Love Saves The Day pt 1

[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.

The early playlists are pretty eclectic – the core of them is soul and R&B, but the fringes are wild. Francis Grasso was DJ at the Sanctuary, a seminal ‘mixed-crowd-but-essentially-gay’ disco that opened in 1970. He would play rock and funk, James Brown and Motown – whatever got the crowd going. He was also a pioneer in mixing records together rather than just playing them back to back, and would use his headphones to listen to the incoming record to get the perfect blend – which became standard technique. You can’t dance to the orgasmic section of Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love so he’d mix the whole of I’m A Man by Chicago over that part.

Babatunde Olatunji was a Nigerian percussion virtuoso who relocated to the US in 1950 in the hopes of becoming a diplomat, but ended up very successfully supporting himself through his drumming. This track was a pop hit in 1959,  as was the album it came from. Eleven years later, Francis Grasso, who’d bought the record when it came out, dug it out of the crate to make it his signature tune at the Sanctuary in 1970.

The club Haven was “a cliquish after hours spot that attracted a mixed crowd of street people, gay men, and high society speed freaks”. It got going at midnight and went through to 7AM. It was eventually closed on the orders of the New York State Supreme Court. Francis Grasso had moved to Haven from the Sanctuary and two of his admirers, Michael Cappello and Steve D’Acquisto, learned his tricks there and waited for their chance. They became three of the key DJs on the early 70s New York club scene. The music stuck closer to soul and R&B, but always looking for the raw or percussive track that would energise the dancefloor.

Tamburlaine was a Chinese restaurant that metamorphosed into a nightclub at 10pm. By 1971, that nightclub was the gayest discotheque around and also attracted the in crowd – drag queens, fashionistas and celebrities like Jackie Onassis and Keith Moon. Grasso played there, and so did Steve D’Acquisto who was spinning this early Eddy Grant track. But then so was pretty much every other DJ in New York.

Part 2 will be here.

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