Jim Hopkins of the SF Disco Preservation Society curates a digital archive of mixes, sourced from old cassettes and reel-to-reels, from luminary ‘80s and ‘90s San Francisco dance club DJs.
Many of these mixes come from gay dance clubs which are no longer in operation.
“Somebody just came and dropped off this whole bag of cassettes,” Hopkins told SFist. “A lot of these guys are getting up in years, and this is stuff that shouldn’t be lost.”
Hopkins wants people who went to SF nightclubs like Pleasuredome, the I-Beam, and the EndUp back in the day to be able to hear some of these multi-hour mixes that they may only have the haziest memories of, and he wants to introduce a new generation of DJs and nightlife mavens to the talents of their forebears.
The online archive which is housed at hearthis.at contains a selection of ‘80s mixes. Dance mixes from the ‘90s can be found on a separate page here.
What’s really remarkable about these mixes are how deep many of the cuts go. There’s really so much worthwhile high-energy dance music which has been lost to the sands of time. Hopkins’ curation of these tapes will hopefully expose a lot of this music to new ears. This archive is your one-stop destination for programming your next workout or home dance party.
After the jump a selection of mixes from this amazing archive…
Legendary producer, engineer and musician Steve Albini—notorious mensch and grouch—does not like electronic dance music, but he also doesn’t care if you use his songs to create your own! Big Black, Shellac, and Rapeman might not seem the prime candidates for a dance beat, but electronic artist Oscar Powell, a.k.a. “Powell” was such a huge Big Black fan that he wrote to Albini requesting permission to sample a clip for a track called “Insomniac.” Albini gave Powell his blessing, but only after telling him exactly how he felt about club culture and electronic dance beats.
Sounds like you’ve got a cool thing set up for yourself. I am absolutely the wrong audience for this kind of music. I’ve always detested mechanized dance music, its stupid simplicity, the clubs where it was played, the people who went to those clubs, the drugs they took, the shit they liked to talk about, the clothes they wore, the battles they fought amongst each other…
Basically all of it: 100 percent hated every scrap.
The electronic music I liked was radical and different, shit like the White Noise, Xenakis, Suicide, Kraftwerk, and the earliest stuff form Cabaret Voltaire, SPK and DAF. When that scene and those people got co-opted by dance/club music I felt like we’d lost a war. I detest club culture as deeply as I detest anything on earth. So I am against what you’re into, and an enemy of where you come from but I have no problem with what you’re doing…
In other words, you’re welcome to do whatever you like with whatever of mine you’ve gotten your hands on. Don’t care. Enjoy yourself.
Powell found the message so funny, he then asked if he could use it to promote the album. Albini wrote back “Still don’t care,” so now the email has been reproduced on a billboard in east London, which you can see (but barely read) above. Honestly, it’s a hell of an endorsement despite Albini’s total disdain for the music!
If you actually do care, you can hear “Insomniac” below. It starts up at 31:33.
There are certain songs that represent a time and a place perfectly. Not just for one person, but for everyone who was there. Without question, one of those songs is “The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight,” a 1984 dancefloor smash that is probably THE most emblematic song of New York City nightlife circa 1984. Probably? I’m stumped for any other example of a song that was so large and in charge that year, but nothing else comes to mind. It was pretty much THE song. Any “period piece” film about the East Village in 1984 that left this song off the soundtrack would be remiss in their duty to be historically accurate.
By the time I personally parachuted into NYC in Fall of 1984 “The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight” was already quite the omnipresent dance floor staple. There’s no doubt in my mind that it provided part of the soundtrack to my first night out in the city (an evening that saw me nearly knock Andy Warhol on his ass after being shoved into him by a future murderer) and for many nights afterwards. The song never really faded away but while it was HOT you heard it nightly at Danceteria (where I hung out several nights a week), at Limelight (where I worked), at the Pyramid Club (where one of the producer’s had a Monday DJ residency) and just about every downtown club or party where you might find yourself. You couldn’t escape it if you wanted to. While the rest of America was listening to Billy Idol, Madonna and Phil Collins, NYC was all about “The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight.” Even if you never consciously thought about it, you got it via osmosis if you were out at night.
I’m sure that some of you reading this could “name that tune” with but a single note, but if the song title doesn’t immediately call to mind the music, stop reading, scroll down a bit, hit play and then come back.
Defying any easy category—was is synthpop? electropop? freestyle? Latin-influenced? Euro-disco?—with what sounded like synthetic steel drums and one of the first uses of a newfangled keyboard effect called the “Emulator,” “The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight” was the product of Stuart Argabright, formerly of Ike Yard (who were signed to Factory Records); vocalist Claudia Summers; Ken Lockie of Cowboy International (who’d also played drums for Public Image, Ltd.); and producer/remixer Ivan Ivan (who would go on to work with Depeche Mode, DEVO, New Order and many others). Composed by Argabright, with Lockie, about an actual dominatrix he once dated, the song’s initial sessions were recorded at the New York studio of Tangerine Dream’s Peter Baumann on gear that had been built by Conny Plank, the German producer of Kraftwerk, Ultravox, Eurythmics and many others.
Producer Arthur Baker heard the song and wanted it for his Streetwise Record label, where it was released in Spring of 1984. But when the group began to play live in clubs around the city to promote the record, Claudia Summers was replaced with model Dominique Davalos after she was cast as the dominatrix in the music video by underground filmmaker Beth B. Although the video is actually pretty tame (see for yourself) it wasn’t played on TV at the time, but is now a part of the permanent collection at MoMa. The song had a second wind after it was used on the soundtrack of the 1997 John Cusack movie, Grosse Pointe Blank.
If you are one of those intrepid crate-diggers making the rounds this weekend for Record Store Day, you might want to make a beeline for Get On Down‘s special deluxe pink vinyl repressing of “The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight.” Like all of Get On Down‘s high quality “for the discerning collector” products, it’s an especially nice trophy to bring home today, a heavy, sturdy recreation of the original 12” (down to the labels) with a glossy 16-page book that includes press clippings about the song and input from Argabright, Ivan Ivan and Dominique Davalos.