When I was young, about a hundred years ago, Rick Danger was my nom-de-deejay. I spun at a few local clubs, mostly at the Ballpark, a now-defunct bathhouse. I deejayed at Studio 54 in New York City on New Year’s Eve in 1984 (a fact that still amazes me).
Since the fifties, when my sister gave me her collection that included Elvis 45s, records have always been a passion and a part of my life. My addiction peaked when I subscribed to four DJ-only services: Disconet, Hot Tracks, Razormaid, and Rhythm Stick. Eventually, 2,200 records gathered dust on groaning shelves. I calculated the vinyl elephant in the room weighed 1,320 pounds, well over half a ton of musical memories and feelings.
Two years ago I sold my collection to a vintage vinyl store. That sad day felt like I’d betrayed the friends who had supplied the succor I desperately required during the plague years. But the relief was palpable. Their physical weight vanished, lightening most, but not all, of the psychological weight of their heavy history. I’d hung up my headphones decades ago, selling my two Technics 1200 turntables and Numark mixing board to good homes.
Today, I make my own remixes, using Virtual DJ, software from Atomix Productions. For example, culling bits and pieces of five versions of Donna Summer’s I Feel Love, I created my Frankenstein on Steroids Ultimate Remix. And I’ve converted party cassettes from the Ballpark and New York’s The Saint (Black Parties 83 and 84) to mp3 files.
Gay dance history has been digitized and preserved. But there was nothing like the visceral experience of slapping a couple records on the turntables, cross-fading, finger-f*cking the platters to slow or speed up the rotations, achieving an ecstatic mix for your audience, building a perfect moment in party time.
Creating lists is very subjective. The top criteria? Did the song bring indescribable joy to me, my dancing buddies, my audience? If I share dance tunes that brought me wondrous delight, one might bring you wondrous delight. I hope to call attention to obscure, ignored gems within a variety of genres, also very subjective, debate and cross-over inevitable. Most are available for a listen at YouTube. I reduced my list (in alphabetical order) from 1,000 to 22.
Disco Classics: Four-by-Four Pop Music for the Dance Floor
“Dancin’ the Night Away” – Voggue, 1981, 12.” And we did! The joy of this tune was meant for dancing under stars.
“Hot Leather” – Passengers, 1979, 12” or Disconet. Hard-driving, butchest disco tune ever, well, except for the Skatt Brothers’ “Walk the Night.”
“Is There More to Life Than Dancing?” – Nöel, 1979. The mysterious L.A diva’s answer? No. From the album Dancing is Dangerous.
“Our Love is Insane” – Desmond Child and Rouge, 1978, Special Disco Mix. Beautiful, brilliantly constructed, lush strings, varied segments: it’s perfect.
“Rain” – Goombay Dance Band, 1980, 12.” Ballpark standard. A call to the boys for frolicking in the pool with the two-story waterfall… Those were the days…
“Trippin’ on the Moon” – Cerrone, 12.” As the title implies, synth opening chords signal a voyage beyond Earth. Superb production.
“The Visitors” – ABBA, 1981, Best of Hot Tracks, Vol. 1, “They’re Back” edit by Glenn Cattanach. This specific version has the 64-beat, extended synth intro, break, and outro. Atypically dark ABBA; don’t expect to hear it in Mama Mia 2.
Funk/Soul: Electronic Mix of Jazz and R&B
“Can You Feel It” – The Jacksons, 1980, three Disconet issues. Michael’s exhilarating voice and soaring horn breaks make you feel it: heaven-bound happiness.
“Groove Me” – Fern Kinney, 1979. She coos “hey sugar dumplin’,” then seduces with her sleazy title’s appeal. I finally traced this unknown track on a 30-year-old cassette (even the Shazam app didn’t recognize it). Eureka!
“Midnight Music” – Martin Stevens, 1979. “When your world is falling all around” this track will pick you up. Unusually trippy for funk/soul.
Pop-Rock: Hard-Edged but Dance FLOOR-READY
“A Girl in Trouble” – Romeo Void, 1984, 12” dance mix. Heartbreaking vocal new wave/punk Debora Iyall compliments and wailing sax solos.
“White China”– Ultravox, 1984, Razormaid remix. One of the service’s best, a transcendent reconstruction of a so-so track.
House/Trance: Hypnotic, Electronic, Trippy
“Break 4 Love” – Pet Shop Boys, 2001, Peter Rauhofer Collaboration Part 1, Friburn & Urik Tribal Mix. The other 37 remixes suck. Intense and tribal; featured in Queer As Folk.
“Liebe auf der Ersten Blick (Love at First Sight)” – DAF, 1981, Razormaid or ‘88 12” remix by Joseph Watt. Has a carney feel; sick brass undertones elevate this German hard house cut to decadent heights.
“Lost Again” – Yello, 1983, Extended Dance Version. Haunting Haunting, and the sleazy, ripple synth still titillates.
“Lost Vagueness” – Utah Saints, 2000, Oliver Lieb Vocal Remix; also on Paul Oakenfold’s Travelling CD. Simple but spellbinding. The last vinyl 12” I ever bought… sigh…
Balearic Beat: Gentle, Early Morning Style, Originating in the Balearic Island of Ibiza
“Dancing Therapy” – International Music System, 1984. Crosses into Italo-disco/Euro hip-hop territory; my theme song for the plague years always made me smile.
“Sentinel” – Neutron 9000, 1990. At YouTube, visit John Peel’s Steve Proctor mix, and float away; other versions suck.
“Summer Breeze” – Baiser, 1983, 12.” Sweet and romantic, with sensuous calypso percussion.
Holy Grails: Vinyl Diamonds for the Connoisseur Collector
“The Letter” – David Cassidy, 1985, b-side of The Last Kiss (Extended Version) 12.” Not the Box Tops’ 67 hit; other versions are crappy. David’s urgent vocal and the song’s luscious chorus create an overlooked gem begging for a professional remix; mine is one of my best. RIP David.
“I’m Not in Love” – George Monroe, 1986. If you find the Rhythm Stick house/synth version, you’ve hit the jackpot. It keeps the of this 10cc tune from 1975 intact and contemporary.
“Skindeep” – The Stranglers, 1984, Hot Tracks 4/2 remix. New Wave synth-rock restructured and beefed up. Couldn’t find this remix on YouTube or E-bay.
Listening to these tunes still transports me to a time and place, long vanished, with good friends long gone. The ineffable joy of dancing with a few, hundreds, or thousands of men–as close to supernal experiences as I’ve ever come–made life magical.
Researching details, I found two valuable websites. The database of RemixServies.com begins in 1977, when Disconet started the first DJ-only subscription, and includes the discography of seventy services up to the present: a one-stop library! Discogs.com is an easy-to-search site where you can also buy and sell.
So my fellow vinylphiles–and if there isn’t such a word, there should be–my treasured tunes might still be at Recollect Records, 13th and Delaware. Ask for owner Austin Matthews. Tell him Rick Danger sent you.