Remembering Boyd H. Jarvis

Lump-in-the-throat moment-- Boyd H. Jarvis, one of the great keyboard players/electronics wizards/producer-remixers of the house music era, passed away over the weekend. A serious innovator, Boyd was a beautiful being whose music expressed the spirit of downtown partying. I sometimes wondered if Boyd's ultimate record, his co-production of the "Music Got Me", would have gone down as the first house track if he and Timmy Regisford hadn't received £5,000 from Prelude to develop it into something more sophisticated and polished. But it's an irrelevant hypothesis because the result continues to receive regular play, unlike so many stripped down, first wave Chicago house tracks.

Boyd lived and breathed the NYC party scene with such verve he ended up appearing as an eyewitness commentator in several chapters in Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor. I don't have a clear memory of this but believe he went public with the news he was battling cancer a few months after publication. I started to fear for the worst when the appeals for support started to slow down.

In memory of Boyd's soulful, vibrant contribution, I thought I'd post a photo of him and a group of friends just before they were about to head to the Paradise Garage, courtesy of Kirk Leacock (who is also in the photo). It's one of my favourites in the book; Boyd is bottom right. When Boyd first showed me the photo he said something like, "We used to wear colourful clothes back then! Now everybody is dressed in black and grey..." I'll also cut-and-paste the section that describes "The Music Got Me" below the photo caption information.

Rest in musical peace, Boyd, love saves the day.

Extract, "The Music Got Me", Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor, 411-12:

The genesis of “The Music Got Me” stretched back to late 1981, when Boyd Jarvis and Timmy Regisford recorded two bedroom demos — “One Love” and “Stomp” — for their new dance show on WBLS. Lacking a drum machine, Jarvis laid down bass and melodic lines over the naked drum patterns of “Mix Your Own ‘Stars,’ ” a DJ-only release issued by the fleetingly popular Dutch novelty act Stars on 45. A strong audience response encouraged them to take the tapes to Tee Scott, who tested “One Love” during one of his twilight
appearances at Better Days. “As soon as he put it on, the crowd whooshed to the dance floor,” recalls Jarvis. “We were like, ‘Wow, we’ve got a track that people like!’ ” Offered the cassettes, Schlachter latched onto “Stomp.” Then he handed the duo $5,000 to produce a more polished version.

Granted the freedom to play, Jarvis turned to “long jam” influences that ran from James Brown’s “Sex Machine” to Herbie Hancock’s “Chameleon” to South Shore Commission’s “Free Man.” “Just because I was playing a synth didn’t mean I was thinking electronic because I always wanted to try and play a bass line like a real bass player,” he notes. “I wasn’t thinking Kraft werk or Thomas Dolby or Wendy Carlos. If anything I was thinking electronic like George Duke.” Above all, Jarvis thought of the Paradise Garage, because although Larry Levan could be “a crabby bastard,” musically speaking “he was a bad motherfucker,” while the dancing experience was so intense he would take three pairs of pants with him in the knowledge that — what with doing the splits and the rest of it — he’d probably destroy two during the course of a night. “I thought of being in the middle of that floor and being moved,” he remembers of the recording process. “I thought of the people and the mood and the smells and the bodies and the sweat and coming home with cramp.” Jarvis also made the record long because during the course of a night he would always think, “Play the long version — take me out!” “That stuff was gymnastic for us,” he adds. “My shit is influenced by all kinds of things. But the Garage fulfilled my inspiration because that’s where I lived, so I wanted to make a record that would be played at the Garage.”

Mixed and edited by Tony Humphries — who had spent enough time loitering around Larry Patterson to land the Wednesday- night slot at Zanzibar in late 1982 — the result opens with interplaying four-on-the-floor bass kicks, racing symbols, a thick bass line, breeze effects, and echo-laden synthesizer arpeggios, its approach to composition matching the dramatic spatialization of “Don’t Make Me Wait.” But whereas the Peech Boys song hits full stride after a minute and a half, the Jarvis-Regisford cut shifts back to pure bass around the same point, remaining on the substratum of the musical spectrum thereafter. The first of vocalist Jason Smith’s hoo-hoo-hoos arrives around2:30, with Jarvis hitting the full jam mode around 3:30. Garage-inspired lines such as “Move . . . /Move . . . /Move . . . / Free your bo-dy” and “The music’s got me movin’ ” follow as the track rides a primitive-electronic plain, mobilizing its rudimentary parts into a bewitching range of combinations. Released as “The Music Got Me” under the artist name of Visual in February, three months ahead of Pettibone’s brighter, more playful remix of “Let No Man,” the result amounted to a haunting, bass-heavy seven-and-a-half-minute workout that engaged the spiritual and the visceral, the spartan and the sophisticated.“It got major, major radio airplay in New York,” remembers Jarvis. “It became this cult record.”


