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Turn the Beat Around: The Secret History of Disco

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A long-overdue paean to the predominant musical form of the 70s and a thoughtful exploration of the culture that spawned it Disco may be the most universally derided musical form to come about in the past forty years. Yet, like its pop cultural peers punk and hip hop, it was born of a period of profound social and economic upheaval. In "Turn the Beat Around," critic and jo A long-overdue paean to the predominant musical form of the 70s and a thoughtful exploration of the culture that spawned it Disco may be the most universally derided musical form to come about in the past forty years. Yet, like its pop cultural peers punk and hip hop, it was born of a period of profound social and economic upheaval. In "Turn the Beat Around," critic and journalist Peter Shapiro traces the history of disco music and culture. From the outset, disco was essentially a shotgun marriage between a newly out and proud gay sexuality and the first generation of post-civil rights African Americans, all to the serenade of the recently developed synthesizer. Shapiro maps out these converging influences, as well as disco's cultural antecedents in Europe, looks at the history of DJing, explores the mainstream disco craze at it's apex, and details the long shadow cast by disco's performers and devotees on today's musical landscape. One part cultural study, one part urban history, and one part glitter-pop confection, "Turn the Beat Around" is the most comprehensive study of the Me Generation to date.


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A long-overdue paean to the predominant musical form of the 70s and a thoughtful exploration of the culture that spawned it Disco may be the most universally derided musical form to come about in the past forty years. Yet, like its pop cultural peers punk and hip hop, it was born of a period of profound social and economic upheaval. In "Turn the Beat Around," critic and jo A long-overdue paean to the predominant musical form of the 70s and a thoughtful exploration of the culture that spawned it Disco may be the most universally derided musical form to come about in the past forty years. Yet, like its pop cultural peers punk and hip hop, it was born of a period of profound social and economic upheaval. In "Turn the Beat Around," critic and journalist Peter Shapiro traces the history of disco music and culture. From the outset, disco was essentially a shotgun marriage between a newly out and proud gay sexuality and the first generation of post-civil rights African Americans, all to the serenade of the recently developed synthesizer. Shapiro maps out these converging influences, as well as disco's cultural antecedents in Europe, looks at the history of DJing, explores the mainstream disco craze at it's apex, and details the long shadow cast by disco's performers and devotees on today's musical landscape. One part cultural study, one part urban history, and one part glitter-pop confection, "Turn the Beat Around" is the most comprehensive study of the Me Generation to date.

