"What if music IS sex?" -Suzanne G. Cuisick, "On a Lesbian Relationship with Music."
"Rule number one: Never let the music stop." - David Mancuso
XIII. DO IT TILL YOU'RE SATISFIED
Before we get down to the construction of the Paradise Garage, I'm going to share a couple of notable musical developments: the Cock Ring disco and the art of the DJ remix.
A. THE COCK RING
My two favorite places to dance in 70's NYC were the Cock Ring and the Paradise Garage.
The Cock Ring was located at the end of Christopher Street at West (there is an upscale little hotel there now). Compared to other venues the Cock Ring's dancefloor was miniscule. But that place was always packed to the max with men of all races on Saturday nights and for Sunday Tea Dances. The music there was eclectic, with a very strong bias towards very sexy funk and R&B disco. The place was defiantly gay and overtly erotic. Sharing your sweat and everything else with fellow dancers was a part of the ambiance, and I have nothing but joyful memories of that hot little energy pit.
I danced there with Larry a few times on Sundays and he knew and influenced many of the DJs who worked there. One of my favorites was Jonathan Fearing.
My use of various substances in those days was, I confess, immoderate. But in my entire career as a dancer I only passed out twice on the dancefloor, and one of those times was at the Cock Ring.
That night I was dancing with the author Christopher Isherwood and his partner (Christopher must have been in his sixties then). Too much heat, no water (couldn't get through the crowd to the bar), and too many other things. I had reached the outer limits when someone held some poppers under my nose. That was it, I went down. Or so I thought in my last conscious moment. When I woke up I was still on that packed dancefloor standing upright!!! Amazing, to this day I don't know what happened. The guys held me up, or the floor was so packed I couldn't go down. At any rate, I just kept on dancin'. My only "disco nap" on the dancefloor.
B. TOM MOULTON AND WALTER GIBBONS: THE ART OF THE REMIX
As the art of DJing progressed in the disco days DJs were experimenting with remixing records right from the booth. Cut back and forth to vocals. Extending the drum loops. One had to constantly switch from record to record to achieve this. Some DJs, like Larry Levan, made tapes with rhythm, vocals and other effects that could be inserted between the records to extend the mix and emphasize certain musical elements. The tapes, however, didn't allow for much flexibility in the real time dancefloor situation. If one used tapes one generally had to program the set around the tapes.
Tom Moulton and Walter Gibbons were, I believe, the first to come up with the concept of remixing releases for the needs of the DJ.
1. Tom Moulton
Moulton was an extraordinary man. He had everything. Knock out looks, great talent, and the ability to innovate. Tom wrote the new disco column for Billboard Magazine, he was a former ad manager for United Artists, and, although I don't thing he actually DJed live much, he had an excellent sound studio in his apartment and made some awesome and influential mix tapes for the Sandpiper disco on Fire Island.
People credit Tom with a number of important musical innovations. Some say it was he who invented slip cueing (along with hundreds of others, including me and my pal Bill). But I do agree that it was he who established the role of DJ as remixer/producer, it was he who invented the "disco break," and Tom certainly had a lot to do with the introduction of the 12" dance single format.
First the disco break. This dancer's dream come true was simply remixing a song to extend the drum loops and other rhythm elements so that the dancers wouldn't be left hanging at the end of each song. The DJ could thus keep the tribal beats going while he moved into the other record without using tapes.
Tom went on to tear apart and rebuild all the elements of a song to better suit the needs of the dancers and DJs: adding different drum loops; enhancing vocals; changing tempos, etc. He even worked with the producers of Gloria Gaynor's first album and mixed "Never Could Say Goodbye," "Reach Out, I'll Be There," and "Honeybee" into a seamless medley.
Anything that was remixed by Tom Moulton became a hit, and over time he did remixes for Frankie Knuckles, Larry Levan, Rick Gianatos and a host of others.
Finally, it was Tom who, when working on a mix at Media Sound of "I'll Be Holding On", created the 12" recording. Quite by accident, I understand. He wanted to press a disc of the mix and the studio had run out of 10" acetates. So he asked if they could press it on the 12" vinyl they did have in stock and engineer the grooves so that the mix would fill the whole record. They did, and discovered that the sound produced in this fashion was far superior than anything available at that time. Voila, 12" recordings with better sound were introduced.
2. Walter Gibbons
Walter Gibbons was another master of the remix and had a direct influence on the development of house music. Walter was a practicing DJ and was considered to be one of the finest live mixers of the time. He began his career at Galaxy 21 in NYC in the early 70's.
As a remixer, Walter was a fabulous sculptor of sound. Walter's famous remix of Double Exposure's "Ten Percent" on the Salsoul label is a classic in which he extended a three minute song to a gradually-building dancers' orgasm nine minutes long.
Walter I hear became a born-again Christian in the late 70's and refused to remix songs with sexual content. He reappeared, however, in the 80's with more house-influencing remixes, and we will return to him then, at the Paradise Garage.
C. THE ORIGINS OF THE PARADISE GARAGE
Michael Brody was always having heated disputes with the landlord of the disco/meat locker that was Reade Street. In the winter of 1976 the situation developed into full-scale war and Michael decided to close the venue. He left owing money to a lot of supporters.
But the dream of a venue that would be gay, friendly to blacks, and musically innovative was not over.
Michael and Larry began looking for a space, and found one at 84 King Street in SoHo. Just typing this address sends shivers of joy up my spine. For this was to be the Paradise Garage.
84 King Street was a big, two story parking garage. The upper floor, which was to be the dancefloor, was 10,000 square feet -- really far too big for a comfortable dancing space. So the space would have to be divided up, and there was much, much work to be done before this could be a disco. Michael was broke and he needed money.
The beginnings of the Paradise Garage were much like a disco soap opera. Michael fighting with his former lover Mel and others over loans and debts, Larry pressuring for the most expensive sound equipment money could buy -- all sorts of drama.
Michael borrowed money from everyone but didn't have nearly enough to do an adequate job renovating the upper floor. Time was running on the lease and nothing was happening. The only revenues coming in were from the parking garage downstairs and even I volunteered to park cars when I could to help out.
What to do? It was decided then that the Paradise Garage would be opened in stages. Michael would renovate the place while having parties in enclosed spaces while construction was proceeding.