Hot Stuff: Disco and the Remaking of American Culture

Alice Echols, Author Norton $26.95 (338p) ISBN 978-0-393-06675-3

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.)

Reviewed on: 10/05/2009
Release date: 03/01/2010
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 338 pages - 978-0-393-33891-1
Open Ebook - 288 pages - 978-0-393-07701-8
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