NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK, 1982- The power. The sheer majesty and ecstatic feeling when the dynamism contained in thousands of watts of amplified electronics lets loose like the hounds of heaven.
The celestial awareness instilled when a hunger for release, ecstasy and collective transformation compels hundreds of celebrants to succumb to your will on the dance floor.
Everything from beating hearts to silver machines seems to respond to the touch of the finger on the fader, then magically slip the bonds of this mortal coil by the intuitive selection of a perfect beat.
In New York City, in clubs like the Fun House, Paradise Garage, the Mud Club, Reggae Reggae and especially at Danceteria, the DJ ruled supreme.
On the dance floor love was won, lost, traded for drugs and trampled underfoot. All under the aural auspices and seemingly all-knowing ear of the masters of the wheels of steel.
Danceteria moved from it’s original location in 1982. Like a virus consuming it’s host, the building on 21st street -with its five floors of unlimited possibility- quickly became notorious for an openly decadent atmosphere, star spangled & art damaged habitues and outrageously intense sets by their DJ’s.
Gurl Nineteen had just come aboard as the booking agent for Danceteria and the club was looking for a new house sound engineer. Having just finished a tour that ended in NYC, your humble narrator (YHN) somehow stumbled into being paid outrageous sums of cash to work in one of the coolest clubs in the world.
Mixing live shows at the hottest club in NYC for artists like Billy Idol, Bauhaus, the Fall, Sun Ra, Cyndi Lauper, Depeche Mode, Sade and a young performer that Mark Kamins, the DJ in the 1,500 capacity second floor had just produced, was both humbling and boner-inducing.
It was coming into the wobbly orbit of the other DJ on the second floor, Gurl Twenty Five, Jody Kurilla, that YHN obtained the tools to navigate the dark canyons of the big apple and the star light needed to see the map clearly.
New York City in 1982 was like a gun without a safety. You could hold it, make a fetish of its cold steel portent or even put it in your mouth. You just could never be sure when it might go off and cause mayhem or, take care of a pesky problem with unintended results.
There were some folk however, looking for holsters and trying to hide the bullets.
The city was swerving away from the angst ridden, inchoate tantrums of nihilism espoused by the suddenly ancient CBGB ethos, into uncharted regions ruled by grandmasters and gangstars.
The notion of being strictly “punk” in the face of the new music coming out of the Bronx and other pockets of youthful, borough rebellion was becoming a quaint and almost childlike way of life.
Jody, like an Anne Sullivan to YHN’s deaf, dumb and blind Keller, imparted a language and opened lines of communication to a greater world than could have ever been imagined.
If the original punk explosion was about anything, it was about the art that lies within the immediate. The idea that personal expression, unhindered by manner, unleashed by action and unencumbered by the romanticism and discipline of the past was the alpha and omega of early punks artistic output. It was like bad drugs in that anybody could do it.
At first it is a rush and a seeming entry to godhead art states of being. Then, with habit, it becomes a matter of trying not to be sick and tired of being sick and tired of the same, old thing.
Fuck Yes. Fuck E.L.P. Fuck all that bloated excess. Who needed to learn an instrument? Noise is for heroes and music is for zeroes. Three chords and a chorus…hell, don’t even need a chorus, just be. Then, punks learned to play.
The new punks, the ones who broke every rule without even knowing it were even more radical than the Dead Boys ever contemplated.
Why learn to play an instrument? Two turntables and a microphone became the template for a new revolution in the streets.
Jody grokked it all. She was so freakin’ smart. She was so fucking cool. She was loved by all and known by none.
Fast forward a couple of years. YHN is on tour again. Danceteria and its glitter and glam are a year in the past. That is a lifetime when you are in your early twenties.
The band is called The Raybeats, a deconstructed surf combo featuring some of New York’s finest “No Wave” exemplars.
YHN had left Danceteria under a cloud of sorts. Rico, the stage manager had been looking to get a young lover into the gig. Words were exchanged and a deferred compensation package was a sore point for all concerned.
Suddenly, in the middle of the tour, somewhere around New Orleans, Jody (who was enamored of Jody from the band) appeared out of nowhere. She was going on the road with us.
It was so weird. She knew me as a whelp. She didn’t lord it. She joined in without acting like the doyenne she was and made the tour cooler than it had been.
That was the last time Jody and YHN hung out. Now, we communicate sporadically and she is cooler than ever.
No snippets of time were lost in the writing of this article.
YHN is Bennie Salazar is a character in “A Visit From The Goon Squad” who entered the world of New York’s music business as a young idealist and realized the relentless pursuit of youth and it’s attendant folly only leads to aging.
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