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The Evolution of Dance Music 1978-1987
MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 2 Episode #30



FEATURED SONG: REC - “You Make Me Wanna” (from Syncopy for the Weird)


1978 - Arpeggio - “Love & Desire”

1979 – French Kiss – “Panic”

1983 – Rags & Riches – “Land of 1,000 Dances”

1983 – Pamala Stanley – “Coming Out of Hiding”

1983 – Lime – “Angel Eyes”/”Guilty”

1984 – Temper – “No Favors”

1984 – Wish, Featuring Fonda Rae – “Touch Me (All Night Long)”

1985 – The Bar-Kays – “Your Place Or Mine”

1986 – Eastbound Expressway – “Knock Me Senseless”

1986 – Regina – “Baby Love”

1987 – Herb Alpert – “Keep Your Eye On Me”

1987 – Left Lane – “Bam Bam Bam (I Came Here To Jam)”

1987 – Cyre – “Last Chance”

1987 -  Will to Power – “Dreamin’”


Yes, it’s time for another mega blast of vinyl.  I’ve been saving this set for the right time, and this is it.  If you’ve been following along all these years, you know that I was a live DJ for a while in my teens, and have been creating mixes ever since.  That teen period was SEMINAL for so many reasons, and because it required my partner and me to have actual vinyl (and cassettes) to mix with at dances & parties, I inherited a LOT of that collection. 


I’ve highlighted some specific songs & albums that were more significant and/or meant more to me.  These 13 12” records – comprising 15 singles – did not individually mean enough to me to spotlight in one podcast, but they were all mainstays in our sets.  I’m not going to go into detail here for each one, since that would take PAGES of text.  You’ll have to watch the video for that.  Instead, I’ll focus on the main point.


Dance music is dance music – meaning if you hear a song you think you can dance to, then that’s what it is.  BUT there’s a narrower definition of “dance” which originated in the 1980s.  And that specific, eponymous kind of dance music grew directly out of disco.  Most disco music was created with real instruments – a real funk/r&b/pop/rock band lineup, and/or session musicians hired to simulate that.  As the 1970s came to a close, electronic elements were woven into that, primarily keyboard sounds, and sometimes those sounds replaced actual instruments like horn or string sections. 


When the 1980s rolled up, disco had been considered cheesy for a few years already.  Several other types of dance music rose up to fill that void, including post-punk, new wave, techno, house, electro/synthpop, freestyle, hi-NRG, and on and on.  Most of these featured predominantly electronic beats & instruments.  And ALL of these shared one common element with disco: the four-on-the-floor beat – four kick drums to a measure at around 120-140 bpm.


Living through that period, it seemed like this music was far afield from 1970s dance music, that it was newer and fresher and innovative.  The second part of that sentence is true because that’s how things always go.  Listening to all of these NOW, though, the revelation is that the FIRST PART of that sentence is not true at all.  Dance music of the 1980s stayed really really close to the disco form until the very last part of the decade, when darker electronic palates, heavier rock, and especially hip hop and its offshoots morphed dance into what it would become in the 1990s and beyond.  So even though my timeline of 1978-1987 is arbitrary – based on my personal dance collection which STOPPED DEAD when I stopped DJing, it kind of works, because after that dance music left disco in the dust.


No need to go deeply into the prevalence of dance/danceable music in my catalog.  You know that by now.  This song, off my band REC’s most recent EP, Syncopy for the Weird, is the perfect match for this week’s topic and playlist:


REC - “You Make Me Wanna” -


Are you into dance music of any kind?  Do you hear the differences between dance music from each decade?  Do you remember when disco was mocked and techno was king?  Do you know any of these artists or songs?  Discuss dammit!

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