Punk and Disco Rub Shoulders Downtown

Punk and Disco Rub Shoulders Downtown

Noting that Blondie absorbed some disco influences at Club 82, drummer Clem Burke said, “The music that they would play at Club 82 in between sets would be like ‘Rock the Boat’ or ‘Shame, Shame, Shame,’ and all this dance music. The whole disco scene was going on simultaneously to the punk scene.” Early discos and punk clubs often coexisted in the same downtown neighborhoods and occupied similar kinds of spaces: lofts, storefronts, basements, and bars. But, of course, only one of these subcultures was praised by rock critics. Most white male rock writers turned a blind eye to disco’s subcultural leanings, or were outright hostile to the music and its fans. Many of these same critics also helped popularize a macho, cartoonish version of punk that had little to do with the much more artistic, gay scene that originated downtown. The fact that Blondie eventually crossed over with their disco hit “Heart of Glass” underscores how Lower Manhattan incubated several musical-cultural movements throughout the 1970s. An important early disco known as the Loft was originally located just a few blocks from CBGB, and many downtown gay bars and discos hosted punk shows. “Blondie used to play with the Ramones and lots of our other friends in gay clubs and drag clubs,” Burke said, “and the music that was playing was dance music. I always point out that disco music was probably more subversive than punk rock. That whole lifestyle—the underground clubs, the gay culture, the leather scene—all that stuff revolved around disco. Before it became Studio 54, it was an underground phenomena in New York gay clubs. That was definitely a left-of-center movement, the same way punk was.”

From Chapter 30 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore


The Loft (original location)
647 Broadway, New York, NY 10012