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 Post subject: Re: EVERYDAY DISCO
 Post Posted: Thu May 07, 2009 1:45 pm 
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Location: South Florida
as told by Tim Lawrence

Hit and Run

Walter Gibbons developed an even more militant aesthetic on his remix of Loleatta Holloway's "Hit and Run". Released in December 1976 on the album Loleatta, which appeared on Gold Mind, a Salsoul subsidiary, the song appealed to Gibbons, who asked Ken Cayre if he could rework the record. In an unprecedented gesture that demonstrated his faith in the DJ, the Salsoul boss handed Gibbons the multitrack tapes in order to maximise his creative scope. Previously limited to carrying out cut-and-paste reedits on half-inch master copies, the remixer was now able to select between each individual track, and he ended up dissecting and reconstructing the six-minute album version in a sweeping manner. Jettisoning large swathes of the original production, Gibbons removed the entire string section and almost all of the horns in order to place greater emphasis on Ronnie Baker, Norman Harris and Earl Young's rhythm section, and in an even more audacious move the remixer revised the entire focus of the record by cutting the first two minutes of Holloway's vocal as well as all of her verses, perhaps because the "old-fashioned country girl" content of the song was deemed to be inappropriate for the urban dance floor, and also because Holloway's vocal performance was at its most conservative in those sections. Gibbons preferred the second, improvised half of Holloway's effort, in which the vocalist supplied an extended, improvised vamp that consisted of a series of lung-busting repetitions, screams, tremors and sighs that ran for three minutes on the original release. To his delight, Gibbons discovered the multitracks contained even more of the same, so he extended the vamp to a long five minutes, and also ran it higher (i.e. louder) in the mix. Lasting an epic eleven minutes seven seconds, the final cut was almost twice the length of the five-minute-fifty-two original.

Cayre wondered if he had made a terrible mistake when Gibbons handed him the revised tape. After all, there was no precedent for a remixer to slice out such a high percentage of the instrumentation, not to mention significant elements of the vocal, and the record label boss began to wonder how he would deal with a wrathful Norman Harris (who had produced the record) as well as an incandescent vocalist (who was well-versed in the art of standing up to men). Gibbons reassured Cayre he simply needed to get used to the new version, and sure enough, when he went to hear it played live he realized Gibbons had improved the record from the perspective of the dance floor. Resolute in his opposition, Harris attempted to have the remix shelved ⎯ unsuccessfully, as it turned out ⎯ while Moulton was equivocal in his support. "Many of the breaks on this record are unpredictable, and convey the impression that the mixing deejay was working with a full floor of dancers and was going out of his way to 'do a number' on the audience," he wrote in Billboard at the beginning of May 1977. "This version is really so different from the original that it must be classified as a new record."

"Hit and Run" (Gold Mind, 1977) marked out the aesthetic potential of the twelve-inch remix. Embedded in the dynamic call-and-response relationship that ran between the DJ and the dancing crowd, the record captured important elements of Jacques Attali's demand (Attali 1989: 132-48) for music to become democratic, improvised and non-reproducible in order for it to forge a sonic alternative to the hierarchical and commodity-driven music industry. Rather than having the music determined "on high" by recognised specialists such as Harris and Holloway, Gibbons integrated the communicated priorities of his dancers in the twelve-inch reinterpretation of "Hit and Run", which highlighted the rhythmic groove above orchestral complexity, as well as the affective intensity of Holloway's delivery above her semiotic presence. "I remember every DJ just loving it," says Smith. "I heard it everywhere I went and the crowds just went crazy. Everyone was used to the uniform Tom Moulton mix of the intro, the vocal, a little instrumental part and then a fade-out on the vocal. But Walter changed the whole sequence of the song. He did it a bit with 'Ten Percent' and he did it even more with 'Hit And Run'."

Hostile towards drug consumption and suspicious that Gibbons made his records with that culture in mind, Moulton says he could not understand his peer's work. Yet although Gibbons would occasionally take blotter acid and smoke pot when he worked or went to hear other spinners, Smith, who would partner him, maintains the drugs were always secondary. "It was all about enhancing and expanding our creative juices," notes Smith. "We wouldn't do anything that was overpowering because that would stop us focusing on the music. The drug wasn't the high. The music was the high." Moulton also developed intoxicating music, but whereas his remixes were grounded in melody and structure, Gibbons was drawn to discord and unpredictability, and this approach appealed to dancers and DJs who wanted to be transported into the unfamiliar. "Tom was first and he was consistent all the way through, but Walter's mixes were outrageous and quickly got a lot of attention," says Danny Krivit. "Tom was by no means out of the picture, but Walter was much more irreverent and very much the remixer of the moment."

Featuring "We're Getting Stronger" on the B-side, the twelve-inch of "Hit and Run" sold approximately 300,000 copies, outstripping the "Ten Percent" twelve-inch and the "Hit and Run" seven-inch along the way. The commercial success of the release helped placate Harris, and also illustrated the way in which disco music could bypass the imperative of the Hot 100 while remaining economically viable. In addition, a milestone had been passed in the history of recorded music three times over inasmuch as a DJ had revised a leading producer's work beyond recognition, the remix had outsold the original single, and the producer accepted the logic of the exercise ⎯ even if he continued to object to the aesthetic sensibility developed by Gibbons. The balance of power was shifting within the music industry, and Gibbons lay at the centre of a transition that would go on to define the DJ-led principles of dance music and hip hop productions in the 1980s and 1990s.

"Hit and Run" fortified Salsoul's pre-eminent status among New York's DJs, and during the first half of 1977 Walter Gibbons consolidated his position as the label's most compelling remixer. He included a trademark break in his reworking of True Example's tender "Love Is Finally Coming My Way" (backed with "As Long As You Love Me"), which was considered by many to be one of his strongest mixes to date, and he restructured Love Committee's "Cheaters Never Win"/"Where Will It End," a sweet-sounding falsetto recording, in a similar vein. Gibbons also remixed Anthony White's "I Can't Turn You Loose", an Otis Redding cover, and appeared to nod toward the emergent culture of hip hop when he created an unusual B-side edit and renamed it "Block Party". During the same period Gibbons also stretched out the Salsoul Orchestra's discordant strings around layers of shifting percussion on his reworking of "Magic Bird of Fire". In all likelihood these remixes were completed before Gibbons was employed to blend a selection of Salsoul records on Disco Boogie: Super Hits For Non-Stop Dancing (Salsoul) in the summer of 1977. Including only the briefest of segues between each track, the album would have disappointed any dancer who hoped to purchase a simulacrum of Gibbons's Galaxy aesthetic.

Gibbons's DJing career was comparatively troubled, however, the spinner having left Galaxy 21 towards the end of 1976 when he realised his sets were being recorded secretly. George Freeman must have delivered a fine speech because the DJ agreed to return to the after hours venue, but he quit again when he discovered his reel-to-reel edits ⎯ possibly including his sough-after versions of ""Girl You Need A Change of Mind" by Eddie Kendricks and "Where Is the Love" by Betty Wright (Alston, 1975) ⎯ were being lifted from his booth and taken to Sunshine Sound, where they were being pressed up and sold on the black market. Following his split with Rich Flores, Gibbons had started to channel the acetate end of his work ⎯ including a pressing of "It's Better Then Good Time" by Gladys Knight (originally released as "It's Better Than Good Time" on Buddah in 1978) ⎯ through Sunshine Sound. "Sunshine Sound was my competitor and at the time I didn't know Walter knew these people," comments Flores, who kept the lathe and set up a smaller (and less prolific) acetate-cutting outfit called Spectrum Sound. "Later on I found out that Walter was working with them, bringing them all the business." Flores would bump into Gibbons occasionally and remembers his ex-partner telling him that Sunshine Sound was engaging in shady bootlegging practices. "Even though I wasn't with Walter, I spoke with him, and he said Sunshine Sound was secretly recording the DJ mixes while they were cutting their records." It's likely that Gibbons would have subsequently stopped taking his reel-to-reels to Sunshine for fear of illegal copy, and he therefore might have been doubly dismayed to learn at this later point that he could not even play his homemade tapes at Galaxy without fear of being pirated.

