When David Mancuso started throwing parties in his New York loft apartment in the early 70s, he planted the seeds from which grew the club scene as we know it today. What these small private parties gave birth to was a movement called disco. When I say disco, forget fat balding wedding DJ’s and images of your Dad dancing to Staying Alive, real disco is about more than open collared shirts and Boney M, real disco was a feeling as much as a musical style. It was the spirit of downtrodden communities coming together and dancing without fear and without prejudice to the soaring strings, thumping basslines, and uplifting vocals being played by legendary DJs like Larry Levan and Nicky Siano.
Disco as a movement came to its mortal end after a huge backlash spearheaded by a selection of Chicago radio DJs with a nationwide ‘Disco Sucks’ campaign, culminating in a mass burning of disco records at a Chicago White Sox baseball game. The music, the clubbers and the spirit of disco was driven underground, updating its sound with more modern electronic elements and eventually resurfacing with almighty effect in disco’s lovechild – house. Who could forget Chuck Brown’s goosebump inducing speech “In the beginning there was Jack,” a house anthem expressing a philosophical baton of love and unity that was passed directly on from the disco scene.
Fast forward 20 or so years across the Atlantic to the present day. In the backstreet pubs, basements, and loft spaces of London, the spirit of disco is alive and well. DJ’s like Horse Meat Disco, Disco Bloodbath, Neil Thornton and Johnny ‘Chingas’ Hiller are playing a sound that takes in everything from New York disco to 80s electro boogie as well as up to the minute deep house cuts hot off the record press, playing to frenzied crowds across the capital hungry for the decadent sound of disco. You won’t find any Boney M or ABBA here, there won’t be blokes in Travolta style suits, this isn’t a revivalist scene or a ‘retro’ night - this is the real deal. The account you’re about to read is from last weekend’s ‘Moxie Disco Party’ in London’s Shoreditch, one of many similar nights happening every weekend across the capital. Welcome to the Deep Disco scene.
Clips from ‘Easy Rider’ and ‘Grease’ are projected onto the walls, and as a warm rumble of a bassline creeps across the floor, the lights go down, toes tap and heads start to nod. Get ready to be beamed up.
Lasermagnetic, otherwise known as DJ’s Neil Thornton and Johnny ‘Chingas’ Hiller, stand confidently over the decks in the downstairs bar of the Horse and Groom. Relaxed and sipping from bottles of Carlsberg, they greet the early starters as they strut through the door and to the bar. The pub itself has acted as something of a nucleus for the burgeoning scene, over the past year its four rickety walls have seen sets from deep house and disco heavyweights like Jamie Jones, Pete Herbert and Deep Disco Granddaddy Greg Wilson. It’s a million miles away from the superclubs and superstar DJ’s that came to represent clubbing for generations past, but this pokey East End pub has an unmistakable energy, a homely feel that puts DJ and dancer back on the same level. It’s back to basics - just the music, the energy and the people. Clips from ‘Easy Rider’ and ‘Grease’ are projected onto the walls, and as a warm rumble of a bassline creeps across the floor, the lights go down, toes tap and heads start to nod. Get ready to be beamed up.
A collection of re-edits and re-works opens proceedings, including a sublime re-edit of Marvin Gaye’s often forgotten classic ‘Heavy Love Affair’ which gets bodies moving, followed by a re-work of Instant Funk’s 1979 gem ‘Got My Mind Made Up.' The ‘re-edit’ is a result of professional and bedroom producers skilfully tweaking long forgotten grooves to make updated fresh sounding tracks without losing the soul of the original. Tunes that have sat for too long gathering dust on a record collector's shelf, aching to reclaim their rightful place on the dancefloor; it’s a process different from your common or garden remix or sample and they’re the foundation on which the Deep Disco scene stands. With every record that drops you can hear the shouts of appreciation from the floor. Candido’s spacey disco gem ‘Thousand Fingered Man’ floats around the room triggering a mass of arms in the air and dancing on bar stools.
You can only imagine what the old locals who once frequented this old East End boozer would think of it now. One thing is for sure, they’d be welcomed with open arms by this new crowd who are all completely wrapped up in the spirit of love. Unlike previous music scenes, this friendliness and affection for your fellow dancer isn’t fuelled by a mass consumption of industrial strength drugs, scan the crowd and you’d be hard pressed to find the wide eyed shape throwers of the E generation- these are people in love with the music. As an afro-funk track ends we jump into a deep house groove with man of the moment Jamie Jones’ track ‘Ruckus’ and not a soul breaks their stride. The bassline of a current track by Ilija Rudman, Croatian producer and Deep Disco golden-boy, sneaks into earshot, Thornton bounces it up and down like Roger Federrer with a ball eyeing up his serve, bringing it in and out before one final teasing throw and BAM there it is, volleyed into the middle of the baying crowd sending nuclear sized ripples across the room. Cheers go up and if there hadn’t been a second floor on the pub I’m convinced the roof would have come off completely.
Unlike previous music scenes, this friendliness and affection for your fellow dancer isn’t fuelled by a mass consumption of industrial strength drugs, scan the crowd and you’d be hard pressed to find the wide eyed shape throwers of the E generation- these are people in love with the music
Upstairs, young DJ’s Bad Dimension play to a sweaty crowd in a room the size of a nutshell. It’s hot, intimate and oh so disco. They dish up whirly space age sounds to the mass of packed bodies, the DJ’s themselves coming round the decks to join the dancers on occasion. I’ve seen kitchen cupboards with more room, but almost everybody walking past gets pulled in by the intense magnetic energy inside. The new fangled East End culture has taken a bashing recently from websites like Hipster Hate and the cringingly accurate video parody ‘Being a Dickheads Cool’, and I’m sure I’m not in the minority when I say it was probably long overdue, but what’s refreshing about the Deep Disco scene is its open unpretentious feel, where everyone is welcome. It’s nowhere more apparent than in this tiny room in the upstairs of a rickety old pub; nobody cares what job you do or how well groomed your ironic handlebar moustache is, it’s just about getting onto the dancefloor and getting yourself sweaty. Gone are the crowds of snotty art students with their backs to the crowd looking too cool for school, everybody who makes their weekly pilgrimage to hear the Deep Disco sound dances like their life depends on it with anybody who wants to join them.
With the morning beckoning, the crowd move on to the afterparties that will no doubt carry on well into the afternoon. But before it’s time to curl up in bed and stare blankly at the Eastenders omnibus, a quick glance around the room encapsulates the spirit perfectly. DJ’s are shaking hands with new devotee fans and bouncers are laughing with punters begging for another half hour’s dancing time – a superb end to an inspirational night. If the East London hipster’s tower of pretense is finally burning to the ground, let the spirit of disco be the phoenix that rises from the ashes.
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