The Last Party at The Saint

Last Party at the Saint Jim Burgess

As mentioned in the recent Salute 2 post, 500MH has long-wanted to pay its own tribute to Disco’s pioneers by giving a permanent home to some genuinely historic mixes (many of which only circulate in the semi-clandestine world of DJ forums). So when we heard that this particular mix had dropped off the radar, we were delighted to present a poignant moment in the ongoing story of New York nite life.

For many, The Saint was the ultimate club: an icon of the NYC gay scene throughout the eighties, it opened in its doors in September 1980 on the site of venerable live music venue, the Fillmore East. With a $4 million budget, and aspirations to match, it immediately became the night spot du jour for the upscale party crowd (membership was $250 per year and sold out immediately). Such was its success that the main competition (12 West and Flamingo) closed down within months.

So…a high-tech paradise and drug-fuelled Bacchanalian fleshpit, but what about the music?

Unlike contemporary nite spots such as The Paradise Garage and The Loft, The Saint was never known for the adventurousness of its music policy. Instead its DJ’s honed a distinct house-style that blended the theatricality (melodrama?) of 1970’s disco with the more contemporary sounds of Hi NRG and Euro-synth-pop. Limahl was a big favourite.

Jim Burgess was a DJ, remixer and sometime professional tenor with a penchant for retirements and comebacks. A resident in the early days of The Saint (along with the likes of Alan Dodd, Roy Thode and Robbie Leslie), he retired in spectacular fashion in 1981, walking out midway though a record at the height of the evening. But a few years later he was back in the saddle and played the second-last set of The Saint’s non-stop 48 hour closing party (leaving it to Robbie Leslie to bring down the final curtain).

Sadly Jim passed away in 1993, but he leaves us with this wonderful 4 hour mix (track-listings in the lyrics tab as usual):

Download Jim Burgess – Last Party at The Saint (Part 1) (right click)

Download Jim Burgess – Last Party at The Saint (Part 2) (right click)

Download Jim Burgess – Last Party at The Saint (Part 3) (right click)

Download Jim Burgess – Last Party at The Saint (Part 4) (right click)

Further Reading…

As well as references in the usual books (more on these in a future post), here are a few worthwhile online sources:

For an in-depth JB profile head over to the Disco Disco site.

Memories of The Saint can be found at The Saint NYC.

And finally, The DJ History beards dissect proceedings here (thanks to Fabiofal from DJ History for posting the mixes that I’ve used above).

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£27.99! For a MIX CD?!

Mark Seven Salute 2

The second instalment in our occasional series “Did I Really Just Pay That Much…?”.

Hot on the heels of the expensive 12″ single, is this 3-disc mix CD – Salute 2: Reach Out and Touch Your Dream. OK, it comes with a free T-shirt (or perhaps the CDs come free with the Tshirt) so immediately it doesn’t seem quite so bad to a tight-fisted Yorkshireman like myself. But the main reason that this was a “Must Buy” is that it’s vinyl-fanatic and peerless DJ, Mark Seven’s follow up to his sensational Salute To The Men of Vauxhall mix. I missed out on that one (now available for £100 on Discogs), so didn’t want to make the same mistake twice.

The story behind Salute 2 is thus: earlier this year Mark was booked to play at Horse Meat Disco’s regular night in Lisbon, but the volcanic ash cloud stopped him in his (ahem) tracks. So he want home and knocked out this fabulous 3-hour homage to the some of the pioneering, but occasionally overlooked, figures in disco history. DJ’s like Roy Thode, Jim Burgess, Robbie Leslie, Bobby Viteritti, Warren Gluck, Michael Fierman, Frank Houlihan, Chuck Parsons, Howard Merritt, Alan Dodd and more.

Have to admit that one or two of these names were unfamilar even to the disco-obsessives at 500 Miles High (i.e. me). Watch out for vintage mixes by some of these guys in future posts.

Surprisingly, the CDs/T-shirt still seem to be in stock at LN-CC, the trendy clothes shop that put this package together.