Galaxy 21 ended up closing around the beginning of 1977 — the venue was never going to survive without its renowned spinner — and Gibbons spent the next six months bouncing around venues such as Crisco Disco, Fantasia and Pep McGuires. Gibbons's quick-fire sequence of post-Galaxy 21 residences suggested his challenging playing style and awkward personality made it difficult for him to settle into a regular discotheque ⎯ indeed he had already failed to hold down alternate positions at Limelight, Better Days and Barefoot Boy, where he played on his nights off from Galaxy 21 ⎯ and in the summer of 1977 Gibbons travelled to Seattle, where Freeman had opened a predominantly gay discotheque called the Monastery. Gibbons returned to New York during the first half of 1978, but struggled to hold down a steady spot. "Walter was too experimental and too creative," reasons Smith, who had handed Gibbons the Monday and Tuesday-night spots at Barefoot Boy. "Most DJs trained their crowd to know them, but Walter was known for being Walter and he didn't want to change." Smith remembers telling his friend that he needed to modify his playing at Barefoot Boy, which wasn't an after hours club, but his advice went unheeded. "Walter was not good at compromising. He was steadfast in what he wanted to do. He could be so stubborn."

A year or so earlier DJ Kool Herc had come to appreciate just how easy it was for a DJ to go out of fashion ⎯ as DJ AJ told Jeff Chang, "Kool Herc couldn't draw a crowd after people saw Flash," and that happened around 1976-77 ⎯ and Gibbons discovered the same thing on his return from Seattle. It is possible Gibbons's playing style would have worked in private party venues such as the Loft and the Paradise Garage, but they were not looking for anyone to take over behind the turntables. Elsewhere the white gay private party scene was on the lookout for spinners who were grounded in the steady pulse of Eurodisco; brash midtown spots such as Studio 54, New York, New York and Xenon required DJs who were focused on maintaining a steady flow; and the owners of the burgeoning suburban discotheque scene wanted spinners to rotate chart-oriented disco. Although the dance market had expanded, it had also closed down. "The business had changed and it wasn't Walter's era anymore," says Kenny Carpenter.

I Got My Mind Made Up

The increasingly commercial discotheque market of 1977 and 1978 was not experienced as being conservative. Laser technology, synthesizer effects, flashing floors, descending spacecrafts, mirror-and-chrome interiors and the suchlike were all the rage, and at the time they resembled the future. Although the commodification of disco culture became increasingly crass, and although the come-as-your-are inclusiveness of the early 1970s gave way to a range of door policies and dress codes that fostered division and exclusion, the conservative cooption of the movement was never complete. Studio 54 provides one interesting example. The owners of the club attempted to institute a hierarchical door policy, but thank to its public status, there was no straightforward way for the venue's door team to differentiate between "elite" and "non-elite" dancers, and so the entrance policy ended up mutating into a rather vague attack on the perceived conservatism of suburban culture. Once inside, dancers enjoyed listening to a Richard Long sound system, the queer performances of Grace Jones and, for the first six months of the venue's existence, the cutting-edge selections of Nicky Siano (who hailed from the forbidden borough of Brooklyn). Fragments of progressiveness could also be found in New York, New York, the main midtown rival to Studio 54, where François Kevorkian was employed as the resident DJ. Whenever he could, the spinner played the acetate edits he had started to press up at Sunshine Sound during 1977. The first of these edits, "Happy Song", which he modelled on the way Walter Gibbons used mix the record at Galaxy 21, acquired legendary status, as did his edit of "Erucu".

Although his DJing career had dipped, Gibbons was by no means history, and his remixing exploits illustrate the way disco remained a variegated culture, even in 1978, the year in which independent and major record companies attempted to capitalise on the "craze" that followed the opening of Studio 54 and the release of Saturday Night Fever. During that year Gibbons picked up plenty of remix commissions, especially from Salsoul, and his reconstructions of Love Committee "Law And Order" (Salsoul, 1978) and "Just As Long As I Got You" (Salsoul, 1978) illustrated disco's ongoing potential for aesthetic progressiveness. On "Law and Order", Gibbons grabbed a series of instrumental phrases and vocal hooks from the cluttered-up original and wove them around an elevated, insistent bongo-driven percussion track; stripped down and driving, the result was nothing less than a blueprint for the decentralised, rhizomatic future of electronic dance. The remix of "Just As Long" caused even more of a stir thanks to the three minutes of dissonant drama Gibbons added to the end of Tom Moulton's original remix. "I said, 'Walter, what you've done with the keyboards is spectacular,'" remembers Moulton, the first remixer to be remixed by another remixer. "The keyboard was there, but I didn't pick up on it. I said, 'Walter, you did a fantastic job on that!'"

Gibbons's irreverence continued to flourish on two relatively obscure twelve-inch singles: Cellophane's "Super Queen", which was backed with "Dance With Me (Let's Believe)", and "Moon Maiden" by the Luv You Madly Orchestra, a Duke Ellington song that appeared on the B-side of the more conventional "Rocket Rock". The original releases appear to have been part of Salsoul's ill-judged decision to release as many disco acts as possible in 1978 (in the belief that everything it released had the potential to be transformed into disco gold). The vocals on both tracks resembled what Abba might have sounded like if they had modified their middle European accents with a cocktail of amphetamines, acid and helium, but instead of smoothing out the strangeness, Gibbons accentuated the effect, intertwining the contorted voices with a series of modulating synthesizers and stabbing strings, which he laid over an insistent and shifting bongo-driven beat track. Although neither record received much attention, Gibbons was probably having too much fun to worry about that.

During the same period Gibbons mixed Loleatta Holloway's "Catch Me On the Rebound" (Gold Mind, 1978), two versions of TC James and the Fist O Funk Orchestra "Get Up On Your Feet (Keep On Dancin')" (Fist O Funk, 1978), Sandi Mercer's "Play with Me", which was backed with "You Are My Love" (H&L, 1978), and Bettye LaVette's "Doin' the Best That I Can" (West End, 1978). A professional mix of a strong song, the Holloway twelve-inch was notable for its extended break, during which Holloway vamped over thumping drums and bouncing bongos. Appearing on an obscure five-track EP, the longer mix of "Get Up On Your Feet" ran for eleven minutes and included a long percussion-and-synth solo. Co-mixed by the late Steve D'Acquisto, the Mercer release was noteworthy for its B-side, which became a favourite of Ron Hardy (who would go on to pioneer house music in Chicago) and Larry Levan (the DJ at the legendary Paradise Garage). Meanwhile the epic eleven-minute remix of "Doin' the Best" shuttled between instrumental and vocal sections before it set off on a disorienting, dub-inflected rollercoaster ride of bongos, handclaps, tambourines and instrumental interludes. As David Toop commented later, the remix "redefined the logical hierarchy of instrumentation" (Toop 1995, 119).

As his twelve-inch work unfolded, Gibbons also blended the Salsoul Orchestra's Greatest Disco Hits: Music for Non-Stop Dancing (Salsoul, 1978), and was co-credited (along with Tom Moulton and Jim Burgess) for compiling Salsoul's Saturday Night Disco Party (Salsoul, 1978) ⎯ a significant level of album work within a market that had yet to come up with the CD-friendly idea of having DJs record album-length mixes of their own selections. But at the end of the year Gibbons began to distance himself explicitly from the disco scene when, having come close to completing a remix of Instant Funk "I Got My Mind Made Up" for Ken Cayre, he decided he did not want to be associated with the song's flagrantly sexual lyrics and asked the Salsoul head for the song to be rewritten. When Cayre refused the request, Gibbons agreed that Levan (who had remixed just one record, the unremarkable Cookie Monster & the Girls "C Is For Cookie") should finish off the job as well as receive credit for the entire mix.

