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.’
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.