Do you remember the 70s? Of course you don’t you’re too young and beautiful. But it was a magical time when popular songs always had ‘boogie’ in their title: Get Up and Boogie, Blame it on the Boogie, Boogie Nights. If it wasn’t ‘boogie’ it was ‘dancing’, or sometimes ‘dancin”: Dancing Queen, You Should Be Dancing and, the greatest record ever made (official), Get Dancin’. (‘My chiffon is wet, darling, my chiffon is wet!’).
And then, soon after the World’s Most Perfect Moment, (me, Hustling to The Hustle in the Purple Pussycat on the Finchley Road*), like a drunk spoiling the party, Punk came and spoiled the party. If Disco was life-affirming, sexy fun without a thought in its head, Punk was dark, brooding nihilism without a thought in its head. Disco was light and pretty and made people happy. Punk wasn’t and didn’t. Punk was a black hole. Disco was silly and shimmery and brightly coloured. Disco was up, Punk down.
There have been many great wars over all time: Nature versus Nurture, Good versus Evil, Middle Earth versus the Dark Lord Sauron, Arsenal versus Spurs and, of course, Disco versus Punk. Beginning in black and gay clubs in New York, Disco spread across the world. Its messages of love, sex and dancing were more universal and popular than the empty, ugly violence of Punk. Both were woozy with drugs; Disco with uppers and poppers, punk with speed, glue and heroine. In the Summer of 1978 you could walk down the street and hear from one window ‘God save the Queen, she ain’t no human being…’, and from an opposite window ‘D – it’s delirious, I is incredible, S – super sexy, C- complicated, Oh ohhhh ohhhhh…’. Who killed Bambi? Punk screamed. Well, it tried to, with its empty sneers and threatening scowls. The homophobic and racist Disco Sucks and Death to Disco movements carried on kicking it on Disco Demolition Night, actually burning a stadium full of disco records, like Nazis burning books. ‘Go, get out the door,’ was Disco’s answer, ‘you aren’t welcome anymore.’ Disco will Survive.
You hear people talking about punk with a wistful look in their eye. They were there, of course. They were ripping up their clothes and hanging out with Jordan at Seditionaries. They weren’t, but you know what people are like. They say punk was the people’s revolution, a protest against the old order. I remember that old order mostly meant Rod Stewart and the Bee Gees, not a corrupt political movement. Can you imagine wanting to overthrow Rod the Mod? We can put some of Punk down to youthful dissatisfaction, but I think people have forgotten that in action it was ageist, sexist, foul-mouthed and violent with a sheen of spittle from all the gobbing that went on. It pretended to be anti style, but actually it was only style. It was bin liners worn as shirts, safety pins as jewellery, and two fingers held up as political argument.
And Punk was proud of its lack of musicality – it sold us the idea that a musician who couldn’t play his music was ‘genuine’? It could barely string three words or two chords together, and when it did all of them had to be bleeped out. Punk was piffle and exploited the young people it pretended to champion to line older peoples’ pockets. (The sad story of pop music forever, I know). Punk was no future. Punk was bleak. Disco was life.
Disco wore a tight shirt, open to the waist (for both boys and girls, disco was truly unisex), smooth, satiny, slinky. Disco was leading Bianca Jagger into Studio 54 on a white horse for her birthday. It was glamorous and cool with a lit-up dance floor below and a mirror ball spinning above. Disco was sex on a hot night. Punk only knew how to Pogo. Riot, riot, I wanna riot, they sung. Disco Felt Love. Disco Loved the Nightlife. Disco made me feel Mighty Real.
In the end the right side won. The radio today plays dance music not Death Metal. People sing along to Kylie and Taylor, nodding in time with the music, moving their lips to the words. It makes them happy. It makes people happy. Nature will triumph over Nurture, Good wins against Evil, Middle Earth sees off the Necromancer, Arsenal finish ahead of Spurs and we will always go on dancing to Disco after the ugly noise of Punk is forgotten. And that’s why I love Disco.
*Maybe not the actual most perfect moment of my life. There have, of course, been too many great moments to decide on one being the best. Still, that one was pretty good.