"I worked for weeks on the record," remembers Bob Blank, who engineered the sessions. "Walter started on the mix but then refused to carry on because he became very religious. I remember him saying very specifically, 'I really don't think I'm going to be working on this record anymore.'" With Gibbons out of the studio, Blank continued to develop the remix with the assistance of Levan. "Larry was brought in after we had worked on this record forever," notes the engineer. "Larry basically had very little input on 'I Got My Mind Made Up'. All the groundwork had been done and he only came in for a few hours. But it was Larry who made the nine-minute version. It was never nine minutes before he came in." Denise Chatman confirms Gibbons had a change of heart during the recording process. "Walter's whole being was taken over by something else during the remix of 'I Got My Mind Made Up' and that made Kenny very, very nervous," she says. "Walter became very judgemental of everybody around him — he was against any kind of cursing — and he became very uncomfortable with the material." Having stretched the boundaries of remix culture to breaking point, Gibbons went a step too far. "Walter asked Kenny to change the lyrics and there was no way that was going to happen," adds Chatman. "I told Walter he was being totally unrealistic. Kenny then went with Larry."

One significant player contests Blank and Chatman's account. "Walter never went into the studio with 'I Got My Mind Made Up'", maintains Cayre, and the appearance of Levan's name on the sleeve makes this hard to dispute. "Larry was playing the record at the Paradise Garage and loved it," adds the Salsoul boss. "We went to see the edits he was doing and we asked him if he wanted to do a remix. We asked Larry because he was getting the best reaction of all the DJs." But whereas it is hard to imagine why Blank and Chatham should invent a story about the involvement of Gibbons, Cayre could be honouring a commitment he might have given to Gibbons and Levan ⎯ perhaps that he promised to keep secret the sequence events that resulted in Levan receiving an exclusive credit. When Cayre claims "Walter" did not go into the studio with the record, perhaps he is referring to the "old Walter" ⎯ the Walter he knew before the remixer began to complain about the lewd content of "I Got My Mind Made Up". Ultimately, it is only possible to speculate.

Released on Salsoul at the end of 1978, the Instant Funk twelve-inch single sounded like a Galaxy 21 reel-to-reel tape edit transposed onto vinyl (and bore no obvious relation to Levan's "C Is for Cookie", or anything else the Garage DJ would remix in the immediate aftermath of the release). Opening with a lush twenty-three second intro, the remix switched to a crackling percussive break that incorporated elements of rhythm guitar and the song's upfront chorus, and then moved to an extended keyboard jam. At around two minutes, and anticipating the approach that was about to come her way, the female protagonist asked incredulously, "Saaay whaaat?" after which the lascivious male vocal declared, "I got my mind made up, come on, you can get it, get it girl, anytime, tonight is fine" ⎯ the lyric that appears to have persuaded Gibbons to abandon the remix. After moving to an instrumental and vocal section that built to a forceful crescendo, the track returned to another break, during which the bass and rhythm guitars grooved over an undulating percussive backdrop, and a final reprise of the song concluded the remix. Widely considered to be one of the most spellbinding twelve-inch singles of the 1970s, the recording helped propel the single to the top of the R&B charts, and also launched Levan onto the remixing map. From there the Garage DJ became one of the most prolific remixers of the late 1970s and 1980s, and, for many, the most accomplished remixer of his generation.

Although Gibbons might have experienced some kind of revelatory turn during the Instant Funk commission, it is plausible he became more and more uncomfortable with the provocative if not entirely outrageous lyrics of "I Got My Mind Made Up" over a period of time. "Walter was starting to get into the Bible and Jesus back in 1974 or 1975, although he was never committed one hundred percent," notes Mark Zimmer. "He was always interested in spirituality, and that led him to programme only music that contained positive lyrics, but he also led a gay lifestyle. He thought, 'God is on my side with me when I play this style of music.'" According to Zimmer, Gibbons attended a church that was tolerant of homosexuality, yet as his religious outlook hardened, he became increasingly intolerant of dance culture's liberal relationship with sexual licentiousness and drug consumption, and instead of consolidating his cutting-edge reputation career, Gibbons began to distance himself from the club scene. The zealousness he had channelled through his fiery DJing, editing and remixing came to be expressed through sermonising and intolerance. "When Walter went religious he alienated all of his friends," says Kenny Carpenter. "He was really fanatical about the whole thing."

Disco Madness

According to Bob Blank, Walter Gibbons was a consummate professional in the recording studio. While most remixers entered unprepared and barked out instructions, notes the engineer, Gibbons always did his homework and sat with his hands on the mixing board. Yet the thing that most impressed Blank was the remixer's intuitive style. "It was quite easy to chop up a record and extend certain sections," says the engineer. "The difficult thing was to take a multitrack and create a flow. The skill lies in feeling the music and that's what Walter could do. He would sit at the board with the mute buttons, and he would cut and edit in real time." Gibbons took the art of remixing into the realm of emotion and affect. "He would come in and say, 'I want this song to be the love mix.' He would listen to the bass part and say, 'That part is really about love.' That's totally different to someone who comes in and says, 'I've got to get this mix out in a day and we've got to have three breaks!'"

Those qualities persuaded Cayre to entrust Gibbons with the task of recording an album of custom-designed twelve-inch mixes, and with no contentious lyrics to disturb the production process, which would have overlapped with the remix of "I Got My Mind Made Up", Salsoul released Disco Madness in March 1979. "It was the first time a label released an album of mixes by a single remixer," says Ken Cayre. "Every DJ was inspired by Walter." Issued as both a regular album and a DJ-friendly double-pack, Disco Madness included six mixes, and marked a hardening and deepening of Gibbons's aesthetic. "I don't consider Disco Madness to be a mix of the original music," says Tom Moulton. "It wasn't called Disco Madness for nothing. Most people felt the same way. I always said, 'If you want to know anything about that album, ask Walter.'"

On the first part of the album, Gibbons revisited "Magic Bird of Fire" and, remixing his own remix, elevated the beats and lowered the instrumentation. Faced with the challenge of reworking "Ten Percent", another earlier remix, he zoomed in on bongos and low-end keyboards, while on "Let No Man Put Asunder" ⎯ a rarely-played album cut by First Choice ⎯ he produced a dub-like mix that included stripped down beats, sunken synthesisers and echoed vocals. On the second twelve-inch, Gibbons laid down a driving, skipping beat for "It's Good For the Soul" and interspersed the chorus with his own infectious chants of "alright", "woo-ooo", "it's good for the soul" and "alright-alright-alright-alright-alright-alright-alright-alright". (It was as if, unable to contain himself in the control booth, he kept on darting into the studio to have a quick dance.) The penultimate track, "My Love Is Free", originally a Moulton twelve-inch release, resembled a fragile and tender conversation. To round things off, "Catch Me On the Rebound", another remix of an earlier remix, was whittled down to the beats and Holloway's vamp.

Disco Madness helped forge a set of sonic principles that would run through the future of post-disco dance music. Aside from the Disco Dub Band's 1976 cover of "For the Love of Money" and Gibbons's mix of "Doin' the Best That I Can", the release was the closest disco had come to establishing an aesthetic alliance with dub, and that connection would be consolidated with the release of tracks such as "Love Money" by the Funk Masters (Siamese Records, 1981), the Peech Boys "Don't Make Me Wait" (West End, 1982), and François Kevorkian's twelve-inch remixes of "Keep On" by D Train (Prelude, 1982) and "Go Bang #5" by Dinosaur L (Sleeping Bag, 1982) in the early 1980s. The album also contributed to the emergence of house when Frankie Knuckles, who was spinning at the Warehouse in Chicago, turned the "Let No Man" remix into one of his signature records. A year or so later, Warehouse dancers started to describe the music they were hearing as "house music", and cited "Let No Man" as the record that was most typical of the sound. Although the Gibbons remix was less electronic than the dance tracks that would be laid down by the likes of Adonis, Chip E, Larry Heard, Marshall Jefferson, Frankie Knuckles, Jamie Principle and Jessie Saunders during 1984 and 1985, its stripped-down aesthetic, three-dimensional use of space and quotation-oriented schizophrenia place Gibbons as a visionary antecedent to the formal sound of house.