Photo info: Boyd Jarvis (bottom right), Kirk Leacock (bottom left ), and friends (top left to right) Yolanda Clark (with collar), Andrea Hall,Mario Grant, and Chenoa (wearing a hat), ca. 1981. “We were at an evening pool party given by Conran’s first department store,” says Leacock. “Every one else was dressed for a high- society, stately home, pool party. Then I showed up with this ‘crew’ dressed in our East Village/retro/punk/Patricia Field style. We were the life of the party. Then we left and went to the Garage.” Photographer unknown; courtesy of Kirk Leacock.

48th Loft anniversary party at Brilliant Corners

Here's a recording of last night's 48th Loft anniversary party at Brilliant Corners. It was a pleasure to be invited to select music. Love saves the day!


Loft 48th anniversary, Brilliant Corners, 14 February 2018

Alice Coltrane featuring Pharoah Saners, “Journey in Satchidananda”.
Bob Marley, “Exodus (Bill Laswell remix)”
King Sunny Adé and His African Beats, “365 Is My Number/The Message”
Jean Michel Jarre, “Oxygene”
Sun Palace, “Rude Movements”
Manuel Göttsching, “E2-E4”.
Karma, “High Priestess”
Alfredo de la Fé and the Latin Percussion Jazz Ensemble, “My Favourite Things (Live Version)”
Chuck Mangione with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra, “Land of Make Believe”
Cat Stevens, “Was Dog a Doughnut”
Fela and the Africa 70, “Shakara”
George Duke, “Brazilian Love Affair”
George Benson, “The World Is a Ghetto”
Brian Auger & the Trinity, “Listen Here”
War, “City, Country, City”
Chas Jankel, “Glad to Know You (Special Disco Mix)”
Trussel, “Love Injection”
Melba Moore, “Standing Right Here”
Linda Clifford, “Runaway Love”
First Choice “Love Thang”
T-Connection, “Do What You Wanna Do (Disco Version)”
Ashford & Simpson, “Stay Free”
Celestial Choir, “Stand on the Word”
Crown Heights Affair, “Say a Prayer for Two”
Lonnie Liston Smith, “Expansions”
Lamont Dozier, “Going Back to My Roots”
Dan Hartman, “Vertigo/Relight My Fire”
Soul Central, “Strings of Life: Danny Krivit’s Extended Edit”
Patti Labelle, “Music Is My Way of Life”

Talk at Bananamoon, Glasgow

photo by Lyndell Mansfield--such perfect colour coordination throughout!

photo by Lyndell Mansfield--such perfect colour coordination throughout!

Slightly late notice, but this Thursday I'll be talking about Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor, 1980-83, at Bananamoon, Glasgow, co-owned by Keith McIvor and Jonnie Wilkes of Optimo. Details are here,

I understand that reservations were snapped up pretty quickly but it might be worth coming along anyway, just in case some folks don't show up--or maybe we'll find a way to create more space. 

Raissa Pardini, whom I got to meet at the Life and Death on the NY Dance Floor event held at Donlon books back in the autumn of 2016, has been in touch so say she's coming along, so this gives me the perfect opportunity to post one of my favourite snaps of L&D, held by Raissa,



Public conversation with Martin Beck at Bergen Kunsthall


Last weekend I had the pleasure of travelling to Bergen to take part in a public conversation with NYC artist Martin Beck, whose ongoing interest in countercultural structures led him create a series of "Last Night" artworks that explore the Loft and, in particular, the penultimate party David Mancuso held at the party's Prince Street location in June 1984. Matthew Higgs/White Columns published Martin's "Last Night" book, after which the immersive, 13-hour "Last Night" film premiered at the Kitchen before appearing as the centrepiece artwork in Martin's comprehensive solo exhibition "rumours and murmurs", staged at mumok, Vienna. ArtForum went on to give Martin's work extended coverage in its "Best of 2017" issue and the immersive 13-hour "Last Night" installation film is now showing at Bergen Kunsthall, where Martin and I exchanged thoughts on the development of the piece. Many thanks to everyone at the gallery for the warm hospitality--we had a lot of fun. The exchange can now be viewed on online, 

PS I'm working on bringing "Last Night" to London :-)

Loft anniversary set at Brilliant Corners

This Valentine's Day I'll be heading to Brilliant Corners, 7pm to midnight, to select records to mark the 48th anniversary of David Mancuso's Loft. I hope you'll join me--last year was both moving (David had passed a few months earlier) and joyous.

