Magazine article The Spectator

Pop the Last Days of Disco

Magazine article The Spectator

Pop the Last Days of Disco

Article excerpt

Every new product, whatever it is, needs a bit of 'buzz', and indeed vast numbers of people around the world make a decent living trying to generate that 'buzz', while the rest of us spend much of our time trying to ignore it. Last week, though, much chatter was to be had in music-loving circles about the new single from Daft Punk, a French duo who make dance music and dress up as robots whenever they play live. I bought their 2001 album Discovery, which was awash with references to old soft-rock hits of the late 1970s, and was so influential you could hear blatant steals from it on countless chart hits from the subsequent decade.

Subsequent releases have been few and very much duller, possibly because they couldn't decide whom to borrow from next, but suddenly they are back and people have been telling me, you've got to hear this! It's got Nile Rodgers from Chic playing guitar!

Pharrell Williams is singing! It's got a chorus and a tune! About an hour after I found it on YouTube, Jeremy Vine was saying on Radio 2 that everyone had been telling him about the new Daft Punk single, it's great, Nile Rodgers, blah blah blah. So he played it. And I suppose it's OK. The hook is suitably catchy and there's a chorus worthy of the name. With Rodgers noodling away, you might guess it was one of Chic's later singles, maybe from their fifth or sixth album when they were running out of steam. What the song lacks, though, is one of Bernard Edwards's wonderfully propulsive basslines and the palpably human drumming of Tony Thompson. Edwards died in 1996, Thompson in 2003. Rodgers writes a blog about his cancer. The disco years were some time ago.

In the meantime, of course, dance music has become a mature form, and taken over the mainstream, even in the USA, where resistance to this music was fierce and prolonged. Americans may have invented disco, but other Americans hated it so much they set out to destroy it, and to some extent succeeded. The 'Disco Sucks' campaign of the early 1980s wasn't subtle but it worked.

Disco was too black. It was too gay. It was insufficiently rock. It has taken disco's successors 30 years to regain the ground they lost then. …

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