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The Loft 1970 -

David Mancuso - dance - club - underground music - Loft classics (playlist) - New York


The Loft was the legendary New York private party, held since 1970 by David Mancuso.

The Loft is the location for the first underground dance party (Love Saves The day) that was created by David Mancuso on February 14, 1970. Since then, the term The Loft has come to represent Mancuso's own version of a non-commercial party where no alcohol, food, or beverages are sold. Mancuso's vision of a private party is similar to, and inspired by the most basic parties of all: the rent party and house party. In fact, Fred Wesley's "House Party" is a quintessential Loft Classic which Mancuso featured on his out-of-print compilation "David Mancuso presents the Loft Vol. 2". This is in fact one of the most important differences between The Loft and a typical nightclub. His parties are by invitation only and feature an audiophile sound system to enhance the experience. Loft parties also include free beverages, munchies, and hot food. Equally important is the relaxed "non-authoritarian" vibe, including, when possible, a BYOB policy, as well as a truly diverse cross-section of music lovers and dancers. Of particular note in the late 1960's, when Mancuso threw his first informal house parties, was that the gay community was often harassed in the bars and dance clubs, whereas at The Loft and many other early, private discotheques they could dance together and be themselves without fear of police action, thanks to Mancuso's legal yet underground business model. The Loft concept was borrowed by many nightclub entrepreurs, and Mancuso is indirectly responsible for the success of The Gallery, the Paradise Garage, and The Saint, to name but a few. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Loft [Feb 2006]

Louie Vega

At the same time the sound of the emerging New York underground was always within earshot thanks to two of Vega's older sisters, Myrna and Edna, who were regulars at David Mancuso's influential Loft parties, as well as derivatives such as the Gallery and the Paradise Garage. "They were heavy party girls," says Vega. "They loved the scene and they taught me about club music." Illicit recordings came to play an important role. "They'd come back with tapes. I started listening to all of these records and I was like, 'Wow, this music is great.'"

Loft classics

Loft classics: click here for a sample list of the kind of eclectic music David Mancuso has been spinning there.

David Mancuso

Underground News - issue #19
Richard Nixon: What's the history of the loft?

David Mancuso: I was at Broadway and Bleeker and I started giving rent parties which basically it's still down to the same thing, to manage and afford a life-style, that's basically the goal, to have a good time. From 70-74. Then the building got involved with a dispute between the landlord and the tenants, I got caught in the middle and even though I've always been a safety nut with two means of egress and so forth I didn't have a C of O for what I was doing, I don't know if there was a definition of what I was doing anyway, but rent parties were legal. But I was living in a building that was lofts that you weren't really supposed to be living in anyway, you picked up the beds, hid the refrigerator, you know, that kind of thing, but anyway, I had to leave there. Well I didn't have to leave here,I had to stop what I was doing, and I moved to Prince street, 99 Prince Street, or else I'd still be there, I'm sure I'd still be there. It's interesting, it was a much smaller place, more intimate, when I moved to Prince street it was like a gymnasium. I moved to 99 Prince street, I was there for eleven years, and then I moved to [X]st, got the building in 82, and in '84 I moved over. It was rough, I lost a lot of business, because in those days people didn't go past 1st Avenue, 2nd Avenue. So that's it, 1 2 3.

Underground music

What was underground music like in 1970?

Basically R and B, what they called R and B. Anything that was danceable, it's hard to categorize individually. The crossover music was there. Also there was the influence of stuff like the Stones, Zeppelin, Brian Auger, groups like that, there was a good amount of crossover music, it certainly wasn't looked at as disco. [Then] disco happened. I think part of what happened was the twelve inch came in. Deejays would take a record like Scorpio which has a nice little drum thing in the middle, and take two forty fives and they would keep going back and forth and they would expand the time on the thing. And that became the twelve inch. -- David Mancuso



Love Saves the Day (2004) - Tim Lawrence [...]

  1. Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture, 1970-1979 (2004) - Tim Lawrence [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    Opening with David Mancuso's seminal "Love Saves the Day" Valentine's party, Tim Lawrence tells the definitive story of American dance music culture in the 1970s-from its subterranean roots in NoHo and Hell's Kitchen to its gaudy blossoming in midtown Manhattan to its wildfire transmission through America's suburbs and urban hotspots such as Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Newark, and Miami.

