Reviews of Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor, 1980-83


"Madonna is not the focus here because everything surrounding her is the focus. Using a single character as a lens would have worked against Mr. Lawrence’s thesis: that the New York party culture of the early ’80s is of interest because it allowed the intersection of a wide array of subcultures, which sent sparks flying. Gallery owners and graffiti artists, punk bands and hip-hop D.J.s, performance artists and budding entrepreneurs all commingled — and, as “Life and Death” amply demonstrates, left defining footprints not only on one another’s work, but sometimes on the forms themselves." Michaelangelo Matos, The New York Times, full review

"The cast of characters in the book can be staggering, the exhaustive accounts overwhelming — Lawrence interviewed or corresponded with more than 130 people, and he makes room for their voices — but that's part of the point: He wants a crowded and motley party. This is a scrupulously researched, marvelously detailed history." Megan Pugh, Village Voice, full review

"[I]f you have no abiding love for New York, disco, hip-hop, studio techniques, or fast and dirty real-estate shuffles—there must be such people, statistically—perhaps “Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor” will not hold you. But if you care for any of those things, and even if that concern borders on the obsessive, you will benefit from Lawrence’s investigations." Sasha Frere-Jones, The New Yorker, full review

“The missing link I’ve been harping on about is no longer missing – Tim has placed the pieces of the jigsaw into a wonderfully coherent whole, finally illuminating what I’ve described as the crossroads between what came before (Soul, Funk, Disco, Jazz-Funk) and what would follow (Hip Hop, House, Techno). It is undoubtedly one of the most important books written on dance culture to date because it finally positions the early ’80s as absolutely crucial to where we are now, rather than being dismissed as an uneventful lull between the twin musical titans of Disco and House." Greg Wilson, Being a DJ, full review

"Life and Death on the New York Dance floor is huge." Rona Cran, The European Journal of American Culture, full review

"Dubbed out electronic handclaps crackle in space, their echoing digital delay moodily fading as a rubbery synth bass pulses into the mix. This is the haunting, exuberant, impossible introduction to “Don’t Make Me Wait,” the NYC Peech Boys’ 1982 12” record, famously produced by Paradise Garage DJ Larry Levan. Melding disco, gospel, and rock, the song is one of the many genre-breaking works closely profiled in Tim Lawrence’s exhaustive Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor, 1980–1983. Building on his previous study of 70s dance culture in Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture, 1970–1979 and complementing his most recent book, Hold On to Your Dreams: Arthur Russell and the Downtown Music Scene, 1973–1992, Lawrence ambitiously maps the many overlapping early-80s scenes—No Wave, NewWave, post-disco, early hip hop, 80s R&B—all at once." James Weissinger, Journal of Popular Music Studies, full review

"Life and Death is a major contribution to scholarship on cultural production. Its fine slicing of a short, fruitful period in one great city’s life helps better situate both well-known and little-known music cultures. Lawrence charts the dawn of electronic dance music with verve, detail and sensitivity." Charles de Ledesma, Dancecult: Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture, full review

"[A] compelling tale, beautifully told. As one who was fortunate enough to have landed in New York during this timeframe, Lawrence does a cracking job capturing a time when even listening to the city’s black radio stations at noon could change your life. It was a surreal, magical period of ground-breaking activity which now seems hard to believe could actually happen at the same time in the same city. Finally, here’s the proof." Kris Needs, Record Collector, full review

"Through a comprehensive and lushly detailed text stuffed with original photos from dance floors, DJ booths, and parties, Lawrence imparts the mood, the music, the faces and the places from that remarkable era, with a nostalgic nod to nights where "a new kind of freedom was set to rule the night.” Jim Piechota, Bay Area Reporter, full review

"While unearthing the cultural crossroads that formed the foundation of the Mudd Club and so many vital venues, Tim Lawrence absolutely nails what early the 80s New York City club scene was all about: “The venue was helping establish the foundations for a renaissance marked by convergence and exploration.” That’s right. Renaissance." Tom Cardamone, Lambada Literary Review, full review

"Life and Death provides the most intensive mapping of this brief era of New York subculture we've yet seen. The book's strength is its depth of research, drawing on the realtime journalism of the era as well as many new interviews. The detail is fascinating, as Lawrence salvages ephemeral events, forgotten people, and lost places from the fog of faded memory." Simon Reynolds, Bookforum, full review

"The [book] is a treasure trove for anyone interested in the melting pot that produced not only vibrant music and party concepts that still echo within current global night-time cultures but that also (as witnessed in Semiotext(e) and Autonomedia publications) resonate in practice with the anarchic ethos of post-structuralist radical philosophy." Hillegonda Rietveld, Times Higher Education, full review

"Compelling and often beautiful, his [Lawrence’s] meticulous account hums with incandescent street noise.” Kris Needs, Mojo, full review

"Lawrence goes into remarkable depth to portray this world which, during its few short years, gained expansive popularity and had a significant impact on art, film, literature, and culture. His meticulous research, with details on the leading figures, trends, events, places, and music that made it all happen, also provides critical/analytical commentary on the social backdrop of the times, the genesis of the emerging and eclectic music/dance styles, and the essence of this artistic renaissance. In addition to the well ­selected photographs, notes, and bibliography, set lists, discographies, and a filmography add to the title's impressive breadth. Cultural historians and those familiar with the 1980s milieu will find this informative and insightful." Carol Binkowski, Library Journal, full review

"Lawrence has written one of the most comprehensive and exhaustively researched books about this vitally important period in New York’s history." Paul Hallasy, The Gay Curmudgeon, full review

Emily Nonko, Curbed, full review