30 review for Turn the Beat Around: The Secret History of Disco

  1. 5 out of 5

    Barry Pierce

    a history but also an opinionated guide, Shapiro isn't afraid of letting you know his own tastes and opinions, but otherwise a v enjoyable chronicle of the rise and fall of disco. a history but also an opinionated guide, Shapiro isn't afraid of letting you know his own tastes and opinions, but otherwise a v enjoyable chronicle of the rise and fall of disco.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    “Disco was at once about community and individual pleasure, sensation and alienation, orgy and sacrifice; it promised both liberation and constraint, release and restraint, frivolity and doom. Disco was both utopia and hell.” ...and cue the thunderclaps. This book isn’t a tea-soaked play-by-play of scandals on the lighted dancefloor nor is about the infamous and glamorous who caroused around during this era of decadence and dance (though Bianca Jagger’s iconic horse ride on the Studio 54 danc “Disco was at once about community and individual pleasure, sensation and alienation, orgy and sacrifice; it promised both liberation and constraint, release and restraint, frivolity and doom. Disco was both utopia and hell.” ...and cue the thunderclaps. This book isn’t a tea-soaked play-by-play of scandals on the lighted dancefloor nor is about the infamous and glamorous who caroused around during this era of decadence and dance (though Bianca Jagger’s iconic horse ride on the Studio 54 dancefloor does get a mention as it so rightly should…). Turn The Beat Around, turns the beat around so to speak on the most misunderstood genre in music history, expanding its conversation past polyester suits, medallions, and John Travolta, getting to the core of its mirror ball existence and the political and social standing that refracted off of it. As someone who is fascinated by this period and the music that came from it, this book was a pure joy to read and immerse myself into. While reading I did feel a little envious that I didn’t get to witness all this nocturnal euphoria firsthand (I have always felt I missed my calling as a roller disco queen…) but living vicariously through these books pages wasn’t a raw deal, and I mean, it's not like I don't have an imagination...if you believe hard enough anything can happen right? Throughout this book, author Peter Shapiro emphasis how disco was a revolution all of its own and his book makes the grand and accurate case that disco, like punk and hip-hop was the voice of the restless and the newly liberated. So yes, my dears, disco was serious business and a political statement all on its own as Shapiro rests his argument on ties between the horrific Vietnam War and the socio-political movements of the time (Black Power, feminist and LGBT) to the greatest culture phenomenon to hit till hip-hop’s arrival. To cover such a wide-range of topics, Shapiro makes it easy by breaking the book up into seven “phases”. The wild ride begins with disco’s true birth in the 1930s with the Swing Kids, who used music and underground culture to thwart Hitler’s regime, and ending with disco’s commercialization, over-saturation, and later, its reconstruction as a genre that would soon birth hip-hop, New Wave and the post-Soul era in the 1980s. New York City is the hotbed of the majority of the action, and the DJ’s are scientists behind the seamless line of grooves as they work the turntables, experiment with new technology and reinvent ways to keep the party going ‘til dawn. Dozens of names and song titles are covered throughout the pages, and you might want to keep Google and Spotify open while you read so you can experience the depths of the era’s discography and the players behind it. And best believe Shapiro doesn’t just touch on the familiars like “I Will Survive” and “The Hustle”, he goes deep cut diving to where you might feel lost but if you hold on tight, you’ll be rewarded with gems. I know my playlists have swelled thanks to his depth of music knowledge. While not all of disco was good, I’ve always liked disco music for its sheer effortlessness. It wasn’t trying to be something that it wasn’t even when it was aping off of something else. I can understand people’s aversion to the genre --- one can take so many swoops of strings and “whoop whoops” --- but there was a lot of great music that came out and I’m glad Shapiro covers and goes in-depth about Chic, Sylvester, Vicki Sue Robinson, Gloria Gaynor and Kid Creole & The Coconuts, all of whom were breakout talents during the era. Shapiro did take some pot shots at my girl, the late Donna Summer and kind of belittled the importance of her presence and of the iconic “I Feel Love”. I mean, I respect his opinions, but no…Donna was #BlackGirlMagic. Disco just doesn’t get enough credit for being the one musical genre that brought all types of people together. Black and White, young and old, gay or straight, disco had something for everybody and it united people in the strangest of ways. It was high time that someone gave the (pretty awful) Village People credit for going over uptight Middle America’s head with their gay-tastic soundtrack. It tickles me to bits how one of the first dances I learned in grade school gym aside from the “Boot Scootin’ Boogie” (forgive me I went to a suburban predom. white school in South Texas...) was the “YMCA” and how totally unaware at the time a bunch of first graders were of what the song truly meant. Disco was quite satirical in its own way, and it’s just hilarious to me how even when conservatives were condemning it to high hell in the late 1970s, they flocked to it in later years and had the music blasting from the speakers at grocery stores, aerobics classes, and baseball games. But not all of disco’s components were liberating and joyful or gnawed playfully at the cheese either. Shapiro does cover the murky grey areas where people self-served, scammed, and snorted those white lines without much regard and to severe consequences. Also not everybody felt invited to the party such as beer-guzzling White boy rock purists and pearl clutching conservatives began to belch and beat their Bibles, and did it loud enough to where it conjured up the 1980s 2 R’s: restraint and Reagan. The backlash against disco culture was for real and it harbored some serious racist and homophobic undertones. Disco Demolition Night on the Comiskey Park field in Chicago where disco records (of largely gay and minority artists mind you) were piled and then torched is one of those moments that makes you wonder if disco’s true aversion wasn’t the music itself but the people doing the music… Still the disco discography was the most essential morsel of the movement and it suffered most of all from disco’s overexposure in later years as some of the material became banal and even downright stupid at times. Black American music ended up getting bruised the most from disco’s stomps and bumps, and to some it didn't really 'recover' till artists like Michael Jackson and Prince and genres like Hip-Hop and New Jack Swing changed its tune in the 1980s. Shapiro hits it on the nose about the erratic evolving Black music took under disco's reign. This particular insight was my favorite “phase” of the book as Shapiro explains how disco, on the surface, appeared to be beneficial to the Black music aesthetic as many Black artists either revived or had their careers catapulted by the sound, but this was a false veneer as Black Americans were still struggling for assimilation long after the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1965. It is interesting and something to muse over how Black music went from “what’s going on” angst and inquiry to “boogie oogie oogie” flourish within a decade and Shapiro is spot-on about the reasons for this mutation. He’s also not afraid to state that Black American music was always there from disco’s beginning and honoring Black-made music as the bedrock of what is American music is what made this book for me, as this is not just about disco’s history, but history as it stands. So yeah, this book makes you think beyond the melody and the shaking groove thangs as it proves once and for all why disco does not “suck” in the slightest.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Tav