    Tales of nocturnal journeys, radical music making, and polymorphous sexuality flow through the arteries of Love Saves the Day like hot liquid vinyl. They are interspersed with a detailed examination of the era's most powerful DJs, the venues in which they played, and the records they loved to spin-as well as the labels, musicians, vocalists, producers, remixers, party promoters, journalists, and dance crowds that fuelled dance music's tireless engine.

    Love Saves the Day includes material from over three hundred original interviews with the scene's most influential players, including David David Mancuso, Nicky Siano, Tom Moulton, Loleatta Holloway, Giorgio Moroder, Francis Grasso, Frankie Knuckles, and Earl Young. It incorporates more than twenty special DJ discographies-listing the favorite records of the most important spinners of the disco decade-and a more general discography cataloguing some 600 releases. Love Saves the Day also contains a unique collection of more than seventy rare photos. --amazon.com

    [I]t’s only now, thanks to ‘Love Saves The Day’, that the Leary / Mancuso connection becomes crucial to our understanding of the origins of dance culture. Other writers have touched on it, but this is the first book to reveal the extent of Leary’s direct influence on Mancuso, and, as such, it’s author, Tim Lawrence, the director of the Music Cultures program at East London University, has unearthed a hugely significant missing link. --Greg Wilson reviews Love Saves the Day

David Mancuso Presents the Loft, vol 1 (1999) - Nuphonic records

  • David Mancuso Presents the Loft, vol 1 - Nuphonic records [Amazon.com]
    • Ain't No Stopping Us Now (Version) - Risco Connection
    • Is It All Over My Face (Unreleased Original Full Length Version) - Loose Joints [Arthur Russell]
    • The Spirit's In It - Patti Labelle
    • Get Ready For The Future - The Winners
    • Life On Mars - Dexter Wansel
    • Say A Prayer For Two (U.S. Remixed Version) - Crown Heights Affair
    • Love Money - T.W. Funkmasters
    • Love Honey, Love Heartache (Larry Levan Vocal Mix) - Man Friday
    • Serious, Sirius Space Party (Club Version) - Ednah Holt
    • Yellow Train - Resonance
    • Mysteries Of Love (Instrumental) - Fingers, Inc.
    • Devotion (Bam Bam's House Mix) - Ten City
    • High Priestess - Karma
    • Soul Makossa - Manu Dibango

    Tim Lawrence's liner notes:
    His name is David Mancuso. He has had a profound influence on DJs such as Tony Humphries, François Kevorkian, Frankie Knuckles, Larry Levan, David Morales, Larry Patterson, Nicky Siano and Danny Tenaglia. His Loft formula, which dates back to 1970, has inspired the Tenth Floor, the Gallery, the Soho, Reade Street, the Paradise Garage and the Warehouse. Yet for all of the countless column inches dedicated to the history of the American DJ, Mancuso's legacy remains unwritten. Welcome to the myopic world of dance music, where 'now' and 'next' rule supreme and the 'past' rarely gets beyond tabloid mythology.

    Mancuso experimented with several party formats before he conjured up the format that came to be known as the Loft. The breakthrough arrived on Valentine's Day 1970, when the irrepressible socialite staged a "Love Saves the Day" party in his Soho loft apartment. The event was a hit and quickly became a weekly affair, with the anti-establishment hippie determined to avoid nightworld's commercial trappings. "I didn't want to become a club or an after-hours spot," he says. "I didn't want to be categorised. I just wanted to have a house party."

    In order to consolidate the homey feel of his events, Mancuso introduced an elaborate invitation system in which cards were issued by mail four times a year on the equinoxes and the solstices. "The Loft was the first party where you had to know somebody to get in," recalls David Depino, who went on to become an alternate DJ at the Paradise Garage. "You couldn't find out about it by asking around because nobody knew. There was no public advertisement. It was very underground."

