The Best Books about Disco

When you really want to dive deep into a topic, books are an awesome way to do it – and disco is no exception.

My first introduction to disco was in the 1980s, listening to local radio as a kid, and hearing songs like ABBA’s Gimme Gimme Gimme.

Then, when I heard Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder’s classic I Feel Love for the first time in a club, I wanted to find out more about this amazing music. So I started picking up books.

The first disco book I bought was The Disco Files, which is a beautiful reference book! It reproduces the weekly disco record review columns written by Vince Aletti. I pored over it, discovering a ton of new records that I’d never heard of. Learning more about the scene has helped me to enjoy the music even more!

Books are a great way to enhance your love of music, or a perfect gift for the disco lover you know! So stick on your favourite album, open a book and get reading one of these enlightening books about disco.

Disco books you should pick up

Disco: An Encyclopedic Guide to the Cover Art of Disco Records, by Disco Patrick

Soul Jazz records published this brilliant coffee table book, which showcases the art of the disco record cover. And we all love a good coffee table book – especially one that you can carefully position into view before you welcome guests…

The book contains over 2,000 record covers and 700 12-inch sleeves from the 70s, presented in a glossy 12-inch format. Go back in time and see cover art for the likes of Grace Jones, Donna Summer and Gloria Gaynor.

This is a 7lb (3kg), 360-page package of pure visual disco heaven to pore over, and a fantastic gift (or you can just buy it for yourself).

Recommended for: Design fans and anyone who wants to see what the record store shelves looked like way back then. Also has massive potential as a fashionable door stop.

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Studio 54, by Ian Schrager

This book may be currently out of print -- check second-hand sellers to find a copy!

The infamous NYC nightclub in luxurious coffee table book form. New York Times clippings, construction photos, paparazzi shots, receipts, hand-written notes, personal stories and even architectural blueprints all combine to form this pictorial history of Studio 54.

There is no doubt: if you love disco then you will know Studio 54. This book is a look behind-the-scenes of the club. Weighing in at 5kg, it’s hefty and full of photos to pore over.

Recommended for: Any disco fan. Especially someone with a stylish penthouse apartment (and a good coffee table).

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After Dark: Birth of the Disco Dance Party, by Noel Hankin

Noel Hankin co-founded TBOF, a company that created a network of black-owned discotheques in the 1970s in New York City – including the famous Leviticus club (the occasional haunt of Grace Jones & co) – so he is uniquely placed to tell this wild story of disco.

This book transports you to the center of the disco craze – the parties, the music and the style. Disco really was a craze with many different sub-scenes, so it’s interesting to read Noel’s perspective, which might not be the story that you’ve heard before.

Recommended for: Lovers of the party, the dancefloor and the business of it all.

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Turn the Beat Around: The Secret History of Disco, by Peter Shapiro

New York City in the early seventies was a pretty foreboding place. The subways were the home of gangsters and thugs, stores closed early, and streets felt sinister. Tax revenues hit rock bottom, a result of recession and a white flight to the suburbs. Services were cut and investment ground to a halt.

But at the same time, a new swell of creative activity was beginning to reclaim the city…

The roots of disco – as the unlikely combination of funk, and the electro sound of Kraftwerk – are painstakingly unpicked in this book by Peter Shapiro.

Recommended for: Learning about the true history of disco.

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Hot Stuff: Disco and the Remaking of American Culture, by Alice Echols

Do you wanna dance? Is the refrain. Alice Echols, the author of this book, is a Professor of History at the the University of Southern California – and a former disco deejay herself!

Alice tells the story of how disco transformed music, its influence in marginalised communities, and how it formed part of the US cultural landscape of the 1970s.

Recommended for: Sociology fiends. The story of disco’s relationship to popular culture and politics, at a time when the US was undergoing massive change.

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Love Saves The Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture 1970-1979, by Tim Lawrence

This book may be currently out of print -- check second-hand sellers to find a copy!

Tim Lawrence is an academic who’s published at least one paper about disco (you can find it here).

As you would expect from a scholar, this book is full of original research, interviews and stories from the time. It covers the whole decade of the 70s, which means it starts right at the beginning, in the legendary ‘Loft’ club, and continues right through the story of Studio 54 and to the end of the decade, where disco fell from its peak and the 1980s began.

Recommended for: Discophiles and lovers of music history, especially the sociology behind it.

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The Disco Files 1973-1978, by Vince Aletti

This book is currently out of print -- check second-hand sellers to find a copy!

In 1974-1978, Vince Aletti wrote a weekly column for Record World magazine called Disco File. The scene was exploding at the time, and the sheer volume of disco music produced in this time is mind-boggling. Whilst most of this music has almost vanished from existence, you can discover it with this fantastic book.

The Disco Files faithfully reproduces all of Aletti’s weekly disco record review columns, week-by-week. Each double-page spread in the book reproduces a weekly edition of the column, with Aletti’s observations on the news and events of the week, next to charts from club DJs, and a Top 20 disco chart.

This is the first disco book that I bought, and is a fascinating chronicle of the disco era, week by week, at its peak. If you love lists, or you want another way to discover those long-forgotten and out-of-print tracks, then this book is for you.

Recommended for: Tune-spotters and anyone hunting for the forgotten tunes of the era to add to their vinyl shopping list.

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Whichever disco book you decide to pick up, whether it’s for yourself, or someone else, we hope you enjoy it!

Keep it disco.

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