    Though mandatory that the reader be an audiophile/music junkie, this is the holy grail (thus far) of disco history. An amazing retrospective that begins in WWII Germany and circuitously traverses the UK, Italy, and the States. Shapiro obsessively pursues the rise of Motown and Philly soul as it mutated into fledgling forms of disco and then exploded into the pop world with such stigmatizing shlock as the Village People. He fixates on details of every significant gay, black, or punk club, roller- Though mandatory that the reader be an audiophile/music junkie, this is the holy grail (thus far) of disco history. An amazing retrospective that begins in WWII Germany and circuitously traverses the UK, Italy, and the States. Shapiro obsessively pursues the rise of Motown and Philly soul as it mutated into fledgling forms of disco and then exploded into the pop world with such stigmatizing shlock as the Village People. He fixates on details of every significant gay, black, or punk club, roller-disco, or bathhouse, and each DJ that shaped the movement. It is both technical and insightful, sociological and musicological, and he deftly handles the subject matter throughout with utter adoration and intrigue. My only impossible wish is that it would have a compendium audio disc, so keep your youtube-hand ready!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Will Clark

    I had never fully grasped the centrality of New York to the disco scene but this book really changed that, and gave an excellent overview of the political and historical context in which it emerged. Shapiro makes some really interesting observations, particularly in highlighting the contradictory tensions within disco. I especially liked the point about how disco had latent within it both the countercultural progressive 60s but also a foreshadowing of the individualist narcisstic 80s of Reagan's I had never fully grasped the centrality of New York to the disco scene but this book really changed that, and gave an excellent overview of the political and historical context in which it emerged. Shapiro makes some really interesting observations, particularly in highlighting the contradictory tensions within disco. I especially liked the point about how disco had latent within it both the countercultural progressive 60s but also a foreshadowing of the individualist narcisstic 80s of Reagan's America. Disco was in part a celebration of the idea of new freedoms and better times ahead, at a time where the political context reneged on this future we thought was won. The way Disco is memorialised is touched on, and Shapiro successfully rescues the important elements of Disco from its b*stardised Saturday night fever style parody, which may be the first image conjured by the thought of disco in the public at large. The LGBTQ+ and the racial politics of Disco are given the emphasis they warrant in the narrative, and the underground clubs and the participants championed. The book, along with the documentary on it on sky arts, have reinforced in my mind how hellish Studio 54 sounds. Why it is venerated so much as a club is beyond me; everything I hear about that club and the owners just sounds awful. On the other hand, the stories of the Loft and Paradise Garage, aswell as many other clubs, do convey why they have such long lasting reputations. And through all the fantastic songs referenced that I had to pause reading in order to put on, I am still standing firm that Inner Life - I'm Caught Up (in a one night love affair) is the best Disco song of the lot (IMO).

  5. 5 out of 5

    Christal

    Encyclopedic history of Disco music. Definitely read with Spotify or YouTube nearby to make the experience better. Some tidbits about the clubs and nightlife, but if you're looking for that you better look elsewhere. But if you want to go deep into the history and subgenres in disco I definitely recommend. Encyclopedic history of Disco music. Definitely read with Spotify or YouTube nearby to make the experience better. Some tidbits about the clubs and nightlife, but if you're looking for that you better look elsewhere. But if you want to go deep into the history and subgenres in disco I definitely recommend.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jack Masson

    I really enjoyed reading this book, as a big disco fan but not at audiophile level (yet), I did have to look up a fair bit of terminology but for anyone wanting to learn more about the mixing techniques, sounds, political and social circumstance and the individuals/clubs who cemented Disco as a genre (and its sub-genres) and movement I would fully recommend. The book also has a thorough discography at the back (which in itself was worth what I paid for this book) which I can’t wait to explore fu I really enjoyed reading this book, as a big disco fan but not at audiophile level (yet), I did have to look up a fair bit of terminology but for anyone wanting to learn more about the mixing techniques, sounds, political and social circumstance and the individuals/clubs who cemented Disco as a genre (and its sub-genres) and movement I would fully recommend. The book also has a thorough discography at the back (which in itself was worth what I paid for this book) which I can’t wait to explore further and expand my record collection.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jack Wolfe

