Tim Lawrence is Professor of Cultural Studies at the University of East London and the author of
It Felt Like the Whole City Was Listening
Dance music slumped to a national sales nadir during 1981. Although Kool and the Gang hit number one on the Hot 100 with “Celebration” early in the year, the rest of the chart featured few black, up-tempo recordings, and while the successes of Blondie’s “Rapture” and Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” indicated that dance music could still cross over, the majors declined to develop these records beyond a pop context. The corporate exodus presented the city’s independent labels and record stores with an opportunity; Vinyl Mania emerged as a particularly influential store. As national disco radio crashed in tandem with the disco juggernaut, New York’s party DJs reasserted themselves as preeminent taste connoisseurs who could break records locally and regionally but not nationally. WBLS DJ Frankie Crocker, hugely influential in New York, established a close bond with Larry Levan, often playing his selections on radio.