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.
Bostonian, John Luongo is someone who seemed to have slipped through the cracks of dance history. The legacy of his contemporaries, Tom Moulton, âinventorâ of the 12â single, and Walter Gibbons, who, in 1976, mixed the first commercially available 12â, is set in stone. There isnât any similarly definitive first on which to hang John Luongoâs legacy, his contribution thus far undervalued as a consequence.Â
Starting out in the late-â60s, Luongoâs twin-pronged approach took in both college radio and clubs. At the height of the disco era he reputedly became the first DJ to broadcast live club sets for a major radio station - Bostonâs WBOS. His main club residency was at Rhinoceros, whilst he also played at Zeldaâs, Whimseyâs and Boston Boston, plus classic NYC venues Studio 54 and Paradise Garage. Along with Gibbons and Bronx DJ Kool Herc, he was a pioneer of turntablism, extending the breaks by switching between 2 copies of the same record.Â
His big break as a remixer came in 1978 courtesy of Melba Mooreâs Bee Geeâs composed âYou Stepped Into My Lifeâ - a top 5 US Disco hit. He then breathed new life into The Jacksonâs career via classic mixes of âBlame It On The Boogieâ and âShake Your Body (Down To The Ground)â.Â
Generally working alongside engineer Michael Barbiero, the duo would be responsible for some of the most invigorating remixes of the disco era, from artists like Patti Labelle, Johnny Mathis, Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jnr, Sly Stone, Gonzalez and The Real Thing.
He remixed 2 US Disco chart toppers in 1979, Dan Hartmanâs âRelight My Fireâ and Jackie Mooreâs âThis Time Babyâ, before striking a deal with CBS to form his own label, Pavillion. Having initially struggled to make an impact, things took off in 1981, Pavillion scoring a pair of US Disco #1s with âYouâre Too Lateâ by Fantasy and âZuluâ by British band The Quick, which he mixed.
This would prove to be the pinnacle for Pavillion, the label failing to keep up with the seismic changes on the electro horizon. Along with Moulton and Gibbons, Luongo was, seemingly all of a sudden, no longer current as the underground emerged and a whole array of brilliant New York remixers took dance music into uncharted areas of experimentation.
Since those heady disco days Luongoâs pioneering contribution has been somewhat lost to time, only the most ardent of disco connoisseurs aware of his legacy. His rehabilitation as a dance icon is now well underway following the release of the âCan You Feel The Force?â retrospective by Groove Line Records in 2017.
Although dance music provided but a part of its output, Factory made a notable mark on UK/US dance culture - the quintessential British independent launched into Manchesterâs late-â70s post-punk climate by Granada TV presenter Tony Wilson and actor Alan Erasmus, joined by DJ Rob Gretton, manager of the band that gave the label its early kudos, Joy Division, and maverick producer Martin Hannett.
Complete with distinctive Peter Saville artwork, singles and other landmarks were prefixed with their own FAC number (albums FACT). The whole aura around Factory, and its situationist ethos, attracted a fervent student/alternative following.
Joy Division, led by Ian Curtis until his 1980 suicide, would re-emerge, phoenix from the flames, as New Order - guitarist Bernard Sumner providing an unlikely, yet nevertheless effective replacement for the huge loss of Curtis.
Despite its unorthodoxy, Joy Divisionâs âLove Will Tear Us Apartâ enjoyed a 14-week stay on the US Dance chart following Curtisâs death, peaking at #42. New Order followed-up with a trio of entries â âCeremonyâ (1981), âEverythingâs Gone Greenâ and âTemptationâ (both â82). This was in the period following the âDisco Sucksâ backlash, with disco re-branded as dance and the punk-funk approach flourishing within New Yorkâs underground. Factory was perfectly positioned to benefit from this flux.
Other notable 1981 releases included A Certain Ratioâs cover of Banbarraâs funk classic âShack Upâ and âMoodyâ/âYouâre No Goodâ by Bronx-based ESG (in conjunction with NYCâs 99 Records).
In 1983 New Order unleashed the biggest selling 12â of all-time, the gargantuan âBlue Mondayâ - a full-on electronic assault. Its follow-up, âConfusionâ was produced by electro innovator Arthur Baker (the session also spawning âThieves Like Usâ, a hit in â84).
Factoryâs output included further US Dance hits from Marcel King, 52nd Street (via A&M/Profile) and Quando Quango, whose âLove Tempoâ (1983), mixed by New Yorkâs Danceteria DJ Mark Kamins, reached #4.
Quando Quangoâs Mike Pickering, best-known for his fabled DJ partnership with Graeme Park at Manchesterâs Factory-owned HaÃ§ienda (FAC51), recorded the British house cult-classic, âCariÃ±oâ (1987), as part of T-Coy, but Factory missed a massive opportunity to fully embrace dance just as it was about to explode in a blaze of rave - The HaÃ§ienda pivotal.
Pickering placed âCariÃ±oâ with Londonâs DeConstruction Records, whilst taking up a position with the label, which would go on to score big via acts like Black Box, K-Klass, The Bassheads and Felix, plus Pickeringâs hugely popular band, M People. My re-edit of the track, first released on a 2010 DeConstruction EP, has been given another release via the third volume of my Credit To The Edit series.
