The Godfather of Disco

“If people can dance together, they can live together.”
–Mel Cheren

In the documentary The Godfather of Disco, Mel Cheren shares part of his history as a gay man living in New York in the ’70s and ’80s, talks about West End Records, his relationship with Michael Brody who was the founder of the legendary club Paradise Garage, and provides insights on one of the most influential DJs of all time, Larry Levan. He also describes Fire Island’s status as an important hub for disco music, which will make trips to The Pines an even more meaningful experience after watching this documentary. As Mel Cheren used to say, “If people can dance together, they can live together.” Through Paradise Garage and his label West End Records, he was able to put that mantra to practice.

Founded by Mel Cheren and Ed Kushins in 1976 in New York City, West End Records was responsible for bringing to light classic tracks like Loose Joints’ ‘Is It All Over My Face,’ Raw Silk’s ‘Do It To The Music,’ Taana Gardner’s ‘Heartbeat‘ and countless other hits. The easily recognizable “giant single” pink and yellow design of the sleeves became the face of West End Records, and invited music lovers to join their world ‘where the Sun sets and the stars rise.’

OXD_MelCherenMichaelBrody

For the 25th anniversary of West End Records, the acclaimed DJ/producer duo Masters At Work came up with a compilation featuring some of the most important tracks on their catalog. Most of these songs might be familiar, especially to those used to dancing to DJ Lina at Sip N’Twirl on Fire Island, although knowing the story behind such hits will surely make for a much richer experience.

Learning about West End Records is understanding and appreciating the work of gay people who changed the course of history of music and politics in New York City, and later in the world. So go on, watch the documentary, hear the tracks, and transport yourself to a world of joy and freedom.

Real Scenes: New York

New York, the ever-evolving city we chose to live and breathe, is also the birthplace of our biggest passion at OXD: disco and house music. These two twin music genres are products of an oppressed, yet creative gay community in the 70’s and 80’s. Our music flourished in clubs like the Gallery, Studio 54 and Paradise Garage, where queer crowds would dance together, express their individualities and leave behind problems and daily discrimination in the real world. For a long time, New York was the epicenter of new electronic music as gays, straights and everyone in between would come together at nightclubs in a communal dance experience, and all that mattered was enjoying great music. It wasn’t until the late 90’s, under Rudy Giuliani’s draconian regime, that the NYC’s creative nightlife scene was disrupted and almost dissolved. Luckily for us, it never disappeared completely. Brooklyn held on to the burgeoning underground scene through the 2000’s and now it seems as though 2013 is shaping up to become the year when house music is back to ruling New York.

Resident Advisor recently released a new short documentary on the revival of the house music scene in NY. The film launch coincides with an exciting time where new parties pop up every week, music-oriented clubs are opening and several artists are collaborating and joining forces to get the city’s groove back on track. It features key characters in the new scene, including familiar names to our readers like DJs Justin & Eamon from Mister Saturday Night and Mister Sunday, Steve Rogenstein (owner of the 12-turn-13 loft in Brooklyn where Mister Saturday Night and Spank parties are hosted), Bryan Kasenic (from The Bunker parties), Shawn Schwartz (Output) as well as Tim Sweeney, who we will have the honor to feature at our next edition of Paradisco, on Sunday, May 5th.

We hope that watching this short film will help others understand the political side of nightlife beyond entertainment, and its cultural and social relevance to New York as a city that will always welcome diversity and promote the new.

Donna Summer in 'The Joy of Disco'
The Joy of Disco

Although Disco was declared “dead” in the late 70’s, it still left a significant impact on the world and changed the course of music and popular culture forever. Disco music became the soundtrack of gay liberation, brought female desire to the forefront in the age of feminism, and led to the birth of modern club culture as we know it today. Later on in the 80’s, Disco influenced the creation of House music and other dance music genres and is to this day constantly referenced, sampled and reinterpreted by artists around the globe.

This year BBC released an excellent documentary called ‘The Joy of Disco,’ which outlines the importance of the Disco music scene to gay culture and civil rights in New York City 40 years ago. It features iconic characters of this era, including DJ Nicky Siano, Nile Rodgers (Chic,) Robin Gibb (Bee Gees,) Kathy Sledge (Sister Sledge,) Giorgio Moroder and many more.

The hour-long film goes beyond the entertainment side of Disco music and serves as an informative piece on gay NYC in the 70’s. It helps us understand ourselves better as a community and to value all we have conquered in the past four decades after Stonewall. We encourage everyone to watch it and learn a bit more about our history through the eyes and ears of Disco.

Mister Sunday: A Thank You Message

Last Sunday we asked our gay friends to help us Occupy our favorite party of Summer 2012: Mister Sunday in Brooklyn. DJs Eamon Harkin and Justin Carter had us going for hours non-stop with their mix of house and disco tunes. We had an amazing afternoon and enjoyed meeting everyone who came to Mister Sunday after hearing about it through OXD. Though once regarded as our own little secret, we were excited to share this experience and dance with all of you at this party. One attendee even described it as “the best dance party in ages!”

We would like to thank all who joined in the revelry and helped us spread the word. We’re sure this is only the beginning.

As a reminder, Mister Sunday happens every Sunday afternoon throughout Summer. We will definitely be there again on Labor Day weekend. Hope to see you all then!

‘The OXD Mirror’ & Some Site Updates

We are thrilled to announce that we are now contributing to the national gay news blog, Towleroad. Our weekly column, The OXD Mirror, will serve to showcase tunes that are definitely off-the-beaten-path but rightfully deserve the attention of the gay ear. It’s music that will make you dance, dream, and most importantly, music you’ll love. Some of the content will be different than that on our own blog so make sure to check us out every Friday on Towleroad.

In addition, you may have noticed a few changes to our site. We have separated our events into two categories: Occupy and Party. Occupy events will be those where we will make a big push to get a critical mass of gay men and women to attend. We will be informing people via the OXD website and our Facebook and Twitter accounts in order to spread the word and ‘invade the dance floor’ on these nights. By contrast, the Party events will still have great music and have our OXD seal of approval, but we realize due to logistics we can’t make a big drive to get everyone to come out to these as they happen more often. Either way, we certainly will be there, and highly recommend that you join us. We encourage you to bring friends as well in order to have the best experience. In the end, we hope that as people get exposed to what we’re doing at Occupy events, there will be a natural spillover and interest in Party events.

These are exciting times for all of us and we will be working hard to make gay nightlife in NYC better every day as well as continue to broaden our musical horizons. Stay tuned.