“Epiphanies: Dinosaur L 24 → 24 Music”. Wire, September 2010.

I wanna see all my friends at once

I'd do anything to get the chance to go bang

I wanna go bang

I wanna go bang


Arthur Russell liked to see all his friends at once, and during the second half of the 1970s his social life revolved around two discrete groups people; the composer-instrumentalists who had pioneered the eclectic sound of new music in venues such as the Kitchen and the Experimental Intermedia Foundation, and the DJs, revelers, and instrumentalists who had forged a compelling form of dance culture in nearby party spaces such as the Gallery, the Loft and the Paradise Garage. A child of the counter-cultural movement as well as a talented synthesist and provocateur, Russell also enjoyed seeing what would happen when divergent types were brought together in the same room. So in the early months of 1979 he invited the composers and the dance musicians (plus a couple of new wave guitarists) to record an album. An amalgam of the results were released as 24 24 Music by Dinosaur L in 1981, the debut title of Sleeping Bag Records, which Russell co-founded with Will Socolov.

“#5 (Go Bang!)”, the standout track, assimilated the disparate elements of the downtown music scene. Playing taut, the Ingram brothers, a family of musicians from Philadelphia, laid out the foundational disco-funk groove, after which the drag composer Jill Kroesen delivered surrealist lines in a post-punk whimper. The ensuing jazz-haze keyboard jam, played by the black queer baritone composer Julius Eastman, vied for dope supremacy with Loft dancer Rome Neal’s additional percussion. Further vocals from Eastman, whose voice emitted its orgasmic cry at the back of the mix, plus Neal and Iowan schoolfriend Kent Goshorn, who rap-spoke lines about wanting to see all their friends at once, punctuated the workout. Running to 7:55, the track closed with interlocking clusters of rumbling guitar notes, spluttering trumpet lines, and additional keyboard squiggles.

Disco had found a way to co-exist in a mutant form the integrated elements of orchestral music, new wave, jazz and rap, but only David Mancuso of the Loft played the track with any kind of sustained enthusiasm, so Socolov commissioned the remixer François Kevorkian to bring his dance floor know-how to the sprawling brilliance of the original. Famed for his cutting-edge work at Prelude Records, Kevorkian stripped out layers of percussion, cut a batch of instrumental flourishes, shortened the track by half a minute, and gave added emphasis to a range of memorable motifs, including composer Peter Zummo’s buried trombone (which Kevorkian brought to the top of the track), Eastman’s spectacular orgasmic cries (which were now placed higher in the mix), and the crazed-girl-on-helium vocals delivered by the James Brown backing singer Lola Blank (which Russell had discarded from the album version). Titled “Go Bang! #5”, the remix tore up the Garage and the Loft. Dancers of all persuasions were just so happy to go bang.

I remember hearing a slice of “Go Bang” at the Gardening Club’s Feel Real night, where I danced close to every Friday between the autumn of 1991 and the summer of 1994. The night’s DJs -- the Rhythm Doctor, Evil O, Femi B and Rob Acteson -- were into the dub and jazz inflected house music that had started to flow out of New York in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and every now and again they would play Todd Terry’s “Bango (To the Batmobile)”, a 1988 track that sampled Blank’s vocal and inverted the “Go Bang” title. Heavy and pulsating, Terry’s beats were notable, but the record stood out because of Blank’s utterly strange vocal somersaults. Russell, I would discover later, was less than happy when he discovered he had been sampled without permission.

I heard the full Kevorkian remix for the first time when I bought the Spaced Out: Ten Original Disco Funk Grooves compilation from Dance Tracks in 1997, three years into my four-year stay in New York City. The owners of the East Third Street store Joe Claussell and Stefan Prescott had been urging me buy more classics (pre-house favourites) for a couple of years, but I remained an unrepentant house head, and was often puzzled by the enthusiasm other dancers would show when “Little” Louie Vega put on monthly classics parties at the Sound Factory Bar. I’d been possessed by house music’s pulsating electronic textures ever since I first encountered the sound during an accidental yet wonderful trip to the Haçienda during the summer of 1988, and I couldn’t grasp why anyone would want to listen to the low-adrenalin live drums of disco instead. But on “Go Bang! #5” I couldn’t help but notice that the bass beat thudded with intent -- this despite the fact that Russell complained Kevorkian hadn’t made the drums fat enough -- while the decentred effects, flipped out solos and dub aesthetic anticipated and outstripped the best house had to offer. Driven by the synergistic effect of musicians jamming together in real time, “Go Bang! #5” rescued me from the modular and circular logic of house.

I started to research the book that became Love Saves the Day in the autumn of 1996 and conducted my first interview with Mancuso, who persuaded me to begin my history in 1970 rather than 1985, in the spring of 1997. A friend of Mancuso’s, Russell was so enamoured with the Loft he recorded the twelve-inch single “Is It All Over My Face?” with the Ingram brothers plus a mini-tribe of Loft percussionists and vocalists; this was the twelve-inch single that preceded “Go Bang! #5”. Mancuso liked the idea of the record, but thought the result a little too amateurish and rough. In contrast Mancuso thought that both versions of “Go Bang” were extraordinary, and in a later conversation likened Russell to “Dylan and Coltrane rolled into one.” That remains the best description I’ve heard of the Oskaloosan composer, cellist, guitarist, vocalist, producer and songwriter.

Prompted by Mancuso and teaming up with friends, I started to help put on Loft-style parties with in London in 2003. One night a few years later Mancuso came over to listen to some records, and during a discussion about the merits of remixing he suggested I put on the original version of “#5 (Go Bang!)”. By then I had started to research my biography of Russell and the downtown music scene -- the idea was to better understand the integrator who lay behind Dinosaur L -- but had yet to pay close attention to the album version of “Go Bang”, in part because Kevorkian had told me it lacked the singularity required by the dance floor. The next evening, Mancuso played the album cut at the party, and the room shimmered with excitement as soon as Kroesen started to sing. Everyone was so familiar with the remix, the original recording sounded like a far-out remake. On the floor, surrounded by friends, I smiled out loud.