WRKS Kiss 98.7 Mastermix Dance Party, 25/12/1980

Tony Humphries Shep Pettibone WRKS Kiss 98.7 Mastermix Dance Party Christmas 1980

“It’s one past ten o’clock here at WRKS FM New York. We’re 98.7 Kiss. K-I-S-S: where nobody gives more music. I’m Yvonne Mobley hosting our Kiss Mastermix Dance Party – dance hits of 1980..”

Yvonne Mobley: a name to make many a UK music-obsessive go weak at the knees. And for true fans of vintage New York radio air-checks, the honeyed tones of the great Chuck Leonard can also be heard on this year’s 500MH seasonal offering.

Broadcast over the NYC airwaves on Christmas Day, 1980 this edition of the Mastermix Dance Party brings together the stellar talents of Tony Humphries and Shep Pettibone, though it’s not clear just how they divided up the mixing duties. No matter, the results are predictably splendid and the 500MH spotting team have compiled an (almost) complete track-listing – check the Lyrics tab of the mp3 files.

On a technical note, and unlike our previous Mastermix Dance Party re-presentation, this one had already been digitised from cassette when it arrived, and not to the highest standard.

So the sound quality ain’t great…but hellfire, this is TONY HUMPHRIES and SHEP PETTIBONE. 32 years ago!

All that remains, therefore, is to wish everyone a Merry Christmas from 500 Miles High. Postings have been slightly erratic recently and who knows what the New Year will bring, but for now…push back the sofa and party like it’s 1980.

Download: Mastermix Dance Party, 25/12/1980 – Side A (right-click)

Download: Mastermix Dance Party, 25/12/1980 – Side B (right-click)

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DJ Harvey – Live at P.S.1. Warm Up

DJ Harvey Live at P.S.1 Warm Up

It’s surely not an understatement to say that the nation (or at least the bearded sub-strata) is currently gripped with Harvey-fever. The prodigal son is playing long-awaited UK gigs in Manchester and London in the next few days (and 500MH will be front-and-centre for the latter).

“Harvey who?” some of you may be saying…to which we simply respond, this one.

So, not-very-hot-on-the-heels of our re-presentation of the Moonshadow Mixes, here is Harv’s barnstorming set at the 2005 edition of MOMA PS1’s long running Warm Up event, by way of an appetiser.

Note: in the grand 500MH tradition, we’ve tidied-up these files with full track-listings in the lyrics tab, just for the spotters…

Download: DJ Harvey – Live at P.S.1. Warm Up Part 1 (right-click)

Download: DJ Harvey – Live at P.S.1. Warm Up Part 2 (right-click)

Merlin Bobb – WBLS, Martin Luther King Day, 1986

Martin Luther King

Never expected to be saying this on 500MH…but here’s a real treat for Martin Luther King Day: an astoundingly good WBLS Saturday Night Dance Party mix by Merlin Bobb that was broadcast to the people of New York just before the very first MLK day, 20th January 1986 [anorak note: the mix went out on Saturday 18th before the holiday on the Monday].

Luckily for us, someone recorded it and the cassette quickly made its way across the Atlantic to our friends at Beard Science. The original tape had a lot of the usual wear and tear of any well-played family heirloom, but it’s now been lovingly restored and presented here for your listening pleasure.

And what a pleasure. The mix is a perfect marriage between disco and early house (proving conclusively that both these genres are drawn from the same musical well) and sounds like it could have been recorded last week rather than 26 years ago.

The many musical highlights include a raucous edit of Labelle’s What Can You Do For Me? and a less well known MLK speech over the long intro of Creative Source’s version of the ultra-paranoid Who Is He & What Is He To You?. The “I have a dream” speech is of course also represented and Merlin works it to provide a real shivers-down-the-spine moment.

Connoisseurs will also appreciate the deep, resonant “WBLS in New York” station IDs – always a pleasure to hear – and Len Brown filling the Yvonne Mobley role from the rival WRKS/Kiss mix shows. By the way, if anyone has tapes of Len’s Quiet Storm slot (“one of the most delightful programmes on radio”), then please get in touch.

So…a flawless, genuinely emotional mix by an underrated figure on the New York dance scene and a fitting way to celebrate this year’s Martin Luther King Day.

Download: Merlin Bobb – WBLS, MLK Day 1986 – Side A (right click)

Download: Merlin Bobb – WBLS, MLK Day 1986 – Side B (right click)

Roy Thode – New Year’s Morning Set at The Saint

Roy Thode and Friends

Let’s kick-off 2012 with a bit of New Year’s magic from the early 1980’s, courtesy of the magnificent Roy Thode (pictured above left, with Ann-Margret and Bobby Viteritti).

There’s probably not much more to say about New York’s legendary palace of gay excess, The Saint, that wasn’t covered in our Jim Burgess post last January, other than perhaps to puzzle over it’s continuing fascination for *cough* straight, middle-aged Yorkshiremen. There’s actually some debate among disco-anaraks as to the exact vintage of this recording – the “official” date is NYE 1980/81, but some say it’s actually from the 81/82 celebrations, which would make it exactly 30 years ago to this very day, so 500MH is tempted to go with the latter scenario.

