’ with Madonna, Whitney Houston, and so on. However, I have also read many articles and stories describing trendy 'discotheques" from the mid to late 1960’s.

What sort of music would these places played? Motown? Soul? Or is ‘disco’ music older than I think it is?

revonfigured I suppose means revamped and reconfigured ?


This is just my opinion, mind you, but Disco, in the incarnation we know it, with hindsight, was created by David Bowie. After his This White Duke Era, he made Young Americans, an album that mixed the soul (black music) and the pop (white, obviously) that where dominant then. In many ways, you can say that he did for soul (for good or bad), what Elvis did for blues some 20 years earlier, and what Eminem is doing right now - i.e. making black music more accesible to white suburban kids. Also, in a way, less ‘dangerous’ from the parents point of view.

I know the whole issue is potentially loaded with biases concerning race and especially sexual preferences. I was around 15 when disco became big and never had an idea, at the point, that the fashion and stuff that we all thouight was so cool and bought, was really gay fashion, from the US.

The discoteque, a place where they spin records and people dance, was maybe invented at the Whiskey a go-go. The idea we have now, that something must be a certain style, so anyone can dance to it, didn’t figure in the equation back then. Heck, discoteques pre-disco, played Deep Purple or Janis Joplin.

The thing is, the music was never important. It was a place for mating rituals under the influence, for young people. As long as the music was lod and you could grope a girl in the dark, nobody gave a shit about what was played.

At about the same time, black musicians were getting bigger and bigger acts. Earth Wind and Fire, Funkadelic, Parliament… even today, George Clinton brings 15 people on stage. No clubs could afford such big acts so they movied to the auditoriums and bigger theatres (Think Apollo in NY), and finally gave way to what was to become hip-hop around 1980.

Problem with disco, was that everybody wanted in, to make money. And productions were fairly cheap to do, so the market was flooded with really, really awful music. And I use music in a very loose way here. So disco killed itself, just when it should have taken over.
It’s still out there. Modified and alive in just about every dance music you here. And it’s been a full circle, since so many black artists have been sampling songs from white atrists who ripped off the black music to begin with.

I could make this more coherent, but I guess I’ve rambled enough as it is. Bottom line, in re ýour OP, just about any music was played in discos, before Disco.

(I’ve worked as a DJ and in radio since 1976, so I’ve been around for most of this time. And remember fairly well what went on before 1975. That I was, and am, based in Sweden, doesn’t matter. I’ve got enough Americans friends to know that things might’ve happened a few months apart, but it was basically the same.)

i think they started in the late 1950s or early 1960s in France–thus the word “discotheque” with an accent grave over the first e.

Cleops is correct: it was started in France. They were called “discotheques” because, instead of a live band, they had a DJ playing records (the name come from “disque” meaning “recorch” and “theque” meaning “place” in parallel to “bibliotheque” – “library”).

It wasn’t a style of music; it was the use of records. The early discotheques did not play disco music; it was Americans who thought of that.

Ah, children, gather 'round while Auntie Eve tells you about the '60s . . .

I was kind of young, but I did go to some late-'60s/early-'70s discos–and they played pop music. Plain old pop music, like you hear on the Oldies stations. And I can still frug, jerk, pony and swim like nobody’s business!

Kids. They think they invented everything.

Remind me someday to give my lecture on how you can trace the roots of rap to “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.” It’s a masterwork.

(We predate disco. Are you are Chuck and I really the oldest people on this Board? :cool: )


I was dancing before you were born, probably. Old! Let me tell you about old. Why, I remember…

From the OED, an informative quote. The previous posters have all brought this up.

In America at least, I think the main thing that killed disco was a sort of moralist backlash against the things that disco supposedly represented to many people (gay performers, casual sex, cocaine, high fashion and so on). Cuts like Rick Dees’ “Disco Duck” didn’t help either.
Even though, also with hindsight, disco did not die so much as branch off into hip hop, house, techno, dance pop, and so on.

Or his follow-up: Dis Gorilla… :dubious:

But can you Hully-gully?


:eek: This is what dance music is to America?!?! In the country that originated Chicago house, Detroit techno and even New York garage, this is how dance music is seen?!?

It’s not so much like finding out that people consider Good Charlotte punk, but more if you found out that people considered Britney Spears punk.

I can’t hully-gully, but I can imitate Vince Scully.

I don’t think Bowie deserves the credit for being the first white disco artist to break through. (In the US, anyway.) For one thing, the Bee Gees (with “Jive Talkin”) and KC and the Sunshine Band were topping the charts at the same time. For another, black proto-disco artists like Barry White, the Hues Corporation (“Rock the Boat”), Earth Wind and Fire and the Ohio Players were all over the charts and mainstream radio well before the white guys, so there was really no Elvis-like breakthrough to be made.

I’ve always been amused by the notion that the disco backlash happened because disapproving people thought it was depraved, immoral music made by blacks and gays. By the time of the disco backlash of the late 70s, disco had become the blandest, least offensive form of music imaginable. As Gaspode says, inferior disco was being churned out in vast quantities by all kinds of whitebread artists. Donny Osmond had a disco record. Steve Lawrence and Edie Gorme had a disco record, for crying out loud! Most of the disco backlash came from rock fans and metalheads who thought that disco wasn’t depraved and immoral enough.

Hully Gully? I can Twist!

And I won a cha-cha contest once.

All right, it was a pity vote.

And don’t forget that real discotheques gave us url="http://www.badfads.com/pages/fashion/gogo.html"go-go boots. And Nancy Sinatra.

What did the 70s have to equal that?

Just my opinion, but the antipathy to disco was a combination of the perceived image of who inhabited discos by people who never went there along with a backlash against the truly awful music being perpetrated mainly by white artists. The result was to alienate both the straights and hipsters, who came together for once, though from opposite directions. Nothing could survive that.

go-go boots.

This will be somewhat redundant, as several excellent answers have already been provided, but: Back in the day, disco wasn’t used to refer to a type of music. That came later.

A discotheque was a place, a type of night club that emphasized dancing rather than live entertainment. Usually a DJ played records (discs) and thus the French name Discotheque. In typical American fasion, the term was soon shortened to “A Disco”. Example: “Let’s go dancing at Joe’s Disco tonight.”

My favorite disco tale:
About the fall of 1978, a Friday night found me sitting at the bar of a disco in Miami called Flannigan’s. I was in my mid-thirties, and the crowd was much younger.
To this day I have never seen as many beautiful young women, attractively dressed, in one place, as were in Flannigan’s that night.
I was sitting at the bar admiring the scenery and minding my own business. About 11 O’clock this really sharp, young chick dressed in a Tex/Mex co-ordinated outfit (think Penelope Cruz here) walks up and asks me: “Do you disco dance?”
I sez “Yep, I’m your man” and slides off my barstool. So she grabs me by the hand, leads me over to her table, and says: “Here, dance with my mother.”
What change of events!!! Anyways, the mom was pretty cool, and closer to my age than the girl was, but I still get a laugh on myself every time the subject of disco comes up.

“Do it right
Take me through the night
Shadow dancin’”…Andy Gibb


:frowning: I can’t. Doesn’t one need a waist to Twist?


Hips. And I got those.