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Disco will never die! Two hour film of the Paradise Garage closing party, 1987


 
More disco/dance gold dust. It’s Friday after all, so let’s get funky!

A lot of people are wondering if this will be the “Summer Of Disco”, from Vice magazine to the Guardian newspaper

Of course, the obvious answer to this general query is that EVERY summer is the “Summer Of Disco”! As the foundation of practically all forms of modern dance music and its symbiotic “club culture”, disco is just too embedded in the DNA of popular musical consciousness to undergo some kind of cool-by-association, short-term revival. Regardless of the fact that there are countless artists still producing amazing disco-influenced work (even beyond Daft Punk and their sphere), you might as well as if there’s going to be a pop music revival or a reggae revival. The short answer is: there is no need for a revival, as disco never really went away.

The Paradise Garage is testament to this fact, as it kept on repping all that was “disco”, even as the genre changed and mutated through freestyle, electro and house during the early to mid 80s.

The Garage was one of the first ever “super” clubs, and Larry Levan essentially laid down the template for the superstar dj. The sound and visuals in this film may be less than excellent, but there is no doubting its historical importance. The club’s closing party was always going to be fraught with emotion, and if you were there (or even if not) you can now relive it, in all its washed out, VHS glory.

And, at the very least, you are guaranteed NOT to hear “Get Lucky”:

 

 

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What’s that on your head? B-52s perform ‘Wig’ on British kids TV, 1987
04.18.2013
05:44 am

Topics:
Amusing
Music

Tags:
80s
British TV
Get Fresh
B-52s


Original “Wig” picture disc release
 
This clip kills two birds with one stone. Not only is this a nice little bit of pre-“Love Shack”-era B-52s’ nostalgia, it’s also a flashback to some classic British children’s TV of the mid 80s.

Anyone else remember Get Fresh? It was set on a spaceship that would land in a different town each week, and featured Gilbert the Green Alien (who drooled snot out of his ears) and mulleted presenter Gaz Top (who was even more gross).

Here’s the B-52s on the show, performing their under-rated single “Wig” and also the classic “Planet Claire.” Well, technically it’s a lip sync, but it’s fun nonetheless:
 

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Children Of The Night: three films about early 80s Goth nightlife in the UK
04.10.2013
03:28 pm

Topics:
History
Music
Unorthodox

Tags:
80s
Goth
England
Club Culture


Some Goths, chillin’, the 80s
 
Ah, if only time machines had been invented already. We would each be free to zip back and visit the desired nightclub/live venue/social scene of our choice, to revel in a world we can now only read, or dream, about. I’ve thought about this before, of course, and most of my preferred time travel destinations were located in and around New York City in the 70s and the 80s.

But there will be many for whom the bright, shiny lights of NYC hold no attraction, and who would rather set the dials for the dark heart of Northern Britain in the early 1980s. These people will wear anything as long as it is black, enjoy nothing more than swaying to the heart-chilling sounds of The Cure, Joy Division or Bauhaus (possibly accompanied by nice pint of cider & blackcurrant juice) and can sometimes be spotted hanging out in mist-shrouded graveyards. Yes, you guessed it, these people are Goths, and if you are one of them, then here’s a treat for you: three films chronicling the early 80s British Goth club scene while it was in its infancy.

The received wisdom in the UK is that clubbing didn’t really exist here until after the acid house explosion in 1987/1988, with the notable exception of Northern Soul venues like The Mecca in Blackpool and the Twisted Wheel in Manchester. Well, these videos tell a very different story, displaying a flourishing alternative club scene that existed years before acid. Offering (mostly) untampered footage shot directly from the dance floors and stages of the best known Goth hangouts of the era, these films have the aura of gold dust about them. If that’s too bright and shiny for you, consider them excellent cultural curios that give a rare peek into a then-emerging subculture. These films, which vary in length from 8 minutes to over two hours, popped up on my Facebook feed this evening, so I decided to do the decent thing and group them all in a post for Dangerous Minds.

The first film is a BBC promo for the infamous London haunt The Batcave, which was originally broadcast on Halloween, 1983. Ok, the Vincent Price/William Castle inserts are cheesy as hell, but there’s some great footage of Alien Sex Fiend performing live to make up for it. The video was uploaded by the Batcave’s original DJ Hamish (aka h808) who says:

Oh yes, 1983, when the media were all trying to figure out what came after punk…. Remember that the Batcave was born of punks and glam rockers, trannies, psychos and people turned away from other clubs - we let anyone in, trainers or no trainers, businessmen and dustmen, strippers and nuns….

