The Golden Age of New York Clubbing: 'We Wanted to be Part of Something'
Author and nightlife exper Tim Lawrence revisits some of New York's club staples to attempt to rekindle the memories from New York's clubbing glory days.This article originally appeared on The Guardian
On the eve of a week that would see New York City host a handful of events to celebrate and spotlight the release of Tim Lawrence’s new book, Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor, 1980-1983 – a study of what the author convincingly identifies as the city’s “cultural renaissance”, when hip-hop, new wave and dance music collided in clubs like Mudd and the Paradise Garage – one of the book’s characters was making a rare Brooklyn appearance at a space in Bushwick.
Though there’s rarely a lack of nighttime activity in the city that supposedly never sleeps, on paper it seemed like an especially great match. Unlike many New York clubs in the post-Rudy Giuliani era, House of Yes tries hard with its musical bookings, setting and entertainment acumen. Billing itself as part disco, part “circus theatre”, it features DIY décor, psychedelic projections, dressed-for-cabaret employees and an audience always ready to let loose.
Flash, meanwhile, is riding his third wind. In the mid-1970s, he helped perfect record-scratching as one of the cornerstones of the Bronx culture that came to be known as hip-hop. Now he is one of the executive producers of The Get Down, Baz Luhrmann’s colorful Netflix show that recasts the creation myth of rap and modern DJing as a fairytale musical. (And is a wonderful fact-meets-fiction preamble to Lawrence’s historical account.) So, while Flash’s stock as a local legend never fell off, it’s been a minute since it paid such high market dividends.
Understandably, the packed House of Yes crowd – an impressive congregation of young and old, black and white, straight and gay – went wild. Flash’s skills at cutting up records, and his interpretation of the cross-genre flow at the heart of the city’s original sound (disco, rap, funk, dance-punk, Latin, mutant electronic, all in the mix) were rapturous and timeless.