    I think I've always been really into disco, like, moreso than other music, because I think it's really easy to be into disco. What some folks (idiots) would call "stupid" I would call "elemental": there's no beat as strong as the 4/4, no tune that wasn't made better without scratchy guitars and synths and fake strings and high-ass vocals, and no thing better than sweatin your ass off dancing with a couple hundred strangers underneath a fucking big-ass spinning mirror ball. There's something prim I think I've always been really into disco, like, moreso than other music, because I think it's really easy to be into disco. What some folks (idiots) would call "stupid" I would call "elemental": there's no beat as strong as the 4/4, no tune that wasn't made better without scratchy guitars and synths and fake strings and high-ass vocals, and no thing better than sweatin your ass off dancing with a couple hundred strangers underneath a fucking big-ass spinning mirror ball. There's something primal about it, but not nostalgic or faux-rustic primal (like a Paleo diet, or what I imagine Bon Iver to be like); it's forward-looking music designed for the contemporary body in our fucked up and contradictory world. Of course white men hated it... They hate everything with a whiff of fun or art or sex or whimsy or rhythm or intelligence. (Though Donald Trump does feature TWO Village People songs in his manly-ass rally playlist... Unpacking that tragic fact could be a book in itself...) Peter Shapiro recognizes that a lot of disco is silly and a lot of it is awful. But he also knows that a lot of 70s dance music is, like, fucking special, like fucking transcendent, and that to simply say "Disco Sucks" before retreating to your Eagles records would be to deny yourself of some of the most interesting and progressive music of the 20th century. More than that, the story of disco tells us a lot about the story of America in the 70s and 80s, and "Turn the Beat Around" explodes its subject from every angle: race, gender, sexuality, class, technology, the end of the 60s "dream," the beginning of our ongoing experiment with unchecked rapacious individualism, etc. I simply Wolfed it down, taking notes along the way, opening up dozens of tabs with Youtube videos of Tom Moulton mixes and obscure tracks by Cymande and Cerrone and the Equals... Shapiro is not a snob and he writes in a beautifully casual way, but grandmothers who really like "Bad Girls" might wanna sit this one out... Unless of course said grandmother has an extensive collection of Fela Kuti LPs. Disco was and is music for communities of everyday American outcasts and deviants, but "Turn the Beat Around" is clearly intended for musicheads. It's an effort to bring this terrific music the sort of intellectual attention that punk and singer-songwriter crap get wayyy too much of. I think it's a smashing success, but I might be biased... the most represented record on my wedding dance playlist was the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, soooo

  8. 5 out of 5

    John Palczewski

    I grabbed this at a local library to have something to glance at one afternoon for a long bus ride. I ended up reading it from cover to cover in about three days. As a music history, dance music, house music, and club culture history buff, my opinion is swayed. There's a ton of information in here, and I was pleased to discover the book is about the rich, multifaceted world of dance music from the disco era, rather than a flimsy ode to the whitewashed, formulaic Saturday Night Fever nonsense. It I grabbed this at a local library to have something to glance at one afternoon for a long bus ride. I ended up reading it from cover to cover in about three days. As a music history, dance music, house music, and club culture history buff, my opinion is swayed. There's a ton of information in here, and I was pleased to discover the book is about the rich, multifaceted world of dance music from the disco era, rather than a flimsy ode to the whitewashed, formulaic Saturday Night Fever nonsense. It includes that stuff, but thankfully focuses on the soulful and underground side of things. A must for anyone interested in learning the history of dance music!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ed

    This is not a dishy, who-did-whom tell-all, but rather a true history of a genre and an era. I absorbed it via the AM radio of my youth, and it has stuck in my head ever since. Unfortunately, the book was not linear enough for my taste, and I thus could not get into the author's approach. I read about a quarter of the book, and its all ajumble in me noggin. This is not a dishy, who-did-whom tell-all, but rather a true history of a genre and an era. I absorbed it via the AM radio of my youth, and it has stuck in my head ever since. Unfortunately, the book was not linear enough for my taste, and I thus could not get into the author's approach. I read about a quarter of the book, and its all ajumble in me noggin.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    Amidst a rather dry, academic recitation of the history of disco, reaching farther back than most popular works, are myriad interesting facts and vignettes of the personalities involved. Unfortunately, finding these facts and vignettes feels like a bit of a chore.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sasha

