Nowadays it is quite difficult to avoid the “Random Access Memories” craze. Daft Punk’s latest album was launched by means of a precise marketing campaign, leading to top sales in the digital as well as physical market. Of course the music itself has a part in that as well.
I am not intending to review the record since that has been done by numerous other people who are, or consider themselves to be, in a position to knowledgeably do this. Moreover, you have probably formed your own opinion by now and that is indeed the one that matters most. Instead, I’d like to focus my attention to what certain so-called well-informed journalists and bloggers wrote, as a way of meta-critique.
For I was struck by the number of times the claim was made that Daft Punk’s youngest effort heralded the revival, the rebirth, the second coming or the revitalization of the disco genre. If you happen to know the musical origins of the Parisian duo, in essence French disco house, this is no wonder. Suppose they had a budget at hand comparable to the one in their current situation, they‘d surely asked Moroder and Nile Rodgers already in the mid 1990s. More generally, they emerged from the dance music scene, which has always relied heavily on predecessors such as disco.
But as said, this is not about Daft Punk, but about a part of the troupe of music journalists. Anyway, the aforementioned argument hasn’t been brought up very often. In addition, it really makes my heart bleed that the impression is being created that disco disappeared, or was dead even, and that the men-with-the-trademark-masks are solely responsible for bringing it back to live.
This simply isn’t true. I was born in 1976, at the height of the genre’s success and as I thought of it, disco has always been there in one form or the other. It is without doubt a pivotal element in the history of dance music which found a way out of the underground, where it was celebrated mainly by gay blacks (actually a minority of a minority group), to the mainstream. Later, it was crushed by rock fans as well as by debilitating surrogate tracks churned out to make a quick buck. But I never saw it go.
When carefully listening to the classic disco material from around 1972 to 1982, it is evident that other genres left their mark on it – for instance funk, soul, world music and later also electronics. Disco itself had (and still has) a huge impact on pop and has lead to house, hi-NRG and other dance subgenres. I like to emphasize that this is not a question of progress or even evolution since I personally think this is a false premise: these terms imply a teleological endpoint whereby each next step is one closer to the ultimate goal. In my opinion that’s not the right concept to base an evaluation of music (or art in general) on. I reckon it’s more about particular parameters that are adapted to time and context.
So considering disco a corpse which has been kissed to life again by Daft Punk was a something I could and would not endorse. To prove my point, I started collecting disco songs and tracks wherein disco’s influence is apparent; selecting one for each year I lived. Evidently it grew as a personal collection, which is why it for instance includes lots of house tracks in the years after 1985. It’s also the reason why obvious choices by some people’s account are not in it, such as work by Donna Summer or, in a later period, Jamiroquai. In any case I tried to stick to the release date of the single or 12inch, hoping that all are correct.
Afterwards I endeavored to blend all those pieces of music in a mix. Mind you, I am not a DJ, but I absolutely enjoyed putting this together, as a reminder to those lazy commentators who deemed disco out while it was still in the game, be it as reissues, edits, minor influences, twisted new versions or full-blown copies. And that surely is not Daft Punk’s accomplishment.
1976: The Salsoul Orchestra – “Nice ‘n’ Naasty”
1977: First Choice – “Doctor Love”
1978: Dee D. Jackson – “Galaxy Police”
1979: GQ – “Disco Nights”
1980: A Taste Of Honey – “Rescue Me”
1981: Gwen Mcrae – “Funky Sensation”
1982: Sharon Brown – I Specialize In Love”
1983: Gwen Guthrie – “Peanut Butter”
1984: Chaka Khan – “I Feel For You”
1985: Colonel Abrams – “Trapped”
1986: Mel & Kim – “Showing Out (Get Fresh At The Weekend)
1987: Ralphi Rosario Featuring Xavier Gold – “You Used To Hold Me”
1988: Whitney Houston – “Love Will Save The Day”
1989: Ceejay – “He’s So Divine”
1990: Sir James – “Special”
1991: Incognito Featuring Jocelyn Brown – “Always There”
1992: Martha Wash – “Carry On”
1993: Robin S. – “Show Me Love”
1994: Disco Elements – “Goodthing”
1995: The Bucketheads – “Got Myself Together”
1996: Daniel Wang – “Free Lovin’ (Housedream)”
1997: Marcel Krieg – “Take A Ride (True Disco Mix)”
1998: Joey Negro Presents The Sunburst Band – “Garden of Love”
1999: Roy Davis Jr. – “Michael”
2000: Kenny Bobien – “Father”
2001: Sun Orchestra – “Driftin'”
2002: Bangkok Impact – “Aspirin”
2003: Trentemøller – “Le Champagne”
2004: Bobby & Steve Featuring Barbara Tucker & Bryan Chambers – “Deeper”
2005: Lindstrøm & Prins Thomas – “Turkish Delight”
2006: Ashley Beedle Presents The London Heavy Disco Revue – “Move It Girl!!!”
2007: Aeroplane – “Aeroplane”
2008: Faze Action – “Hypnotic (Disco Mix)”
2009: Permanent Vacation Featuring Kathy Diamond – “Tic Toc”
2010: Tensnake – “Comacat”
2011: Dimitri From Paris & DJ Rocca Present Erodiscotique – “Downtown”
2012: I:Cube – “In Alpha”
2013: Ackin’ featuring M. Akamatsu – “Tembezi”