Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor, 1980-1983
Tim Lawrence is Professor of Cultural Studies at the University of East London and the author of Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture, 1970–1979 and Hold On to Your Dreams: Arthur Russell and the Downtown Music Scene, 1973–1992, both also published by Duke University Press.
The thriving live music scene appeared to dip during 1982, perhaps because of the way electronic sounds were coming to the fore. ZE Records continued to be productive, however, while Island continued to build a diverse roster that saw Chris Blackwell mix the recognizable (the dub reggae of Black Uhuru, Gregory Isaacs, and Pablo Moses along with the conventional rock of u2 and Steve Winwood) with the mongrel (the dub-vocoder-electronics of Set the Tone and Grace Jones’s third Compass Point album, Living My Life). Blackwell also started to head to the Paradise Garage and, impressed by Levan, signed the Peech Boys. The group’s follow-up single, “Life Is Something Special,” featured a smooth, transcendent groove and neospiritual lyrics. Konk injected boisterousness into the downtown band scene with the release of “Master Cylinder’s Jam”—backed with a short version of “Konk Party”—at the end of 1982.