House Hunting #27 - East Village People

Aiden checks out the dollar bin bonanza to see if he could scope some bargain belters...

House Hunting #27 - East Village People

Aiden checks out the dollar bin bonanza to see if he could scope some bargain belters...

So last week I turned to the dark side with a late night Discogs session trawlin’ through my wantlist weapons – not the one when it’s early January and due to Xmas excess you’re fresh outta £££’s… If you regularly tune in you know I ain’t usually a Discogs deviant however the record database behemoth is a dependable source if you can’t track down that record you’ve scoured the shops for eternity… Also if like me you sell wax there’s no better platform – still got that 100% seller rating honesty is the best policy too many cowboys claiming records ‘Near Mint’ when the reality is they’re ‘Very Good’ at best. Nothing kills me more when you order a ‘NM’ record and when it turns up it’s scratched and strewn with stickers/pen marks on the labels which wasn’t in the description – you know how OCD I am with that!

Anyway, on disregarding the speculator specials I checked out the dollar bin bonanza to see if I could scope some bargain belters. On sifting through I clocked an early NY house classic that I’ve never got round to replacing (one that got nicked at a uni party I played at a decade or so ago gutted…) and at £4 was a price that wasn’t gonna burn my bank balance. The record stated that it was in ‘NM’ condition but for reassurance I messaged the vendor to ensure the record description was 100% accurate complete with original shrink-wrapped sleeve – help me now… The seller ‘spacegel’ got back to me straight away confirming all was good with the record and turns out he reads and enjoys ‘House Hunting’ nice one! 

Turns out Petar aka ‘spacegel’ is like myself a hardcore house enthusiast whose introduction to record collecting started in the 70's through his initial love of Prog Rock and Punk. Later that decade he started going to nightclubs in which he discovered disco and boogie tunes though from '82 to '86 he got into the football casual thing with all his money goin’ on casual couture so the record buying dried up. However, come '86 with the emergence of the burgeoning house scene his love affair with house music began and he spent every spare penny he had on the latest releases from New York and Chicago. He even made the pilgrimage to both cities in '87 & '88 on buying trips and trawled legendary record joints like Imports etc, Loop and Gramaphone, picking up records that never made it to the UK at the time like house Holy Grails on Marcus Mixx’s Missing Dog label. Here’s a few of those long lost joints from Kevin “Krazy K Dobbins” and Marcus himself…

Being a bit of a completist he now spends his spare time tracking down any Chicago trax he hasn’t got – filling in the missing releases to complete label discographies. Despite all the research and record buying he’s done over the years things still turn up that he had no idea existed though now the time has finally come for a cull in the collection to make room and fund more purchases so the infinite quest continues… You can check out his Discogs seller page here - over 2000 records for your perusal with a killer house selection check it!

Anyway, back to the record and Petar mentioned he was checking out Alan’s Records the next day so we could rendezvous and I save on shipping – this was dangerous as mine and the Mrs’ 8th year anniversary that day but as only up the road I could quickly jet up there before anniversary duties… Typically that day it was a proper hardcore downpour but I was determined not to swerve it as I’m a man of my word so braved the monsoon and jetted up to East Finchley. However when I got to Alan’s Records I couldn’t believe he was shut typical! Thankfully Petar was there to meet me and had the record in hand – felt wounded for him as he had driven outta the depths of Hertfordshire to check Alan’s out and bring me the record! Though the record was four quid I gave him a fiver as was in mint condition complete with the sleeve in shrink as promised and original release sticker on it so was super-hyped with that! I bid Petar farewell as he went crate crusading at the charity shops so not to waste his journey – I would have joined him but with my anniversary date I got my Uber app on the go and got a taxi as was still torrential central…

So what’s the record in question? Well, you’re probably breathing a sigh of relief as I ain’t waxing lyrical about another Chicago record but instead this week we’re heading east coast to NYC with a 12” by ‘East Village People’. To confirm this ain’t THAT ‘Village People’ that you begrudgingly joined your extended family on the dancefloor at the working men’s club for some council estate of mind… No this is NY legends Larry Levan and Mark Kamins joining forces for their ’91 classic ‘Love’s Gonna Get You’ on Sam Records featuring the lucid lyricism of David Ian (of ‘Elements Of Vogue’ fame in which Paradise Garage alumni David DePino was on the remix) – check the original mix of the record here: 

Upon listening you may feel this sounds familiar or you recognise the samples. First off, the female hook is sampled by the John “Jellybean” Benitez produced ‘Love’s Gonna Get You’ by Jocelyn Brown that has also been sampled by the likes of Bizarre Inc, Moby and even on Wild Pitch classic ‘Generate Power’ by Photon Inc. aka DJ Pierre! As well as that with Larry and Mark jettin’ out to Japan on more frequent trans-Pacific DJ excursions this was a significant influence and inspiration in heavily sampling the Soichi Terada produced classic ‘Sun Shower’ by Nami Shimada – which incidentally was a Paradise Garage classic in the late 80’s. As featured in the Far East Recording edition of House Hunting, Larry and Mark also remixed the original Sun Shower with their Big Apple flavoured-interpretations released via Columbia records – good luck in trackin’ a copy down proper house Holy Grail… Anyway check ‘em all out here see if you can hear the samples (pretty obvious…): 

