LOFTS AND GARAGES-SPRING RECORDS AND THE BIRTH OF DANCE MUSIC.

Lofts and Garages-Spring Records and The Birth Of Dance Music.

Label: BGP.

Format: CD.

Release Date: ‘30th’ October 2020.

As 1979 dawned, the tide was turning against disco, which had been one of the musical success stories of the late-seventies, and had provided the soundtrack to dance floors across the world. That was about to change. 

Its critics stated that some disco was formulaic, while others thought the music was mechanical. An article in Time magazine went much further, describing disco as a “diabolical thump-and-shriek.” Another of disco’s biggest critics was Steve Dahl, a Chicago based DJ. 

Up until Christmas Eve 1978, Steve Dahl had a show on WDAI in Chicago. This changed when WDAI’s owners read about New York’s WKTU-FM, a struggling rock station that decided to change format in 1978 and began to play disco. Suddenly, the ratings were soaring. The owners of WDAI decided to follow in the footsteps of WKTU-FM, and on Christmas Eve 1978, Steve Dahl was fired.

Talented DJs like Steve Dahl were never out of work for long, and soon, he was hired by the album rock station WLUP. Not long after starting at WLUP, Steve Dahl realised that the anti-disco backlash had begun. Soon, he started mocking rival station WDAI’s Disco DAI slogan on air, changing the slogan to Disco Die. This was just the start of Steve Dahl’s carefully orchestrated campaign.

Before long, the DJ had created his own mock organisation the Insane Coho Lips, which was Steve Dahl’s very own anti-disco army complete with a motto. This was that: “Disco Sucks.”

The anti-disco backlash gathered pace and led to the Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park, the home of the Chicago White Sox on the ’12th’ of July 1979. 

Everyone who brought a disco record was admitted for ninety-eight cents. Crowds flocked from far and wide to watch the disco records being blown up at half-time during a double-header between the Chicago White Sox and the Detroit Tigers. 

For many in the crowd that night, seeing the crate of disco records blown up was the highlight of the evening. Pressing the detonator was Steve Dahl. After the explosion, many in the crowd rushed onto the field and the pitch was damaged, which resulted in the Chicago White Sox having to forfeit the game. However, Chicago White Sox weren’t the only losers, because that night, disco died.

After that, record companies lost interest in disco, and record companies began looking for the “next big thing.” The times they were a changing in dance music and so were DJs.

This had been the case since the seventies during the disco era, when many DJs had a much higher profile than their predecessors and assumed the role as tastemakers. Some of the highest profile DJs were David Mancuso at The Loft and Larry Levan at the Paradise Garage, plus Walter Gibbons and Frankie Knuckles who straddled the disco and house era. Many of the DJs were regarded as high priests of music and their DJ box as their pulpit, and dancers came to the worship at the altar. 

That was still the case in New York in what was regarded as the post disco era. Many music journalists seemed to be celebrating the demise of disco.However, disco’s death was exaggerated and it would go on to make a full recovery.

Before that, DJs in the Big Apple began spinning an eclectic selection of music. This included Afro-funk, boogie, Chicago House, Latin rock, mid-tempo Miami productions and extended mixes of Norman Whitfield productions. Some DJs even sprinkled their sets with classic funk, soul and even a few disco tracks. Others were looking for something different and new.

Especially Larry Levan at the Paradise Garage who at the time was one of the high profile DJs in the Big Apple. However, after the demise of disco he like many other DJs was looking for new music to play in his sets. He knew a number of American cities had a vibrant music scene and this included Chicago where house music was born and New York which was home to Spring Records.

The Rifkind brothers had founded Spring Records in 1967 which was an independent label that initially specialised in soul and funk music and was home to Joe Simon, Millie Jackson and the Fatback Band. Spring Records wasn’t just successful in America, its releases sold well in other parts of the world. Partly, this was because of the financial support it received from Polygram and its successor Polydor.

This success continued into the disco era. Spring Records which was based in New York was perfectly placed to climb onboard the disco bandwagon. Joe Simon, Millie Jackson and the Fatback Band all enjoyed a commercial success during the disco era. The label also signed Krystal and Renee Pryor who also enjoyed a degree of commercial. However, by 1979 executives at Spring Records were thinking about the future.

Spring Records executive producer Alan Schivek signed Busta Jones who released the Gino Soccio produced single (You) Keep On Making Me Hot later in 1979. It had a much slower tempo and hinted at the music that the label would release in the future.

In 1980, Spring Records’ executive producer Alan Schivek made three new signings. They were Arthur Baker, Michael Jonzon and Maurice Starr and who would become three of the most influential producers of the post disco era.

While some of the productions featured on the main Spring Records label, others featured on a new imprint Posse Records. It was founded in 1979 and was the latest addition to the Spring and Event Records’ family. The new label was run by Bill Spitalsky who was the company’s president. Some of the Posse Records productions feature on Lofts and Garages-Spring Records and The Birth Of Dance Music which will be released by BGP on the ‘30th’ of October 2020. It features ten tracks including contributions by C-Brand, Ritz, Fonda Rae, Fatback, Glory, Blaze, Body and Lonnie Youngblood. These tracks were played in clubs across the Big Apple including The Loft and Paradise Garage and played their part in the development of modern dance music.

