Love Saves The Day pt 2

[You can listen to the music from all the Love Saves The Day posts on this Youtube playlist.]

I read the rather excellent book Love Saves The Day: A History Of American Dance Music Culture 1970-1979 by Tim Lawrence last year. Scattered throughout it are representative playlists of the music particular DJs would have played at a specific club in a specific year. While I was reading it, I bored people with snippets of information about the DJs and clubs and Youtube videos of some of the musical gems. I thought I’d collect these together and expand the text a little in order to bore a wider audience.

Part 1 : Part 2 : Part 3 : Part 4 : Part 5

The Loft is so central to this story that the whole book is named after the first of the invite-only parties David Mancuso held at his Broadway home.

Mancuso had been holding Leary-inspired (Timothy rather than Denis) gatherings for friends at his loft since the mid sixties. These had eventually turned into dance parties and he accumulated enough audio gear to fill the formerly industrial space with quality sound. After a break in 1969 to, in his own words, “go on a monk trip”, Mancuso resumed the dance parties. The first attempts were typical open rent parties – they were called Coalition and run with a couple of collaborators including a DJ – but they didn’t really work out.

So in early 1970 Mancuso took back control, including of the music, and sent out invites for a private party called Loves Save the Day – the name was inspired by proximity to Valentines Day and his former fondness for psychedelics. The parties had names but the venue didn’t, it was just Mancuso’s home. Eventually people started calling it The Loft and the name stuck.

This 1972 solo track from The Temptations singer Eddie Kendricks was a favourite of David Mancuso at The Loft and was picked up by a lot of other DJs as a result.

By the end of 1970, the Loft parties were at capacity and stayed that way for years. The door charge was only two dollars at first and there was no alcohol, or indeed anything else, for sale inside. But there was free food – organic and fresh, in line with Mancuso’s now clean living habits. And there was simple but effective decor including balloons – lots of balloons – streamers and powerful floodlights. The Loft was recreated to great effect in epsiode 5 of David ‘The Wire’ Simon’s recent series The Deuce – the DJ was the spitting image of David Mancuso although the name was never mentioned.

The Loft was David Mancuso’s home so the only event of the week was the Saturday night invite-only party. During the early part of most week, he would spend time in Woodstock in upstate New York before coming back on Wednesday to start preparations for the next party. Maybe that’s why he was so fond of this track by War called ‘City Country City’.

Nicky Siano was still at high school when he first went to The Loft. He also has the distinction of being thrown out by Mancuso for selling drugs – selling was strictly forbidden even if using was an accepted part of the night. Nicky got his start DJing at the Round Table, a mob-run cabaret club with a gay clientele. By February 1973, when he was still only 17, Siano opened The Gallery, a club very much based on the Mancuso template – mixed crowd, balloons and streamers, free refreshments.

The Gallery started slowly but when The Loft took a break for the summer, it attracted a lot of the refugees and soon became the most happening night in Manhattan. If The Loft was the home of the tripped out dancer, The Gallery was the home of the dancing queen. Meanwhile in Philadelphia, the disco sound – ‘four on the floor’ bass drum and sweeping strings – was being invented. The elements were falling into place.

The Gallery made Nicky Siano the first star DJ. He also became mentor to Larry Levan and Frankie Knuckles, who would be so influential that their clubs provided the names for genres of dance music – garage at Levan’s Paradise Garage and house at Knuckles’ Warehouse. But back in 1973, Frankie was the best balloon inflater at the Gallery and his friend Larry helped out and became Siano’s lieutenant and lover.

Siano was also one of the first residents at Studio 54 when it opened in April 1977, DJing on the nights when he wasn’t at The Gallery. Studio 54, which actually was a former CBS studio on West 54th St, was the culmination of seven years of growth in the club scene. But it was also a club that promoted spectacle over music. That didn’t stop it being a massive success.

Siano’s drug habits eventually got so bad that he was sacked from Studio 54, although that might have been as much to do with perceived DJing sins such as playing Kraftwerk’s Trance Europe Express before it was popular. But his partner at the Gallery, his own brother, also gave him an ultimatum – give up the drugs or I close the club. The Gallery closed in late 1977.

This track is from The Gallery’s heyday.

Ashford Traveller – double vs single drive

I mentioned earlier that this was a double drive model. It will actually operate as single or double drive. Here’s what that means.

The drive belt (special string, but string nonetheless) goes around the wheel twice. In double drive mode, one loop is on the bobbin and one is on the flyer pulley. So the bobbin and flyer are both driven directly, hence double drive.

You can see that there is a second groove on the flyer pulley. This allows a different drive ratio to be used. All this movement of the belt changes the tension but there’s a cunning knob and hinge arrangement to retension it.

In single drive mode, both loops go around the bobbin. A brake band (transparent so hard to see, but it has springs at each end to ensure tension which may be easier to spot) is put onto the flyer pulley to stop it turning. Only the bobbin is driven, hence single drive.

Specifically this is “bobbin lead” or Irish Tension single drive. Alternatively, you can single drive the flyer pulley and brake the bobbin. That would be “flyer lead” or Scotch Tension single drive.

Ashford Traveller – 4

No work on this yesterday because I was busy with other things. So a big push now to get it ready for tomorrow. There was more wax polish left in the tin than I’d thought so everything has had a second coat and, in a few cases, a third.

The first parts to be put together make up the flyer assembly. The flyer is the U shaped piece holding the bobbin. The base it all sits on (with the Ashford logo) is called the maiden board – I have no idea why.
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Ashford Traveller – 3

A milestone – everything is now sanded, waxed and buffed. You can still see the variation in colour, expecially in those legs (top centre). About three quarters of the tin of polish has been used. The next step is to figure out which bits will be difficult to get at once it’s asssembled and give those areas a second application.

Ashford Traveller – 2

The spinning wheel is made almost entirely out of New Zealand silver beech. It’s finished to a very high standard so all that’s needed is a light sanding with the supplied sandpaper, concentrating especially on cut ends, grooves and sockets which tend to be slightly rougher. If you were using an oil or varnish rather than a wax, you might need to treat it differently.
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Ashford Traveller – 1

In cahoots with some lovely and generous friends and family, I’ve bought Theo an Ashford Traveller spinning wheel for her birthday coming up this Sunday. It’s the double treadle, double drive model in natural wood. As it needs a finishing coat (I’m using Ashford’s own wax polish) and assembly, I’m going to try to get it up and running ready for the big day.

Here’s the first, and arguably most exciting, stage – unpacking it!

The box. The wheel was supplied by and safely delivered by Parcelforce.
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