Gibbons completed four more mixes for Salsoul in 1979: "Ice Cold Love" and "I Wish That I Could Make Love to You" by Double Exposure appeared on the Double Exposure album Locker Room ⎯ Gibbons was also credited with adding tambourine and cowbell on the mixes ⎯ plus "Stand By Your Man" and "Your Cheatin' Heart" by the Robin Hooker Band. The releases displayed a southern-soul-veering-into-gospel vibe that might have worked well in a church barn dance; catchy, hypnotic and stomping, yet occasionally cheesy, they sounded like the work of a man who had a gifted feel for dance music, but had fallen out of synch with the culture in which it was played. The deepening disjuncture came to be reflected at Salsoul, where the big remixes started to go other figures (most notably Larry Levan) while Gibbons was offered scraps. Elsewhere, the ex-Galaxy 21 DJ's remix of Colleen Heather's "One Night Love Affair" (West End, 1979) skipped along in a fairly predictable manner before breaking into a series of wild beats and handclaps, which were interspersed with bass, horns and vocals. Released in Canada in 1979, Gibbons's version of "It's Better Than Good Time" by Gladys Knight & the Pips for Buddah ran at half the length of his earlier acetate bootleg and was a comparatively conventional, gospel-oriented effort, while the flipside, "Saved By the Grace of Your Love" featured southern-style yee-haas, handclaps and hallelujahs, all recorded at a sky high beats-per-minute tempo that would have flummoxed most dancers. If a hardening religious outlook had led Gibbons to attempt to scrap the supposedly immoral vocals of "I Got My Mind Made Up" at the end of 1978, by 1979 he was introducing self-consciously religious elements into his mixes ⎯ with somewhat uneven results (at least from the perspective of the secular dance floor).

Gibbons DJed at the Buttermilk Bottom and Xenon during this period, but his sets became increasingly improbable and his residencies ever more ephemeral. "I got Walter his job at Xenon and the owners complained because he only played gospel and Salsoul," says Tony Smith, who had been working at the midtown location seven nights a week and needed to employ an alternate. "I said, 'Walter, you can't do that!' There was so much great music out there at the time. Larry was coming out with all this new stuff. But Walter wouldn't change and after three weeks they told me to fire him." Smith was shocked at the transformation that had taken place in his friend. "When I met Walter he was so wide-ranging. You didn't know what he was going to turn you onto. He could make a rock record sound like disco." Now, however, Gibbons was using a marker pen to blot out any unsavoury words that appeared on his records, as well as highlight any song titles that contained the word "love" with a heart. "His musical horizon shrank. All of a sudden the music had to have all these big messages and he wouldn't play any negative songs."

Gibbons continued to push his religious theme when Steven Harvey interviewed him for a wide-ranging and influential survey published in Collusion in September 1983. Having met at Barry's, a record store on Twenty-third Street, where Gibbons recommended danceable gospel tracks, Harvey invited Gibbons back to his apartment and listened to him play a series of homemade acetate recordings of Philly-style tracks that included his own vocals. "Walter was not a singer," Harvey remarked in his piece, "but they definitely had the spirit." Gibbons went on to explain how he had started to play records at his own house parties ⎯ he was now living in Queens ⎯ and noted that he took requests, even for records he considered unchristian, because that could help him get into the mindset of his dancers and help reshape their outlook. When one dancer asked him to play "Nasty Girls", Gibbons recounted, he put it on and then segued into "Try God" by the New York Community Choir. "For me, I have to let God play the records," he explained. "I'm just an instrument." Gibbons also discussed a recent encounter with the Better Days DJ Tee Scott, whom he gave a mix that blended two disco classics with a spoken version of the Ten Commandments. "He played it and the crowd roared like I've never heard in my life," said Gibbons. "Especially after the part where he's saying 'thou shalt not commit adultery, though shall not steal, though shall not kill' — there was such a roar." Gibbons said he was taken aback. "It was very interesting." The DJ's proselytizing outlook had become more entrenched than ever.

"Doin'The Doo"

 Post subject: Re: EVERYDAY DISCO
 Post Posted: Thu May 07, 2009 1:54 pm 
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Location: South Florida
as told by Tim Lawrence

Set It Off

Between 1979 and 1982, hip hop tracks tended to consist of a rapped vocal being laid on top of a grooving rhythm section, with party whistles, canned chatter and dancer cries added to the mix. In other words, they sounded a lot like disco as well as the increasingly raw and electronic sound of mutant disco (which came to define the sound of dance in the post-disco period of the early 1980s). Released in 1982, "The Message" by Grandmaster Flash slowed down the tempo, but this hardly marked a finite break with dance given that Larry Levan had made the same move with a significantly slower mix of Taana Gardner's "Heartbeat" (West End, 1981) a year earlier. Tracks such as "Planet Rock" by Afrika Bambaataa & the Soulsonic Force (Tommy Boy, 1982) demonstrated how hip hop and early electro were linked to the postdisco sound that was being spun in New York's clubs in the early 1980s. Playing at the Funhouse, a cutting-edge club for a young Latin crowd where Tony Smith was employed as his alternate, Jellybean switched willingly from hip hop to electro to dance ⎯ as well as UK synth pop, Latin Freestyle and anything else that had a danceable beat.

Although the flow that existed between hip hop and dance could not be halted by any single record, the release of "It's Like That" / "Sucker MCs" by Run DMC (Profile Records, 1983) marked a significant turning point. Delivering shouted raps over a heavily syncopated, big-sounding beat, Run DMC marked a move towards simplicity and noise; as Jeff Chang (209) comments, the group "hollowed out the music and killed the old school," and over the next couple of years their sound would inspire hip hop outfits such as the Beastie Boys, Doug E Fresh and the Get Fresh Crew, Heavy D & the Boyz and Schooly-D. Across the same period, hip hop DJs became far less prominent and breakdancing all but disappeared, while rappers came to the fore as the element of hip hop that could be most easily commodified. The sonic composition of these rap releases was sufficiently far removed from the aesthetic of the nightclub for it to be possible, some ten years after the disparate elements of hip hop synchronised in the Bronx in 1974, to talk about a clear-cut split between hip hop and dance.

Along with a number of other DJs, producers and remixers, Walter Gibbons ignored the market-driven logic that required dance and rap to develop distinctive sounds in order to sell to segmented audiences when he recorded "Set It Off" by Strafe in 1984. The debut release on Jus Born Records, which was co-owned by Gibbons and explicitly referenced his religious affiliation, "Set It Off" was performed by Steve "Strafe" Standart, a childhood friend of Kenny Carpenter's, whose vocals combined sung, spoken and whispered elements, and were delivered in a mode that emphasised an affect of longing, desperation and desire. "Set It Off" was also structured like a dance track. Running at nine-minutes-twenty-seconds, the record introduced and subtracted a range of instrumental parts across a steady pulse as it sought to create a trance-inducing state (a goal that had been all but discarded within hip hop culture). Yet whereas the record's reliance on electronic instrumentation established a sonic link to house ⎯ a sound that had not yet filtered into New York ⎯ the Chicago genre revolved around an insistent four-on-the-floor bass beat that was reminiscent of disco, while "Set It Off" had more in common with funk, Latin and dub music as it hit developed unexpected rhythms and introduced intense clusters of handclaps. Sparse, atmospheric and heavily syncopated, "Set It Off" maintained the link between the hip hop offshoot of electro and the postdisco continuum of early eighties dance.

In all likelihood "Set It Off" was played for the first time in 1984 when Gibbons approached Tony Smith at the Funhouse and handed him a test pressing of the record. "Walter had brought the track to other DJs before me but no-one would play it," recalls Smith. "Even Strafe didn't like it, or should I say 'understand' it. Ultimately, I had to play it. I played both sides. It cleared the floor." Smith notes that the Funhouse crowd had become habituated to the sound of Arthur Baker's electro, which was more direct and pop-oriented than "Set It Off", but adds that "everyone in the booth was stunned by the record ⎯ it was so incredible and different." That didn't prevent Gibbons from heading off with the test pressing, much to the dismay of Smith. "Walter left under a real cloud. He was really disgusted. I said, 'Walter, there's no one here over eighteen!'"

Smith managed to lay his hands on a copy of "Set it Off" when he discovered the Funhouse light man Ricky Cardona had made a reel-to-reel tape of his set, and he proceeded to play the record once a night until, after a month of careful programming, his dancers began to ask after the track. By the time Gibbons returned to the club, "Set It Off" had become a dance floor favourite. "Everyone screamed when I put it on," remembers Smith. "Walter was totally shocked." The principal DJ at the Funhouse, Jellybean, also went heavily on the record and helped build it up into a Funhouse classic. "It was very, very different to everything that was out there," says the spinner, who had risen to celebrity fame as the boyfriend and producer of Madonna. "It had soul, it had electro, it had Latin. It had a whistle in it, and a lot of the kids on the dance floor would bring whistles. It was a long record that took you on a journey. It captured so many different things — and it had just the right energy."