Musically we are in the Disco sub-genre known as morning music….or sometimes sleaze (though there are purists who can draw distinctions even between these two close bedfellows). All the general listener needs to know is that this is the music that was played at the very end of the night (i.e. in the morning), mid-tempo in pace but off-the-scale in terms of emotional drama. Largely a phenomena of the gay scene, this was a musical world where the likes of Sharon Ridley’s Changin’ (a classic of the genre) could rub shoulders with…er…Cliff Richard.

As usual, thanks go out to some of the old-timers on DJHistory for the help pulling this together, including the almost-complete track listing hidden in the lyrics tab of each file:

Download: Roy Thode – Morning Set at The Saint – Part 1 (right click)

Download: Roy Thode – Morning Set at The Saint – Part 2 (right click)

Download: Roy Thode – Morning Set at The Saint – Part 3 (right click)

Download: Roy Thode – Morning Set at The Saint – Part 4 (right click)

As a footnote, Roy was also a participant in one of the odder remix projects of the disco era – along with Larry Levan he reworked C is for Cookie by Sesame Street’s very own Cookie Monster. Perhaps 500MH can dig that out later in 2012…

Tony Humphries Mastermix Dance Party, 1986

Tony Humphries WRKS Kiss FM Mastermix Dance Party 1986

One of the many pleasant aspects of running this blog is getting to know some of the artists/DJ’s in what is sometimes referred to as “the scene with no name” (a term that is only slightly catchier than nouveaux-disco-afro-balearic-cosmic-slomo-edits-scene). A good example of this would be a blossoming bromance with the mysterious collective known as Beard Science – intrepid sonic explorers and veterans of five splendid 12″ releases (with, we hear, a sixth one on the way).

Anyway, one of their shadowy number – lets call him JC – got in touch to tell me about an old cassette tape that he recently discovered in the cellar at Beard Towers. Early indications showed it to be a Tony Humphries mix from the mid 80’s, but to be on the safe side he sent it over to the 500MH lab for further forensic analysis.

Well, the results are in and we can say that this is a classic Mastermix Dance Party session from New York’s WRKS-FM (aka Kiss FM 98.7), hosted by the ever-delightful Yvonne Mobley. Aired in 1986 it shows TH cutting up early House records, contemporary soul/funk and the occasional earlier classic. But in addition to the flawless musical selection, Humphries seems to be pushing the limits of what was possible with two turntables in the context of “proper DJing” (as opposed to pure turntablism). Very ocassionally you fear he might have gone too far, but just when it seems it might all fall apart he brings it back with a disco bomb like “Bad Girls” and it all takes off again.

All in all, sublime stuff which really does sound as fresh today as when it first troubled the airwaves 25 years ago. And to think that this (and mixes just like it) went out to the people of New York every week, commercial-free for three-and-a-half hours.

Finally a word about the artwork which Beard Science created especially for 500MH’s presentation of this mix – lovingly hand-drawn and reminiscent of the great Marvel Comics artist…and native New Yorker…Jack Kirby, this truly is the icing on the (Christmas) cake.

So there you have it – 500MH’s yuletide gift especially for you. Enjoy and stay tuned in 2012…

Download: Tony Humphries – Mastermix, 1986 – Side A (right click)

Download: Tony Humphries – Mastermix, 1986 – Side B (right click)

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).

Brother D – Dib-Be-Dib-Be-Dize

Clappers label

Sticking with the cassette-ripping action, I’ve got a few tapes on the mid-80’s New York label ROIR (Reach Out International Records), a casette-only imprint that released original material, such as the harmalodic funk of  Alfonio Tims & His Flying Tigers as well as reissues of out-of-print titles by the likes of Prince Far I & The Arabs.

Today’s selection is from a great one-hit-wonder of early hip-hop, Brother D. His classic How We Gonna Make The Black Rise Nation Rise originally came out on the Clappers label in 1980 (and got a UK Island release the same year) but didn’t come to my attention until it was included on the excellent Mighty Reel cassette, given away with the New Musical Express in 1982. As a young political firebrand, the strident militancy of the lyrics appealed to me, and as a latent disco-phile, the Cheryl Lynn sample made my loins feel funny.

To think that the same sample (Got To Be Real) is now used in a Marks & Spencer TV advert.  Enough to make one want to storm the barricades again…

So back to the music, first up is the live version on the ROIR cassette, Brother D & Silver Fox – Up Against The Beast.  The album – a live collaboration between D and a reggae MC – promises much but only really comes alive on Brother D’s “hit” (note that Silver Fox doesn’t appear on this):

Download Brother D – How We Gonna Make The Black Nation Rise (Live) (right click)

And as a bonus, here’s the original instrumental/dub version, with Cheryl Lynn in full effect (ripped from the 1985 4th & Broadway re-issue):

Download Brother D & Collective Effort – Dib-Be-Dib-Be-Dize (Dub) (right click)