C-Brand was founded in Detroit by Michael Calhoun and Warnsby Stegall who produced the long version of the group’s second single Wired For Games which was released in 1982. It was their debut single on Spring Records and the followup to (Shake Your) A-S-S-E-T-S which was released on Detroit International and was a mixture of soul and funk. Wired For Games had a much more contemporary sound and saw elements of boogie, funk, soul, disco strings and electronica seamlessly mixed by producers Michael Calhoun and Warnsby Stegall during this eight minute joyous dancefloor filler and is the perfect way to open Lofts and Garages-Spring Records and The Birth Of Dance Music.

In 1981, Ritz released the vocal version of Workin’ Out as their sophomore single on Posse Records. It was written and produced by the Boston trio of Arthur Baker, Maurice Starr and Michael Jonzun. They fuse funk, boogie and a soulful vocal to create a track that led to the electro dance movement.

Fonda Rae released two singles on Posse Records including Live It Up. The short vocal version of a track written by Fonda Rae and Freddie Perez which they produced by Danny Weiss. The vocal has been influenced by classic disco and the arrangement is an early example of boogie with a hint of piano house. It’s a potent mix and one that has stood the test of time.

Feel was a studio soul-boogie duo that showcased the talents of Chris Hills and Danny Weiss who arranged and produced The Players Association in the eighties. They released a quartet of singles including Got To Have Your Lovin’ on Posse Records in 1983. It’s a fusion of boogie, electro, funk and a sassy, soulful vocal. Alas, commercial success eluded this single which was popular in clubs in New York and further afield.

Mynk only released the one single on Posse Records, Get Up An’ Dance (Dance With Me) in 1981. It was written by Gerry Thomas who produced the single with Bill Curtis. It’s the vocal version is included on the compilation and this boogie track was a favourite of DJs and dancers in Britain and America.

By 1984, The Fatback Band were known as Fatback and released Spread Love as a single on Spring Records. It was taken from their 1983 album Is This The Future? On the vocal version of Spread Love Fatback combine electro, funk and a dubby, sensuous vocal as they continue to reinvent their music.

Although Glory released Let’s Get Nice as a 12” single on Posse Records in 1981, it’s the 7-inch vocal version that features on Lofts and Garages-Spring Records and The Birth Of Dance Music. It’s a funky slice of electro where a vocoder is used throughout the song. It’s effective and works well on this oft-overlooked rarity.

Blaze was an electro hip hop collaboration between Maurice Starr and Michael Jonzun. They wrote and produced the vocal version of We Come To Jam which was released as a single on Posse Records in 1982. It’s an innovative and memorable fusion of boogie, electro, funk, hip hop and soul from Blaze that sadly, was their only release.

In 1985, Body released Have Your Cake as a 12 single on Posse Records. There were three versions including the vocal version. It was written by Yvette Flowers with Kenny Beck who produced the single. There’s a Germanic sound before elements of house and a soul vocal combine on this underrated dance track.

Sing A Song was released by saxophonist and bandleader Lonnie Youngblood as a single on Spring Records in 1985 closes Lofts and Garages-Spring Records and The Birth Of Dance Music. He delivers a heartfelt and soulful vocal as backing vocalists accompany him and the arrangement combines elements of funk and mesmeric electronica. It’s a case of saving one of the best until last on the compilation.

Despite Spring Records and its Posse Records imprint releasing groundbreaking singles by some of the most important, influential and innovative producers of the time, commercial success eluded the singles on Lofts and Garages-Spring Records and The Birth Of Dance Music. These singles were popular amongst DJs and dancers in clubs in America and further afield. This included in Britain, where DJs discovered the delight of the new sound that was being released by Spring Records and its Posse Records imprint.

The music that Spring Records was releasing was evolving and was very different to what it released in the seventies. It had released soul, funk and Southern Soul before its dalliance with disco later in the seventies. As the eighties dawned dance music was very different in the post disco years. Gone were the disco orchestras with their lush string arrangements and horns which were replaced by synths and drum machines on new the boogie, Chicago House and electro singles. This was dance music for the post disco generation.

Alas, it turned out that disco wasn’t dead, it was just enjoying a deep sleep. When it awoke from its slumbers disco went underground and was embraced and enjoyed by new and old fans alike. Since then, disco’s popularity has continued to grow until the present day.

The same can said of dance music in all its forms. Over the last twenty-five years there’s been a huge increase in interest in dance music. Hardly a week goes by without the release of a new  compilation of dance music. Ironically, this includes the many disco compilations that are released each year. That’s despite the supposed death of disco in 1979.

Apart from disco, there are many dance music compilations are released each week. Many feature a selection of dance classics and others are a retrospective of the most important dance labels. These are the labels that shaped modern dance music and this includes Spring Records and its Posse Records imprint which are celebrated on the new BGP compilation Lofts and Garages-Spring Records and The Birth Of Dance Music.

Lofts and Garages-Spring Records and The Birth Of Dance Music.

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