“The Last Days of Disco”

My God – Was this really the year we graduated Mt. St John’s? The year I started at Rutgers? I would have sworn that it was much later in the decade, deeper in the disco era – say, Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.” But it really is the year that Gaynor had a hit with “Never Can Say Goodbye.”

Wow, was disco *really* that long ago? It’s like the jitterbug era was to us – ancient and peculiar in costumes, attitude, dancing, music, pastimes, sexual behaviors…But

How odd – I had associated this song with the disco of five years later, after I graduated from college …with the Bee Gees, and Glria Gaynor’s “I Will Survu=ive.” Instead, it’s Gloria Gaynor’s “Never Can Say Goodbye”:

Now, when’s the last time you thought of that, eh? Yet it still makes me move, more than any new song I’ve heard in years. We were in the bank today, Jake and I, setting up a joint checking account, and the bank’s sound system was playing a station offering “current” hits. It wasn’t until Pink’s “Raise Your Glass” (this summer’s Chumbawumba remake – at the same time, I really like it)) came on the I realized that *tunes* are what music no wonder has. Where are the hits of yesteryear? Seriously – there were hit tunes as long as radio and recorded music has existed. There were hits *before* recorded music. Otherwise, hoe could Gilbert and Sullivan have succeeded? Since “The Beggar’s Opera”, and that was in 1728!

{Now here is a digression, the sort of AADD (Adult Attention Defit Disorder) that the Internet has made the bane of my life). I discovered, while looking up the date that “The Beggar’s Opera” was popular, that it is theonly surviing example of a once-thriving sort of play called the “satirical ballad opera.” “The Magic Flute” wasn’t written until 1791! That’s more than 70 years later.]

Anyway,”The Beggar’s Opera” certainly had its share of hit tunes. Even Henry VIII had his own hit tune, “Greensleeves,” [popularly believed] and that song dates from at least Elizabethan times. So there have been popular tunes for at least 450 years – wherever humans have gathered together, and heard each other sing or play. Once the popular press could print written music, and the general public had enough money to purchase it, tunes could be distributed anywhere. Then there was the creation of affordable musical instruments, which could really only occur after the Industrial Revolution made the manufacturer, and purchase of, of musical instruments.

So 450 years of popular tune in the English-speaking world. Are there any such figures left in the English speaking world? Have I really lived so long that I am nostalgic for disco?

It isn’t that I abhorred it. There were many disco tunes I liked. But disco was primarily *unserious.* I was a serious person – I never had the alternative of being anything but. Someone at 52 Ski Hill had to be a serious person – there were the four younger kids to consider. So although I would dance to disco if I were at a party, I never went out to discos.I never felt cool enough, pretty enough, or rich enough. The disco look cost money! It cost a good deal to take the tunnel or the bridge into the city. Danksins cost a pretty penny. More than that, I was drawn to music like the Talking Heads, or Elvis Costello – music with a beat, but about serious issues.

Now I miss disco, like I miss the Twin Towers. They were both simultaneous creatures, and they both collapsed, turning into dust that left survivors gasping and confused. “Where to go now?” When you think about it, disco has its own holocaust, same as the World Trade Center.

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