In my high school in Quebec, the students were segregated: Disco and Disco Sucks. Disco Sucks were the majority rule and those who were Disco walked silently down the halls, heads down, not looking at anyone in the eye. Discos ate lunch in the bathroom, where the mirrors were, and they could pick their perm ‘fros and practise their hustle moves without getting kicked in the head.
The first time I saw a Disco person up close was this girl who was new in the school, and who had unknowingly claimed a locker smack dab in the midst of Pink Floyd disciples. She was wearing a bunny fur bomber jacket, high-waisted skintight jeans tucked into platform boots. Her dyed blond hair had perfectly executed side flips, like wave breakers, and no curling iron marks! Do you know how hard it is to make it smooth? Hers looked like a helmet. And her face was perfectly maquillaged, swoops of blue eyeshadow under razor-thin arched eyebrows, streaks of pink blush, and layer of shiny fuchsia gloss so thick that if you stared at it, you would go blind. Like an eclipse. She was awesome.
Some plaid boy hissed: “Disco bitch! Kill her with fire!”
She barely batted an eye: “Go fuck yourself, farmer.” As she swung her silver sequinned purse over her shoulder, she clomped away with her pack DuMauriers, a whiff of Shalimar trailed her. We all stared, the girls and the boys, dressed stupidly and all the same in our flannel shirts from the men’s department at Horizon. Nobody bothered her again. She was a French girl named Louise and she turned out to be A-OK. Once we skipped gym class and went to Gaby’s for french fries and she told me that she missed a couple of years of school because she had a baby at 12! She gave it up for adoption and her parents made her live with her crazy grandma. She was very funny and could blow smoke rings without moving her jaw. She only stayed a year and never ended up graduating with us but when I think of Disco, I think of her.
I also thought of Disco last week when Donna Summer and Robin Gibb passed away. Like I said, it was just not cool to like Disco in my neck of the woods. We listened to “Progressive Rock” like Genesis, Pink Floyd, and Yes. But when someone would put on the “Dark Side of the Moon,” I would get anxious. Please stop the howling. I couldn’t take the tedious moaning from a cave sounds. I didn’t own any of these albums because there was no point. You couldn’t escape them from the radio station we listened to called CHOM. It was a downward spiral of screaming and endless guitar riffs that could set your watch by, day after day, night after night.
Secretly, and I’m only confessing this now because I am a LOCA and I don’t give a fuck, I LIKED DISCO!
I loved to go shopping in downtown Montreal in the 70s and go to Jean Junction where they would blast the music and I would sing along, joyfully, trying on Road Runners: BURN, BABY, BURN! DISCO INFERNO!
And I never told any of my friends from school this but on Friday nights, my French friend and I would go to a roller rink in Brossard and skate with boys who had blow dried feathered hair and wore gold necklaces with little mini Jesus crosses over their furry chests: JIVE TALKIN’!
And the very best times were had in the summer, going to LaRonde, the amusement park at Man and His World. You would take a little trolley train from the Metro to the gates of the parks and see couples in full-on coital, humping on the grassy hills underneath the trees. I think people in general had more mojo back then, and I think Disco helped. Something about the beat and all the moaning. The rides at the park were operated by toothless Carnies who gave you extra spins if you weren’t wearing a bra. My favourite ride was the Bobsleigh, where you would go around and up and up and down super fast while the lights flashed and the music blasted: I FEEL LO-OOOOOVE! I FEEL LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE!
Why on Earth would you want to go to The Dark Side of the Moon when you could feel such unbridled joy?
I kept my secret, all through high school and up until now. I was grateful that Disco didn’t actually die like they said on the cover of Newsweek when they closed Studio 54…it seeped into other genres, sometimes furtively and other times with a wink and a nod. For example, it was perfectly acceptable to like David Bowie, but let’s face it, he had Disco Fever along with Mick Jagger and all the other androgynous types wiggling their crotch lizards around in tight satin pants. Blondie was considered “Punk” when she came on the scene. Bitch, please…Disco with rap, hardly anarchy. Even Patti Smith, who is the coolest chick ever, had a Disco bone…just listen synthesized to the riffs on ‘Dancing Barefoot” and if you don’t want to put on a pair of roller skates and whirl around shakin’ your groove thing, I don’t want to know you.
Dubstep: You have some homage to pay.
And here is Cake, playing a classic Disco song “I Will Survive” and not without hipster irony either: