Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor, 1980-1983
Tim Lawrence is Professor of Cultural Studies at the University of East London and the author of Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture, 1970–1979 and Hold On to Your Dreams: Arthur Russell and the Downtown Music Scene, 1973–1992, both also published by Duke University Press.
The backlash against disco during the second half of 1979, combined with the shift from stagflation to recession, led many to forecast that the 1980s would amount to a decade of restraint, hard work, and joylessness. However, none of the talk discouraged hardened revelers from heading out to a subterranean party scene that bore only a passing resemblance to the flashier side of disco. The culture continued to thrive because the conditions that had led DJ culture to take root there in New York in the first place remained largely unchanged. The beginning of the new decade bore uncanny similarities to the beginning of the last, when the dance scene began to take root. Yet whereas discotheque culture in the city amounted to a spent force on New Year’s Eve 1969, New Yorkers who headed out on New Year’s Eve 1979 were spoiled for choice.