Funk Vs. Disco

Discussion in 'Recordings [BG]' started by IotaNet, Feb 24, 2010.

  1. [quote="Funkslap Mama" on the BassPlayer Magazine Forum]Thesis statement: Funk is the natural, organic evolution of '60s Soul; pure of heart, music of the people. Disco, on the other hand, is the commercialized, schlocky, bastard stepchild of Soul and Funk. Discuss.

    Extra-credit question: Describe the sonic differences between the two.

    See the thread here:[/quote]I ran across this topic on the BP Magazine Forum and thought I'd cross-post it here.

    I'm not sure I buy into the notion that all Disco was bad (or that all funk is/was good, for that matter.) I certainly don't buy into the notion that there are hard, clear-cut distinctions between the two.

    One of the posters over there said that the presence of Violins automatically makes it Disco. I totally disagree because that would automatically make ANY of the 1970's Philly International music into "Disco" -- and we all know that isn't true. (Was "Back Stabbers" Disco?)

    Speaking of which ... do ya'll consider this song to be disco? (I don't but I wonder if others do):
  2. kesslari

    kesslari Groovin' with the Fusion Cats Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2007
    Santa Cruz Mtns, California
    Lark in the Morning Instructional Videos; Audix Microphones
    Growing up in Philly, do I ever remember TSOP/MFSB!
    And I'd call it disco - the very up-front strings, and slick production quality.

    I also don't buy "disco all bad, funk all good". All genres have good and bad.

    And some songs cross over - my band covers "Ain't No Stoppin Us Now" and many consider it disco, but it's a great song, and if it ain't funk, it ain't too far off.

    Disco tended to have less syncopation and slicker production - the classic sound of disco was the "boom boom boom boom" of a very non-syncopated bass drum. You don't hear that sound in, say, P-Funk or Sly or the Ohio Players. Disco was (IMO) designed to be music that was *easy* to dance to. Funk, I would say, was "music that makes you want to dance", if the distinction makes sense.
  3. bass12

    bass12 Blistering barnacles! Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    There are a lot of hard-liners where disco is concerned. A lot of disco was formulaic schlock, no question about it, but a lot of disco was well-written, well-performed and funky. One of my favourite bands is Chic. Nile Rogers (or was it Bernard Edwards - I don't remember) said in an interview I read that he didn't really see Chic as a "disco group" - they just happened to be part of that era and some of their music fit in with the disco "aesthetic". I figure that Chic's stuff - their disco records included - is a lot funkier than a goor deal of the "raw" funk that was produced in the sixties and seventies. Anyway, there's a book's-worth of stuff to discuss on the subject of disco (see Peter Shapiro's Turn The Beat Around) and it will be interesting to see what some might have to say on the subject. As for your question about MFSB - that is generally regarded as a classic of the disco genre and I would agree that it is disco.
  4. I like most Soul, some Funk and a little Disco.

    I agree that a piece of Soul broke off to become Funk and I also agree that some Funk got mainstreamed and commercialized into Disco.

    That video would go in my Disco collection... actually it's already in my father's collection of Disco 33s.
  5. bass12

    bass12 Blistering barnacles! Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    Yes. The four-on-the-floor is a big part of what characterised disco (you can hear in in proto-disco tracks such as Eddie Kendricks' "Girl You Need A Change Of Mind" and The Temptations' "Law Of The Land").
    The production was a big part of the general aesthetic as disco settled into itself, as were elements such as in-you-face strings and the "hissing" hi-hat introduced on "The Love I Lost".
  6. Interesting.

    I tend to associate disco with gratuitous octaves on the bass and mindless 16-notes on the high-hat. That is DEFINITELY not what's happening on TSOP. (I love what the conga player is doing throughout the song -- that alone takes this tune out of schlock and into classic.)
  7. bass12

    bass12 Blistering barnacles! Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    What you're talking about regarding the octaves and sixteenth notes are a couple of the clichés that are often associated with disco. I sort of think of disco as being in the same boat as rap in certain respects. In their beginning stages, each style was fresh and fun. Eventually, however, (and this happened faster with disco than with rap) both styles were pounced upon by record labels looking for an easy sell. What you then got was unimaginative, disposable cookie-cutter music that soon became representative of the respective style in the public eye. Most people didn't (and don't) dig beneath the surface to get to the more imaginative stuff - they just listen to what's readily available and make generalisations based on what they've heard. It doesn't surprise me that some people will be so quick to condemn disco when, for them, what epitomises disco is the Village People. Same for rap. I too would "hate rap" if I felt that Lil' Wayne represented the essence of that genre.
    Garagiste likes this.
  8. SanDiegoHarry

    SanDiegoHarry Inactive Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2008
    San Diego, CA
    They really ARE different... I'd say... Disco is to Funk what "Smooth Jazz" is to "Jazz"...

    I think the core of it comes down to intent: Disco is meant for dancing, period. Funk often *is* dance music, but sometimes isn't. It's often too slow for what many folks think of as "Dance" music... and it isn't so quarter note beat driven.
  9. Very well put. Although the Village People were a slightly different animal just because, although the music was pretty banal, the subtext (Homosexuality) was totally subversive. There were people who simply didn't realize the "Gay" part of the schtick.
  10. Jotha

    Jotha Supporting Member

    Jul 18, 2009
    New Jersey
    This phase makes me laught!!! I needed that...

