Monday, September 27, 2010

"Disco Inferno" (1978)

61. Trammps, "Disco Inferno" (March 25, 1978, #11)

I didn't even need to hear this a first time in order to start appreciating it—the absurd reference to Dante and the way that disco adherents tried so hard and so creatively, in the heady days of its peak of the late '70s, to sandwich "disco" as a concept into absolutely everything, and context be damned—nights, fevers, ladies, queens, mystics (that was Lou Reed), ducks, even Bald Mountain. It all seems to me now so quaintly charming that I almost can't stand it. Whit Stillman's ludicrous conceit in The Last Days of Disco, that it all represented an era and a moment with profound historical significance, obviously has some grounding in reality, as laughable as it seems (and at least that's good, healthy laughter it's affording us). Then I heard the song, probably the first time in the movie Saturday Night Fever, which I happened to see on its opening night, and eventually when it made its inevitable, inexorable way to the radio. And hearing it again now makes me believe all over again in this absurd notion that disco is a force bigger than any one of us to bring us all together, plus everybody gets a pony too. It's that magical—driving, thrusting, pulsing, horns blazing, "burn, baby, burn" chanting in the background, and, up front, that singer wailing and caterwauling and carrying on. "Burn the mother down" indeed. I can see the lights now and the dry ice fog and the bodies writhing in the haze. Just like that. I'm there again. How could people not want to dance, or at least leap for joy, when they heard this kind of thing going down? That's my question. How could anybody not feel better about everything, even if only fleetingly? They did, that's the answer. They did. They danced, they leapt, and they felt better, if only fleetingly.

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