Hot Stuff: Disco and the Remaking of American Culture

Hot Stuff: Disco and the Remaking of American Culture

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by Alice Echols
     
 

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Disco thumps back to life in this pulsating look at the culture and politics that gave rise to the music.

In the 1970s, as the disco tsunami engulfed America, the question, “Do you wanna dance?” became divisive, even explosive. What was it about this music that made it such hot stuff? In this incisive history, Alice Echols reveals the ways in which

Overview

Disco thumps back to life in this pulsating look at the culture and politics that gave rise to the music.

In the 1970s, as the disco tsunami engulfed America, the question, “Do you wanna dance?” became divisive, even explosive. What was it about this music that made it such hot stuff? In this incisive history, Alice Echols reveals the ways in which disco, assumed to be shallow and disposable, permanently transformed popular music, propelling it into new sonic territory and influencing rap, techno, and trance. This account probes the complex relationship between disco and the era’s major movements: gay liberation, feminism, and African American rights. But it never loses sight of the era’s defining soundtrack, spotlighting the work of precursors James Brown and Isaac Hayes, its dazzling divas Donna Summer and the women of Labelle, and some of its lesser-known but no less illustrious performers like Sylvester. You’ll never say “disco sucks” again after reading this fascinating account of the music you thought you hated but can’t stop dancing to.

