We've drafted in Greg Wilson, the former electro-funk pioneer, nowadays a leading figure in the global disco/re-edits movement and respected commentator on dance music and popular culture, to bring us four random nuggets of history; highlighting a classic DJ, label, venue and record each month.
Born in 1953 in Argentina, Alfredo Fiorito emigrated to Spain in 1976, aged 23, making his way to Ibiza, one of the Mediterranean Seaâs Balearic islands. A favourite location of travelling hippies since the late â60s, Ibiza was also frequented by rock stars and the jet set, enticed by the its sunshine splendour and decadent reputation â Ibizaâs freedoms unheard of in the rest of Francoâs Spain.
Making ends meet with a variety of jobs, in 1982, whilst working at a bar called the Bebop, Alfredo turned his hand to DJing. He soon attracted the attention of the islandâs renowned underground club, Amnesia, which was opened by Madrid-born Antonio Escohotado in 1976.Â
Alfredo made his Amnesia debut in 1983, and soon the terrace party he hosted absorbed crowds from the rest of the island, attracting visiting VIPs including Grace Jones, George Michael, Boy George and even Prince Albert Of Monaco.
Inspired by DJ Carlos, who played at Es Paradis, Alfredo was revered for his extremely eclectic selections, including pop, indie and rock alongside US and European dance releases, which he served up to a decidedly diverse audience, creating an uninhibited atmosphere within the venue. Back then Scandinavian and German revelers outnumbered the British, but that would all change.
Trevor Fung, a London-based DJ who, for a number of years, had headed over to Ibiza whenever he could, having originally fallen in love with the white isle whilst working for the Club 18-30 package holiday company, provided the key to Alfredoâs global legacy. Initially, inspired by the music heâd heard on the island, he attempted, but failed, to bring the Balearic approach to the nights he held at Ziggyâs in Streatham with his friend, Paul Oakenfold.
Then, in 1987, Oakenfold headed over with fellow DJs Danny Rampling, Nicky Holloway and Johnny Walker to celebrate his birthday along with Fung and his cousin Ian St. Paul, who were working on the island. The friends went out to Amnesia and, having taken ecstasy together, experienced a communal Damascene conversion that would have a seismic impact on the course of club culture, initially back in London, where Rampling would be inspired to unleash Shoom, whilst Oakenfold started Spectrum and Holloway launched The Trip â along with Manchesterâs HaÃ§ienda, these nights were at the foundation of the UKs acid house/rave movement.Â
Alfredo would become artistic director at Amnesia, staying there for two years before moving to Pacha, whilst also DJing during the winter months in mainland Spain, and in 1988 DJ Mag dubbed him âDJ Of The Decadeâ. Subsequent Ibizan residencies at Manumission and on the Space Terrace would confirm his legendary status.
Bursting onto the New York scene at its 1983 zenith via Hashimâs seminal electro cut âAl Naafiysh (The Soul)â, Cutting Records, co-founded by brothers Aldo and Amado Marin, in NYCâs Washington Heights, was primed to ride the electronic dance music wave right through the â80s and on into the â90s.
Aldo, much the younger of the two brothers, had worked at Amadoâs record shop from the age of 10. Still in his teens he found his way onto New Yorkâs WKTU radio station and, having established a name for himself putting together the âPaco Super Mixesâ, he decided to set up a label at the age of 20, with his brother providing financial backing. This followed an early recording credit for his edit on Fantasy Threeâs âItâs Your Rockâ.
Starting off small, they ran Cutting through the record shop initially. It was a auspicious beginning, their first release, âAl-Naafiyshâ, in November â83, courtesy of teenager Jerry Calliste Jr. (aka Hashim), who lived in a nearby housing project, landed Calliste a position within the newly-formed company alongside the brothers, with the record quickly gaining cult-classic status on both sides of the Atlantic.
The label stuck to the electro/hip-hop formula for its first few years, releasing a single every three or four months. Aldoâs hands-on approach brought him co-production (alongside Calliste) and mix/edit credits on releases by the Imperial Brothers (âWe Come To Rockâ and âLive It Upâ) and the High Fidelity Three (âB Boys Breakdanceâ and âSatisfactionâ) in â84/â85, whilst Hashim would follow-up with âWeâre Rocking The Planetâ and âPrimrose Path'.
During the coming years the label found itself pushing the new electro influenced freestyle sound coming out of the Latin communities of the Bronx and Upper Manhattan, releasing Sa-Fireâs âDonât Break My Heartâ, Gigglesâ âLove Letterâ and Corinaâs âOut Of Controlâ, whilst championing crack edits crew the Latin Rascals.Â
Along with âAl-Naafiyshâ, Cuttingâs 1986 release, the Aldo Marin produced âLetâs Get Brutalâ/âThis Brutal Houseâ by Nitro Deluxe (Philadelphia-born Manny Scretching Jr.), is arguably its most influential recording, regarded as an electro/house hybrid that was particularly big in the UK where it twice appeared on the charts, reaching #47 in 1986 then #24 the following year.
