I hate disco, but I loved watching Disco Inferno

May 11, 2010


Disco Inferno DVD cover art

As DVD dies away to make way for an array of new visual new mediums from downloads to on demand HD to even a revitalized interest in 3-D movies in theaters, I’m afraid we’ll be seeing less of mass-manufactured oddities like the now long out of print Disco Inferno. I may hate disco, but this DVD entertained beyond expectations.

This is an amazing throwback to the 70s. Some if it’s pretty damn hilarious in its horridness and speaks to the idiocy of many popular music trends that too many swallow without any aesthetic consideration. Kelly Marie, Imagination and Baccara are particular travesties to pop music featured on Disco Inferno that are obviously forgotten for a reason. Now, 30 years later, these performances are heightened by their dated qualities.

Most of the stuff on the DVD is lip-synced, but who cares with all of the dated eye candy. The audience can be freaking amazing to look at. Yes, some are bored (these are a bunch of white Europeans mostly, and as many of these performances are indeed from the Musikladen show, then that means they are Germans, so what would you expect! [I’m half German, so I can make that joke]). But the dated style of what was cool in the discotheques is extraordinary. Dancing behind Donna Summer, on one track, there’s a guy dressed as a farmer and another guy in a running outfit and a trucker’s cap! Also, I must admit it’s cool to see the bra-optional fashions seen in clips by the Gap Band and Lipps Inc. (the actual band in the latter is never seen in the video, however, as a white girl lip synchs to the music and another dances along). Then there are the skimpy outfits on the girls in the Imagination clip that paved the way for the style of Lady Gaga, Ke$ha and Peaches.

The production on the DVD is slap-dash effort, as a lot of the songs are cut short, but what does that matter when most of them are not even live, so there is no loss there, and you get enough of the songs as not to get sick of them because, let’s face it, disco is dated for a reason. However, James Brown is only guy who performs live because he has a real, plugged-in band, and his track grooves with nature and strong energy. Michael Jackson, on the other hand, gets carried away with his dancing and even gives up trying to lip synch, which is cool in its shamelessness. There’s nothing like it when the singers get into it: Boney M’s singer is downright scary, but, man, is he into performing (plus, their track is one of the few complete ones).

There are some great moments of music history captured here. Check out Sugarhill Gang with their pioneering hip-hop track “Rapper’s Delight.” Back then, rap seemed like a gimmick that would soon fall out of fashion, like disco did, but who would have thought that song would have paved the way for the leading form of pop music of today. On the other hand, you have “Mariana” by the Gibson Brothers, black guys doing a hybrid of soul and Latin music that, of course, failed to catch on with the same fire.

In the end, Disco Inferno is a thoroughly entertaining piece of pop music history, even for someone like me who preferred the post punk and prog rock of the time. Though DVD has ceased its run, you can still find it from secondhand sellers here. Even YouTube has some, so check them out here:

(Copyright 2010 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

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