Okay, there is a lot of news out there right now. The president, Georgia, Covid-19, Russia, China, post election challenges, etc. But it is the lazy time between Christmas and New Year’s Day and my very casually clad work persona wants to go with the flow and write utter tripe. But my editors wouldn’t appreciate that. So, over a Mac White Inspirado and some Elijah Craig, I came up with a compromise. A non political, political article.
Which is actually my favorite thing to write about, when culture, especially pop culture, and politics converge. In this instance, how disco music led to the Reagan Revolution. No really, hear me out.
Amongst my generation, still to this day, admitting you like disco is like admitting you were gay, fifty years ago. Probably worse. But at the beginning of the genre it wasn’t horrible music. There was the highly danceable TSOP, the Bee Gees, and some other decent stuff. But after Saturday Night Fever, a good dance album, the music took a nosedive. It was then typified by the hideous song “Fly Robin Fly” by Silver Convention. New Wave, in the summer of 1978, put disco out of its misery.
However, the essence of the social aspect of disco was fine. Dancing, drinks, and the readily available companionship of the opposite sex made for a fun evening. It’s the topic of one of my favorite films of all time, Whit Stillman’s “The Last Days of Disco.” What disco wasn’t was political.
It’s lack of hippie humbug and its aggressive commercialism was a slap in the face to the leftist sheep of the 1960s. Their earnest, vicious, and communist supporting music and lifestyles were out. They were replaced by Tony Manero and platform shoes for guys. They were displaced by Barry White and the definitely non-Earth Mother Farrah Fawcett. Disco was a pop culture bridge to New Wave and American punk, which culturally brought about the political rebellion against sclerotic statist Jimmy Carter Democrats and towards Ronald Reagan conservatism.
That period, the late 70s and early 80s, was the last time youth rebelled against anything. Since then the conformists have ruled the college campuses and pop culture airwaves. That rebellion, throwing off the leftist cultural and political shackles of the 60s, made for the early 80s and the decade of peace and prosperity that was to follow.
As culture always moves the political dial, it did then in new and surprising ways. For the hippies of the 60s, now grown with families, mortgages, and disgusted at the government incompetence of the 70s, were willing to give something else a look. That look resulted in many left wing Gene McCarthy voters of 1968 voting for Reagan in 1980. Quite a switch. But then the 70s, a real kidney stone of a decade, could do that to a person and a society.