As the company grew, Cutting split its output into various divisions including, Cutting Latino, Cutting Tronics, Cutting Tracks, Cutting Hip-Hop, Envy Records, Shocking Records and even Propane Music, which focused on rock music.Â
In the â90s the company enjoyed success with artists like 2 In A Room, Masters At Work, Kathy Brown and 740 Boys. With the turn of the millennium Cutting switched its focus to reissues of their classic material.
A myth has grown that everyone in the North of England was into Northern soul during the â70s, but thatâs simply not the case. On Merseyside, most notably, funk held sway at Roy Carringtonâs club The Timepiece, with the music DJ Les Spaine played there during the mid-â70s filtering down to other venues throughout the city.
Another key source for black music in Liverpool was âKeep On Truckinââ, the Monday night soul show on BBC Radio Merseyside, presented by Terry Lennaine, who also DJâd in the local clubs. With Spaine and Lennaineâs playlists consisting largely of the latest US imports, the retrospective Northern sound found itself out of step in the city.Â
Famed for its weekly all-nighters, people travelled from far and wide to attend The Timepiece, in a similar way to what was happening 20 miles away at Wigan Casino, Northern soulâs most famous venue, but in this case with a majority black audience, the Casino crowd being predominantly white. The clubâs clientele included a strong contingent of black American servicemen stationed at US air bases up and down the country who would head to Liverpool for their weekend R&R. Spaine would receive parcels of records from some of them once theyâd returned home, supplementing the imports he bought.
Although Liverpoolâs black population werenât welcome in many of the cityâs clubs at the time, The Timepiece, like Spaineâs previous venue, The Pun, provided a groove oasis where black kids, and the more adventurous white attendees, would mix.
I first went there myself in 1976 and it made a huge impression on me. I resolved there and then that this was the type of audience I aspired to play to â serious dancers into the most upfront music. This aim was fulfilled when 5 years on I began to play to a similar crowd at Legend in Manchester.Â
It was one of the most cutting-edge clubs, not just in Liverpool, but the whole country. The Timepiece would also host a number of live acts including Chairman Of The Board, Heatwave, The Ohio Players and local favourites, The Real Thing.
When Spaine hung up his headphones, leaving Liverpool for London, it was to take up a position with Motown Records. The Timepiece was never the same after this, and although DJ Eric Hearn did his best to fill the void, its halcyon days ended with Spaineâs departure.
Subsequently moving on to Capitol Records, Spaine also ran his own promotions company and managed the reggae band Aswad during their most successful period. His involvement in the music business continues, his company representing a number of classic artists.
Given that it sold much better on the other side of the Atlantic, and was a key track at the origins of both the disco and hip-hop movements, you could be forgiven for thinking that the group behind 1972âs colossal rock/dance crossover, âThe Mexicanâ, originated Stateside. However, Babe Ruth, named after the famous US baseball player, hailed from the unlikely location of Hatfield, Hertfordshire.Â
Built around Alan Shacklockâs guitar structures and featuring Janita (Jenny) Haanâs commanding vocals, âThe Mexicanâ appeared on their 1972 debut album, âFirst Baseâ. Recorded at Londonâs famous Abbey Road studios, and issued via the progressive rock-focused EMI subsidiary label Harvest, the album was certified gold in Canada and sold well in America, but failed to make an impression in its country of origin.Â
The band led with the single, âWells Fargoâ but it was âThe Mexicanâ, not released on 45 until the following year, that proved their most enduring recording. Based on Ennio Morriconeâs theme for the Sergio Leone mid-â60s spaghetti western âFor A Few Dollars Moreâ, which starred Clint Eastwood â a more straightforward cover of which provided the flip side to âWells Fargoâ - âThe Mexicanâ was picked up, completely independently, by seminal New York DJs David Mancuso and Kool Herc, the trackâs raw emotion resonating at Mancusoâs inclusive Loft parties, with its killer break igniting Hercâs Bronx block parties.
The track was first given a disco twist in 1978 by Canadian group The Bombers, which influenced NYC DJ/Producer John âJellybeanâ Benitez to undertake his own cover in 1984. Not content with any other vocalist he tracked down Haan and got her to sing on his version, which reached the top of the US Dance chart. The song has been sampled and covered numerous times - most notably appropriated in Afrika Bambaataa & The Soul Sonic Forceâs electro classic âPlanet Rockâ (1982).Â
Babe Ruth followed up with three more albums in the next three years, the US pressing of their 1975 single âElusiveâ finding favour on the UKs Northern soul scene. However the UK version of this single featured a different vocalist, Ellie Hope, as Haan had decided to leave Babe Ruth to form her own group, Jenny Haanâs Lion - the UK record company contractually unable to release the version of âElusiveâ featuring her voice.
A new incarnation of the band, featuring Hope, released an album in 1976, but the group soon disbanded (Hope subsequently became lead singer with UK pop group Liquid Gold, of âDance Yourself Dizzyâ infamy). The original core members of Babe Ruth reunited in 2005 to record a further album, âQuÃ© Pasaâ.Â
Written by Greg Wilson
Edited by Josh RayÂ
'Mr. Alfredo' illustration by Pete Fowler
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