    The set-up was an out-and-out success: gatekeepers Steve Abramowitz and Maria Garbin gave unfamiliar visitors a serious grilling, people got to know each other and the parties settled into a social groove. Before long two hundred people were cramming into the events, making the Loft - as it was dubbed by Mancuso's guests - one of the hippest spots in New York. "By the end of 1970 you couldn't squeeze anyone else in, and it stayed like that for four-and-a-half years, regardless," he says. "I remember when we had the first blizzard and people walked from over the Brooklyn bridge. They actually found a way to come."

    The crowd at the Broadway Loft - which included the likes of Frankie Knuckles, Larry Levan, Larry Patterson and Nicky Siano - was mixed. Racially, Mancuso's guests were United Nations leaning towards black and Latino. Sexually, they were as wide as the ocean (although fish that swam in the same direction were in the majority). Economically they spanned the classes, with the poverty-stricken encouraged to write an IOU. And while men dominated the dance floor, women were always central to the set-up. "I just knew different people," says Mancuso. "It wasn't a black party or a gay party. There'd be a mixture of people. Divine used to go. Now how do you categorise her?"

    As the owner of the Loft, Mancuso was free to play whatever he wanted, and this autonomy enabled him to develop an alternative aesthetic that revolved around heavily-percussive tracks like Olatunji's 'Drums of Passion' as well as ethereal jazz- and soul-influenced cuts such as 'City, Country, City' by WAR. If any single record encapsulated this extraordinary range then it was "Soul Makossa" by Manu Dibango (Atlantic, 1973), an African-jazz sensation that combined a driving beat with echoey vocals alongside Dibango's frenzied soprano sax. "It was exciting," remembers Vince Aletti, who went on to become the most influential dance music commentator of the seventies. "David introduced me to a whole new group of records." Steve D'Acquisto, an early New York DJ and Loft devotee, agrees. "The Loft is the mother ship," he says. "It's where we learned about the power of music."

    If the alien strains of contemporary dance music resonated more powerfully at the Loft than at other clubs then this was partly because of Mancuso's extraordinary audio system, which was built around a McIntosh amplifier, several Klipschorn speakers and two AR turntables, as well as a cluster of innovative tweeter arrays and bass reinforcements (later dubbed 'subwoofers' or 'basshorns'). "David was able to play songs that were inherently underground and bring them to your attention right away," explains Danny Krivit, an early regular who now DJs at Body & Soul. "If you play the same obscure songs on a crummy system you're bored in two minutes. But at the Loft you'd really get lost in it. Nobody could touch David's sound for the longest time."

    Mancuso wanted his audio system to sound as real or as live as possible, and perceptions of nature underpinned his musical method. "I spent a lot of time in the country, listening to birds, lying next to a spring and listening to water go across the rocks," he told Aletti in 1975. "And suddenly one day, I realised: what perfect music. Like with the sunrise and sunset, how things would build up into midday. There were times when it would be intense and times it would be very soft and at sunset, it would get quiet and then the crickets would come out."

    In an attempt to nurture the energy of his guests, Mancuso programmed his music around this "natural rhythm". Early selections would include ethereal records like 'Land of Make Believe... A Chuck Mangione Concert with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra', a twelve-minute jazz-inflected epic that conjured up an excursion into the unknown. The music would stay esoteric until about twelve-thirty or one, after which more or less anything could happen. Mancuso's hallmark brand of African and Latin rhythms always played a prominent role, but he was never shy to slow down the tempo, with Nina Simone a perennial favourite. The Loft guru would also play rock, a genre that was held in disdain by much of his crowd, and it - Chicago, the Doobie Brothers, Traffic - would be danceable. Then, when the evening drew to a close at six-a.m., he would dig out his copy of 'It's Time To Go Now' by Gladys Knight and the Pips, or 'Here Comes The Sun' by the Beatles.

    The celebratory atmosphere at the Loft received its first major jolt in 1972 when the NYPD raided Mancuso's home. The operation was fronted by a plain-clothed police officer who tried to reconnoitre the party but failed to get in at the first time of asking. "We asked to see his invite," says Mancuso. "He didn't have one, so he had to go away. However, he was a good-looking guy and he persuaded someone to take him in as a guest." The cop did what he had to do, left the party and minutes later returned with reinforcements. Mancuso and Abramowitz were arrested and charged with running an unlicensed cabaret.

