“Disco” summons a variety of images to the minds of urban dwellers in the United States today. Many people think of teenagers carrying portable stereo tape players, sometimes called “ghetto blasters,” and recall how their loud and pulsating presence unceremoniously overwhelms all human life along their path. Some think of chic, glittering couples dancing the night away in dark discotheques. Whatever the image, disco is perceived as a style—of dancing, music, clothes. Disco is a social scene, a fad, a craze.
Disco is also, undeniably, a multi-media phenomenon, depending not only on the direct contact of social relationships but information and services transmitted by different forms of mass media. The movie Saturday Night Fever (1977) was possibly the single most important mass media event in heightening public awareness of disco dancing in the last several years. But every day, networks of media and entertainment industry ideas are negotiated and guided out to the public at large. These negotiations involve interplay between national and local television, the recording industry and local radio, local radio and the public, and then several levels of inter- and intra-community relationships. Popular images of disco are a conglomerate of data from these myriad sources.