Editorial Reviews

James Gavin
Alice Echols, a professor of American studies and history at Rutgers University and a former disco D.J., knows that most of the music she spun is considered "mindless, repetitive, formulaic and banal." But in her engrossing new book, Hot Stuff: Disco and the Remaking of American Culture, she portrays that scene as a hotbed of social change—for gays, for women and their sexual rights, for blacks in the record industry. Other writers have done more to evoke the era's sleazy glamour and animal excitement. But Echols…has few peers among music sociologists. Scholarly but fun, Hot Stuff is not just about disco; it re-examines the '70s as a decade of revolution.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
As American studies professor and Janis Joplin biographer (Scars of Sweet Paradise) Echols succinctly states, “Nothing seems to conjure up the seventies quite so effectively as disco.” But while the decade’s weltanschauung is often dismissed as merely polyester and platform heels, Echols aims for—and thoroughly achieves—a range of higher cultural insights. Using an encyclopedic knowledge of the eras’ biggest stars, she shows how all sorts of musical disco styles played a “central role” in broadening the contours of “blackness, femininity, and male homosexuality” in America. She brilliantly explores the many ways that early disco clubs created new spaces “where gay men could safely come together in a large crowd,” at the same time often masking an early strain of the racial and class exclusion that dominated disco’s later years. She brings to light the influence of underground legends such as club deejay Tom Moulton, who first remixed popular records to make them longer for dancing and “created the model for the 12-inch, extended play disco single.” Best of all is Echols’s revelatory look at how the “critique of racism and sexism” in the film Saturday Night Fever offers “a richer portrait of the disco seventies” than its critics have granted. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Without a doubt, disco is the genre most associated with the music of the 1970s. The classic rock of the 1960s, the sounds of Motown and Phil Spector, and the soul of Stax and Atlantic made way to funkier sounds and throbbing beats. Beginning in the 1960s, Echols (American studies & history, Rutgers Univ.; Scars of Sweet Paradise: The Life and Times of Janis Joplin), who was once a disco deejay, analyzes the development of disco from the dance floor up and ends with disco's successors. Disco became a dominant force owing to the play time dance clubs gave the music rather than radio airplay. This growth through bars and clubs opened up relationships among disco and gay liberation, feminism, and African American rights. VERDICT While this is not a comprehensive history of disco, it is an intriguing critical study of the complex relationships and the nontraditional development of the genre. A definite purchase for academic libraries and pop-music enthusiasts.—Brian Sherman, McNeese State Univ. Lib., Lake Charles, LA
Kirkus Reviews
Through the lens of the music and its ethos, a former DJ examines what made the folly of the disco years so indelible. Echols (American Studies and History/Rutgers Univ.; Shaky Ground: The Sixties and Its Aftershocks, 2002, etc.) opens with the memory of one of the early zeniths of her music-programming career in the mid-1970s. She worked at the Rubaiyat discotheque in Ann Arbor, Mich., where the disco movement slowly began to influence her clientele, including "Madonna Ciccone, who is said to have danced there before dropping out of U of M and heading off to New York." Yet, the author notes, the epoch had its detractors; many dismissed the trend as a "lamentable and regrettable period in American history." That general consensus failed to thwart Barry White, whose "Love's Theme" went on to become the first disco track to crack the top spot on the Billboard pop charts. Distinguished with hints of traditional funk and soul, the "insistent and whomping" beat of the R&B and Motown sound became the "incubator of disco." From a cultural standpoint, however, Echols points out that conversely, this particular harmonious amalgam "seemed a crazy reversal of all that the black freedom movement had fought for." The author attributes much of disco's success to the homosexual community's collective embrace, spurred by gay DJs like Tom Moulton (originator of the "remix"), who not only held prominent posts in nightclubs, but also within the music promotional industry. From disco's earliest incarnations, homosexual men celebrated the "gay glitterball culture" at respected New York nightclubs. But as their popularity increased, so did a propensity toward racial and gender exclusivity. The mid-'70s becameall about "the music, mix, drugs, lights, sound systems, and an unmistakable uniformity of dress." A resurgence in male "macho" masculinity followed, though female (and male) "divas" like Donna Summer, Patti LaBelle and Sylvester dominated the charts. Echols concludes with contemporary commentary on disco's predictable resurgence since "pop music is full of unlikely turnabouts."A well-researched, culturally sensitive time capsule. Agent: Geri Thoma/Elaine Markson Literary Agency
The Los Angeles Times
“In this expertly rendered, wide-ranging history of one of pop's most exciting social and musical movements, Alice Echols thoroughly recovers the moment in which disco was born and flowered—a moment of liberation for women, gay men, and not a few straight boys; of rich experimentation in the studio and behind the DJ decks; and of joyful dancing that broke down all kinds of boundaries. Echols, one of our best chroniclers of how pop creates social change (and is, in turn, inspired by it), gets its vibe because she lived it—and because she can step back from it now and see it whole.”— Ann Powers
The New York Times Book Review
“Engrossing…Hot Stuff is not just about disco; it re-examines the ‘70s as a decade of revolution.”— James Gavin
Atlantic Monthly
“A clear-eyed encapsulation of what made this seemingly facile music so complex, compelling, and prescient… It all adds up to a thumping good read.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“Thoroughly researched, scholarly credible and fiercely entertaining… [Hot Stuff] pulsates with a style as relentless as the music it analyzes and the personalities who brought that sound to the airwaves, clubs, boardrooms and bedrooms.”— Warren Pederson
Newsday
“Exhilarating, perceptive… an important work of cultural and musical resuscitation, written with a scholar’s acumen but a fan’s ardor.”— Melissa Anderson
Los Angeles Times
“Quietly dazzling.”— Peter Terzian
Time Out New York
“[Hot Stuff] reveals several unturned stones in the disco discourse, and presents an alternate account of those hazy-crazy yesteryears that’s ultimately indispensable.”— Smith Galtney
Salon
“Thoroughly entertaining.”— Thomas Rogers
Christine Stansell
“Echols' love of music, her acumen about popular culture, and her gifts as a leading cultural historian come together in this remarkable book.
The book is fascinating, carried along by prose that is as sleek and slinky as its subject.”
Ann Powers - The Los Angeles Times
“In this expertly rendered, wide-ranging history of one of pop's most exciting social and musical movements, Alice Echols thoroughly recovers the moment in which disco was born and flowered—a moment of liberation for women, gay men, and not a few straight boys; of rich experimentation in the studio and behind the DJ decks; and of joyful dancing that broke down all kinds of boundaries. Echols, one of our best chroniclers of how pop creates social change (and is, in turn, inspired by it), gets its vibe because she lived it—and because she can step back from it now and see it whole.”
James Gavin - The New York Times Book Review
“Engrossing…Hot Stuff is not just about disco; it re-examines the ‘70s as a decade of revolution.”
Warren Pederson - San Francisco Chronicle
“Thoroughly researched, scholarly credible and fiercely entertaining… [Hot Stuff] pulsates with a style as relentless as the music it analyzes and the personalities who brought that sound to the airwaves, clubs, boardrooms and bedrooms.”
Melissa Anderson - Newsday
“Exhilarating, perceptive… an important work of cultural and musical resuscitation, written with a scholar’s acumen but a fan’s ardor.”
Peter Terzian - Los Angeles Times
“Quietly dazzling.”
Smith Galtney - Time Out New York
“[Hot Stuff] reveals several unturned stones in the disco discourse, and presents an alternate account of those hazy-crazy yesteryears that’s ultimately indispensable.”
Bookforum - Michaelangelo Matos
“Persuasively argued… [a] stimulating rethinking of well-trod terrain.”
Thomas Rogers - Salon
“Thoroughly entertaining.”
Ann Powers - Los Angeles Times
“Expertly rendered, wide-ranging history of one of pop's most exciting social and musical movements.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393077018
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
03/29/2010
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
288
File size:
1 MB

What People are saying about this

Michaelangelo Matos
Persuasively argued… [a] stimulating rethinking of well-trod terrain.— Bookforum

Meet the Author

Alice Echols is a professor of American studies and history at Rutgers University. A former disco deejay, she is the author of the acclaimed biography of Janis Joplin, Scars of Sweet Paradise. She lives in Highland Park, New Jersey.

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Hot Stuff: Disco and the Remaking of American Culture 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have not read it is it cool or lame answer please
Anonymous More than 1 year ago