This week James Hamilton devotes the whole of his page to the American disco scene. He was there last week, representing Britain at Billboard Magazine’s First International Disco Forum. This column also includes his first mention of beat-mixing.
Last week, (January 20-28), there gathered at the Roosevelt Hotel in the heart of Manhattan a forum of disco DJs, club owners, equipment manufacturers and record producers who had journeyed from all corners of the United States and Canada and from as far as Italy, Hong Kong, Trinidad, Puerto Rico, Japan and Nigeria.
They all came together to exchange ideas and exhibit their wares at Billboard magazine’s First International Disco Forum, Disco ’76.
As the only disco DJ to attend from Britain, I hope that I represented your interests well. Rather than talk about the Forum now though, I’d like to tell you everything I learnt about the fascinating New York disco scene.
So much US disco music these days is dominated by a metronomic beat carried by loudly schlurping cymbals and hissing hi-hats that there has to be a reason — and there is.
The Americans have finally gone back to dancing, and typically have become hung up on doing formalized dance steps, just like in the old days of the classic dance crazes. The current craze is still the Hustle, and knowledge of the Hustle explains everything.
Latin or Spanish in origin, the Hustle is excitingly like a slowed-down version of the Jitterbug! In fact, champion dancer Barbara Tucker even refers to it as the Swing-Hustle, for to dance it in the New York style you do not let go of your partner’s hands at all. Because it needs a steadily constant beat, all the records designed with dancers in mind have a constantly ticking rhythm.
More than that — the New York style of DJing has become possibly the most demanding and skilful of all, because the DJs have to keep the rhythm going even when changing from record to record if they don’t want to lose their dancers in mid-step.
This has led to the use of turntables with variable speeds (more next week about other equipment). As DJ Alex Kabbaz uses them, he will start by playing a record at its normal speed, then gradually speed it up until it’s the same speed as the next record he’s going to play, which he then synchronizes, over the one that’s already playing, with no discernible joins!
The rest of this page — just for this week — is given over totally to the type of sounds that are currently being played by DJs like Alex in New York’s discos. Some are known, others less so. Continue reading “January 31, 1976: New York disco scene special”