Now if you’re a proper house head then you already know Larry Levan is a legendary forefather who with his mythical ‘Paradise Garage’ club curated one of the most influential and celebrated nights in club culture that transcended the usual NY night fare… I don’t need to eulogise in-depth as I’m sure you’ve encountered his story countless time but here’s a quick overview… Larry’s DJ break came at the Continental Baths alongside his lifetime friend and kindred spirit Francis Nicholls aka Frankie Knuckles covering for Nicky Siano of The Gallery fame (who he briefly dated). Inspired by Nicky at The Gallery and David Mancuso’s sessions at the hallowed turf of ‘The Loft’, he injected their eclecticism into his own sets but in his own idiosyncratic and inimitable style. In ’77 along with Michael Brody and West End Records owner Mel Cheren they opened the Paradise Garage, and though an inauspicious start, under Larry’s stewardship and sound engineer extraordinaire Richard Long at the controls it rose to be the nightlife nucleus of New York – whether a sanctuary to the disenfranchised youth and marginalised communities, a haven for the jet-set fraternity (glamour guests including Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Grace Jones and Keith Haring) or just a dance temple to the Larry Levan evangelists.

He influenced a generation of legendary DJs/producers including Danny Krivit, Danny Tenaglia, Francois K and Junior Vasquez, and subsequently moved into remixing and production which he also proved to be studio marvel whether it was remixing Loose Joints’ ‘Is It All Over My Face’ and Taana Garnder’s ‘Heartbeat’ or as the ‘Peech Boys’ producing ‘Don’t Make Me Wait’ all on West End Records. Even after the Paradise Garage’s closure in ’87 and succumbing to heroin addiction, Larry still exerted significant influence as he helped set up the Ministry Of Sound’s sound system plus toured in Japan where he was worshipped. Though he passed in ’92 his legacy still lives on and those who were fortunate enough to experience the Paradise Garage say nothing is comparable… Though hard to pick a favourite from his discography I’m gonna opt for this rare and more obscure remix he did – as dropped by my Gherkin homie Miles ‘GHERKMASTER’ Simpson at South Place Hotel on NYE proper promo pressure sounded amazing…

So we’ll leave Larry there and we’ll elaborate a bit more on his production partner on this 12” Mark Kamins. Though less celebrated than Larry, Mark was also a pivotal figure in the NY nightlife scene who is primarily known for Madonna being his muse and producing her debut ‘Everybody’. Before that though Mark got a taste of the Big Apple nightlife early as a teenager through working at the record store Rhythm Connection, where he would get guestlist to New York institutions such as Le Jardin (whose residents included the revered Michael Cappello and Steve D’Acquisto) and Infinity. After graduating high school in ‘77 he made the trans-Atlantic trip to the UK where his girlfriend worked at Virgin Records and from there through one of the shop’s customers managed to blag a one year residency at Athens nightclub Annabella’s where he played every day. This experience gave him confidence in how to work a dancefloor and when the residency ended he jetted back to New York and got a lighting job at rock club ‘Trax’ (where Mick Jagger frequented), where he further honed his DJing.

Whilst at Trax he was approached by Island Records’ Chris Blackwell to do A&R for them. He proved to be an influential figure at the label, signing Was Not Was’ ‘Wheel Me Out’ and – a personal favourite – Grace Jones’ ‘Pull Up To The Bumper’. It wasn’t long before heads took notice and he was headhunted to be a resident at the legendary ‘Danceteria’. Though the club went under various incarnations, this is where he improved his dexterity on the decks – later sharing the booth with luminaries such as Larry Levan and David Mancuso. One of the regulars on the Danceteria dancefloor was non-other than future pop megastar Madonna – who Mark became friends with and even dated for a time. Through this she handed him her ‘Everybody’ demo and though Chris at Island rejected it Sire founder and President Seymour Stein gave her a deal as though not a fan of her he believed in Mark. As they say the rest is history…

It was around this time that Mark met Larry. Though there was a mutual respect their friendship evolved – Mark brought Larry promo’s from the UK when he was DJing over there whilst Larry let Mark into the hallowed Garage DJ booth where Mark witnessed first-hand the mercurial spontaneity of Larry’s sets ultimately being an influence... Away from New York and whilst touring with Madonna in the UK he met Mike Pickering at Manchester institution The Hacienda. Mike approached Mark in remixing the ‘Love Tempo’ track that his group Quando Quango had produced – Factory Records boss Tony Wilson loved the proto-house styling of his mix and commissioned Mark to produce the group’s later ‘Pigs and Battleships’ LP.

Unfortunately Mark passed away a couple of years ago in Mexico where he settled in later life. Having a significant early influence on her recording career, Madonna paid tribute to him, saying: "If it weren't for him, I might not have had a singing career. He was the first DJ to play my demos before I had a record deal. He believed in me before anyone else did. I owe him a lot."

So like Larry, Mark has left a lasting legacy… Bringing it back to the record and it’s actually Mark Kamins’ stripped back ‘East Village Dub’ that’s my fave on the EP – though I’m probably committing sacrilege here I think Larry Levan’s laissez-faire turn out is the inferior mix… Regardless of that the 12” is still worth coppin’ as on the cheaper end of the house spectrum and a damn sight cheaper than that scarce original pressing of ‘Sun Shower’. So for a matter of a few quid you can own a piece of house history featuring arguably two of the most influential DJs outta NYC. Rest In Paradise Larry Levan and Mark Kamins…

Aiden d’Araujo

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