Saturday, September 30, 2006

Turn The Beat Around, by Peter Shapiro

Words written about great music are never as good as the experience of actually listening. Peter Shapiro does a terrific job of describing Donna Summer’s I Feel Love, still, writing about great music has a strangely disembodied feel about it. Nothing beats the throbbing thrill of listening to the music itself.

This book tries to create a coherent history out of the unruly and tangled skeins of underground club scenes etc. that spawned disco. One of the things I liked most about the book was how it gave you the original meanings and provenances of various pop culture phenomena. For example, I didn’t realize that a discoteque means record library.

On the negative side I found that Shapiro tended to intellectualise a bit too much, weaving his commentary about the socio-economic conditions that created disco. It’s hard to tell, for me anyway, if the bad economic conditions of the late 60’s helped to create an artistic environment that could produce Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive.

That aside, this is the kind of book that any admirer of 70s dance music will gobble up. There is so much obscure music that is described that I'm truly surprised the book isn't accompanied by a CD.

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