Carrying the inscription "Mixed with Love by Walter Gibbons", "Set It Off" was reviewed by Billboard as being a "low-budget production making some substantial neighbourhood noise here in New York, in the same way unusual cuts by Peech Boys and Loose Joints have." Yet while Larry Levan broke Peech Boys and Loose Joints at the Garage, "Set It Off" was too electro-oriented to become a favourite at the King Street venue and ended up following a different trajectory. "Strafe got played at the Garage quite a bit, but it was getting more play in a lot of other places," says Danny Krivit, who was spinning in venues such as the Roxy, Down Under, Laces, Area and occasionally Danceteria. "It was unbelievably big. I could play the record all night, wherever I was DJing. I could play it on the worst sound system and it still sounded good. It was just this huge thing for me." The reverberations were felt throughout the city. "In my honest opinion, 'Set It Off' was the great record of that whole era," says Ned Sublette, the future of author of Cuba and Its Music and The World That Made New Orleans, who would gravitate from the downtown experimental scene to the Salsa scene in 1985.

For his second release on Jus Born, "I've Been Searching" by Arts & Craft, an undated mix of a seven-inch single that appears to have been released in the mid-1970s, Gibbons developed live percussion, strings, and soulful vocals within a minimalist structure that evoked a spiritual sensibility. Introduced over a hypnotic beat that featured prominent bongos, soulful male and female vocals interacted with keyboard effects until the song developed into an uplifting jam and continued in that vein until it returned to the atmospheric beats-and-vocals aesthetic. Creating space through its emphasis on low and high-end frequencies, the ten-minute recording would become a reference-point for the followers of so-called deep house, a loosely defined sound that created its effects as much through absence as presence. Yet there was no record industry rush to sign the mix and, left with no choice but to plough his own groove, Gibbons teamed up with Barbara Tucker, then an unknown gospel vocalist, to produce his next release, a remix of "Set It Off", which he released in 1985 under the moniker Harlequin Four's. The record was the third (and probably last) issue to be released on Jus Born Records. "After 'Set It Off' I thought [Walter] would get back into the music business," says Smith. "The record went to number one [on the dance chart]. But nobody gave him any offers."

Gibbons recorded two of his final releases with Arthur Russell, the experimental-composer-turned-disco-auteur, who had co-produced "Kiss Me Again" with the Gallery DJ Nicky Siano for Sire in 1978. Russell became interested in Gibbons after hearing his mix of Sandi Mercer's "Play With Me", and the two of them ended up meeting each other for the first time in the offices of West End (the label having signed Russell's Loose Joints project). Nothing came out of that encounter, and Russell ended up developing his interest in dance with Steve D'Acquisto (who co-produced the Loose Joints sessions), Larry Levan (who remixed "Is It All Over My Face?" and "Tell You (Today)" by Loose Joints, and "Cornbelt" by Dinosaur L, another of Russell's studio outfits), and François Kevorkian (who remixed "Go Bang! #5" by Dinosaur L). But then Russell heard "Set If Off" and resolved to work with Gibbons. "Strafe changed our lives," reminisces Steven Hall, a musician and close friend of Russell. "It would play in the black gay clubs on the waterfront and people would abandon themselves in a kind of Bacchanalian trance. The record gave Arthur a new idea about how to use trance-like states in dance music." Visiting Rock & Soul, where Gibbons had started to work, Russell learned about the ex-Galaxy 21 DJ's readiness to dish out sermons when he handed him a copy of "That Hat", an uptempo record he had worked on with the experimental musician and producer Peter Gordon. Gibbons was fine until he saw the B-side of the record was titled "The Day the Devil Comes to Getcha".

The outburst did not dissuade Russell from inviting Gibbons to develop a mix of "Let's Go Swimming", an off-kilter dance track he was working on for Logarhythm, a subsidiary of Upside Records, and Gibbons is likely to have been pleased to work with a potentially like-minded soul, Russell having made an substantial impact on the dance scene in spite of his distinctly off-beat outlook. Not that their compatibility made for a peaceable studio session. "There were incredible scenes of screaming and fights," recalls the guitarist and co-owner of Upside Records Gary Lucas of the ensuing all-night edit. "Arthur was shrieking and tearing his hair out, raging around the studio like a psychotic bat, while Walter was calmly snipping and pasting the tape as if it was macramé. Arthur would say, 'You're ruining my fucking vision! This isn't what I had in mind! What are you doing? This is my big shot!' And Walter would reply, 'Arthur, Arthur, calm down!'" Lucas sat back and watched the drama unfold, while the engineer Eric Liljestrand, who had been stationed in the studio in order to make sure that nothing was broken, did his best to keep out of the control room because Gibbons worked deafening loud. "It seemed argumentative, but Arthur would often defer to Walter, and I don't remember him deferring to anybody else," remembers the engineer.

Released in the summer of 1986, Gibbons's "Coastal Dub" mix ran for just under eight minutes and included an opening instrumental section that built to a crescendo before it broke back down, as well as an extended outro that rose out of a gurgling sound effect before locking into a conga-and-cello groove. "Walter created a visionary, psychedelic soundscape for the song," says Lucas. "He sort of out-avant-garded Arthur and took the song out to the stratosphere. There was a kind of one-upmanship as to who could be more far out ⎯ like Zappa and Beefheart." Despite the studio drama, Arthur was pleased with the contribution of Gibbons. "[I]f you try and do something different in dance music, you just get branded as an eccentric," he told David Toop in 1995. "A lot of DJs take the tapes I make and try to make them into something more ordinary. 'Let's Go Swimming' was supposed to be a futuristic summer record. Some DJs said that nobody would ever, ever play that. I think eventually that kind of thing will be commonplace." Toop (2004a) would later state that "Let's Go Swimming" sounded "like nothing in the history of disco." Contemporary reviewers were just as enthusiastic about the record. "This is an impossible dance music, jumbling your urges, making you want to move in ways not yet invented, confounding your body as it provokes it," wrote Simon Reynolds (1986) in Melody Maker. "In its tipsy mix, I seem to hear Can, Peech Boys, Thomas Leer, Weather Report, hip hop, but really this is unique, original, a work of genius."

Russell also asked Gibbons to bring his leftfield sensibility to bear on "School Bell/Treehouse", which replaced the oscillating flows of "Let's Go Swimming" with a recognisable groove that revolved around jagged congas and skipping hi-hats. Scratchy cello motifs, discordant synth patterns and spacey trombone passages were wrapped around the recording's awkwardly aggressive groove, while Russell's echo-laden voice evoked a child-like world of innocence and strangeness. As the percussion accelerated across the last couple of minutes of the record, "School Bell/Treehouse" began to sound like a proto-house track, although its rhythm was too organic and peculiar to suggest anything more than a passing proximity to the Roland-generated rhythms of Chicago house. Instead the recording was closer to the hypnotic groove that might have been generated if Ali Akbar Khan, James Brown, Fela Kuti and Neil Young had got together to busk in Grand Central Station. Featuring the longer ten-minute mix on the B-side, the twelve-inch was met with critical enthusiasm when it was released on Sleeping Bag in 1986. "Possibly a bit too esoteric for current dance tastes, this will undoubtedly be a collector's item in about three years time," wrote Jay Strongman in the NME.

In Gibbons, Russell had found not only an ideal companion with whom he could make quirky, leftfield dance music, but also a friend who, like himself, was intensely creative, softly spoken, unremittingly intense, and gay while not appearing to be gay. Will Socolov, who co-founded Sleeping Bag Records with Russell, remembers Gibbons being obsessed with the nuances of musical texture ⎯ the ex-Galaxy 21 DJ would lure him into discussions about sound that he could barely follow and never had time for ⎯ and notes that Russell was the only other person who liked to analyse sound in such microscopic detail. Their collaborations were not always successful, so when Gibbons remixed "Go Bang! #5" during scrambled-together hours at Blank Tapes, the taut, stretched out result lacked the dramatic dynamism of Kevorkian's original remix effort (and wasn't released until a bootleg version appeared in Japan some twenty years later). Other records, such as the sparse and funky "C-Thru", remained unfinished. Yet the more or less simultaneous release of "Let's Go Swimming" and "School Bell/Treehouse" confirmed that Russell and Gibbons were set on forging a new form of jittery, wonky dance music. Hall confirms Russell respected Gibbons more than anyone. "Everyone knew that Walter Gibbons was the real thing," he comments. "He was not just a mixer but a musician and an alchemist. He could turn a good groove into gold or mercury. Arthur and Walter were totally soul mates."

