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date: 18 November 2019


  • Claude Conyers


A broad category of social dances that dominated the American nightclub scene of the 1970s. Nightclubs for dancing to recorded music, rather than to a live band, first became popular in Europe, where they were known as discothèques, a term borrowed from the radio business suggesting a library of gramophone records.

Although informal social events involving dancing to recorded music were common everywhere gramophone records were sold, the origins of the disco as a commercial venue can be traced to occupied France and Germany during World War II. Jazz, bebop music, and jitterbug dancing had been banned by the Nazis as decadent American influences, so young people met in hidden basement clubs to dance to American swing music, which disc jockeys played on 78 rpm records on a single turntable when a jukebox was not available. After the war a Paris nightclub named Whisky à Go-go came under the management of singer Régine Zylberberg, who in the early 1950s installed a dance floor under suspended colored lights and replaced the jukebox with dual, coupled turntables to permit continuous play of uninterrupted music. Acting also as disc jockey, Régine thus set in place the standard components of the postwar discothèque nightclub....

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