A History of…the Disco Ball?

Yep. Where did that multi-faceted thing come from? From Thump:

It’s hard to deny that the disco ball is our most treasured party symbol. Reflecting fractals of light from above the dancefloor and pulling our focus to the center of it, the mirrorball tells everyone: this is where the action is. There is no more reliable witness to the ups and downs of clublife than the disco ball, omnipresent and omniscient. As Tracey Thorn sings in “Mirrorball,” the 1996 tune from her group Everything But The Girl, “the lovely mirrorball reflected back them all, every triumph, every fight under disco light.”

Yet, as is the case for many party icons, the disco ball’s origins are a bit sketchy. While the disco ball came to power in the 70s as part of the disco era, the origins of the spinning reflector can be traced to nearly 100 years before Donna Summer topped a single chart. The first documented appearance of the disco ball goes as far back as 1897, where an issue of the Electrical Worker, the publication of an electrician’s union in Charlestown, Massachusetts discusses the group’s annual party and its most notable decorations. The group’s initials (N.B.E.W.) were illuminated with “incandescent lamps of various colors on wire mesh over the ballroom” and another light (a carbon arc lamp, now embraced by steampunk enthusiasts) flashed on a “mirrored ball.”

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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