There are many reasons for the longevity of the Loft, which is still running strong in NYC, with Loft-inspired parties also flourishing in London, Sapporo, Lisbon, Rome, Dublin, Berlin and beyond, but the simplest one is that it began with a purpose: to bring friends together in an intimate and warm environment primed to maximise the interaction of David's guests, and thus enhance the potential for the floor to become a space of socio-sonic exploration and transformation.

Photo by Peter Hujar, permission for original reproduction in Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture, 1970-79 kindly provided by the Peter Hujar Estate.

Photo by Peter Hujar, permission for original reproduction in Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture, 1970-79 kindly provided by the Peter Hujar Estate.


Admittedly the Loft's run hasn't been seamless. David's relocation to Avenue C during 1984 inadvertently landed the Loft in peril after Reagan slashed a budget set aside to regenerate struggling inner city areas; David ended up losing something like two-thirds of his invitees overnight, many of them female dancers who were understandably fearful of venturing into the heroin-zone end of Alphabet City. The struggle that followed led David to go on an extended sabbatical beginning in 1988, only to lose his space on his return. By the time I started to interview him in the autumn of 1997 he had become a relatively unknown figure. I'd certainly never heard of him, even though I fancied myself to be quite knowledgeable about dance culture and had even moved to NYC in part to be closer to the heart of the dance scene. David had recently started to sublet a space on Avenue B and I got to my first Loft party soon after our first interview. There might have been five people in the room that night, but by the time David hosted his 28th anniversary party in 1998--how young the Loft was back then!--the room was packed. Then, just as David started to think up ways of securing the space, the person from whom he was subletting was kicked out. David found himself living in a tiny walk-up that was only big enough, if memory serves, to hold one Klipschorn speaker, a slimmed down record collection, a bed and some bare essentials.

During this period there were several occasions when I was drawn into conversations about the future of the Loft. Although the details shifted, they always involved people wanting David to make some kind of compromise or other in order to get the Loft going again. Time and time again, David refused, to the point where I also began to experience a sense of frustration with the singularity of his purpose, because surely a compromised party was better than no party at all. But David was clear: here the two of us were, going through this intense interviewing process as I tried to understand the influence of the Loft within the broader history of NYC party culture, and David understood that it was more important to protect the uniqueness of his audio-vision than make some late-in-life change that bring in some extra "green energy" (as he liked to describe money) but would leave him full of regret.

There's always more to tell and there are always other stories. But I'm fairly clear that David's rigorous purpose and the rootedness of that purpose in an egalitarian, participatory and transformational philosophy and practice has enabled a major historical reassessment to catch fire. When I moved to NYC and started to embark on my little history project, everyone seemed to believe that Larry Levan/Frankie Knuckles and the Paradise Garage/the Warehouse were the most influential DJs and venues in US party history. A few decades on, there's now a broad understanding of the foundational role of David and the Loft.

It's to David's credit that he always insisted that the Loft merely brought together several existing influences, from the rent party tradition that took root following the mass migration of African Americans to Harlem, to innovations in audiophile sound, to the emergence of loft living during the 1960s, to the influence of Leary's LSD writings and party gatherings.

David once told my close friend, colleague and party collaborator Jeremy Gilbert that, as Jeremy paraphrases in his book Common Ground (2014, p. 213), he "sometimes felt that there is really just one big party going on all the time, and that the participants in actual physical parties simply try to tune into it for a while."

I'll be trying to tune into this "one big party" when I head to Brilliant Corners on 14 February. Many thanks to Amit Patel and Aneesh Patel for the invite. It's always wonderful to be able to share music in a friendly environment that just happens to be equipped with four lovely Klipschorn speakers :-) I think I'm right in saying that when Brilliant Corners opened Amit and Aneesh even used to have a copy of Love Saves the Day sitting on one of the shelves in the bar that customers and members of staff could borrow. I'm not sure what records I'll take along with me, but I have a hunch that one of them will be Lamont Dozier's "Going Back to My Roots"...