New Order, Happy Mondays and Electronic would fly the indie-dance flag for Factory as the â80s became the â90s, but the label overstretched, running into terminal financial difficulties, resulting in bankruptcy in 1992.Â
Arthur was a Manhattan celebrity magnet in the mid-late 1960s. With DJ Terry Noelâs pioneering presentation of music set amidst a lavish and extravagant environment, it was the place to see and be seen.Â Â
Arthur was established by Sybil Burton (nÃ©e Williams), an actress from Tylorstown, Wales who had married the famous actor Richard Burton and endured his infamous affair with Elizabeth Taylor. She moved to New York in 1963, taking full advantage of the illustrious connections she had made through her failed marriage.
Arthur opened in 1965 with financial support from the network of Burtonâs friends â the name referencing George Harrisonâs famous quip from The Beatles 1964 âA Hard Dayâs Nightâ film, where a reporter asked âwhat would you call that hairstyle youâre wearing?â to which Harrison replied âArthurâ.
The venue was on the original site of El Morocco, which emerged as a speakeasy in the prohibition era and had become highly popular with the rich and famous over the next couple of decades before moving location in 1960.
Five years on, Arthur drafted in the relatively unknown Wild Ones as house band, the lead singer of which, Jordan Christopher would later marry owner Burton.Â
However, it was Terry Noelâs eccentric and innovative DJing that became the clubâs leading attraction. Having gained his break by winning a dance competition at New Yorkâs Peppermint Lounge, Noel helped propel Arthur forward when he approached Burton on the opening night, criticising the music and successfully offering his services.
With his musical taste inspired by radio DJ Frankie Crocker, then on WWRL, he was quick to take to the decks. Noel is revered at the genesis of mixing, presenting music in a continuous way by âblendingâ tracks into each other, using a felt mat for greater manipulation of the records. Soul music was the clubâs staple, but jazz and rock also came into play â Noel would build things up then bring it back down a number of times during the night, giving dancers breaks to top up on drinks.Â
Arthur was a short-lived venture however and gangsters started to move in, resulting in a shooting. Terry Noel briefly moved to California and the venue eventually closed with the end of the decade.
Noel would return to enhance his legacy at Salvation, utilising three turntables to push the boundaries of DJing even further. The baton was passed to Francis Grasso, who replaced Noel at Salvation II and would take mixing to the next level.
Sybil Christopher would found the New Theater on 54th Street and later, Long Islandâs Bay Street Theater, where she was artistic director for 22 years.
Dubiously, albeit affectionately, known as âThe Walrus Of Loveâ, larger-than-life Barry White possessed one of soulâs most distinctive voices, yet he was also behind this luscious instrumental delight that topped the US chart in 1974, helping define disco.Â
Born Barry Eugene Carter in 1940s Texas, he grew up in South Central Los Angeles. His focus was on music and he learned piano, but he got caught up in the gang activity prevalent in the area; his brother was shot dead and he wound up in jail at 16.
Moving away from gangs and further towards music once he got out of jail, White recorded throughout the â60s, both solo and with bands The Upfronts, The Atlantics and The Majestics. Itâs often stated that he played on, and even produced, the 1963 Bob & Earl dance sensation âHarlem Shuffleâ, although White himself denied this.
In the mid-â60s he was brought in as A&R man at Hollywoodâs Del-Fi Records, where heâd work as a songwriter, session musician and arranger, most notably on Felice Taylorâs âI Feel Love Cominâ Onâ (1967), which reached #11 in the UK.
With the â70s, White began producing/writing for female vocal trio Love Unlimited, which included his future wife Glodean James, developing them away from a style that imitated The Supremes. The resultant LP, âFrom A Girl's Point of View We Give to You... Love Unlimitedâ (Uni Records 1972) was his first million-seller, featuring the hit single âWalkinâ In The Rain With The One I Loveâ, which included a brief vocal cameo from White during the telephone conversation.
Initially reluctant to move to the fore, White, along with Love Unlimited, would sign to 20th Century Records, his seductive deep-sung solo material achieving global success throughout the coming years, classics including âI'm Gonna Love You Just a Little More Babyâ (1973), âCan't Get Enough of Your Love, Babeâ (1974), âYouâre The First, The Last, My Everythingâ (1975) and âItâs Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next To Meâ (1977).
Riding his newfound fame, in â73 White set up the 40-piece Love Unlimited Orchestra, hitting instant jackpot with âLoveâs Themeâ - the elegant instrumental soon followed by the best-selling âRhapsody in Whiteâ album. Love Unlimited added vocals to âLoveâs Themeâ in 1974, but the original instrumental remains the definitive version â the first of four disco flavoured #1s between Feb-July â74 that would cause the industry to sit up and take notice â the others by MFSB, The Hues Corperation and George McCrae.
White continued to record into the 1990s, with his final single âStaying Powerâ (1999) receiving two Grammy Awards. He died in 2003.
Written by Greg Wilson
Edited by Josh RayÂ
'Mr. Luongo illustration by Pete Fowler
Check out the previous Discotheque ArchivesÂ hereÂ Â