The other day I was sitting in my cozy Datscha (my Russian friends call me a “Datschnek” and for some reason I haven’t quite fully understood yet, it never goes without a chuckle) watching my wife’s music video collection. The not always so merciful shuffle function presented me stuff like “Disco Inferno” and “Forget me Nots”. (Thank you, Steve.) For the what is felt as a millionth time, I immensely enjoyed the incredibly tight grooves twelve musicians could unfold on a stage while filming a video, doing synchronized dance moves and looking like they were having a whole lot of fun doing all that. Needless to say, there was the “oooh, baby” and “saxay mama” air oozing out of every sweaty pore from the men with mustaches and real chest hair wearing sparkly uniforms and platform shoes. The thought that this couldn’t have been meant seriously even back then blissfully snuck up to me.
In a time when the prosperity of the music industry was based on the fact that you only could play a song when you owned the record, it was also delightful to see that mega-hits like “Forget me Nots” were starring a real human shaped looking woman like Patrice Rushen. Right, she was wearing two kilos of hair jewelry in her braids and a somewhat equal amount of lip gloss but I was still convinced she knew what it was like to stand in line at a grocery store being totally annoyed by the noise of screaming kids while trying to play some new hooks in her head.
Meanwhile the shuffle went on to ABBA. Naturally, the scandinavians had to show the rest of the world what a true pop song is made of and they hold the finest recipe for it under lock and key until the present day. Despite this fun kind of world domination, Agneta’s dance moves (for some reason that seemed to have slipped my attention, I forgot the name of the redhead) were so refreshingly awkward that it made me wonder why people were rumoring today whether Lady Gaga was a hermaphrodite instead of a robot.
The make-believe message of the time seemed to be that music was the answer to every kind of woe instead of the cause and I am talking music as in melodies, chords, basslines and hand played grooves. However, the magical concept of repetition and minimalism was already invented years ago by Steve Reich and should soon find its application to a phenomena called tracks when Larry Levan decided to give a DJ more responsibility other than simply putting on records one after another. The birth of House Music was imminent. Once unleashed, its power shall reign.
So some thirty years later, when truly everything was coming back, and kids were struggling to accessorize with their retro-futuristic references simply because they did not have enough room on their skinny bodies to accommodate all those styles and have them still recognizable, the original disco got washed up at the shores along with a bunch of other stuff. It was long ago enough that even the americans seemed to have forgotten to be ashamed of it. Somebody picked it up and labeled it into, big surprise, “Nu Disco”. This time it got to be a truly global subculture because it also, and probably for the first time, hit the areas behind the former iron curtain which appeared to have been reduced to a piece of flimsy nylon or at least some shiny chrome when I look through it during my virtual journeys on Facebook. Despite being taken with iPhones and the likes, most of the photos still looked like they were polaroids. Hmmm. I can only imagine this wasn’t a master plan rather than an emotional gap to fill a need for this intriguing mixture of post modern hedonism, melancholy, champagne, sweat and glitter. I boldly challenge people to really explain what kind of music the label “Nu Disco” stands for other than that it’s not Amy Winehouse or Coldcut. And I can say this because I have encountered a Whitesnake edit of “Is this Love” in a Nu Disco mixtape and I even liked it! I did like the original better though. Well, maybe that’s the best answer to it – anything goes (once more).
That’s probably also what lured me into it. It made me realize that if you have a thing for chords and melodies, Deep House would always feel like a corset on a drag queen. It might give you the desired posh looks (or you might define it so) but at some point you will want to breathe freely again. What a liberation! Now, saying you liked Madonna and MJ was no longer shameful, even -possibly especially- if you were born in 1992. But not everything seemed to be in order. Today, where everybody is a DJ, a producer, a label owner, a web designer and a blogger who define themselves as journalists, a time, where self-exploration means for young girls posting another OOTD (you did know this stands for “outfit of the day”) on youtube, the idea of “owning” a copy of Ableton Live and putting a beatloop to Billy Ocean in order to claim your fifteen minutes of fame was a natural and omnipresent proposition. Dilettantism is no longer an issue as long as you just looked like an artist (on youtube). However, the nerds didn’t just die out – they were only suddenly called hipsters. I found myself wondering. What had changed? And how could any of this be related to disco? I didn’t have to wait long for insight to struck me like a neon lightning.
The emotion is the belt that ties it all together. The roof that protects us all from the cold rain. In other words: consolation. Now, you could have really watched Michael Knight jump into Kitt and thought it was the coolest thing in the world because you just had cable television in 1984 or you could simply just subscribe to the idea. It doesn’t matter as long as you like it on Facebook and post along an adequate follow-up picture of Huckleberry Hawke (!) jumping into his souped-up helicopter. (You did know it was called “Airwolf” right?) This, of course, made all the purists turn away their faces in disgust but thankfully, for them, there is still Theo Parrish and Charles Webster making vinyls. Oh, did you like them, too and not find them depressing? Too complicated? As I said, anything goes. It’s just a different skin. (Skins! Right. RIGHT?)
Yours faithfully, -SJ