    Almost three decades after it peaked as social phenomenon, disco finally got serious literary treatment in this lengthy, detailed and occasionally exhausting book that seriously ponders its origins, socioeconomic atmosphere of 1970s and why this widely popular music genre eventually had its day in USA (but curiously, survived in Europe). Hats off to Peter Shapiro who approaches the subject with utmost seriousness and authoritatively explains what were the main factors in rise and fall of disco, Almost three decades after it peaked as social phenomenon, disco finally got serious literary treatment in this lengthy, detailed and occasionally exhausting book that seriously ponders its origins, socioeconomic atmosphere of 1970s and why this widely popular music genre eventually had its day in USA (but curiously, survived in Europe). Hats off to Peter Shapiro who approaches the subject with utmost seriousness and authoritatively explains what were the main factors in rise and fall of disco, how it broke in the mainstream and why the passionate backlash that reflected conservative fear of decadence and homophobia. Tons of fascinating informations: I never knew that the idea of dancing to records (as opposite to live bands) started in the basements of pre-WW2 Germany where rebellious teenagers partied to the forbidden imported records. First discotheques as such started in Paris, UK's Manchester started the trend of worshipping black soul artists of 1960s (phenomenon that later resulted in famous Northern Soul), how Philadelphia Soul gradually mutated in disco, what exactly was the story behind Continental Baths and Stonewall, list of every important club in New York and why some of them were successful while others withered away ... Shapiro follows all of this with devoted enthusiasm and its almost impossible not to get swept away with his contagious passion, though occasionally he really wonders off the subject in order to explain the wider picture - I rolled my eyes when he started going back as 19th century king of marches John Philip Sousa (who preceded Jazz) but most of the time he is spot on with academic musings what was going on in the background, while mainstream public only vaguely understood corporate machinations that pulled the strings. He also patiently explains how disco never really went away but metamorphosed into new genres that will rule the radio waves of 1980s and beyond (connections between disco and punk are particularly enlightening). One small objection is the way author dismisses European branch of disco (and almost everything that came from old continent) - because Shapiro worships at the shrine of Studio 54, his view of European artists is largely smirking and although he readily admits the frivolous nature of some American music acts, he gleefully points at derivative nature of European recordings. I understand his point of view but since I grew up with all that music inspired by American disco, I don't see anything bad in it - clumsy and campy they might have been, but they were exciting, celebratory and happy, just as their American relatives. On the positive note, Shapiro lists literary hundreds of artists worth searching for and its a joy to check them out. It is one of the best books about music that I have encountered and definitely something worth re-reading, as its wealth of informations is perhaps too much to take in at once.

  12. 4 out of 5

    hajin yoo

    - omg love love looooooved - read this book so i could earn the paradise disco shirt I just bought - i probably will never be able to write like this so DAMN love reading it - skipped some of the more nitty-gritty chapters about technical music stuff - love seeing the flip-floppy way disco was developed (and later spurred other music genres) as it traveled between US and Europe (namely France and Italy) --> illegal "swing kids" parties serves as social and technical basis for disco (and the name - omg love love looooooved - read this book so i could earn the paradise disco shirt I just bought - i probably will never be able to write like this so DAMN love reading it - skipped some of the more nitty-gritty chapters about technical music stuff - love seeing the flip-floppy way disco was developed (and later spurred other music genres) as it traveled between US and Europe (namely France and Italy) --> illegal "swing kids" parties serves as social and technical basis for disco (and the name too!) --> disco emerges in the wake of deindustrialization and economic recession --> starts to die down, but PUNK takes inspiration from it because the heart of disco shares a lot of themes with punk like anti-establishment PARTICULARLY against rock music, same sentiment of nihilism but like two sides of the same coin (1984 vs brave new world comparison) --> although disco dies in US, europeans- specifically Italians - fucking love it and then spin a whole new genre called ITALO disco --> disco comes back to America but it's reworked with elements of elements of the dub aesthetic --> frankie knuckles strips it down, makes it a bit more industrial (?) and plays it at the warreHOUSE --> HOUSE is born - pleasure = politics!! women, gays, and minorities are not only given a voice for the first time, they are at the FOREFRONT of the movement - the unadulterated HEDONISM of disco can never be reproduced! It was at the intersection of political enfranchisement and cheap fun party drugs; the last attempt at integration, thus reagan-era neo-conservatism began to bubble admist the disco craze and ultimately killed disco and any kind of utopian vision for a UNITED states of America - gonna re read again; maybe I won't skip the chapters this time.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Koen

