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.