Glamorous Glue: Horse Meat Disco – An Appreciation

From the birth of the term ‘discothèque’ in occupied Paris to the rebirth of forgotten strains of disco in our own decade, disco has never run out of steam. We go to Horse Meat Disco's excellent mix album for a draught of the pure stuff

In a decade of music plastered with labels like punk disco, cosmic disco, Italo disco, prog disco, electro disco, nu disco, mutant disco, metal disco, Kraut disco, space disco, whatever happened to . . . disco disco? Despite the glut of modifications, it’s still the straight-ahead deal that people rely on to budge a crowd. (Exhibit A: James Murphy and Pat Mahoney’s Fabriclive 36, a pretty pure disco mix.) Yet it’s surprisingly difficult to hear classic disco in its full glory.

People who think they don’t like disco are usually wrong. From the Car Wash club brand of kitsch to the genuflecting reverence of Masters At Work, with the Roulé label’s trademark filtered disco empire somewhere in between, the 90s left the music with a staid, uninspiring image. The above-listed 00s hipster remakes and remodels have fixed that problem, but — some honourable exceptions aside — they do tend to have one common design flaw: you can’t fucking dance to them. Perhaps more has been written about disco’s offshoots than its core recently because it’s easy to praise the process and describe the differences. It’s much harder to write about — rather than simply behold — perfection. And true disco is basically perfection, the ultimate dance music.

All right-thinking people know and love Chic. But, even now, surprisingly few non-afficianados would recognise much from even the best-known disco labels (Prelude, West End, Salsoul) or the celebrated DJ sets and remixes of Larry Levan, Tom Moulton, Walter Gibbons and other titans of the 70s and early-80s scenes. To hear this stuff is to love it, which is why it’s such a shame that these records have tended to languish underground, greedily protected by conservative dance music heads. And while this tendency is perhaps understandable among the gay or Latino constituencies who kept the lonely flame burning over the years, it could only calcify the culture.

Disco is inherently impure, uprooted and — above all — inclusive music. It developed over the course of the 70s as a synthesis of soul, funk, Latin, pop and even classical music, and went on to use anything else knocking around that would suit its purpose. Its doors, in this sense at least, were always open. So the Horse Meat Disco mix is a welcome treat indeed.

By its own definition, Horse Meat Disco is an underground club that aims to “celebrate the particularly gay heritage of disco while providing a space where straight and gay clubbers mingle easily, like the legendary New York clubs on which it was modeled — the Saint, the Loft, the Gallery, Paradise Garage . . .” and this approach has bought new life to the music. Every selection on this mix has been tried and tested over the last six years in their South London club (and before that in the above-mentioned discos, of course) and it shows. You get swept up by Karen Young’s cool ‘Deetour’ and Eddie Drennon’s infectiously percussive ‘Disco Jam’. Whipped up by Smokey Robinson’s ‘And I Don’t Love You’ (Levan dub) and Gino Soccio’s ‘It’s Alright’. Kept up and running by Sheryl Lee Ralph’s driving ‘In The Evening’ and Plaza’s and Richard Hewson Orchestra’s weightless ‘Love Bite’. Finally cooled down by the starry funk of Tamiko Jones’s ‘Let it Flow’. These are relatively unknown tracks in the main, but all dancefloor gold. It’s impossible not to love this album.

Snap it up while you can. Even though pre-rave dance music has been hugely influential on the 00s club scene (and who would have predicted that at the end of the 90s?) the logistics of disco make it difficult to compile and license collections and mixes that present the music in its natural state. This was a scene based around 12” singles aimed at underground clubs, put out by small independent labels; a revolving cast of session players and songwriters. The superb Larry Levan Live At The Paradise Garage set, for example, currently changes hands for crazy money. Similarly, great disco compilations such as Jumpin’ and collections by the best-loved original labels have slipped out of print. Let’s hope the disco dons get wise and open the doors again soon.

Horse Meat Disco is out now on Strut

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