Nicky Siano….a hero to Disco

nicky_siano Nicky Siano….legendary NYC Dj back in the 1970s in “The Gallery” reportedly the next club to take on the Philly/Disco explosion after visiting David Mancuso’s Loft Parties and the first person to use a third turntable after doing it in a dream he had..then moving on to spin at Studio 54. Two articles here, one from the Guardian in 2013, a short Q&A, secondly his page from http://www.disco-disco.com a site we strongly recommend you visit, enjoy

Nickys main current tracks

The track I’ll be opening my next DJ set with

My first track is always a spontaneous decision. The DJ needs to step aside from his ego. This allows him to tap into the crowd, because we’re all hearing the same inspiration coming down to us.

The track I always play to rescue a dancefloor  Dorothy Morrison: Rain

I have a great memory of this during a London gig – the crowd went crazy. That’s the kind of thing that happens nowhere else but London, the crowd is so informed.

The track that currently gets the most rewinds First Choice: Doctor Love

I mix back and forth between this and Love Is the Message by MFSB, which was only three minutes long when it came out, and no one would play it. I decided to loop it, playing one section back and forth. After that, records began getting longer and longer.

The track I wish I’d signed to my label MFSB: Love Is the Message

Still one of the biggest records played in any house party. I named my movie after this song, that’s how much I love it.

The track that’s been unfairly slept on this year

I like to keep up with new music, but this year a lot is more like sounds than music. I feel very sad about where music is going.

The track I wish I’d never played Shalamar: Uptown Festival

This was so wrong in The Gallery, which was for the underground kids. I got on the mic and asked, “Did anyone enjoy that song?” Then I took the vinyl off and threw it into the crowd, saying on the mic: “WELL, YOU’LL NEVER HEAR IT HERE AGAIN.”

The track I’d play at my auntie’s wedding Frank Sinatra: I’ve Got You Under My Skin

One of my aunts just turned 93, so any Frank.

The track that got me out of bed this morning Adele: Chasing Pavements

This morning I was listening to 19. I love 21, but the first album is especially amazing.

The ideal festival track Omar: I’m Feeling You (Henrik Schwarz mix)

Last year I played this to death and really fell in love with it. Dennis Ferrer’s Change The World also has such a great message for a festival.

The track that should have been a crossover hit Loleatta Holloway: Love Sensation

So well produced: everything just really works in this record, and it was a big dance song. But it didn’t go into the Hot 100. The original article can be found here: http://www.theguardian.com/music/2013/jun/07/nicky-siano-favourite-tracks Nicky Siano by http://www.Disco-Disco.com

