I’d like to make a book recommendation. If you have ever been to Lucifers, Leviticus, Justines, Brandi, Bogards in Manhattan, you will want to read it. If you have never been to those places, and you think that you know what Disco was, you should read this book so that you can learn the truth. (H/T to Donald Cleveland for turning me on to the book) The name of the book is After Dark: Birth of the Disco Dance Party.
When I first started Soul-Patrol, I had several essays about my experiences hanging out in NYC Discos. You might be surprised at the amount of negative feedback I got. I got complaints from people criticizing the music itself and from folks criticizing me for not talking enough about white people or gay people ar Discos. I was flabbergasted, since in my memory there were no white people, very few gay people and the music itself was stone cold funk. I began to realize that most of the folks writing to me had never been to a NYC Disco and certainly not to Lucifers, Leviticus, Justines, Brandi, Bogards. But I had no documentation to point to about those clubs,, only my own memory. This 300+ page book is that documentation.
It’s the story of how a group of young Black middle class Queens residents (The Best of Friends ) took a very simple idea (After work dance parties, specifically targeted at African American workers in mid Manhattan, with very strict dress codes and behavior codes) and created an empire of the very first Black owned clubs in Manhattan. These clubs were talked about daily on WBLS and the Black community in NYC and set the standard for nightlife starting in the late 1960’s. How do I know this? Because I used to hang in these clubs, staring in 1973.
What I learned from the book is that the whole thing was really an exercise in Black Empowerment, that as a New Yorker I m quite proud of, after having read the book.
Go to their website and read more about the book….
I always ended up at one of these clubs, every Friday & Saturday night, for about 5 years. The evening would usually start out with a house party in either Long Island, Brooklyn or Queens. Then I would usually leave the House Party around 10 pm and either go to a concert or to a disco. If I went to a concert, then I would go to a disco after the concert. I led a very predictable & shallow life back in those days…….LOL
I was a semi regular at Lucifers” (2-3 times/month because it was close to home.) I never really liked to party in Manhattan, because of the parking situation there.
The book not only contains the story of the rise of the empire built by (The Best of Friends, it also contains things like their business plans, playlists, details on the DJ technology they employed (as the author keeps reminding us (“there were no disco records in 1971, so we made up our own”) their target market (“we don’t want people who have to go home and change their clothes,” and more. These guys in my mind were great examples of “young Black brilliance” at work. The remarkable thing was that all during this time, they kept their “regular jobs,” and all retired with pensions.
The lesson here is that when you do something significant, (like change the culture) please document it. These guys (The Best of Friends ) not only made millions of dollars, but they also significantly altered the cultural landscape for Black New Yorkers. They closed the clubs in the mid 1980’s. When I was writing about my experiences at Discos in the mid 1990’s (just 10 years later,) it was as if all evidence of the existence & dominance of these clubs had been completely erased. White folks were telling me, that either what I was writing about had never existed or that if it existed that it must have been created by white people. Remember, always document…. (After Dark: Birth of the Disco Dance Party)