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 Sound Became More Real
An alternative sound for the changing downtown scene began to emerge when musicians started to combined the previously discrete sounds of disco and punk. Oxford graduate and CBGB regular Michael Zilkha became a key figure in the development when he launched ZE Records in 1978 with “Disco Clone” and went on to invite no wave artist James Chance to make a record that combined disco and punk. Chris Blackwell’s Island Records and Ed Bahlman’s 99 Records also championed a hybrid sound that combined elements of rock, punk, no wave, reggae, dub, and disco. Artists and lineups, including Blondie, the Bush Tetras, Grace Jones, and Talking Heads, championed the shift. Meanwhile disco labels such as Prelude, Salsoul, and West End began to cultivate a rawer sound that took disco back to its R&B roots.