Turn the Beat Around: The Secret History of Disco Paperback – 7 May 2009
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"'A complete triumph. He expertly excavates the history of one of the central genres of modern popular music.' John McTernan, Scotland on Sunday"
Turn the Beat Around: The History of Disco is Peter Shapiro's seminal popular culture book on a much maligned genre - D.I.S.C.O!See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
A lot of hard graft has gone into it and there's some fascinating back (and side) story to the rise and fall of disco. Yet I never got the impression the author understood how disco FELT while you were on the floor - that euphoria, that release. By the end I was beginning to question how much he actually likes disco - I suspect his heart is with what he considers more 'authentic' genres like funk.
From David Mancuso on, disco was never just danceable Philly (though danceable Philly is indeed very fine). Latin percussion, orchestrated strings and European electronics weren't hokey and inauthentic bolt-ons, but all part of the mix. They were part of what made disco disco - it was a coming together of things. He disses the Eurodisco sub-genre with the usual anglophone contempt for non-Anglo music, is too dismissive of Donna Summer's talents and tries - wrongly, I think - to shoehorn the Bee Gees into the 'Eurodisco' camp when what they were doing was really blue-eyed R&B. There's also a very odd little chapter on Italo disco that fizzles out with no mention of the genre's 1980s heyday, as though the author was simply too bored to go on.
Buy it by all means. but I'd suggest you also read Tim Lawrence's 'Love Saves the Day' which is less opinionated and more readable. Afterwards dive into Andrew Holleran's 'Dancer from the Dance'. It's a gay novel, but I've never read anything that better describes the irresistible power of the dance floor.
Doubling as a history of the US, the book also includes some interesting side stories such as that of Northern Soul in the UK.
I guess it helps that I already had a strong interest in but not a lot of knowledge of soul and disco.
I definitely recommend the book unreservedly.
And now? Where's now a history about how dance music was experienced in each decade -describing the construction of each social ritual of parties as meeting places, sounds and moves? Jazz, swing, rhythm and blues, rock'n'roll, soul, funk, punk, electro, hip-hop, raves, music and places to free your mind and let your body go.... It's strange that disco was also re-encarnation of that spirit, still discredited today, though a lot of samples and inspiration in contemporary dance music come from that tracks (Daft Punk and Pharrell Williams, for instance). Long live the seventies...