Gibbons worked on three other records (and maybe more) in what would turn out to be his twilight period. In 1985 he mixed Arts & Craft Wait A Minute "Before You Leave Me" (Panic), but the record appears to have failed to make it beyond the promo stage. A year later Gibbons heard "4 Ever My Beat" by the Brooklyn-based hip hop outfit Stetsasonic (Tommy Boy, 1986) and went on to produce a ten-minute mix on which he stripped away everything save for the vocal and replaced the group's drums with live percussion ⎯ but in this case Tommy Boy decided to edit the mix in half for the final promo-only release, which was released in 1987. Steering an uneasy path between synthesizer pop, jagged beats and run-of-the-mill gospel, Gibbons's mix of "Time Out" by the Clark Sisters (A&M, 1986) combined feel-good vocals with a leftfield sensibility. Developing an almost unfathomable syncopated rhythm, the electronic, twitchy "Calling All Kids" ended up appearing on the posthumous Arthur Russell compilation Calling Out of Context (Audika, 2004).

"Calling All Kids" seemed to capture something about the whereabouts of Gibbons; working with an innovative and misunderstood songwriter/producer on music that drew on dance and hip hop, his work continued to bring together Bronx and downtown sensibilities, but was now going unheard. The fate of the Stetsasonic mix, subtitled the "Beat Bongo Mix", was also revealing. "Walter was crazy for the track and begged to remix it," remembers Steve Knutson, who was working for Tommy Boy at the time. "After weeks of nagging we gave in and paid him one thousand dollars to remix it. What we got back was an unusable track, even though I personally loved it. The group hated it and so did the promotion people." At the request of Tom Silverman, the head of Tommy Boy, Knutson carried out the edit with Rodd [sic.] Houston ⎯ to the satisfaction of everyone except for Gibbons. "Walter never forgave me and was in tears," adds Knutson. "He was very, very angry and for a period of a month or so he would call up and yell at me. He even begged us to give the remix back to him so he could release it himself." Knutson notes that the twelve-inch promo disappeared unnoticed. "Walter was crushed as he thought it was a masterpiece."

During this period Gibbons also amassed a collection of approximately five thousand gospel records, a number of them signed copies purchased directly from church congregations in New York. "He thought gospel was the pure message of God and that something was wrong with you if you didn't get it," says Krivit, an occasional customer. "Every time he opened his mouth he would preach at you. It seemed to a lot of people he was just history, especially as there was less of a nostalgia thing going on at the time." Yet Gibbons was still able to connect to the dance scene, and appears to have played a key role in bringing one of the most unusual and popular dance records of the early 1980s to the attention of other DJs. An uplifting, funk-tinged gospel record, "Stand On the Word" by the Celestial Choir was recorded in 1982 at the First Baptist Church of Crown Heights in Brooklyn, where it was sold as an independent production. "Walter was a member and consistent visitor and lived down the block while I was Minister of Music at the Church," says Phyliss Joubert, the leader of the Celestial Choir. "He happened to be in the audience listening, and without my knowledge or consent, purchased one of the original records from the church and began his own illegal path of doing whatever he chose to do."

It is impossible to confirm if a devotion to the rousing sound and message of "Stand On the Word" persuaded Gibbons to return to the practice of bootlegging in the belief that the end would justify the means, but it seems likely. How else could the record have found its way into one of the weekly listening sessions the promoter Bobby Shaw held with DJs in his office at Warners every Friday? Present when the record was played to this select group of spinners, Steven Harvey was so enchanted with its innocent vocals (which were sung by children) and stirring instrumentation (led by a gospel piano) he paid a visit to the church, purchased a whole box of the vinyl, and distributed copies to his DJ friends as a "free promo". Within a short space of time, "Stand On the Word" became a favourite at venues such as the Loft and the Paradise Garage, while Harvey remembers hearing Gibbons play two copies of the record at a gay bar where he was spinning on Christopher Street. "Walter started to take the end part, where the record is more uptempo, and he kept that section going by mixing between the two copies." Harvey adds: "I had a fantasy that Walter would be the ultimate guy to remix the record." Instead Joubert created the Joubert Singers to remix the record for the club scene, and it became a popular release. But it is the Celestial Choir version that continues to receive play today.

Threshold Territory

Walter Gibbons contracted the AIDS virus sometime in the second half of the 1980s. For a while nobody could tell he was sick because he had always looked undernourished, but as the disease progressed, there could be no mistaking his condition. "I saw him at Rock & Soul about a year before he passed away," recalls Bob Blank. "He was in terrible shape. He was very thin and had lost a lot of his hair. He looked around and said, 'I just love being in contact with music. This is what I love.'"

In September 1992 Gibbons went on a mini-tour of Japan, where interest in the disco era had been gaining momentum. Mixing classics, house and hip hop with his custom-made mixes, Gibbons received an enthusiastic reception from local DJs and music aficionados, and in between appearances at the Wall (Sapporo) and Yellow (Tokyo) he went to listen to Larry Levan and François Kevorkian play at Gold as part of their Harmony tour. When Gibbons returned to Japan a year later he was skeletal but radiantly happy — so happy that he refused to stop playing when police raided Yellow and ordered it to close. In the end the party was reconvened as a private event, and at the end of the night Gibbons asked to be taken to Hakone, situated in the district of Ashigarashimo. When he saw Mount Fuji he kept uttering, "It's beautiful. It's beautiful!" After that he was whisked to a hot spring to revitalise his tired body.

Gibbons played his final set in New York at Renegayde, a monthly night organised by Joey Llanos and Richard Vasquez. Drawing on Motown, Philly Soul, disco, early eighties dance and contemporary house, the ex-Galaxy spinner took his dancers on a message-oriented journey of devotion and love in which he sequenced his selections according to ambience rather than chronology or genre. Judging sincerity to be more important than dexterity, Gibbons made no attempt to repeat the quick-fire mixes that had become his signature skill during the 1970s. DJ Cosmo, who was in the crowd that night, remembers being struck by the way in which Gibbons's "pure and beautiful musical aura" provided a striking contrast with the freakish mood that had come to dominate the New York club during the late 1980s. "I was really struck by Walter's honesty to himself, to his faith and to his audience," she says. The late Adam Goldstone, a significant DJ and remixer on the New York club scene until his sudden and untimely death in 2006, admired the way Gibbons created an "uplifting, spiritual and positive atmosphere" without slipping "into religious proselytising or the kind of lazy, saccharine clichés that seem to pass for soulful dance music these days."

Frail, isolated and all but blind, Gibbons started to go out to eat with François Kevorkian and Tom Moulton at Beefsteak Charlie's every Tuesday night. "A lot of people abandoned Walter, but he wasn't the most outgoing person either, and he didn't attract a lot of friends," notes Moulton. "We would help him down the stairs. Beefsteak Charlie's had a salad bar and shrimp, all you could eat, and watching Walter shovel down that shrimp, I don't know where he put it. He kept saying, 'Boy, this shrimp is so good!'" According to Mouton, Gibbons was still playing records ⎯ he developed a special "notch system" in order to recognise his records by touch ⎯ and when he found out Moulton had just finished re-mastering a series of Salsoul twelve-inche singles he asked him for an advance copy. No tests were ready, so Ken Cayre pressed up a special set, which Moulton took to his old sparring partner. "Walter played one and said, 'Oh, it sounds great!'" remembers Moulton. "Then he cued up another record and mixed it in perfectly."

