By Jeff Fuller
Music has a way of triggering memory, telling the history of a certain time and place. It is said a person will become attached to the music they listened to in their high school or college years all their life. For me, this musical period extended a while longer, from the late 1990s to the mid 2000s, probably because I was a late bloomer (it took me a long time to come out of the closet). Most of the songs of that I loved were in the genre of electronica/dance (including house, trance, techno and chill-out), music you were more likely to hear in a gay nightclub or video bar than on the radio.
Electronic dance music evolved from disco. Heavily associated with people of color and the LGBTQ community, disco found popularity for a few years in the 1970s, but then faced a swift backlash. While disco waned in the 1980s, it influenced the house music that emerged in Chicago, especially at The Warehouse with its resident DJ Frankie Knuckles. Techno was developed in Detroit in the mid-1980s. By the late 1980s, European bands and DJs, influenced by Chicago house and Detroit techno, began creating their own versions of this music, like acid house in the United Kingdom. European bands like La Bouche, Black Box, and Snap! produced energetic dance anthems featuring a black female vocalist. This music gained modest popularity in the United States In 1991, when CeCe Peniston’s “Finally” made #5 on the Billboard chart. However, these songs found a home being lip-synced to by drag queens or pumped on the dancefloors in gay clubs of the times.
I first learned about electronica/dance music in the late 90s while I was in college. My best friends and I studied abroad in Europe where house-influenced dance music was taking over the nightclubs. My music collection included the Trainspotting soundtrack, Everything But the Girl, Planet Soul, Robert Miles, and various German and Dutch DJs. Compilation CDs were often a way of introducing yourself to different songs and artists.
While I was in law school in Knoxville, I listened to a college radio show called the VIP Room, which played dance music, including songs like Gigi D’Agostino’s “L’Amour Toujours,” Daft Punk’s “Harder Better Faster Stronger” and Fragma’s “Toca’s Miracle.” One of my gay friends had Napster and downloaded some of these songs and burned them to a CD for me. I would then go to “Closet Night” at the Lord Lindsey Mansion and hear DJ Slink play some of these tracks.
Once I began frequenting gay bars and clubs in Nashville and Atlanta, I began enjoying circuit party remixes of popular songs by Peter Rauhofer, Thunderpuss, and Victor Calderone as well as songs by circuit divas like Amber, Ultra Nate and Deborah Cox.
Electronic/dance music eventually became more less underground and more mainstream. At the same time, the LGBTQ community gained visibility, winning rights such as gay marriage and becoming more accepted by society. Even though, I am happy with where I am today, listening to the electronica/dance songs that I loved the past evokes special feelings and memories and connects me with my own personal history.
Apart from being a Gay Generation-Xer, Jeff Fuller is an attorney, writer, travel blogger, historian, and military spouse. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Jeff went to college, graduate school and law school in the Southeast. He has called Atlanta home for the last decade but recently moved to DC to follow his husband on his military career. He occasionally blogs at journeyingjeff.com.