To all involved in the above, 500MH salutes you!  Now to try on the T-shirt…

DMC 1986: When the mixing had to stop…

Technics 1200

By the mid-80’s, mixing had made its way from the clubs of New York to the more enlightened night spots in the UK. Thanks to the efforts of mixing pioneers such as Greg James, the concept of a continuous musical flow – based on beatmatching skills and vari-speed turntables – was slowly replacing the traditional record-chat-record format of british clubland.

For more info on the evolution of mixing in the UK, see this excellent article by Greg Wilson and associated discussion on DJ History.

But such skills (or indeed, decent music) had yet to reach the carpet-and-chrome clubs that I occasionally frequented in West Yorks – so in 1986 when I got hold of a tape of the winning entries from that year’s Technics/DMC World Mixing Championship it felt like a big deal. Little did I know at the time that the world of competitive mixing was a scene in dramatic transition.

The world championships were only established a year earlier, when Roger Johnson was crowned the winner (more about Roger in a future post). In that inaugural competition – of which little documentary evidence exists – there was little turntable trickery, just “straight” mixing/cutting/blending of the popular tunes of the day.

Then in 1986, DJ Cheese stole the show with a performance largely based on scr…scr…scr…scratching. And lots of it. Outraged runner-up Orlando Voorn exclaimed “What is this, a Mixing Competition or a Scratching Competition?”. The answer seemed to be resolutely “a scratching competion”,  the art of the scratch – and associated gimmickry – being the reason d’etre of the championships ever since.

For anyone wanting a round-up of the last 25 years of winners, a surprisingly concise and readable summary can be found over on the DMC site.

But back to 1986, and it’s now time to make up your own mind on the ins-and-outs of that year’s competion, with 500MH’s handy guide:

6. Kris Kastaar (Belgium)

From the opening cut-up of Colonel Abrams, an assured outing from KK – often rocking double copies to good effect.  Some ambitious mixes/overlays that don’t quite come off.  Very solid – but in this company – 6th place seems about right.

Download Kris Kastaar – 1986 DMC (right click)

5. Mick Hansen (Denmark)

This one always stood out when playing the tape back in 86 – very strong opening, dropping Rappers Delight over Loveride then straight into some Trad Jazz.  Even manages to throw in a bit of Roy Ayers at the end.  Of all the finalists – the best music selections (just) and the DJ I’d most like to have seen playing in a club. Well done Mick!

Download Mick Hansen – 1986 DMC (right click)

4. Roger Tuuri (Sweden)

Another 500MH favourite – Roger takes some of the the biggest dance tunes of the day, gives them a sprinkling of magic hip hop dust and weaves a very compelling mix.  In ’85 he might have won with this – we’ll never know.

Download Roger Tuuri – 1986 DMC (right click)

3. Orlando Voorn (Holland)

The Dutch Master delivers a technically flawless set with, yes, some tasteful scratching. But perhaps that was the problem for the runners-up: compared to the winner it was all a bit too “tasteful”.

Download Orlando Voorn – 1986 DMC (right click)

2. Chad Jackson (UK)

“For the Great Britons of this world”, Chad serves up a creative set that embraces the new school methods and which laid the groundwork for his winning performance the following year. Early signs of the gimmickry and visual showmanship that would come to characterise the scene (see Youtube for his 1987 set: WWII flying helmet, scratching behind back etc.).

Download Chad Jackson – 1986 DMC (right click)

1. Cheese (USA)

Dense, percussive and simply more “street” than his rivals, Cheese ushered in the concept of turntable trickery as an end in itself, rather than a means to stitch records together.  Later this would lead to the empty theatrics of Germany’s DJ David doing handstands on a spinning Technics.  But would also give us the astonishing minimalist  expressionism of DJ Kentaro.

Download Cheese – 1986 DMC (mp3)

500MH Verdict…

Some highly compelling performances from the runners-up but they were all fighting against the tide of history – the era of the turntablist had arrived and Cheese was a founding father.