YAY!!!!! My 1000th post ! What better way to celebrate than with a vintage old video I caught through my social networking channels the chronicles the dawn of the house music scene in NYC!
Time capsules are so important! How a used up old VHS tape can be such a valuable slice of an era gone by. At the 41:00 minute mark, you get to see a pretty rare video interview of the most prolific Larry Levan, resident DJ of The Paradise Garage, which was shut down at the time this video was shot, which I estimate at around the year 1990, just a couple of years shy of his unfortunate death.
At the opening of the video, you get a serious look inside one of the many dance music stores in NYC that catered to DJs, making sure that all the latest house records were on the shelves, hot off the presses. Going into the first store, you are exposed to the LES’s (Lower East Side’s) first official Paradise Garage/The Loft/Club Zanibar style record shop, dedicated to that style of music. The store is Dance Tracks, and the man at the helm was Stan, as seen in the video, the original owner of the store. On the West Village of Manhattan, you had Vinyl Mania and Disc-O-Rama. About a mile up, you had Downtown Records, Downstairs Records, and the home of the $2.99 12″ Rock N’ Soul Records. There was also another store caleed Beat Non Stop, but they were pretty much gone when house music took over. The second featured store in the video is Downtown Records, at its original location on 6th Ave and 27th Street. There you see Ralphie who was one of the many faces that played tracks on the system as you reached for your copy on the shelves. Domestic 12″ singles were only $3.99, and you could grab an exotic import 12″ for about $7.99. In those days, a paycheck spent on records went a long way, so buying doubles was worth every cent.
All these landmark stores started the trend of playing pretty much most of the current vinyl stock that catered to DJs to increase sales. You heard it in those shops most times before the radio stations even had the chance to drop it on the air. For house music, this was essential for sales because most of the time there were no identifiable vocals, and all you had to do was walk in and literally describe the beats and samples you heard at the club. Once in awhile you would see a famous club jock walk in and bask at the glory of industry respect and admiration from fellow customers.
This video made my eyes pop when I saw it because it was shot at a time when house music just started ripping into NYC. House music, as you might know, originally came from Chicago, but was made popular by the UK. In those days, DJs only went to the East Village to grab New Wave and punk rock vinyl, and Dance Tracks was on the same street as the legendary biker gang’s Hells Angels headquarters. I still can’t imagine how he got away with blasting music all day without having his windows broken. Although the area was still down-ridden with a splash of ghetto, it was still relatively safe to go shopping around, but back then, no one went past Avenue B. Rent was cheap, there was money to be made on the streets and off, and no one would dare predict the impact of DJing on dance music culture.
At the 41:00 minute mark, you are treated to an ultra rare interview with Larry Levan. My god, he looks so serious as he stares down the interviewer. In my book, he is truly the first superstar DJ. I have heard countless stories about his command behind the wheels as he proved to many of us that DJing was not all about skill, but rather the ability to understand the music, the equipment, and the crowd. Sure the dancers cared about the mix, but it when all those elements came together, it was pure bliss on the floor. You finally get to hear Larry speak. Yes, he seems annoyed, but he manages to get his thoughts in.
Special thanks to my man Shorty for posting the video