Nicky Siano was born in Brooklyn, New York, in March 18, 1955.At the age of 15 he went to a club for the first time, the Firehouse. He immediately fell in love with the music and the nightlife. He just had to get hold of those great records they played. He searched all the record stores for songs like “Rain” by Dorothy Morrison. His next great experience was when he was 16 and he got in at the Loft – it was at this time he just know what he wanted more than anything – he wanted to become a DJ! He used to sit in his room back at his moms’ house and mix back and forth between a stereo and a little phonograph, driving his friends and especially his girlfriend Robin insane. He said to them“Listen to this mix” and forcing them to sit through every record and change. He also used to quiz his friends on the records he played, things like who was the artist and what label they were on.
Just a year after his visit at the Loft, he was DJ’ing himself in public for the first time. His first gig was at the Roundtable in 1971. Then in 1972 at the young age of 17, Nicky and his brother opened up their own club called the Gallery in SoHo, Manhattan. They run the Gallery until 1978 when they choose to close down. The club fast became one of New York’s most popular and successful private clubs. Much of the success of the club was just because of Nicky and his work behind the turntables. Nicky just loved the music and loved playing it to the crowd. The people saw how much he enjoyed playing for them and he was able to drive the dancing crowd into a frenzy by selecting music that really turned him on, and the crowd loved it! I asked Nicky if he thought he had any specific skills or likewise, but Nicky thinks it’s just a gift he had got. He has for example always been able to pick out the hit songs off an album. He continues with telling me about the DJ’s role back in the 70’ies… Then DJ’s ruled the music scene and the radio did not dictate the DJ’s. Instead the radio-jocks came to the DJ’s to see what they were playing, but the DJ’s and the radio-jocks were united and turned each other on to hot new records, and basically, they programmed the same music. The mixes didn’t have to be beat perfect, as they have today, but they needed to sound good… Also back then the clubs never had three turntables, just two, but one night Nicky had this dream… He was playing records and this sound effect was playing during the mix. The next morning he ripped his home turntable out and took it down to the Gallery and within six months, every club in New York was using three turntables. Not many people know what to do with three turntables, but Nicky sure did !!! It was also at the Gallery two other famous DJ’s started their careers and learned how to beat mix, these guys were no less than Frankie Knuckles and the lateLarry Levan. It was Frankie who first became friends with Robin, Nicky’s girlfriend, she introduced Frankie to Nicky and he got a job as a DJ in the club. Frankie introduced Nicky to a “wild, but very talented” friend of him, Larry Levan. Larry got hired as well and soon he and Nicky became best friends…Nicky’s impact on the people who entered his dancefloor was huge and the record-buying power he generated made him well-known among the record labels. He was the first to introduce and establish hits like “Love’s Theme” by the Love Unlimited Orchestra“T.S.O.P.” and “Love is the Message” by MFSB. He also let new talents perform at the Gallery, Grace Jones made her first US appearance there and Loleatta Holloway made her first live gig in the club. The Gallery was frequented by stars as Patti La BelleDavid Bowie and Mick Jagger, and now the media started to notice the club and this popular DJ. “Women’s Wear Daily” called Nicky “a genius behind the turntables”, a 1975 story in the “N.Y. Daily News” named him “One of the city’s best DJs” and “New York” magazine’s 1977 color photo essay, on Manhattan’s five most visually breathtaking nightspots, included Nicky’s club “The Gallery.” The great press plus the popularity of this DJ led Nicky into engagements at various other New York clubs and in 1976 he started playing at a place called the Enchanted Garden located in Queens. This club was owned by two guys calledIan Schrager and Steve Rubell. These guys later was about to open up a new club located in W.54’th Street in Manhattan and they asked Nicky if he would like to become one of their resident DJ’s at this club they would call – Studio 54. Studio 54 - LogoJust two weeks later Nicky played at the now legendary club,Studio 54, for the first time. Nicky was one of their two resident DJ’s, the other was Richie Kaczor. Since Nicky played at the Gallery on the weekends he was given the weeknights and Richie was given the weekends. It was Richie who played the opening night, and the second night was Nicky’s. Nicky worked at Studio 54 for about half a year, then he actually got fired because he preferred to spend hours in the bathroom getting high on drugs instead of getting high on playing records in the DJ booth. This Nicky told me himself when I got the chance to speak to him, but for the record I also wanna tell that he stopped taking drugs many many years ago. Nicky has got so many memories from the Studio that it would take a whole book to tell it all, but one memorable night was when he played at the now famous Birthday bash for Bianca Jagger, the one where she rode in on a white horse led by a naked body painted guy. He adds; That night was a blast! He also tells me a little about the owners of Studio 54, Steve and Ian; “Steve was straight when I met him…? Ian was always the level headed business man, and he was straight, all the time… I love them both, Steve and Ian were really good to me, and I will always consider them great supporters and friends.” He thinks a little more and continues; “Yes, there was also this celebrity lounge at 54 that made Sodom and Gomorra look like kindergarten!” (Ooops – I guess we don’t wanna know what went on in there !)

Nicky Siano Flyer

Other precious memories are some stories of the late Larry LevanFrankie KnucklesGrace Jones and Donna Summer among others. But these memories we’ll have to wait for until his movie – Dance – is finished. But… He tells me one memory of his dear friend Larry. “Larry and I were in Gallery one day, and Larry was not exactly the most masculine guy, especially around me, we used to camp it up a lot… Anyway, we were at the gallery one night and we hear someone breaking in, so Larry goes and gets a crow bar we had in the back, and we ambush the burglar and Larry says in his most butch voice ‘Hold it right there bro’. Well – I just cracked up laughing and the burglar thought we were both out of our minds…” I asked if Nicky had any mentors and/or artists he wanted to mention, and he said; “DJ’s like David Mancuso (owner and DJ at the Loft), Michael Cappelloand David Rodriguez (both DJ’s at the ‘original’ Limelight on 7’th Ave. South) were my mentors. I have a real soft spot in my heart for Grace Jones, she made her first US appearance at Gallery and the same for Loleatta Holloway…” So… Did he really like Disco music during that time or was it just a job ? He never thought it was just a job, he have always ate, slept and breathed music, even when he was out of it for a while. The only type of music he doesn’t care for is Opera and Country music. Unfortunately he sold off his original DJ collection years ago, but he kept some and have replaced some of it and he says that he has got a really good collection now. Some of his very favorite Disco tunes are (just to name a few… His list could go on and on and on…);

