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.
We Got the Hits, We Got the Future
Released in late 1982, Michael Jackson’s Thriller dominated the year in pop music and paved the way for the music majors to reenter the field of dance. The turnaround announced itself in March when David Bowie released Let’s Dance, an album coproduced by Chic’s Nile Rodgers, and gained momentum when Irene Cara and Giorgio Moroder’s “Flashdance” came out in April. A go-to remixer who could infuse twelve-inch releases with a dance personality while leaving the seven-inch and album versions free to circulate in a nonremixed state, Jellybean Benitez became the most influential intermediary between major labels and the dance floor. By the year’s end, critics could point to evidence that the music industry was experiencing a rebound after four consecutive years of depressed sales. Having committed himself to the production of confrontational music, even activist music, Michael Zilkha wondered if an era was drawing to a close, not just for ZE Records but for the city as a whole. “It became a lot more commercial in 1983 and expectations changed,” he recalls.