 

 
After the jump “The Height Of Goth” and footage from Devilles, Manchester…

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Awkward interview with Divine on ‘The Tube’, 1983


Glenn Harris Milstead, aka Divine
 
Or to be more precise, here’s a very awkward interview with an out-of-drag Glenn Harris Milstead on the British music television show The Tube, from 1983, which is followed by an excellent performance by Divine of her club hit “Shake It Up.”

While it’s understandable that straight-laced, square TV presenters might not know what to make of Divine (whose very raison d’être was to make people laugh by overturning preconceptions of gender and beauty), you would expect the producers of a supposedly hip, youth-oriented TV show like The Tube to be a bit more switched on.

Instead we get an interview by the bumbling Muriel Grey in which she suggests that Divine is insecure, repulsive, and somehow an affront to women. The hapless Grey comes across as the dullest of squares in this clip, which I guess is a danger to be considered when you go up against a glamor icon like Divine, but unfortunately Grey has previous form in conducting cringe-worthy interviews.

Thankfully, Milstead takes it all in his rather large stride, and reacts with the grace befitting a true star:
 

 

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‘A Dinner Date With Kid Creole’ and other great interviews by Fiona Russell Powell


 
Journalist and author Fiona Russell Powell has uploaded a treasure trove of interviews, which she conducted during the 80s, to her website, and they make for some fascinating reading.

Featuring a host of musicians, writers and actors, many of these interviews were originally published in the British style bible The Face, which ceased publication in 2004. Among them are Andy Warhol, Irvine Welsh, Simon Le Bon, Marc Almond, Martin Amis, Oliver Reed, Mick Jagger and many more. While they’re all people who have made an impact on pop culture in one form or another, they’re also people who are interesting for more than just their fame.

This is my favourite so far, an interview with August Darnell, aka Kid Creole, with a preface that states:

The night Fiona Russell Powell joined August Darnell for a late late dinner date ran into the morning of the Kid’s 32nd birthday and the day the Kensington Hilton caught fire.

Here’s a (relatively) brief taster:

At 9.30 sharp, as a hot August evening begins to cool down, enter the heroine in a Monroe dress. Temperatures rise, voices subside, the ravishing reporter wiggles her way across the not-so-plush lobby of the Kensington Hilton Hotel, a structure unaccountably situated in Shepherd’s Bush and presents herself to the discreetly non-camp manager filing his nails behind the reception desk. The rendezvous, a dinner date for two, has been arranged with our hero Kid Creole, the pseudonymous alter ego of the 32 year old Bronx(ian) showman August Darnell.

Room 5068. Fiona knocks and waits. No response. She can hear a telephone ringing unanswered inside. The Kid is not at home. Ill-tempered, she returns to the foyer downstairs. The Kid is paged but fails to show. Fiona waits, and waits some more, deciding not to hang around this joint any longer when, out of the corner of a Fabulash-ed eye she sees Taryn, of the Coconuts or more specifically The Babes, cruise across the parquet in full war paint.

Before long our reporter is in the Hilton’s mock baroque dining room, in the company of a small, curl-haired Negro-esque gentleman in turquoise trousers and chinoise t-shirt who is introduced as Greg Ward, tour manager, aide de camp and personal bodyguard to The Kid.

” Hey babe, sorry we’re so en retarde.’ says this former captain in American Intelligence. “The Kid’s just got back from a photo session that took us all goddam day and he’s upstairs changing his suit. How about a drink in my room while we’re waiting?”

...

[Eventually she does meet the Kid, and the interview proper begins]

...

What was your reaction to the Falklands War?

The Falklands War is a fairy tale actually. The most unfortunate thing about it is that people had to die. If you can forget for a moment that people died. I think it was the most ludicrous thing that I have witnessed in the last 20 years. I think it was an event which should have been prevented. As for my opinion on what side was right—I will restrain from voicing any opinion until I’ve seen the video tape of the war.

On your travels so far, which country have you enjoyed visiting most to date?

It has to be Switzerland because it’s the antithesis of America. It’s everything that America isn’t. I really like England, it’s great every time I come here I always have a good time. If New York were to blow up tomorrow and I had to move, it would be to London for sure. The worst place that I’ve been to, or rather the place where I had the worst experience was in Copenhagen because some asshole broke into my hotel room and tried to molest my wife. This was during the last tour.

You can read the rest of the interview here. To read more of these, visit Fiona Russell Powell’s interviews archive on her website.

Thanks to Simone Hutchinson.

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‘Dance Craze - The Best of British Ska Live!’ ft Madness, The Specials, The Beat & more


 
There’s no need to explain why this film is such a corker. Joe Massot’s Dance Craze is 84 minutes of absolutely mint performances from the best British ska acts of the early 80s, featuring 27 tracks from Madness, The Specials, The Beat, The Selecter, Bad Manners and The Bodysnatchers.

