The history of Discos is as complex and subject to as many arcane arguments (as say left wing politics) as to exactly when it all started. There is also the split between Disco the musical style (ala Saturday night fever) and a Disco/Discothèque
100 years ago, by broadcasting Handel to some very surprised ships’ radio operators, a Canadian inventor Reginald Fessenden became the world’s first DJ. In the Uk Jimmy Savile is widely credited with being the first DJ to have used the now standard two turntables and a mike , He also claims to be one of the first mobile dj – Famously at his first Gig his sound system fused and his mum had to take over and entertain the guests on her grandpiano
In terms of clubs where people went to dance to records the first Discos where in france during WW2 Sparked by a youth culture called les Zazous. A group of insanely keen jazz fans with a style derived from black and Latino American style. needless to say Herr Gobbels wasn’t to keen on this and the scene went underground where jazz fans would congregate to listen to their banned 78’s
Tom Modeling a home made Zoot suit
One of the prime accessories was with a curved-handled umbrella carried at all times (copied from British prime minister Neville Chamberlain, bizarrely regarded as quite a style icon). Girl Zazous wore short skirts, furs, wooden Wedge platform shoes and dark glasses with big lenses.So all clubbers ow ther night time fun to Jazz loving fench and german kids who defied the Nazis to dance to degenrate music
Howeaver Gobbels did in one of the Bizare things that only happen in war time – did actualy put together a Nazi swing band to play the most bizzare propoganda versions of current hits check out Charlie and His Orchestra
Disco as the Musical style really got going in the late 60’s and early 70’s with classic tracks such as Donna Summers “I feel Love” or “Kung Foo Fighting” initially played at underground warehouse parties in New York and other big American cities before moving into the mainstream around the time of Saturday night fever (1975)
Performers such as Madonna, Grace Jones and Michael Jackson where some of the primary artists that produced major crossover hits – madonas latest record could be consider a retro Disco record – pity about the OTT compression ( Madge just bight the bullet and go to SACD or DVDaudio)
Classic Disco relies on very heavy complex layered orchestration often player’s moonlighting from major symphony orchestras the now ubiquitous 4/4 rhythm and around 120 BPM tempo.
Disco also spawned the 12 inch single to give Dj’s longer and alternate takes to mix together often DJ’s would only play a short break from a variety of records producing their own unique set.
More recently DJ’s have stated to use laptop computers rather than record decks using software such as Abeltrons Live to allow much more complex mixing and improvisational techniques – This of course makes a DJ much more mobile – not having so cart around heavy flight cases with all those heavy 12inch singles.
While Disco was popular in the UK a subsidiary scene based around 60s soul records (the rarer the better) was the northern soul Disco scene based predominantly in the north Wigan casino being the most famous. Northern purists prefer the all out turn it up to 11 stompers to the more slickly produced 70’s sounds though there are some crossovers
Disco has a mutated and produced a whole family of other musical genres House, Electro, Jungle and has also influenced a lot of bands New order in Manchester for example who went the whole hog and opened the famous Hacienda Disco with Factory Records and Tony Wilson.