    Insightful and hilarious, even if you never cared much for disco it's a great read. To give you some indication of the style: “It was lowest-common-denominator music, and its message could be understood by anyone, even if you had to wade through swamps of bad diction and even worse syntax to get there. It was a kind of musical Esperanto—designed for everyone yet seemingly loved by no one (at least in public). Europoppers hardly needed the drum machine to make their rhythms more metronomic (check Insightful and hilarious, even if you never cared much for disco it's a great read. To give you some indication of the style: “It was lowest-common-denominator music, and its message could be understood by anyone, even if you had to wade through swamps of bad diction and even worse syntax to get there. It was a kind of musical Esperanto—designed for everyone yet seemingly loved by no one (at least in public). Europoppers hardly needed the drum machine to make their rhythms more metronomic (check the Equals’ early Europop classics “Baby, Come Back” and “Viva Bobby Joe” for proof), but when Eurodisco producers discovered the drum machine, the nightmare vision of a unified Europe was realized: The Germans were the drummers, the Belgians were the bassists, the Swedes were the singers, the French and the Italians were the producers, and everyone but the British wrote the English-language lyrics.”

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sam Romilly

    A very comprehensive look at the music styles around the disco era between late 60s and 80s. It is a hard read but a good reference source. One problem for me was the number of styles of music it describes without coming up with a clear definition of what is 'disco'. It is not easy with the European, British and American versions all following their own different trajectories and audiences. What is really missing and what would make it far more interesting would be to have a lot more colur image A very comprehensive look at the music styles around the disco era between late 60s and 80s. It is a hard read but a good reference source. One problem for me was the number of styles of music it describes without coming up with a clear definition of what is 'disco'. It is not easy with the European, British and American versions all following their own different trajectories and audiences. What is really missing and what would make it far more interesting would be to have a lot more colur images of the fashions, groups, discotheques etc. Also to consider for future editions there should be links to on-line music streams so that it is easy to listen to a track at the same time as reading about its influence.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Zach

    Very fun read, placing disco amidst the social upheaval of the time and making a great case for why it's more important and less shallow than most people (read: uneducated heathens) think it is. As someone who briefly DJ'd a disco show at my college radio station, I'm inclined to agree. Many thanks to Shapiro for adding about 150 random disco tracks to my already-too-long "Songs I Should Listen To Before Expiring" list. I would've loved more exploration of the Italo-disco scene and the organizati Very fun read, placing disco amidst the social upheaval of the time and making a great case for why it's more important and less shallow than most people (read: uneducated heathens) think it is. As someone who briefly DJ'd a disco show at my college radio station, I'm inclined to agree. Many thanks to Shapiro for adding about 150 random disco tracks to my already-too-long "Songs I Should Listen To Before Expiring" list. I would've loved more exploration of the Italo-disco scene and the organization of the book is a little weird and all-over-the-place, but neither point greatly affected my enjoyment of this very good text!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Greg Kerestan

    Without a doubt, "Turn the Beat Around" is the best study of the disco phenomenon you could possibly get. Drawing on roots from the 1930s to the post-disco present, entertainingly written and very informative, Peter Shapiro's book itself is matched by a comprehensive discography of essential sounds included as an appendix. With its development alongside punk, space rock, funk and new wave, Shapiro focuses in on the disco scene but also pays attention to the growth and changes of the rest of the Without a doubt, "Turn the Beat Around" is the best study of the disco phenomenon you could possibly get. Drawing on roots from the 1930s to the post-disco present, entertainingly written and very informative, Peter Shapiro's book itself is matched by a comprehensive discography of essential sounds included as an appendix. With its development alongside punk, space rock, funk and new wave, Shapiro focuses in on the disco scene but also pays attention to the growth and changes of the rest of the musical world, so you don't have to be a pure disco head to enjoy this book, just a lover of music.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Dan Lalande

    Examination of the disco phenomenon that, ironically-mercifully, has everything the music lacks: personality, wit, and relevancy. Shapiro traces the trend from its European roots (from where it came "like a marauding Ostrogoth in clodhoppers and a three-piece polyester leisure suit") through to its Studio 54 heyday and into its emeritus years as a component of hip-hop. His pithy perspectives come at you at a relentless pace, like the extended 4/4 slap bass at the heart of the movement. Examination of the disco phenomenon that, ironically-mercifully, has everything the music lacks: personality, wit, and relevancy. Shapiro traces the trend from its European roots (from where it came "like a marauding Ostrogoth in clodhoppers and a three-piece polyester leisure suit") through to its Studio 54 heyday and into its emeritus years as a component of hip-hop. His pithy perspectives come at you at a relentless pace, like the extended 4/4 slap bass at the heart of the movement.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lindy

    Although far less journalistic than the title may lead you to believe, Turn the Beat Around is an immensely readable volume. With a critical gaze, Shapiro nonetheless writes with affection and humor and has a good sense of when to provide additional contexts that may not be immediately evident.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Crary

