MUSI 2007 W12 Funk in the 70s, Disco, etc.
Funk continued to be a popular style into the 1970s, but also changed in some important ways during this period. • Listen to the following and ask yourself: (i) How is it similar to the 1960s James Brown examples? (ii) What new elements are added? (iii) Is it returning any elements that early funk left out from earlier styles? (iv) What later styles is it seeming to move towards? • Audio: The Ohio Players “Funky Worm” (1972).
Probably the most distinctive and one of the most successful mid-70s funk bands was Parliament/Funkadelic (the name varied) led by George Clinton. • They had many of the features we’ve already mentioned, but added other important things as well… • DVD: Parliament Funkadelic “Dr. Funkenstein” (1976)
The elaborate stage shows drew largely on a mythical scenario Clinton invented that combined elements of science fiction, fantasy, and psychedelia. (Note that Sly and the Family Stone had already had a lot of influence combining funk with psychedelia in the late 1960s). • Besides setting up grooves and visuals, Clinton was good at inventing catchy phrases. Two of the best-known were “one nation under a groove” and “free your mind and your ass will follow.” • Question: Is this kind of funk still politically activist? If so, is it active in the same way as 1960s funk was, or have the politics changed somehow?
The last 1970s style we need to discuss is disco. • Disco was hugely successful for a time in the late 1970s, and it continues to be musically influential. But equally significant is the way that disco helped to move different value systems to the forefront of popular culture, challenging the assumed hegemony of rock culture. • While rock had become predominantly white, male, and hetero-normative, disco was substantially black/Hispanic, female, and gay in its associations. Also, while rock continued to be invested in ideologies of seriousness and social significance, disco culture was openly hedonistic and mostly apolitical. Also, while rock placed a great deal of value on individual celebrity and instrumental virtuosity, disco producers and DJs were usually comparatively anonymous, and relied on skills other than traditional performance skills. For all these reasons, disco and dance culture represented a major new perspective.
As early as the 1940s, the name discothèque was used for European bars where there was dancing to recorded music. By the 1960s, the format was catching on in the U.S. • By the 1970s, dance clubs were becoming central to gay, black, and Hispanic subcultures in New York and some other major cities. The DJs at these clubs leaned heavily towards soul (especially Philadelphia style), Latin music, R+B, and funk. So this particular mix of styles became typical of the dance culture overall. • Also, DJs were developing techniques of mixing and remixing, which led to a whole new style of composition and performance. These techniques were pushed much farther in later hip-hop and various kinds of 1980s electronic dance music, but they began in 1970s discos. • By the mid-1970s, it was becoming common for producers to make disco records, which tried to capture the same mood and style as was being explored by the DJs
Crucial elements of this early disco sound can be divided up according to the styles which most inspired them… • From funk it borrowed prominent, syncopated bass lines and extensive use of synthesizers (and a little later, drum machines). • From Afro-Cuban (Latin) music it borrowed the distinctive percussion sound (layered with drum kit), and the vocal technique of repeated chants. • From sweet soul it took the lush production values, especially the strings, and also the vocal style. • The other most prominent feature of disco was the disco beat. At it’s simplest, it is a straight back-beat on the bass drum and snare (the same as in R+B and in the ‘big beat’ of Motown). In early disco records this mostly provides counterpoint to syncopations from other drums, bass, etc., but it’s always there.
Audio: The Trammps “Disco Inferno” (1977). • In the late 1970s, and peaking in 1978 with the release of Saturday Night Fever, disco was hugely successful. Almost overnight, all-disco radio stations appeared and even established rock acts like The Rolling Stones incorporated elements of disco into their music. • For the most part, when we compare hit disco singles of this era to earlier disco, we see something similar to what happened with the cover phenomenon in the 1950s. • Audio: The Bee Gees “Staying Alive” (1978). • What changes can we notice here relative to earlier disco? Why might these have been made?
The other noteworthy thing about disco is how much rock fans tended to dislike it. “Disco Sucks” became a common phrase on T-shirts, etc. • The peak of the backlash was on July 12, 1979, when a Chicago DJ blew up a mound of disco records on the field at a White Sox game (billed as a Disco Demolition Night). • So why did rock fans react so violently to disco?
By the mid-1970s heavy metal had largely ceased to break new ground stylistically and commercially. But that changed dramatically in the late 1970s and early 1980s. • In a very short period, there appeared several major new subgenres of metal, including thrash, glam/pop, and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM). It was at this point that metal both re-emerged as a major cultural influence and at the same time fragmented into subgenres which often seemed mutually exclusive. • Audio: Metallica “Master of Puppets” (1986). • Looking at thrash in particular, what elements does it share with earlier metal? What is different? How, in particular, does it draw both from progressive rock and from punk?