Books

Tim Lawrence's disco culture tome is one of the sharpest books on dance music to date, striking a balance between you-are-there club descriptions, socioeconomic analysis, and musical critique. The U.K. author conducted over 300 interviews with early DJs like Francis Grasso, label owners like Neil Bogart of Casablanca Records, and journalists (including the Voice's Vince Aletti), for insight into the world he was not a part of, but nevertheless makes vivid.

Lawrence reveals David Mancuso's Soho Loft parties as the genesis for numerous dance music prototypes: the DJ as shaman, the expertly rendered sound systems, the record pool, and the private invite list. He also adeptly navigates the social split between New York downtown's underground (as epitomized by the Gallery) and uptown's mainstream (Studio 54), which continues today.

Studio 54, where are you?
photo: Duke University Press
Studio 54, where are you?

The book's one fault is a lack of suspense. Love Saves the Day, like the clubs and records it covers, is cyclical. The stories of each club mirror each other, often differing only by name. He describes the short life spans of '70s nightclubs, noting that "Venues almost invariably attracted and then lost their core crowds . . . sometimes because a better alternative opened up in another part of town." Or they were shut down "because city governments decided that enough was enough"—bringing to mind the late-'90s cabaret law scuffles with Giuliani.

 
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