Eddie Kendricks “Girl you need a change of mind”
MFSB “Love is the message”
Black Ivory “Mainline”
Lace “Can’t play around”
Grace Jones “Pull up to the bumper”
Chaka Khan “I know you, I live you”
LaBelle “Moonshadow”
Loleatta Holloway “Love sensation”
Double Exposure “My love is free”
Isley Brothers “Get into something”
Bobby Womack “I can understand it”
Betty Wright “Where is the love”
Undisputed Truth “You + me + love”
Shades of Love “Keep in touch body to body”
Dahr Braxton “Jump back”
Unique “What I got is what you need”
Loose Joints “Is it all over my face”

In 1978 Nicky went into the recording business himself, he began producing records. His first project, “Kiss Me Again” sold over 200,000 copies and it was written by and recorded for the late Arthur Russel, under the name Dinosaur. This was actually the first Disco single to be released on Sire Records… Arthur later founded the famous Sleeping Bag Records in 1982, together with Will Socolov. In 1983, Nicky produced and wrote the “Billboard” Top 10 dance record, “Pick it Up” by Sofonda C. This record is the one he’s most proud of, out of the about 20 records he have produced. But which is his best memory from his years in the music business? With no doubt he says; “Disco Convention 2, I was on the dais answering questions when I felt asleep, because I was bored and on drugs, which I stopped many years ago, anyway, they were asking 20 DJ’s the same questions over and over again… So when they got to me and woke me up to ask me the same tired questions I answered to the 3000 attendees with a bravado of ‘I AGREE’ and the crowd went wild…” In 1984, Nicky was very affected by the death of his best friend and fellow DJ,David Rodriguez, who succumbed to AIDS. Nicky’s interest in the subject became his new obsession… As a result, he began to work with HIV-infected persons, returned to school and obtained a degree in social work. He soon became recognized as a leading authority on alternative treatments for HIV infection. His research and expertise resulted in the widely praised, best-selling HIV manual, No Time to Wait published by Bantam Books in 1993. The book really touched and changed many people’s lives and his work became known all over the world. It was at this time director Mike Nichols called on Nicky to assist his friend, Anthony Perkins. The relationship with Mike Nichols led to the screenplay Dance, in which he will reveal some of his greatest memories for the Disco days…

Nicky Siano Gig Flyer

On July 19, 1998, Nicky returned to the turntables again and DeeJayed at Club Vinyl on the Tribute birthday bash for the late Larry Levan. The club was packed to the max and the great response led to another one night engagement at the club on September 18, 1998. This was another great night, because besides Nicky behind the turntables, you could also see Taana Gardner perform live!!! Taana Gardner - I'm comin'When talking about Taana Gardner… Taana released a new record called“I’m comin'” on West End Records in November 1998. The single was actually remixed by Nicky the night before their performance at Club Vinyl. The song was written and produced by Kenton Nix (the writer of Taana’s old hits) together with Ray Reid and William Anderson. In November 14, 1998 the song was # 1 in the Billboard Hot Dance Breakouts Chart and in DMA (Dance Music Authority) issue 1/99 it’s at # 5 in the DMA Top 25 Radio Mix Show Chart ! Nicky played in Paris in October and he did some memorable shows in Italy during the New Years. He played various clubs like at Mazoon (Dec 31), Le Plasier (Jan 1) and Extra Extra (Jan 8). And as Nicky says; “They all went really well, especially the one at Extra Extra… I’ve been invited back and will let you know in advance of my itinerary!” In Sunday, September 19th 2004, Nicky is back with his new party – LUV CITY – at 66 Water Street, in DUMBO, Brooklyn. The party starts at 6pm until midnight and will happen every other week. Nicky has even designed his own sound system for the party ! For more info – check out his web-site !!

So… Finally the DJ legend and pioneer has found his way back to the dance floors where everything started almost 30 years ago. Welcome back Nicky…

Nicky Siano’s website: http://www.nickysiano.com

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About holdtightboogie

Soul Funk Disco Boogie Jazz and relative groove type bunch of nutters
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