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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Hey! Disco Didn't Suck. Well, Maybe A Little. OK, Maybe A Lot.



I lived through disco, boys and girls.

That means I lived through the seventies. And the title "lived through the seventies" is not a meaningless soubriquet. It was harder to do than anyone is telling you.

I see lots of movers and shakers in this world who are nostalgic for the 1970s because it was their salad days. Anyone surprised that Al Gore chose a year in the seventies as the benchmark for capping CO2 emissions isn't paying attention. Like all really grim times, people who have money or a sinecure love it when times are crummy for the average folks. Poor people smooch bums and hustle to get the door and tug their forelock when people of quality go by in a depression. That's why those seventies salad days types also like going to Europe on vacation. It's a continent filled with elois for them to chat in prep-school French with, while the morlocks freshen their drinks.

I was a morlock in the seventies, in a big way. Sometimes you forget what that's like. I attended a small gathering of people that scribble on the net, and mostly said nothing and listened. I found it fascinating to hear that one pleasant lady had lived in Boston, same as me, in the 1970s. But not the same as me. She took mild exception to my supposition that Boston was a grim, humorless, desolate, dangerous place to live in the mid seventies. She thought it was swell. I hadn't thought about it in so long; but it never occurred to me that there was any other way to see it. I couldn't even picture a route you could have navigated through it that would allow you the luxury of thinking it wasn't a shambles, at least for many other people if not youself.

When you are shipwrecked and swimming far from shore and grow weary, the beach sure looks like redemption. When you are sunbathing, it's easy to think the water can't be anything but inviting and refreshing. When life is bad, you want happy music. So, youngsters, were the seventies the shiznit or a travail? Should Jimmy Carter be put on Mount Rushmore, or in the stocks to be pelted with produce well past its fresh sale date? Did the musical hood ornament on that jalopy of a decade -- disco -- did it suck?. It was pointless and stupid and trite; and when it came blaring out of the nightclubs when you walked past, it sounded foolish and mindless and never once yelled at you how grim everything was.

Thank god for that.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

The 70s sucked. I mean, we waited in line! For gas! I was a wee tot, but to this day, I'm hard pressed to find a decade that was worse stylistically and economically than the 70s. Sure the Great Depression was the economic pits, but didn't Art Deco and streamlined cars (eventually) teeming through the streets take some of the edge off? Probably not. Anyway, when I picture the 70s I picture a coked up guy wearing a brown corduroy suit with a light blue shirt and brown tinted aviator glasses grabbing a can of pabst from his avocado colored fridge in the middle of his brown floral patterned wallpaper kitchen with green faux brick vinyl flooring.

It wasn't all awful, though. Waiting in line for gas was done jumping around on a mattress in the back of my parents ginormous Buick station wagon, taking some time out to do some coloring. Just thinking about parading around town with my kid loose in the back of our SUV is probably enough to have DYFS come and take my kid and my truck these days.

-bob

PatHMV said...

Plus, we had Jimmy Carter as President, who seemed to consider it his job to tell us EXACTLY how miserable we were, and how it was all our fault that we were so miserable.

tjl said...

"Boston was a grim, humorless, desolate, dangerous place to live in the mid seventies."

It wasn't like that, Sippican. You didn't have to be a Brahmin dwelling in splendor on Louisburg Square to feel that Boston was a beautiful old-world city whose charm, and cultural assets, were bestowed on rich and poor alike. In the late 70s I was a penniless law student eking out a meager existence on canned tunafish in a closet-like apartment in the Fenway. But I never felt the bleak mood you describe, because there was always a rich assortment of free or nearly-free music, arts, and entertainment events to choose from, not to mention the stimulus and excitement provided by the city's vast student population. My recollections of this time and place are fond ones.

And disco? Don't get me started. Since I'm gay, I'm not exactly an unbiased witness, but the dance floors of that era were as ecstatic as the Rome of Petronius.

Janet said...

I spent the 80's having babies and ignoring popular culture almost entirely. Looking back on it, I couldn't have picked a better decade to "miss".

SippicanCottage said...

Bob said: Anyway, when I picture the 70s I picture a coked up guy wearing a brown corduroy suit with a light blue shirt and brown tinted aviator glasses grabbing a can of pabst from his avocado colored fridge in the middle of his brown floral patterned wallpaper kitchen with green faux brick vinyl flooring.

Oh yeah. That's poesy right there. But no one in the seventies could afford cocaine. Mexican ditchweed!

Pat- This was Massachusetts, so after we got Jimmeh telling us to get used to shivering in the dark, we got Dukakis in a sweater telling us the 28 inches of "partly cloudy" we got in 1978 would be plowed by June. Maybe.

tjl- You are my internet friend, but I'm not sure you're reading along closely enough; at least as far as the music is concerned. It sucked. So what? What's wrong with sucky music? I've played KC and the Sunshine Band songs from a float in the Provincetown 4th of July parade. Why does it have to be any good? It was harmless fun.

And I thought I was being charitable about Boston. In 1976 it seemed a terrible place to be poor.

tjl said...

"as far as the music is concerned. It sucked"

Sippican, this is beside the point. As a Bach devotee, I can't say that disco music had the slightest melodic or harmonic merit, but it nevertheless had the atavistic power to transport a roomful of people to another plane. I can pinpoint its Boston apogee -- the Kaleidoscope party, held one winter night in 1979 under the Victorian glass dome of the old Flower Exchange in the South End. No one who was there will ever forget it. And as an added bonus, the invitations were free.

As internet friends we can agree to disagree, but I still think you could have a very good time in Boston in those days with very little money.

SippicanCottage said...

tjl- Beside the point you say? Dont' take that away from me! Being beside the point is my raison d'etre. I'm going out tomorrow and getting business cards that read:

Sippican Cottage
beside the point

How much do I owe you for consulting?

tjl said...

"How much do I owe you for consulting"

I'm happy to waive my usual hourly rate for Massachusetts-based bloggers, who have enough to contend with as it is.

Melinda said...

Boston in the '70s sounds like New York in the '70s: It was gloomy and dangerous and you could have a great time on very little money. You could also get a cheap apartment back then.