All the bands were signed to the iconic 2 Tone label, who also put out a soundtrack album featuring some of the best cuts from the film. I have that record and it’s excellent, but seeing the footage for the first time in full really puts it in perspective.

The energy, the passion, the clothes, the diversity and yet the sense of community, it’s no wonder ska was the biggest youth movement in the UK after punk. These gigs look great, and it’s a pity more modern live experiences aren’t as communal and just such goddam fun.

I mean, how could you possibly go wrong with a tracklist like this:

“Nite Klub” – The Specials
“The Prince” – Madness
“Ne-Ne-Na-Na-Na-Na-Nu-Nu” – Bad Manners
“007 (Shanty Town)” – The Bodysnatchers
“Three Minute Hero” – The Selecter
“Ranking Full Stop” – The Beat
“Big Shot” – The Beat
“Concrete Jungle” – The Specials
“Swan Lake” – Madness
“Razor Blade Alley” – Madness
“Missing Words” – The Selecter
“Let’s Do the Rock Steady” – The Bodysnatchers
“Lip Up Fatty” – Bad Manners
“Madness” – Madness
“Too Much Too Young” – The Specials
“On My Radio” – The Selecter
“Easy Life” – The Bodysnatchers
“Rough Rider” – The Beat
“Man at C&A” – The Specials
“Inner London Violence” – Bad Manners
“Night Boat to Cairo” – Madness
“Twist and Crawl” – The Beat
“Wooly Bully” – Bad Manners
“Too Much Pressure” – The Selecter
“Mirror in the Bathroom” – The Beat
“One Step Beyond” – Madness
“Nite Klub” – The Specials
 

 

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Excellent documentary on the life of Sylvester


 
If there’s any one artist who represents everything that was revolutionary about disco music, it was Sylvester. It doesn’t matter how many Bee Gees, Ethel Mermans, Rod Stewarts, Boney Ms et al you can throw at the genre as a reason to hate it, the fact is that if it wasn’t for disco there is no way that a linebacker-sized, black, openly gay, outrageous, gender-bending performer like him could have reached the top of the world’s charts.

Sylvester broke every taboo going. In fact he didn’t just break them: he tore them up, threw them on the floor and stamped on them with uproarious glee, all while dragging you out to dance with his irresistable energy. He didn’t have to shout about any of his social or political inclinations because he was already living them, out in the open, for everyone to see.

Sylvester didn’t make “political music” because he didn’t have to: Sylvester’s very existence was inherently political.

That to me is the rub when it comes down to “disco” versus “punk”, and all that bullshit snobbery and scorn rock fans heaped on disco. Contrast Sylvester with any one of the gangs of middle class, straight, angry-at-whatever white boys that were supposedly turning the world upside down in the name of “punk” and it becomes clear who was really pushing social boundaries.

The fact that the music was instantaneous and accessible only deepens the subversive effect. It’s unfortunate that “disco” has become an easy way to dismiss that which genuinely does not fit the rock cannon’s hardened mould, be it for reasons of race, gender or sexuality, but the music itself never died away. It reverberates still with an incredible, universal power. Sylvester was a supremely talented vocalist and performer, and I just couldn’t take seriously any music aficionado who claimed not to be moved by “(You Make Me Feel) Mighty Real” (not to mention “I Who Have Nothing,” “I Need You,” “Do You Wanna Funk,” “I Need Somebody To Love Tonight,” etc, etc.)

And besides, if I had a choice between a bunch of white punk boys or black drag queens, I know who I’d rather party with.

Unsung is a series produced by TV One profiling some of the more over-looked, yet supremely talented, names in black music from the 70s and 80s. There’s much to enjoy here if soul, funk and R&B are your thing. Other artists covered include Teddy Pendergrass, Zapp, Rose Royce, the Spinners and many more.

But for now let’s just enjoy the uplifting, touching and ultimately tragic story of the real queen of disco music:
 

 
Thanks to Paul Gallagher!

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RIP Don Cornelius of Soul Train


 
Don Cornelius, creator and star of Soul Tain, has been found dead at his home in Sherman Oaks, California. From TMZ:

Law enforcement sources tell us ... Cornelius died from a gunshot wound to the head and officials believe the wound was self-inflicted.

