Sanity dictated that this book should have told the history of
1980s dance culture in the United States in the way that my first book, Love Saves
the Day, excavated the 1970s, charting the chaotic renewal of the post- disco
party scene in early 1980s New York, the mid- decade rise of Chicago house
and Detroit techno, and the culture’s end- of-decade decline as its center of
gravity shifted to Eu rope. But sanity failed to anticipate the way the early 1980s
would reveal themselves to be one of the most creatively vibrant and socially
dynamic periods in the history of New York. Nor did it foresee how those su-
perficially amorphous years contained some kind of coded lesson about cre-
ativity, community, and democracy in the global city. So instead of depicting
the 1980–1983 period as a mere bridge that connected the big genre stories
of 1970s disco and 1980s house and techno, I submitted to its kaleidoscope
logic, took my foot off the historical metronome, and deci ded to take it—the
book to the bridge.
The truncated time frame didn’t exactly make it easier to write this book, in
part because the period didn’t pres ent an obvious start or endpoint and in part
because its modus operandi was one of interaction, openness, and freedom
in which every thing seemed to be tied to every thing and nothing really had
a name. Negotiating disco’s recent collapse, rap’s battle to become more than
a passing fad, and punk’s aesthetic exhaustion, New Yorkers were so unboth-
ered about defining the culture they were bringing into existence it was left
to the British to coin the names of mutant disco and electro, with postpunk
pop u larized later. That left the period appearing to lack an identity as well as
the kind of clean- cut generic innovation that can provide an easy anchor for
chroniclers and readers alike, while its sandwiching between disco plus house
and techno added to its antinarrative personality. When Chicago dj Frankie
Knuckles argued that house music amounted to “disco’s revenge,” he inadver-
tently contributed to the idea that the music and culture of the early 1980s
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