Having spent his final weeks living in a YMCA, Gibbons died of complications resulting from AIDS on 23 September 1994, aged thirty-eight years old. One of his final acts was to donate his record collection to an AIDS charity based in San Francisco (only for the collection to be returned at a later date because the charity's organisers deemed the records to have no market value). A small number of people attended his funeral, and his memorial service, a dignified affair held on 11 October at the Church of St. John the Baptist on Thirty-first Street, was also quiet (and certainly much quieter than the service that had been held for Larry Levan in 1992). Billboard marked the moment with a brief obituary at the bottom of its weekly dance music column. "The club community lost one of its earliest studio wizards Sept. 23, when veteran mixer Walter Gibbons died of complications resulting from AIDS," ran the somewhat matter-of-fact tribute (Flick, 1994). "He was 38. The bulk of Gibbons' work was for Salsoul Records during the disco era. Among his records were 'Ten Percent' by Double Exposure and 'Just As I Have You' by Love Committee. He will be missed."

Gibbons has subsequently received partial recognition for his work within dance, although that recognition might have been more pronounced had he been an easier person to spend time with from the late 1970s onwards. (Instead he became intolerant, and friends agreed that his preaching and castigating were unbearable.) Gibbons might have also enjoyed a higher profile if he had been less unbending in his commitment to aesthetic progressiveness ⎯ an outlook that he only relaxed on some of his gospel recordings. "Walter was an innovator, but he also had an abstract I don't give a shit approach," notes Kevorkian. "Walter didn't care if anyone danced, whereas Larry [Levan] would make it for the party. He was a little more conscious of what people liked. Whereas Walter was conceptually the most advanced, he was also a lonely genius. Walter was an innovator, but Larry made it work. He turned records into hits."

Nevertheless it was Gibbons (along with Moulton) who established the basic principles of remix culture, and in a fairly short space of time his innovations were judged to be so important they became routine. "By the time Larry came by I had done a thousand dance records," comments Bob Blank. "I knew what was supposed to happen. I didn't say, 'Oh my God, there's the bass drum!'" Along with Moulton, and leaning in a more experimental direction, Gibbons established the basic principles of remix culture. "Nobody had heard the strings all by themselves or the rhythm chopped into these syncopated moments, but once he did it people began to understand there was a formula. When the next person came in after Walter, I would bring up all of his good ideas. That was my job — to remember all the cool things." The cool things are now ubiquitous within dance. "On disco classics like Loleatta Holloway's 'Hit and Run' and Love Committee's 'Law and Order', Walter took heavily orchestrated Philly soul–style songs, stripped out most of the sonic frills, and turned them into dark, trippy, heavily percussive marathons," Goldstone told me in 2004. "Nowadays, that sort of stark, dubbed-out aesthetic is standard-issue in hip-hop, house, drum 'n' bass, and so on, but in the mid-seventies it must have sounded like something from another planet entirely."

Gibbons would have developed a higher profile if he had worked in just about any sound other than disco and dance. The paucity of serious music criticism on these genres remains striking and extends well beyond the sidelining of disco in the published histories of hip hop. More general histories of US popular music overlook disco as a matter of routine, while the innovative, cross-fertilising presence of disco has also failed to register in the recent flurry of books on downtown New York during the 1970s and 1980s. Of course when the disco of Studio 54, Saturday Night Fever, the Bee Gees and the hustle does get a mention, Gibbons cannot be squeezed into the cliché of commercialism and extravagance. Nevertheless one of the reasons why Gibbons remains interesting is not because he was exceptional in this regard, but precisely because so many disco DJs, venues and records did not match the cliché.

Hovering between disco/dance and hip hop/rap, Gibbons occupied a threshold territory that could not be assimilated easily into genre, and although the commodification of disco and hip hop encouraged them to develop into mutually antagonistic generic formations, the example of Gibbons encourages an analysis that acknowledges the way in which these and other music scenes and cultures are porous and interactive. Although that might be a lot to load onto the shoulders of a skinny DJ, Gibbons's practice suggests that an analysis of the relationship between disco/dance and hip hop/rap should begin not with the assumption of difference and opposition, as has been the case so far, but instead with the recognition of their shared roots and perspectives. While it is important to acknowledge divergences, the cultures of disco and hip hop also drew on an overlapping pool of records, developed innovative uses around turntable technologies, explored various ways of isolating and extending the break, and produced a set of records that, at least during the first half of the 1980s, were played back-to-back in a number of venues. The cultural history of New York can become richer through such a conversation, and so, too, perhaps, can the future.


The following discography includes a comprehensive list of Walter Gibbons's official releases. Acetates, reel-to-reel recordings and unreleased recordings are not included.

Arts & Craft. "I've Been Searchin." Jus Born (undated).
Arts & Craft. Wait A Minute "Before You Leave Me." Panic (1985).
Cellophane. "Super Queen" b/w "Dance With Me (Let's Believe)." Salsoul (1978).
Clark Sisters. "Time Out." A&M (1986).
Double Exposure. "Ice Cold Love." On Locker Room. Salsoul (1979).
Double Exposure. "I Wish That I Could Make Love To You." On Locker Room. Salsoul (1979).
Double Exposure. "My Love Is Free." On Disco Madness. Salsoul (1979).
Double Exposure. "Ten Percent." Salsoul (1976).
Double Exposure. "Ten Percent." On Disco Madness. Salsoul (1979).
First Choice. "Let No Man Put Asunder." On Disco Madness. Salsoul (1979).
Gladys Knight & the Pips. "It's Better Than Good Time." Buddah (1979).
Heather, Colleen. "One Night Love Affair." West End (1979).
Holloway, Loleatta. "Catch Me On the Rebound." Gold Mind (1978).
Holloway, Loleatta. "Catch Me On the Rebound." On Disco Madness. Salsoul (1979).
Holloway, Loleatta. "Hit and Run" b/w "We're Getting Stronger." Gold Mind (1977).
Indian Ocean. "School bell / Treehouse." Sleeping Bag (1986).
Instant Funk. "I Got My Mind Made Up." Salsoul (1978).
Jakki. "Sun… Sun… Sun…" Pyramid (1976).
James, TC, & the Fist O Funk Orchestra. "Get Up On Your Feet (Keep On Dancin')." Fist O Funk (1978).
LaVette, Bettye. "Doin' the Best That I Can." West End (1978).
Love Committee. "Cheaters Never Win" b/w "Where Will It End." Salsoul (1977).
Love Committee. "Just As Long As I Got You." Salsoul (1978).
Love Committee. "Law and Order." Salsoul (1978).
Luv You Madly Orchestra. "Rocket Rock" b/w "Moon Maiden." Salsoul (1978).
Robin Hooker Band. "Stand By Your Man" b/w "Your Cheatin' Heart." Salsoul (1979).
Russell, Arthur. "Let's Go Swimming." Logarhythm (1986).
Russell, Arthur. "Calling All Kids." Audika (2004).
Mercer, Sandi. "Play With Me" b/w "You Are My Love." H&L (1978).
Salsoul Orchestra. Greatest Disco Hits: Music for Non-Stop Dancing. Salsoul (1978). (Blended by Walter Gibbons.)
Salsoul Orchestra. "It's Good for the Soul." On Disco Madness. Salsoul (1979).
Salsoul Orchestra. "Magic Bird of Fire." Salsoul (1976).
Salsoul Orchestra. "Magic Bird of Fire." On Disco Madness. Salsoul (1979).
Salsoul Orchestra. "Nice 'n' Naasty." Salsoul (1976).
Salsoul Orchestra. "Salsoul 3001." Salsoul (1976).
Stetsasonic. "4 Ever My Beat: Beat Bongo Mix." Tommy Boy, 1986).
Strafe. "Set It Off." Jus Born Records (1984).
True Example. "Love Is Finally Coming My Way" b/w "As Long As You Love Me." Salsoul, 1977.
Various. Disco Boogie: Super Hits for Non-Stop Dancing. Salsoul (1977). (Blended by Walter Gibbons.)
Various. Disco Madness. Salsoul (1979). (Remixes by Walter Gibbons.)
Various. Saturday Night Disco Party. Salsoul (1978). (Compiled by Jim Burgess, Walter Gibbons and Tom Moulton.)
White, Anthony. "I Can't Turn You Loose" b/w "Block Party." Salsoul (1977).

Thanks Dancer for turning me on to this wonderful article last year!!!!

