Thursday, August 13, 2015

CNN 70's: :The Music": the dawn of disco (and when getting into Studio 54 was a privilege)

Thursday, Aug. 31, CNN’s “The Seventies: One Nation under Change” continued with “The Music of the 70s: Eight Essential Musical Acts of the 70s”, basic link here. Tom Hanks appeared to introduce the episode.

The music scene was perhaps quiet as the decade began and old bands broke up, but soon new artists, such as the boy Michael Jackson appeared, and Glen Campbell became popular. But the most important development was disco, for dance floors (especially in gay bars) where certain groups, like the Bee Gee’s, provided a lot of the songs, some of which would appear in the movie “Saturday Night Fever”.

I can remember also the “Village People” (from about 1977), with songs like “In the Navy” and “Macho Man”, whose lyrics and spirit would foreshadow the debate on gays in the military to occur 15 or so years later.  The “Macho Man” would sound strangely poignant a few years later when AIDS became a tragic epidemic (CNN will cover the 80s in 2016, it announced tonight).  My own personal life (turning 35)  in NYC in 1978 was interesting, and the music fit it. 

But the most interesting narrative in the episode concerned specifically NYC’s “Studio 54”, which became the subject of the 1998 film from Miramax, “54” (by Mark Christopher).  Remember how the kid played by Ryan Phillippe from New Jersey “gets in” after being asked to remove his shirt and display a hairless chest.  Breckin Meyer played Greg in the movie.  You couldn’t get into the disco if you were unkempt.  (It was curiously common afterwards for many straight discos not to allow tennis shoes, and I never knew why.)  Actually, in the male gay community in the late 70s, mustaches were common, even though they aren’t so popular today. 

Since the 70s and 80s, the surprisingly lyrical style of some disco has been supplanted by hip hop and extreme dissonance (going through “rap”). 
The visitor might find some companion material in Joseph Lovett’s 2005 documentary film, “Gay Sex in the 70s”.  

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