    If I could give this book more than 5 stars, I would. It's the most fascinating book about a musical genre encompassing not only the music but the socio-economic times, the politics, the mood of society, and the impact of Europe on the music scene. Whilst reading, it's a great way to revisit your favorites and learn some influential tunes while you go. If I could give this book more than 5 stars, I would. It's the most fascinating book about a musical genre encompassing not only the music but the socio-economic times, the politics, the mood of society, and the impact of Europe on the music scene. Whilst reading, it's a great way to revisit your favorites and learn some influential tunes while you go.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Joe Maggiore

    A fascinating review of disco – not necessarily an exact review of the type of music, clubs or details of the era; but instead, a characteristic discussion of the origin, development and defining qualities of a style. How a style of music can align with a lifestyle and a characteristically unique cultural moment.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Phil

    This is excellent! An in-depth history of disco in America, along with story of the (very pertinent) surrounding cultural landscape. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone write about music as vividly as Shapiro.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Edward Champion

    A solid overview of disco history that I read for research. I think Tim Lawrence's LOVE SAVES THE DAY did a better job covering this era, but Shapiro does have a number of new anecdotes that are incredibly useful for anyone taking a dive into this fascinating cultural epoch. A solid overview of disco history that I read for research. I think Tim Lawrence's LOVE SAVES THE DAY did a better job covering this era, but Shapiro does have a number of new anecdotes that are incredibly useful for anyone taking a dive into this fascinating cultural epoch.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jim Brouwer

    knew a lot about this from podcasts etc, but I think this is where most of the details came from in the 1st place. I must for any music lover of the 70's and Funk, RnB, House, Hip hop and Techno. as this is where it all started, knew a lot about this from podcasts etc, but I think this is where most of the details came from in the 1st place. I must for any music lover of the 70's and Funk, RnB, House, Hip hop and Techno. as this is where it all started,

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kelvin Hayes

    It was good but too dense and at times a chore to pick up.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Marielle De Geest

    Reasonably comprehensive, but I did struggle a bit with the non-chronological way Shapiro covers the scene.

  26. 4 out of 5

    V. Briceland

    Peter Shapiro survey of disco is no mere paean to the genre; any reader hoping for a quick recap of disco's hits and misses will probably walk away disappointed. Instead, Shapiro starts with disco's birth from the embers of economic privation, and the advances of DJs who fanned it into flames with technology such as dual turntable decks, the 12" remix, and the mix tape, and follows it through its demise—or rather, its transformation into the dance music of the eighties and beyond. Save for a hand Peter Shapiro survey of disco is no mere paean to the genre; any reader hoping for a quick recap of disco's hits and misses will probably walk away disappointed. Instead, Shapiro starts with disco's birth from the embers of economic privation, and the advances of DJs who fanned it into flames with technology such as dual turntable decks, the 12" remix, and the mix tape, and follows it through its demise—or rather, its transformation into the dance music of the eighties and beyond. Save for a handful of tributes to disco innovators like Nile Rodgers and August Darnell, Turn the Beat Around focuses more on the producers and DJs who drove the popularity of the period's dance music. Shapiro has a clear enough vision of disco to recognize both its triumphs and its excesses, and the ways in which its commercial appeal blunted its artistry. As an overview of a musical movement that vanished as swiftly as it peaked, the book is an excellent portrait of a specific time and mood that swept a nation from the streets into the discotheques.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sean

    This was recommended to me by a friend and it took me ages to finally buy a copy. There wasn't any reluctance on my part, even though I was never the biggest fan of disco music. I can't resist a great story (or stories), especially connected to music. I tracked down a cheap-ish used copy on eBay and dove in. Disco, in it's popular form, still remains one of the most reviled genres in popular music. Hell, even progressive rock has seen a bit of a rehabilitation in the past ten years (with its own This was recommended to me by a friend and it took me ages to finally buy a copy. There wasn't any reluctance on my part, even though I was never the biggest fan of disco music. I can't resist a great story (or stories), especially connected to music. I tracked down a cheap-ish used copy on eBay and dove in. Disco, in it's popular form, still remains one of the most reviled genres in popular music. Hell, even progressive rock has seen a bit of a rehabilitation in the past ten years (with its own magazine and everything!). Shapiro's book takes a sort-of 'preaching to the choir' tone, as if he was sure that disco-phobes would studiously avoid it. He's probably correct in that assumption, but some of the pot-shots at rock-n-roll seemed unnecessary. Shapiro was (is?) an occasional writer for 'The Wire' music magazine and it shows in the writing - he goes into detail about instruments used on recordings, release dates and band personnel. He manages to weave in cultural events and informative interviews with all of the anorak-y factoids, which really makes the book compelling. Whether it's the psychedelic house parties at The Loft, the hedonism at the Continental Baths, or even the glitter-ball sensationalism of Studio 54, he keeps everything grounded in stories of the people involved.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Paula