Sad news indeed - I had only posted on Soul Train here on DM a few weeks ago. Thanks for all the awesomeness, Don! In memory here’s the man himself introducing the legendary Soul Train line dancers to Earth Wind and Fire’s “Mighty Mighty” in 1974:
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Have Yourself A Soul Train Sunday

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Nile Rodgers’ ‘Le Freak’: Music biography of the year


 
Yes, I am aware that Marc Campbell writing on this blog last month claimed that Everything Is An Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson is the music book of the year—which is why I have fudged the terms here and inserted the word “biography” into the headline. Shouldn’t there be a distinction between writers on music and musicians who write anyway? Well, it doesn’t really matter if you are more interested in the story or the music, as Nile Rodgers’ autobiography Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco and Destiny is packed to the last page with stories and anecdotes that will have you picking your jaw up off the floor.

If you consider yourself a music fan, then Nile Rodgers needs no introduction. He is a hardcore, bona-fide music industry legend. He not only co-wrote some of the biggest hits of the Seventies with his partner Bernard Edwards in the band Chic (“Le Freak”, “Good Times”, “We Are Family”), and produced some of the biggest records of the 80s (Madonna’s Like A Virgin, David Bowie’s Let’s Dance, Duran Duran’s Notorious, Diana Ross’ Diana.) His skills as a guitarist are beyond any doubt and have influenced a generation of musicians not only in the disco, funk and dance genres but further afield in post-punk and even hard rock. At a recent gig in Manchester, Rodgers’ Chic Organisation was joined onstage by The Smiths’ Johnny Marr who sat in on “Le Freak”—the pairing might seem unusual, but listen to their guitar styles and the influence is clear.

Le Freak is Rodgers’ candid autobiography, and what a tale he has to tell. Not only is this one of the most fascinating stories in modern music, with a cast list of some of the biggest stars in the world, but it’s also one of the most under-documented so to hear it coming from the proverbial horse’s mouth is a delight. There’s drugs, sex, rock’n’roll, drugs, booze, disco, hippies, drugs, Black Panthers, bohemians, buppies, drugs and some more drugs for good measure. The years spent playing and writing in Chic, while not given short thrift, are not the main focus of the book. Chic have been well documented elsewhere, in particular the book Everbody Dance: Chic and the Politics of Disco by Darren Easley. But where that book leaves off—namely the coke-fuelled 80s—is where Le Freak really kicks in to gear, with Rodgers working with Ross, Bowie, Ciccone and snorting his way through the GDP of a small country. Any mere mortal would be dead from the amount of coke Rodgers scoffed, but what’s even more impressive is his hardcore work ethic and the fact that he managed to keep it all together (and tight!) while under the influence.

But it’s the early years of Rodgers’ life that are the unexpected highlight. To call his upbringing unusual would be an understatement. Born to his mother when she was just 13, and only a few years before she became a full-time heroin addict, Nile travelled with his mother or one of his grandmothers between New York and LA during the 50s and 60s. His musically gifted father wasn’t present, but Nile ran into him in a couple of times on the street, and got to witness his vagrant lifestyle first hand in a couple of heart-breaking reminiscences. In Los Angeles, at the age of 13, Rodgers drops acid at a hippie pad and ends up hanging out with Timothy Leary. In New York, at the more wizened age of 17, he finds himself tripping balls in a hospital emergency ward as Andy Warhol is wheeled in, having just been shot by Valerie Solanas. This being the kind of incredible life that Rodgers leads, he is able to meet both men later on in life, in very different circumstances, and recount these tales directly to them. He credits events and coincidences like this in his life as something called “hippie happenstance.”

Yet, despite all the major celebrities who make regular appearances throughout the book (I particularly liked the story of meeting Eddie Murphy), this remains distinctly the Nile Rodgers story. It’s clear how important family is to the man, and despite his own family’s unusual set-up and dysfunction, it’s the Rodgers’ clan who are the anchor in this wild tale (even despite their own wild times consuming and selling drugs). Nile’s parents may have been junkies, and genetically predisposed him to his alcoholism, but they taught him about fine art, music, fashion and culture, which is not how heroin-addicted parents are generally perceived by the public.

Le Freak is an excellent book, and worth reading whether you like disco music or not. Nile Rodgers’  is one of the most important composers/musicians/producers of the 20th century, and it’s good to see him finally getting his due. But despite creating the biggest selling single for his then label, Atlantic, and producing the biggest break-out records for a generation of 80s pop superstars, it still packs a punch to read about the discrimination that Rodgers and his music faced from within the industry:

A few weeks later I did a remix of a song of [Duran Duran’s] called “The Reflex”. Unfortunately, as much as Duran Duran liked the remix, their record company wasn’t happy, and I was soon in an oddly similar situation to the conflict Nard and I had had with Diana Ross’ people.