    "They thought we were a fly-by-night after-hours joint who wouldn't fight the case," says Mancuso, "but they were wrong." The host's position was surprisingly strong: his events weren't open to the public - the officer had initially been turned away - and there was no alcohol for sale. Ingeniously, Mancuso decided to apply for a cabaret licence that he desperately didn't want. "I had the longest hearing in the history of Consumer Affairs to determine whether or not I was running a cabaret," he recalls. "I drove them crazy. They eventually turned me down because I wasn't open to the public."

    The rejection was a double victory for Mancuso, who had not only won his case but had simultaneously established a legal precedent that would underpin New York's nightlife for years to come: run a invite-only party, don't sell alcohol, and you're beyond state interference. "The ruling benefited everybody because Consumer Affairs was a terrible department to deal with," he says. "They wanted to see your finances for the last five years, who you were married to, who your relatives were. They looked up your arse."

    Mancuso was eventually forced to close in 1974 when the collapse of a neighbouring hotel resulted in a series of controversial inspections by the Building Department. A year-and-a-half later the Loft reopened in a huge venue on Soho's Prince Street, which went on to become a second home for the likes of David Morales and Tony Humphries. The parties were so successful that Mancuso started to keep the doors open until midday, enabling the likes of Larry Levan to show up once the Garage had closed for the night.

    Just when it seemed like the Prince Street parties were destined to last forever, the building was put up for sale and in 1984 Mancuso relocated to the East Village, a drug-ridden neighbourhood that had been lined up as a regeneration zone but somehow managed to miss out. Yet while Mancuso lost a significant number of his dancers, many of whom were afraid to venture into the area, he never lost his desire to throw a house party. Avenue A ensued, followed briefly by Avenue B, and finally Avenue C, where Mancuso currently lives but which is too small for his occasional gatherings.

    The Loft's gradual decline has been permeated by betrayals, bad business decisions and a rejection of technology that - as rigid drum machines and frigid DJ pyrotechnics become increasing dull - is beginning to look like a refreshingly radical strategy. Mancuso refuses to mix, insists upon the need for original musicianship, bemoans the cult of the sample/remix and plays his music at a relatively low volume, all of which puts him at loggerheads with the dance music Zeitgeist. Yet in becoming postmodernity's antagonist, Mancuso has also mapped out a manifesto that is slowly beginning to take root in the most knowing quarters of London, New York and Tokyo.

    "The Loft is a feeling," says Mancuso, and hopefully Nuphonic's compilation will begin to convey what the feeling is all about. If you can find a club that will play some of this wonderful music, check it out. There aren't many of them on the circuit, but it'll be worth it if you get lucky. Otherwise, why not send out a handful of invites, turn down the lights and experience some Loft classics in the perfect environment? Go on. Do what David Mancuso has always done. Throw a house party. --Tim Lawrence (Nuphonic, 1999) via email [Apr 2005]

    David Mancuso Presents the Loft, vol 2 (2000) - Nuphonic records

  • David Mancuso Presents the Loft, vol 2 - Nuphonic records[Amazon US]
    Disc: 1 1. House Party - Wesley, Fred 2. Can't Fake the Feeling - Hunt, Geraldine 3. L.O.V.E. Got a Hold on Me - Roussos, Demis 4. Keep On - D Train 5. How Much Are They? - Wobble, Jah 6. Woman - Barrabas 7. Notice Me Sandee - Sandee 8. Los Conquistadores Chocolates - Hammond, Johnny 9. Can't Live Without Your Love - Jones, Tamiko 10. Girl You Need a Change of Mind - Kendricks, Eddie Disc: 2 1. The Nervous Track - Nu Yorican Soul 2. Harmonica Track - Soulboy 3. 212 North 12th - Salsoul Orchestra 4. #5 (Go Bang) - Dinosaur L 5. Set Fire to Me - Colon, Willie 6. Chapter Three - Gibbs, Joe 7. Walk on Air - Holy Ghost 8. Macho City - Steve Miller Band 9. Little Fluffy Clouds - Orb 10. Rain - Morrison, Dorothy

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