    Every now and then, I get motivated to tackle a completely new topic. Such was my outlook when I first picked up this book. I thought, "hey, I love disco. And my musical knowledge is sorely lacking. Let's do this." I started out all gung-ho. I mean, sex! Drugs! Flashing lights! How could it not be totally awesome and relevant to my life? Not only was it completely irrelevant, it was really...academic. Shapiro takes a thematic approach to disco as opposed to a chronological one. While this is no d Every now and then, I get motivated to tackle a completely new topic. Such was my outlook when I first picked up this book. I thought, "hey, I love disco. And my musical knowledge is sorely lacking. Let's do this." I started out all gung-ho. I mean, sex! Drugs! Flashing lights! How could it not be totally awesome and relevant to my life? Not only was it completely irrelevant, it was really...academic. Shapiro takes a thematic approach to disco as opposed to a chronological one. While this is no doubt more interesting to the seasoned reader, for a novice like myself, it makes it almost impossible to follow. Plus, Shapiro assumes that the reader is familiar with the entire disco canon as well as the music that influenced it and the music that followed it. When paragraph after paragraph consists of three different artists and their song titles, I start to phase out. So I tried. Really I did. But I just couldn't keep going. I blame myself more than the author. Clearly I would be better suited to a "Disco for Dummies," complete with CD. If you're familiar with music, this might be a fascinating read. My next attempt will be "Can't Stop, Won't Stop," about hip hop. I can only hope I fare better.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ray

    I read a lot of music histories, sometimes just to be cognizant of various styles. Although I was not a fan of disco music in the 70's, Shapiro's history is entertaining and often funny. Personally, I thought of disco as r&b that was more danceable than funk-based. Shapiro's knowledge of music trends running concurrent with disco outlines how the simple beat developed and how it influenced newer trends. He tracks the social development of the music to key moments in U.S. history. I really liked I read a lot of music histories, sometimes just to be cognizant of various styles. Although I was not a fan of disco music in the 70's, Shapiro's history is entertaining and often funny. Personally, I thought of disco as r&b that was more danceable than funk-based. Shapiro's knowledge of music trends running concurrent with disco outlines how the simple beat developed and how it influenced newer trends. He tracks the social development of the music to key moments in U.S. history. I really liked the chapters about the first mix dj's who developed the art of the seque to create the perfect mood on a dance floor. One of the earliest dj's painstakingly edited reel to reel tape to create seamless continuous mixes. Disco is the first music that prompted extended versions of songs, remixes, etc. Another fun chapter covers the abrupt downfall of disco prompted by "disco sucks" media campaigns just as the music became an acceptable mainstream genre and disco balls were installed in ballrooms of chain hotels in middle America.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Julie Mickens

    If you think disco was just the Village People and Saturday Night Fever, and if you would mistakenly echo Twisted Sister in shouting "Disco sucks!" then you OWE it to yourself to step away from your benighted ways and read this book. The aforementioned notions are as ignorant as believing that punk started with Green Day. With this book's help, I learned so much about a genre that I had only previously known via Disney's "Macho Macho Duck." Disco was the ingenious flourishing that links anguishe If you think disco was just the Village People and Saturday Night Fever, and if you would mistakenly echo Twisted Sister in shouting "Disco sucks!" then you OWE it to yourself to step away from your benighted ways and read this book. The aforementioned notions are as ignorant as believing that punk started with Green Day. With this book's help, I learned so much about a genre that I had only previously known via Disney's "Macho Macho Duck." Disco was the ingenious flourishing that links anguished Philly soul with later hip-hop and modern pop, nothing less. It was an authentic, legit musical movement that included black, Latino, gay and Euro technerds, and from its dancing culture spawned stars like Madonna. Together with funk, its immediate antecedent, disco was the first major pop style to put an end to rock 'n' roll's 2-4 beat (which comes from blues and country) in favor of the hard-1 downbeat. Yes, disco's all wrapped up in a polyester pantsuit and adorned with zodiac necklaces, but look underneath with the help of Peter Shapiro: Do not underestimate disco!

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