Disco. Beginning in the early 1960s, 'discothèque' (the French word for 'record library') has been used to designate nightclubs in which recordings, rather than live performers, provide music for dancing.


Disco. Beginning in the early 1960s, 'discothèque' (the French word for 'record library') has been used to designate nightclubs in which recordings, rather than live performers, provide music for dancing. By the 1970s, an abbreviated term, 'disco,' was used in reference both to these venues and to a new musical genre usually heard in them. 'Disco' music, which flourished from the early 1970s until the beginning of the 1980s, was an eclectic hybrid of American soul, Latin rhythms and synthesizer-based European rock, and was characterized by the dominance of rhythm tracks over vocal and melody lines, a reliance on traditional instrumentation (eg, strings, brass and woodwinds) rather than the electric guitar of rock, and by songs of greater length than was typical of most other pop genres in this period.

Disco music was a significant economic and cultural force in the Canadian pop music industry during the mid- and late 1970s. Small record companies such as Inter-Global and Les Disques Parapluies in Montreal and Direction and Rio Records in Toronto produced recordings by Canadian singers and studio-based groups, both white and black, for the international disco audience. Among them: THP [Three Hats Productions] Orchestra ('Theme from S.W.A.T'.), Black Light Orchestra ('Once Upon a Time'), Gino Soccio ('Dancer'), Cherrill and Robbie Rae ('A Little Lovin''), Claudja Barry ('Boogie Woogie Dancin' Shoes'), Freddy James ('Everybody Get up and Boogie'), Laurie Marshall ('Disco Spaceship'), Denice McCann ('Tattooed Man'), and Wayne St. John ('Something's Up').

The circuit of discotheques operating in Canadian cities during the 1970s became an important channel for the promotion of dance music recordings, and disc jockeys playing records in them emerged as significant taste-makers in the Canadian recording industry. Disc jockey associations, or 'pools' first appeared in Canada in 1976, when the Canadian Record Pool was formed. The CRP organized the Canadian Disco Awards, published a newsletter, and co-ordinated the distribution of promotional copies of new recordings to disc jockeys. By 1980, nine pools existed in Canada.

In 1979, the American trade magazine Billboard called Montreal the second-most important market in North America for disco music, with its 50 dance clubs (eg, Kébek Elektric, the Limelight, and Régines) and close ties to the discotheque scene in New York. In that same year, it was estimated that some 90 stations across Canada were playing disco music as part of their programming, including CHIC-AM in Toronto, which broadcast disco music 24 hours a day.

During the 1980s, the term 'disco' gradually gave way to the more inclusive 'dance music,' represented by such Canadians as Candi and the Backbeat, Jane Child, Céline Dion, Eria Fachin, John James, Kan Kon, Mitsou, Simply Majestic, Spunkadelic, and encompassing the many artists associated with rap. While the life span of clubs, record labels and indeed performers' careers in dance music was often shorter than has been the norm in pop music, dance music in a general sense remained popular in Canada at the beginning of the 1990s. Specialty magazines (such as the Toronto-based Streetsound, established in 1987, and Montreal's Upfront), disc jockey associations like the Quebec Record Pool (Montreal), the CHEER Pool (Toronto) and the Calgary Association of Professional Disc-Jockeys, and such dance-oriented recording companies as Somersault and Blast in Toronto and Sizzle in Montreal provided the infrastructure through which dance music was produced and promoted in Canada.

See also Rap, Rhythm and blues

Further Reading

  • '13 disco awards planned by Canadian record pool,' Billboard, 11 Dec 1976

    'Disco: integral part of Canada's nightlife,' Billboard, 29 Oct 1977'

    'All-disco format at Toronto's CHIC-AM,' Billboard, 27 Jan 1979

    'Montreal may be continent's 2nd best city,' Billboard, 17 Mar 1979

    '90 Canadian stations now programming disco,' Billboard, 24 Mar 1979