Steve Wright announces the arrival of the weekend with forty-five minutes of dance music at 4.15 each Friday. Throughout the week he announces how many hours remain until it is time for Serious Jockin’. At quarter past four he says he is standing at his record decks, that he has put on his headphones, and that he has become his alter ego, DJ Silly Boi.
Much of the music is of more recent vintage, but four decades fell away as he played the record D-I-S-C-O by Ottawan. It was disco at its worst and its best. The lyrics are so contrived that they are instantly memorable:
She is D delirious
She is I incredible
She is S superficial
She is see complicated
She is O oh, oh, oh
Disco music was despised by the intellectuals, hated by the musical purists, and ridiculed by the rock aficionados. It wasn’t the stuff that would have found favourable reviews in New Musical Express, the journal for serious music fans, nor would it have found air time on John Peel’s radio show or on BBC television’s Old Grey Whistle Test. When Ottawan were in the charts, punk rock might have been around for three years, but it had not seen off singers in glittering costumes singing simple lyrics to strongly syncopated music. Disco music was fun, it made one feel happy, it invited participation.
Listening to Radio 2 this afternoon, it would be hard to argue that the music was not banal, that it was not repetitive, that it was not predictable. Looking back forty years, the critics who suggested that punks should sweep away disco music were reasonable in their assessment. Forty years later, there is not much of the music that has stood the test of time, not many of the bands that are still remembered. While rock musicians from the period might, four decades later, still sell out stadiums as they go on their world tours, it is difficult to imagine many of the disco groups would fill many venues, and even more difficult to imagine that they would dress as they did in the 1970s.
Yet despite all the criticisms that were levelled at it, disco music offered an escape from the grim social realities of the late-1970s, a world of glitter and light that offered disco goers time away from everyday life. Listening to Ottawan, there is still something about them that injects magic into a Friday afternoon.