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Writing About Dancing
Disco Critics Survey

By Scott Woods

                   


"He tried pretending a dance is just a dance
 But I see..."
--"Let the Music Play"
Shannon


Cineaste magazine recently ran a feature called "Film Criticism in America Today: A Critical Symposium," in which they asked 24 well-regarded movie critics five questions primarily about the frustrations and rewards of writing movie criticism. It dawned on me that I'd love to do something similar for this site, and because there's such an alarming (in my view) paucity of great writing about dance music to link to on the web, the subject of disco seemed like a natural direction to head in. To this end, I sent out ten survey questions to several music critics who I think write really well about dance music (which I defined in my original letter to them as "disco or anything influenced by disco"). I wasn't looking for answers so much as for insights, jokes, arguments, better questions, genre and/or band recommendations, etc.

Many thanks to Chuck, Michael, Frank, Simon, and Tricia for their time and for their wonderfully suggestive ideas.

Contributors

Chuck Eddy is the music editor of the Village Voice, and the author of Stairway to Hell: The 500 Best Heavy Metal Albums in the Universe and The Accidental Evolution of Rock'n'Roll: A Misguided Tour Through Popular Music. Techno critic Tricia Romano says he dances with a "white man's overbite," but she's wrong.

Michael Freedberg...born in Salem, MA long ago. Went to Andover Academy (6 years before President Dubya) & Princeton (seven years after Ralf Nader). Started writing about music in 1974 for Zoo World (!) two issues before it folded....wrote for Boston-based Pop Top, along with Jon Pareles, Don Shewey, Steve Morse...joined the staff of Nightfall, a Boston-based disco magazine (really!), where I did the first ever interview with Donna Summer...also one with Grace Jones.

It was while at Nightfall that I met my wife....at a disco, naturally...then in 1979 I was called to the Boston Phoenix, to write about soul music...in 1980 I was called to the Village Voice too...I wrote a LOT, for LOTS of publications. Crawdaddy, Phonograph, the New York Times, even Rolling Stone. In 1991 I did a book, a Guide to the Best of Disco. All Music Guide has it now...I've written for the Voice for many editors: Bob Christgau, Jon Pareles, Joe Levy, Chuck Eddy. I also did lots of record co. bios, esp. for Warner Brothers...

I've seen 100s of concerts and probably 500 DJ performances & reviewed at least 1000 records in my 26 years as a critic!

Today I am looking to do two more books...I have proposals waiting, at St Martin's Press....We'll see...

Frank Kogan paints white stripes on black zebras, black stripes on white zebras, and black-and-white stripes on plain zebras. In 4th grade he told a story. In ninth grade he bought a record. In 1987, when he was 33, his girlfriend said to him, "I'm sorry I'm being such a bitch." Frank said, "Ah, but you're my bitch." The rest is silence. (Actually, it isn't. I mean, not at all. Silence in my farts, maybe?)

Simon Reynolds wrote a book about rave culture called Generation Ecstasy and is the main content-provider for a website devoted to all kinds of electronic dance music that can be found by clicking here. His favourite dance tunes ever are "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough," "Energy Flash," and "Renegade Snares." Sadly these days he doesn't get out much and so does most of his dancing in the living room with son Kieran, aged 18 months.

Tricia Romano is the Club Crawl columnist for the Village Voice. She's been writing about dance music for pubs like Urb, Spin, Paper, Resonance and Artbyte and likes to DJ for her cats in her spare time. At 27, she's officially a Grandma Raver and refuses to believe that drum'n'bass is dead. She dares you to go dancing with her and Chuck Eddy to see for yourself The Famous Chuck Eddy Two-Step.

A few notable books primarily about disco, DJs, and, um, "dance music":

  • Last Night A DJ Saved My Life: The History of the Disc Jockey, by Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton
  • Saturday Night Forever: The Story of Disco, by Alan Jones and Jussi Kantonen
  • Adventures In Wonderland: A Decade of Club Culture, by Sheryl Garratt
  • Looking For the Perfect Beat: The Art and Culture of the DJ, by Kurt B. Reighley
  • Rave America : New School Dancescapes, by Mireille Silcott
  • My Life and the Paradise Garage: Keep On Dancin', by Mel Cherin, et al.


    Let's Get This Party Started: On to the First Question