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Turn the Beat Around: The Secret History of Disco
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Turn the Beat Around: The Secret History of Disco

4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  147 ratings  ·  13 reviews
A long-overdue paean to the predominant musical form of the 70s and a thoughtful exploration of the culture that spawned it
Disco may be the most universally derided musical form to come about in the past forty years. Yet, like its pop cultural peers punk and hip hop, it was born of a period of profound social and economic upheaval. In "Turn the Beat Around," critic and jo
Hardcover, 369 pages
Published June 1st 2005 by Faber & Faber (first published 2005)
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Though mandatory that the reader be an audiophile/music junkie, this is the holy grail (thus far) of disco history. An amazing retrospective that begins in WWII Germany and circuitously traverses the UK, Italy, and the States. Shapiro obsessively pursues the rise of Motown and Philly soul as it mutated into fledgling forms of disco and then exploded into the pop world with such stigmatizing shlock as the Village People. He fixates on details of every significant gay, black, or punk club, roller- ...more
Every now and then, I get motivated to tackle a completely new topic. Such was my outlook when I first picked up this book. I thought, "hey, I love disco. And my musical knowledge is sorely lacking. Let's do this." I started out all gung-ho. I mean, sex! Drugs! Flashing lights! How could it not be totally awesome and relevant to my life?

Not only was it completely irrelevant, it was really...academic. Shapiro takes a thematic approach to disco as opposed to a chronological one. While this is no d
This is not a dishy, who-did-whom tell-all, but rather a true history of a genre and an era. I absorbed it via the AM radio of my youth, and it has stuck in my head ever since. Unfortunately, the book was not linear enough for my taste, and I thus could not get into the author's approach. I read about a quarter of the book, and its all ajumble in me noggin.
Jun 09, 2009 Bernadette marked it as to-read
As you can see from some of the books that I add into my GoodReads I have been fascinated with reading about popular culture including the history of American music. That's why I was excited about reading this book about Disco music. I thought the beginning of the book was pretty interesting because it set the bar for how disco started in the NYC scene during the 1970s. It was also interesting to know how crazy New York City was during the 70s. After reading this I learned a lot about disco that ...more
Probably one of the best books about music out there. A little much for me to read every word of - it's quite long, and goes deep into the workings of a lot of names, songs, bands, even movements that I've never heard of. This is bad for the overall accessibility but it shines through that this guy really knows his disco, and that doesn't stop at the music. Shapiro's not afraid to tell the complete story of the modem western world as if it revolved around a mirrorball instead of the sun. I can't ...more
Though ot quite as inclined toward historical collage and far flung erudition as Greil Marcus(which is probably a good thing), "Turn the Beat Around" is smart, well-written, engaging history of disco. It covers both its musical and (sub)cultural origins, giving equal weight to genre innovators such as Larry Levan and Nicky Siano and to the New York-centered scene that fused together an increasingly out young homosexual population with a multi-racial, multi-ethnic club culture, increasingly alien ...more
This is a great book! I would have given it 5 full stars, but the mention of Deleuze & Guattari and Roland Barthes in a book about disco prevents me from doing so. So, in spite of brilliant new-asshole-tearing of the exact two things that kept me from appreciating disco for so long, The Village People and Saturday Night Fever, half a star gets deducted for un-merited mention of said eggheads.
Apr 19, 2007 Warren rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone who wishes they'd been at Studio 54
Shelves: non-fiction
Makes a compelling case that disco was more boundry breaking than 60s hippie music, and more revolutionary than punk. Well-research and engaging, it tackles something that's always been thought of as disposable with seriousness (and a fair amount of fun).

Biggest revelation: Disco isn't soul music as much as it is a mutated form of Broadway musical arias.

Highly recommended.
Even if you've read the essential histories of the DJ (LAST NIGHT A DJ SAVED MY LIFE) and disco (LOVE SAVES THE DAY), this book is equally valuable in placing disco and its progeny (house, garage, hiNRG, etc.) in a worldwide social & cultural context. Plus it's an incredibly fun read.
Andie Nash
I preferred this one to "Hot Stuff," but neither book really had a lot of oomph to it. Both were extremely well-researched and well-written, but so very dry. Great books, just not that fun to read.
I could not put this down. Highly addictive reading, especially for those of us who hated Led Zeppelin and wanted to dance. Try dancing to Stairway to Heaven.
A good read that places disco in its socio-cultural and historical context. A fascinating analysis -- well worth reading.
This book almost made me wish I were 20 years older.
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