    Theyre really different, but centainly one becomes to another...
    The mainstream makes the disco because they needed to make the funk and its flavor more commercial, and the pump and groove of the funk just derivated into a music who anybody can dance...
    I play in a funk/disco band, and its interesting how people react to both ryhtms: the dance and pump of disco always makes everybody jump, but funk and its almost hypnotic groove charge the batteries to make them dance!!!
  11. Dr. Cheese

    Dr. Cheese Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Metro St. Louis
    I am a child of the Seventies. I came of age during that decade, and I love all of the musical genres of that decade, especially the ones played on Black oriented radio. I loved the greasiest funk of James Brown and Sly Stone. I loved the slick sound of Philadelphia International, and I dug the grit of latter day Stax (Shaft, Bar Kays, Wattstax.) I loved nothing better than chilling on warm Spring and Summer Sunday evenings after church listening to Roy Ayers, Donald Byrd, or Lonny Liston Smith, on the jazz program. I loved disco too, a lot of it was tacky, but since when has pop music not had tacky records? I know for a fact all rock and funk was not good!

    The bottom line was that grooving music was at the heart of my community, and everything with a sweet danceable groove had its place. I never liked critics who set themselves up as arbitars of what is cool or authentic. People have sense enough to do that for themselves. I really hated it when people who were not even primarilly into a sort of music, like rockers, took upon themselves to judge a subculture of which they weren't members. I went to college in Athens, Georgia at the time when Athens was producing the B-52s and REM. Those folks irked the heck out me judging music that they really didn't know. Only their ignorance was greater than their arrogance.
  12. jerry

    jerry Too old for a hiptrip Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 13, 1999
    I still think the bass tone in YMCA kills! I'm old enough to have played disco when it first came out, and still play it on some gigs, I always dug the good stuff. The funny thing is old-school disco can now be played in some biker-bars....I'm not kidding.

    Props to Dr Cheese for bring up Lonny Liston Smith, takes me back to the days of WRVR in NYC.
  13. Doc, I just got 5 words for you: "Change -- Makes You Wanna Hustle!"

    (Why you wanna take me back like that, Sir? These were the DAYS!!!)
  14. pjmuck


    Feb 8, 2006
    New Joisey
    I was a child of rock in the 70's, so I lived by the "Disco Sucks" creed.

    Now that I'm older, however, I have to say that I enjoy listening to some of it and a lot of it has held up surprisingly well. Love it or hate it, like any other musical genre, there were some classic recordings, and while the beats and production may have seemed formulaic and commercial the bass lines were often the most creative element of the songs. There were some absolutely killer classic bass lines supplying the fundamental groove or rhythmic hook anchoring the tunes, and bass lines like the Four Seasons, "Oh What a Night", Chic's, "Good Times", or Taste of Honey's, "Boogie Oogie Oogie" are instantly recognizable.

  15. He speaks the truth. My covers trio has gotten funky at our once a month appearance at the local Harley dealership (see the Chicks at Shows thread for pix of the Indian Motorcycles models, who shook their thangs to us), and I have to relate an anecdote from 2 weekends ago.

    We were in a small town downstate, and were relying heavily on the classic rock material into our second of 4 sets. There was a rather drunken middle-aged redneck type who kept catcalling for more classic rock. Even older U2 was too new for him. We also noticed that the audience was getting younger as the evening wore on. So, we finish an old war horse song, and playfully ask the crowd what they wanna hear. Redneck calls for classic rock, but a threesome of younger hotties indicated that they wanted to dance. Since the bandmates were not coming up with ideas, I made an executive decision, and began my customary slap intro to Play That Funky Music. Redneck cocks his arm back, with beer bottle ready to launch, but the sudden swarm of writhing pulchritude that interposed itself between him and the band served to stay his hand, as his eyes fell southward. He was gone a few songs later, and by then, we were into a Prince song.

    The moral of this story: NEVER underestimate the power of the shakin' thangs!!
  16. <Hijack of own thread> I realize that I've gotten old and my only gig is Church but Does this (Beer bottles thrown a la Blues Brothers) really happen???? </hijack off>
  17. Sounbwoy

    Sounbwoy Supporting Member

    Aug 29, 2005
    Clayton, NC
    I love both Funk and Disco and taught myself bass learning disco lines. I happen to love disco, but I think there are actually some dividing lines in the genre..for example there's stuff that came out of NYC in the late 70's/early 80's that would be considered disco (DTrain, Gayle Adams, Sharon Redd..from labels like West End & Prelude to name a couple), but those songs did not crossover into "mainstream" disco, so they were not as well known as Chic, Donna Summer, Abba, Bee Gees, etc.
    Many of those "non-mainstream" songs feature raw and incredible playing, upfront bass in the mix, and to me, the players sounded like they were having FUN...
    I find Funk a little harder to define, as I associate that word with George, Parliament BUT again, there was a phase in the early 80's where groups like Dayton and even Michael Henderson (Geek You Up) did stuff that was considered funk (more synths, slower tempos). Would "Wait For Me" from Slave be considered Funk or Disco? I'd call it Funk personally, but that's just me...
    I guess I'm saying that each has its merits, and the opinion of disco that most have is because they have never tried to listen to anything than what was played on the radio and were brainwashed by a few people that didn't like it. Rather than buck the trend, it was easier to agree with others that disco was/is not good music.
    There are good and bad examples of all genres of music.
    Garagiste likes this.
  18. If it gets your booty shaking, it's good for your soul and your funky old body!
  19. Everything Slave ever made would be considered Funk. (Unless it was a slow jam).

    Here's my all time favorite:
  20. LOL. Play enough gigs in enough different places, and you'd be amused, like me. Between the Blues Bros. movie and that incident, the phrase, "chicken wire gig" should have some resonance, and be the cause for having a cheap beater bass to take to such places. Whenever I play a venue for the first time, if I am unsure about what kind of place it is, I bring the beater. Other first-time venues have reputations, or websites to check out, and I'll bring the G&L. 3 gigs this weekend, and I'm even gonna dust off the Warwick limited for one of 'em (the mid-day one on Saturday). The G&L will be used for the other 2.
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