The Art and History of DJ-Mixing
by Alex Cosper

See also:
How to Find a Wedding DJ

Electronic Music 1980s
Electronic Music 1990s
Electronic Music 2000s

Transition to Electronic Dance Culture

Mixing disco records in clubs to create a continuous dance beat was well in effect in the late seventies, appearing as early as 1974 and coming into mainstream consciousness around 1978 with the popularity of Saturday Night Fever. The movie brought back earlier disco hits such as "Disco Inferno" by the Trammps, "You Should Be Dancing" by the Bee Gees and "Boogie Shoes" by KC & The Sunshine Band. The soundtrack went on to become the biggest selling album of all time until Michael Jackson's Thriller in 1983.

But disco suffered an incredible backlash by the summer of 1979 due to the fact that it had taken over AM radio and that it was being "overplayed" everywhere. Clubs, dance halls, roller rinks and other dance venues started breaking away from the top 40 and started creating their own universe of music. The consequence of the radio industry's decision to saturate pop stations with disco led to a music industry recession, because the industry depended on album sales to make big profits and disco was more of a phenomenon with singles than albums.

The industry put all its eggs in one basket following the success of the Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack. A big part of that album's success was that it was loaded with tracks that had already been popular hits, much like a greatest hits compilation. Disco failed to sell deliver big album sales while it dominated the singles charts, which was a vehicle primarily to sell albums since singles usually didn't even break even and were considered loss leader promotion expenses. As a result, the music industry feel into a sales slump from 1979 through 1982 and didn't recover until the release of the Thriller album by Michael Jackson.

The entire nation had actually moved into deep recession by the early eighties. Nevertheless, electronic music continued to grow in popularity at night clubs and roller rinks. The beat of popular music, which had gotten up to 160 bpm (beats per minute) and higher in the disco era, slowed down in the early eighties as 90-120 bpm dance records became more common. As disco began to disappear from the charts, DJs turned to R&B music and the emerging sound of electronic music. Rock music never seemed to fit into the club mix because the emphasis was more on guitar and melody in rock than a consistent pulsating rhythm.

It's interesting that the concept of mixing music creatively really started with the freeform radio rock DJs of the late sixties. Back then the idea was to create a seamless sonic continuum in which the overall mix told a thematic storyline in the lyrics, or the mix was interesting from segue to segue simply because the music blended well. But back then the consideration for blending sounds had more to do with lyrics, musical key, notes and guitar chords than with drum beats.

By the early eighties underground dance music had become its own culture, nowhere resembling the sound of the sixties and seventies counter-culture. Several styles of electronic dance music began to emerge such as hip hop, rap, house, techno, industrial and acid jazz. Early examples of new wave merging with disco were "Heart of Glass" by Blondie in 1979, "Pop Music" by M in 1979, "Funky Town" by Lipps Inc in 1980 and "Rapture" by Blondie in 1981. Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five were considered top of the rap scene at that time while their songs "The Message" and "White Lines" became early rap anthems. Grandmaster Flash had been a DJ in the Bronx in the late seventies.

The sounds of the underground started to mix together as electronic and hip hop merged with songs like "Freakazoid" by Midnight Star in 1983. It was during this 1982-1984 period when MTV became popular and video became very much a part of the dance scene. MTV also delivered the new sounds of alternative music, also known as "rock of the eighties." Rock finally merged with hip hop in 1986 when Run-DMC covered the Aerosmith hit "Walk This Way."

The Art and History of DJ Mixing
How Early Disco Shaped Dance Music in the 70s
Disco's Influence on Pop Music
Transition to Electronic Dance Culture
Soundbites and Special Mixes
The On-Air Nightclub
The Secret to Beatmixing
Why DJs Still Use Turntables

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