"Doin'The Doo"

Last edited by Jay Negron on Thu May 07, 2009 2:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

 Post subject: Re: EVERYDAY DISCO
 Post Posted: Thu May 07, 2009 2:25 pm 
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Joined: Fri Jun 13, 2008 8:46 pm
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Location: South Florida
Now reading all that, I can say what I seen personally from the great Walter Gibbons.

He is the best DJ that I've ever heard.

The last time I heard him was in fall 1976---He was absolutely amazing!!!

He had a TRI-amp system at Galaxy 21 that he used to perfection.

He would play with the amp, taking fully OFF & ON the bass, treble, or midrange at different times of the song. And I'm talking about FULLY!!!

I heard him play "Disco Party" by The Trammps 'only the break' for over 20 minutes;
It was like a new song; Bass ONLY for 10 seconds then to HIGHS only for 10 seconds then everything on and back again.
I heard him do this for Double Exposure's "Ten Percent"---it was incredible.

The crowd went wild everytime I went there;
which was AFTER I played my gig at Tropicalia at 4am.
There were many nights that I would just stay there to listen to Walter till 10am or later.

He would have his own edits he would bring on reel-to-reel.
Fantastic ideas!!!
His spinning would inspire my spinning to no end.
(also inspired the "Hollywood Dub")
To this day I make my own versions of songs and that is because Walter Gibbons showed me it could be done!!!!

"Doin'The Doo"

 Post subject: Re: EVERYDAY DISCO
 Post Posted: Thu May 07, 2009 4:23 pm 
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Joined: Thu Aug 28, 2008 5:22 pm
Posts: 1685
Location: Spain / England
I just sent this full 40 page article to Dancer a few weeks ago and I was contemplating posting it but you beat me to the punch Jay..
I think it is the most interesting article that I have ever read that relates to disco/dance music. I have read this article over a dozen times now as I find it so damm interesting. Thanks for posting it Jay and giving us your thoughts on Walter as well. Great read all the way....

Woul be very much interested in your thoughts Jay on Tom Savarese, was he in the same ball park as Walter and can you categorize or define his style...You ever see him spin around 76'-77'. The reason I ask is because I have been sampling some of his sets lately and I was greatly impressed by him.

"If It Moves Funk It"

 Post subject: Re: EVERYDAY DISCO
 Post Posted: Thu May 07, 2009 4:28 pm 
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Joined: Sat Sep 27, 2008 5:43 pm
Posts: 429
Location: Greece,Athens
Fantastic info Jay.
In my opinion it's not enough to have a good "teacher".
You have to be a gifted "student" too and you are gifted my friend :)

Put Your Body In It...

 Post subject: Re: EVERYDAY DISCO
 Post Posted: Fri May 08, 2009 12:00 pm 
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Joined: Thu Aug 28, 2008 3:23 pm
Posts: 1269
Many thanks for all these infos and your experience about Walter Gibbons Jay!!!
Tom Savarese is another DJ hero of that period,all the sets that I've heard from him are excellent 8)

 Post subject: Bernard Fowler
 Post Posted: Wed May 13, 2009 11:40 am 
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Joined: Thu Aug 28, 2008 3:23 pm
Posts: 1269
Bernard Fowler

Bernard Fowler is an American singer/songwriter and musician, best known for his collaborations, recordings and tours with the Rolling Stones, collectively and individually, as well as being a regular featured vocalist on other musicians' recordings and tours. In addition, Fowler is gaining notoriety for his recordings with his bands; Tackhead and Nickelbag, and a first solo album in 2006.


First cuts 1970s:
Fowler's first recordings were for the group Total Eclipse in 1974. In the early '80s he was a member of The New York City Peech Boys with DJ Larry Levan and keyboard player Michael De Benedictus. The group had dance hits with tracks like ("Don't Make Me Wait") and "Life Is Something Special. He provided vocals for the songs "I'm The One" and "Come Down" from the Material album One Down, and also guested on Herbie Hancock's 1983 album Future Shock, as well as the 1985 albums Compact Disc by Public Image, Ltd., Language Barrier by Sly & Robbie, and She's the Boss, a Mick Jagger solo effort. In 1986, he sang a song written by Paul Simon which appeared on Philip Glass's Songs from Liquid Days. In 1987 he sang backup for James Blood Ulmer on America:Do You Remember the Love?, and the next year he appeared on Bootsy Collins's What's Bootsy Doin'?. In 1988 Fowler found himself touring with Steven Seagal.

Rolling Stones:
In 1985, Fowler was hired to record backing vocals on She's The Boss, Mick Jagger's first solo album. This proved to be the beginning of a lasting business and personal relationship, not only with Jagger, but with all the members of the Rolling Stones, as he has performed on the solo albums of Watts, Jagger, Richards and Wood.
Fowler had already performed as a session musician with individual members of the Rolling Stones on their solo projects, and was chosen to join the Stones on their Steel Wheels world tour, in 1989. Mick Jagger spoke about his choice of Fowler to sing backing vocals saying that Fowler impressed him because he had a wide vocal range, many musical influences, and stamina.
"He is also very strong and can sing for ages. He's got a lot of range and a lot of stamina vocally. You have to have that if you're going to do long nights and lots and lots of shows, all in the open air; He can easily keep up with me." -- Mick Jagger, 1998
He has remained as a regular backup singer on tours with the Stones since then. Fowler was a feature vocalist on three of Charlie Watts' jazz solo albums. The other members of the Rolling Stones have utilized his vocal talents on their solo projects, including Keith Richards's Main Offender and Ron Wood's solo projects. Fowler was the lead singer for the group Tackhead for several albums in the late 1980s and early 1990s.He has also appeared on albums from Herb Alpert, Little Axe, Todd Terry, and Michael Hutchence.

Fowler has been asked to collaborate on songs from other artists. One such person has been Ron Wood in writing and composing songs for his solo albums. Fowler and Wood have co-written several songs together and recorded them on Wood's albums.

Personal projects:
In 2006, Fowler released his first solo album, Friends with Privileges, on Sony Japan. This is his first entirely solo effort, however, he has had a significant number of rock and roll and R&B heavyweights in the music industry working with him. They include Ron Wood, Darryl Jones and Lisa Fischer of Rolling Stones fame; Waddy Wachtel, who is a studio session musician and record producer, Dave Abbruzzese, formerly of Pearl Jam, Joe Elliot of (Def Leppard), and Ivan Neville.


With the Rolling Stones and Stones members solo projects:
(1985) She's The Boss (Mick Jagger)
(1989) Steel Wheels (Rolling Stones)
(1991) Flashpoint (Rolling Stones)
(1992) Tribute to Charlie Parker With Strings (Charlie Watts)
(1992) Slide On This (Ronnie Wood)
(1992) Main Offender (Keith Richards)
(1993) Warm and Tender (Charlie Watts)
(1993) Slide On Live: Plugged In And Standing (Ronnie Wood)
(1993) Jump Back (Rolling Stones)
(1994) Voodoo Lounge (Rolling Stones)
(1995) Stripped (Rolling Stones)
(1996) Long Ago and Far Away (Charlie Watts)
(1997) Bridges To Babylon (Rolling Stones)
(1998) No Security (Rolling Stones)
(2000) Live and Eclectic (Ronnie Wood)
(2002) Forty Licks (Rolling Stones)
(2004) Live Licks (Rolling Stones)
(2005) Rarities 1971-2003 (Rolling Stones)
(2008) Shine A Light (Rolling Stones)

With others:
(1985) Album Public Image, Ltd.
(1985) Language Barrier Sly & Robbie
(1986) Futurista Ryuichi Sakamoto
(1986) Media Bahn Live Ryuichi Sakamoto
(1986) Songs from Liquid Days Phillip Glass
(1987) Do You Remember the Love? James Blood Ulmer
(1988) What's Bootsy Doin'? Bootsy Collins
(1992) Future Shock Herbie Hancock
(1996) 12 Hits and a Bump Nickelbag (Iguana Records)
(2007) "Friends With Privileges" Bernard Fowler (Peregrine Records)
(2008) Along Came a Spider Alice Cooper

Personal Discography:
(2006) Friends With Privileges (Sony Japan)

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