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June 11, 2024 5:50 pm  #1

PBS' Three Part "Disco" Special Is Surprisingly Absorbing

I hated disco, but this three part series of specials on PBS (which ran a week or so ago on Channel 17) was - to my surprise - extremely interesting to watch. 

The show - Disco: Soundtrack Of A Revolution - traces the evolution of the music, the explosion of its success and then its inevitable and literal destruction at Comiskey Park in Chicago as it began to flame out. It also touches on how radio stations in the U.S. started to go all disco as the genre heated up, only to beat a hasty retreat when the backlash began. 

Whether you were willing to Turn The Beat Around or not, it's worth a watch. 

It airs again on WNED on June 18, 25 and July 2 in primetime, with reruns at least twice in the same weeks. Here's the sked from Channel 17's website:

It's a lot better than it sounds and I only discovered it was on in the middle of a Saturday afternoon a few weeks ago by accident, so I missed part one. I hope to catch it for the first time, and if it was anything like the last two parts, it will be worth it. 

Here's the review from the U.S. TV Guide's chief critic Matt Roush:


June 11, 2024 6:34 pm  #2

Re: PBS' Three Part "Disco" Special Is Surprisingly Absorbing

I lived the disco life in university.
My friends and I were all in CITR, UBC radio and we were responsible for raising it up from a mere carrier current AM station heard only in dorms, to an FM cable station, and then those that came after us got it full on air FM status.
During all this a group of us ran a disco dance business.
With huge amps speakers and state of the art mixing board were tooled around the campus and the city of Vancouver putting on custom made disco parties.
In addition to the actual hardware equipment we lugged around plastic milk carton boxes loaded with vinyl LP albums.
The dough helped put us through university, and the lifestyle was weird, but unforgettable.
We literally lived Saturday Night Fever.
Without going into detail that might bore many people it was an experience I will never forget.
And none of us were actually disco music fanatics.
We just recognized how the crowds embraced the music and the culture for that brief time during the 1970s.
I actually will not try to watch this doc series because it will have nothing to teach me about the era.
But I hope other people do get something out of it and maybe learn something about an absorbing period of music history.



June 11, 2024 7:15 pm  #3

Re: PBS' Three Part "Disco" Special Is Surprisingly Absorbing

You don't have to be a disco fan to be amazed at one revelation that comes in the show.

Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" was something of an anthem to many disco fans, a huge smash, and she performed it all over the world. The real surprise is the record company put it on the B-side of the 45, choosing to promote a different and much softer song as the "hit." 

Disc jockeys on both radio and the clubs turned it over and it became one of the biggest tunes of the era, proving that the record people had no real idea what they were doing with some of the music. 

     Thread Starter

June 11, 2024 7:16 pm  #4

Re: PBS' Three Part "Disco" Special Is Surprisingly Absorbing

As an addicted CFNY listener in the mid to late 70s, I dismissed disco as crap.  All these years later, I appreciate disco music.  It was actually very well composed and performed.  Some truly classic tunes came out of that era, including many by the second-best composing pop group of all time, the Bee Gees.


June 11, 2024 8:37 pm  #5

Re: PBS' Three Part "Disco" Special Is Surprisingly Absorbing

You can watch episode one for free on 

It's not behind their paywall, but you'll still need a vpn.



June 14, 2024 6:29 am  #6

Re: PBS' Three Part "Disco" Special Is Surprisingly Absorbing

This show has also turned up in the listings for the last place I expected: CHCH. 

They'll be showing part one (of three) on Friday, June 21st at 8 PM, in case you miss WNED's broadcast or don't get Channel 17 for some reason. 

     Thread Starter