This is some serious disco history right here! A recording has recently surfaced of DJ Larry Levan mixing live from the 1979 2nd birthday party of the legendary New York night spot the Paradise Garage. The 4 hour set was broadcast live on NY’s WBLS station (hence the occasional MC commentary from the recognisable voice of Frankie Crocker) and was taped off the radio by producer Lenny Fontana as a kid. He had the foresight to transfer the original tapes to DAT in 1990, and to put the mix away into storage.
Recently unearthed by the BBC’s Eddy Gordon, who has described the tapes as “broadcasting gold”, the set was broadcast on BBC Radio 6 as part of a “A Taste Of Paradise” season, which ran over a series of nights and featured interviews with some of the key players in the Garage’s history. Props to the folks at the Irish disco website isodisco.com, who have uploaded all the interviews to their site - these are worth checking out too as they are fun and informative, and have some cracking underground disco soundbeds.
But the main attraction is Levan’s dj set itself. For many people like me, whose number one time travel destination would be the Garage at its late 70s/early 80s peak, this is as close as we’re ever going to get. You can really feel the party atmosphere in the broadcast - which opens with live PAs from Loleatta Holloway, Dan Hartman AND Sylvester, reason enough to be excited - and Larry’s selection is damn near flawless. Sure, the mixing could be tighter, but this is 1979 fer Chrissakes - just check the massive booming bass on some of these tracks! Obviously dub was an influence, as was the Garage’s legendary PA. If you’re not dancing by the time Tribe’s “Koke” kicks in (arf) at 2:49:10 - straight after Candido’s club classic “Jingo” - then you’re most probably dead.
Here’s the set, as hosted on Underground NYC - skip straight to 01:11:00 for the the broadcast to begin, and 01:52:00 for Levan to take over:
Just to make clear, this is NOT the set released on CD by Strut in 2000.