Nick Rhodes called me moments after the band had excitedly previewed my retooling of “The Reflex” to the suits at Capitol Records. “Nile” he began, his monotone stiff-upper-lip English accent barely hiding his despair. “We have a problem”.

My stomach tightened. “What’s up Nick?”

He struggled to find the words. “Capitol hates the record” he finally said.

I was stunned. “The Reflex” was a smash. I was sure of it. This was déja vu all over again.

“How do you guys feel about it?” I asked a little defensively.

“Nile, we love it. But Capitol hates it so much they don’t want to release it. They say it’s too black sounding.”

Too black sounding? I tried not to hit the roof, but in a way it was nice to hear it put so plain. Finally someone had just come out and said it.


 
Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco and Destiny by Nile Rodgers is available here.

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Nile Rodgers dishes the dirt on Atlantic Records
Miles Davis talks about his art on Nile Rodgers’ ‘New Visions

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‘The Tube’ 1983 NY clubbing special ft New Order, Klaus Nomi, Paradise Garage & more


 
The Tube was an early-to-mid 80s British “yoof” TV program covering music and fashion, hosted by Jools Holland and Paula Yates. This special report comes from sometime around 1983 (the date is unspecified but we know that Klaus Nomi has already died) when Holland and guest presenter Leslie Ash take a trip around New York’s most happening night spots. That includes the Paradise Garage, Danceteria, The Roxy and even a brief, passing glimpse of CBGBs.

If you can ignore the cheesy presenting style (“Wow! Clubs in New York stay open until FOUR o’clock!”, “I hear this club has a “happening” sound system.” etc) there are some great interviews here, as well as some priceless footage inside the clubs mentioned. So we get the likes of Arthur Baker talking about producing New Order, Nona Hendryx and Quando Quango performing live, Afrika Bambaataa on the turntables at The Roxy,  The Peech Boys backstage at the Paradise Garage, and Ruth Polsky and Rudolph of Danceteria talking about their good friend, the recently deceased Klaus Nomi: 
 

 
Thanks to Andrew Pirie.

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‘Limelight’ - a new documentary about the legendary New York nightclub


 
I’m sure we’re all pretty familiar with the Michael Alig/club kids story by now, but let’s face it, no matter how many times it is told it never fails to shock and entertain. Limelight is a new documentary which recounts the story yet again, but as opposed to Party Monster, Shockumentary or James St James’ excellent Disco Bloodbath book, the focus this time in on the Limelight club itself and its owner, the nightclub impresario Peter Gatien.

Gatien owned a string of venues in New York, Atlanta and London during the 80s and 90s, including the very successful Tunnel and Club USA in Times Square. The Limelight was perhaps the most notorious (due in no small part to the club kids’ involvement), and became the focus of Mayor Giuliani’s crackdown on the city’s night life and drug culture. Gatien made a fortune from his venues, but was found guilty of tax evasion in the late Nineties and deported to his native Canada. Gatien is interviewed in Limelight, along with a prison-bound Michael Alig and everyone’s favorite vegan porn-hound Moby (who describes the Limelight as being like “pagan Rome on acid”). The documentary is released on Friday, here’s the trailer: 
 

 
Previously on DM:
Larry Tee & the club kids: Come Fly With Me
Ghosts of New York: the Limelight disco is now a mall
Party Monster: new Michael Alig prison interview
Nelson Sullivan: pioneering chronicler of NYC nightlife in the 1980s (featuring an interview with the legendary queen Christina)

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More pioneering synthpunk from Futurisk


 
More early 80s synthpunk madness, this time from South Florida’s Futurisk. These guys are pretty obscure and information on them is limited, but according to their website they formed in 1979 when teenager Jeremy Kolosine won some time in a recording studio, and their music was usually:

recorded by Richard Hess and the band in the rooms of Ron K’s house. The drum sound, gotten in a bathroom, rocks, even today. Reportedly, Futurisk may have been the 1st synth-punk band in the American South…or something, and 1981’s track ‘Push Me Pull You (pt. 2)’ was an early pre-‘Rockit’ excursion into electro-funk.

The revival of interest in the band was sparked when James Murphy included one of their tracks on a DFA mix for the French boutique Colette in 2003. Last year the Minimal Wave label released a retrospective of the band’s work called Player Piano, and earlier this year the band put out a remix 12” of the track “Lonely Streets”, one of whose remixes came from the mighty Chris Carter. Here’s a couple of videos of Futurisk in action:

Futurisk - “Meteoright”
 

 
After the jump the original video for the classic “Army Now”, and more Futurisk…
 
If you like what you hear, and you want to pick up Player Piano, you can get it here.

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