The Development of Disco Music in the Early 1970s

travolta
John Travolta Saturday Night Fever

There is no better picture painted of the early 1970s, than one that comes from the movie “Saturday Night Fever” with film star John Travolta dancing along to disco music. Resplendent in glittering shirt and flared trousers, the Hollywood actor dances across the dance floor expertly to the sounds of the Bee Gees. This scene would be replicated in many night venues across Europe and North America during the 1970s. Disco music would become the heartbeat of these night clubs, and would help create a number of bands and artists entering the music industry.

The music emerged from American urban centres in the early 1970s. It arrived closely associated with two forms of dance, the bump and the hustle. The music was often played by string sections, horns, electric pianos and rhythm guitars. In the UK the emergence of disco music created mobile disco and 40,000 professional disc jockeys. These disc jockeys would collect vast numbers of records and would travel from venue to venue entertaining their audiences with the music that they played. They still remain today playing at weddings, birthdays and any other event that is deemed a celebration party.

With the emergence of the music bands and artists would be labelled as being associated with the genre. KC and the Sunshine Band, Donna Summer and the Bee Gees were all regularly heard in discotheques and the dance records would be highly sort after in the top establishments. The success of the Jackson 5 was a major factor of disco music. As well as the records they produced being important they also accompanied their music with their dancing. The high quality of their dances would often see their best moves being replicated in discos around the globe. Disco had created a sub culture and it wasn’t just about the music. In its own way it was rebelling against the counter culture of the 1960’s. People who went to discos were very image conscious caring about how they looked. People dressed smartly, and the fashion houses soon caught on to this.

The Jackson 5 singing and dancing

Certain styles of suits and shirts became popular with wide fitting lapels, shiny shirts and flared trousers. Men even wore platform shoes although that faze soon died away. Women liked to wear backless shirts and tight-fitting clothing. The make of perfumes and after shaves became essential, as did jewellery. The low swinging gold medallion became a feature for certain men, and the fashion of men’s earrings also came with the flourishing disco scene.

Disco music also played a role with societies’ acceptance of homosexuality. Certain night clubs would become favoured by certain groups. The opening of Bang in 1976 in London was the first gay disco in London and this was following the lead of the gay clubs in San Francisco and New York. Disco music has continued to be produced since the 1970s but not quite with the same abundance as it was back then. New genres have replaced it such as hip-hop, but the roots of disco are still heard in many of the records that are released today, all be it under a different label. Disco music has made a massive impact on the history of the music industry.