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The Joy of Disco
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This is BBC4, so any documentary devoted to the irresistibility of disco, even if it’s part of a special night to celebrate the channel’s tenth birthday, has to be set in a social context; we can’t all just get up and do the Hustle. So the programme explores disco’s birth in the black and, particularly, gay scenes of urban America in the late 60s and early 70s.
It’s a familiar story: police raids on gay clubs, the Stonewall Riots, the later excesses of Studio 54 and the eventual, literal immolation of what became a despised genre. But, oh, the music. All the greats are here: Sister Sledge, the mighty Nile Rodgers, the Bee Gees, Sylvester and, yes, the Village People. If you’ve never done the YMCA dance at a Christmas party, you are a lost soul.
There’s a great quote that will tinkle in your ears for days afterwards from music critic Alexis Petridis, who sums up the full horror of Boney M’s Rasputin: “[It’s] like One Direction making a record about Stalin.”
Why one of the most frequently derided forms of pop music provided the soundtrack to some of the most important social changes of the 1970s, including gay liberation and female empowerment. The programme also explores how the New York disco scene laid the foundations for modern club culture, tells the tale of how acts including Chic, Sister Sledge and George McCrae broke into the mainstream on both sides of the Atlantic, and explores the importance of the film Saturday Night Fever in shaping the image of disco music around the world. Featuring contributions by Chic's Nile Rodgers, Robin Gibb, Kathy Sledge of Sister Sledge, songwriter Kenny Gamble and the Trammps' Earl Young.
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