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Disco and Discs

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Disco and Discs

The term disco comes from the word discotheque, which was invented in the 1960s to describe a nightclub where people danced to music played on records. Later, a new style of music emerged from the discotheques, and it came to be known as disco music. Disc jockeys (DJs)were the center of attention in discotheques, and it was these DJs who invented disco music in the nightclubs and bars of New York and elsewhere in the early 1970s. These DJs joined record pools, where record companies provided them with large numbers of records in return for the DJ’s agreeing to play them and provide reviews on each one, saying whether it was a good choice for play at the clubs. When the DJs found records they really liked, they began playing them frequently at the clubs. Sometimes they helped the records become hits in the record stores or on the radio.

DJs would buy multiple copies of dance records and create their own extended versions by playing them on two turntables and mixing the sound back and forth between the two. The innovative use of records and mixing live in the clubs was soon translated back to records. Several New York DJs began recording their own mix compilations in studios, primarily for their own use later. However, copies of some of these recordings, such as the famous Big Apple Mix were illegally copied and sold to the public. The popularity of these records encouraged record companies to issue their own albums of continuous, expertly mixed songs. The most famous of these was the album A Night at Studio 54. Record companies also began to issue extended versions of individual dance songs on LP records. The LP could hold more music, and DJs preferred it over the smaller 45-rpm single. Even today, records intended for DJ use are still issued on vinyl LP discs. 

By the mid-1980s and after a great public backlash, disco was dead. Many people thought the LP single would disappear, since at that time the LP was being discontinued in favor of the cassette tape and the compact disc for album releases. But with the rise of rap, hip-hop, house, electronic, and other new forms of music, there was continued demand for the 12" vinyl phonograph record for clubs and live performances. By the late 1990s, there were still approximately 5 million vinyl singles being sold each year. Today, while disco lives on only in memory and on oldies radio stations, the 12" single remains the most popular way for DJs to bring their music to the people.