LISTEN TO MADONNA’s first major tune, Everybody, and you can hear the stew of eclectic influences from the New York that nurtured her.
Change The Beat, the bespoke MOJO CD compilation that comes free with the latest edition of the magazine, reflects the hip tastes of our nascent cover star and is dedicated to a time when New York clubs like Hurrah, The Mudd Club, The Loft, Paradise Garage and The Danceteria spewed out sounds that influenced cutting-edge music the world over.
Fourteen tracks of punk-funk, alt.disco and proto-rap from the turn of the ’80s comprise one of our best ever covermount CDs. Below, we present the full skinny on all the songs and artists, and if you want to see and hear more we have a spin-off online playlist featuring extra James Chance/White, Arthur Russell and Bush Tetras, plus Talking Heads, New Order, Liquid Liquid and more...
23 Skidoo Coup As well as nurturing homegrown NYC talent, the tastemaking DJs at The Danceteria enjoyed hipping their crowd to the latest sounds from the UK. Mark Kamins – the DJ who famously played Madonna’s Everybody demo to Sire’s Seymour Stein in ’81 – latched on to this 1984 tune by north London’s 23 Skidoo who, in employing Aswad’s horn section and recruiting bassist Peter ‘Sketch’ Martin from Brit-funk outfit Linx, moved beyond their post-punk roots into deep-groove territory. Available on: Urban Gamelan (LTMCD 2530)
ESG Erase You If ever an act defined the cross-pollination that existed within the early ’80s New York scene, ESG are it. Hailing from the South Bronx (the birthplace of hip-hop), the Scroggins sisters created a sound that drew on post-punk, No Wave, funk and rap to create their own inspirational sound. Despite a stop-start career they have been widely sampled by artists as diverse as J.Dilla and Liars, while their most recent music proves that their fire remains undimmed. Available on: Dance To The Best Of ESG (FIRELP156)
Bush Tetras You Can't Be Funky Included by writer/artist Michael McKenzie (alongside Madonna) in his early ’80s Androgyny portfolio – a photographic study of the sexually ambiguous downtown scene – the Bush Tetras were another New York act who cut across genres. The infectious rhythm-and-jerk of You Can’t Be Funky provided Cynthia Sley and gang with a US dance hit in 1982 prior to the band’s split. Reforming, they played The Mudd Club reunion show in 2010 at The Delancey Bar Available on: Boom In The Night (RUSCD 8218/RUS LP 8218)
Delta 5 Triangle Another British act embraced by the Big Apple, Delta 5 made their New York debut at the Hurrah club in 1980 – the same year in which they released this slashing, bass-heavy tune. Turning down the opportunity to support The Clash at Bond’s in Times Square the following summer, they returned to play The Mudd Club at the behest of the late Ruth Polsky, the booker and concert promoter who did much to support British acts on the East Coast. Available on: Blue Apple Music
James White And The Blacks Sax Maniac While a number of No Wave acts had little choice but to make a virtue of their lack of musicianship, sax-wielding James White (aka James Chance, né James Siegfried) had the musical chops to match his deep love of jazz and soul. Sax Maniac, the title track from his ’82 album, reveals his ability to channel James Brown while drawing on No Wave’s skittering energy to build an irresistible groove. Available on: Sax Maniac (Munster Records 2002, MRCD 235, MR235)
Arthur Russell Hop On Down A genuine musical polymath, in 1976 the classically-trained Arthur Russell immersed himself in the underground disco scene based around DJ Nicky Siano’s The Gallery. He made music that defied shape and real categorization, as this mellifluous effort proves. Embraced by Larry Levan, who played a number of his tunes at the Paradise Garage, his music has grown in influence following his death, age 40, from an AIDS-related illness. Available on: Calling Out Of Context
Screamin' Rachael Cain My Main Man Naming herself after Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Rachael Cain promoted punk acts like Black Flag before championing the nascent Chicago House scene. This sparse, futuristic 1985 track became an underground hit and she headed to New York. But emotional turmoil saw her return to Chicago where she became president/co-owner of the influential Trax label – home to Marshall Jefferson and the late Frankie Knuckles. Available on: iTunes & on vinyl courtesy of www.primedirectdist.co.uk
Maximum Joy White And Green Place (Extraterrestrial Mix) Formed in Bristol in 1979 by former members of The Glaxo Babies and The Pop Group, Maximum Joy were signed to Dick O’Dell’s Y Records alongside The Slits and Pigbag. This, a remix of their second single (first released in 1982), show an ability to match sonic experimentation, tribal rhythms and a groove that’s both heavy and lithe – qualities which saw them embraced by NY club-goers. Available on: London Field Recordings
Funkadelic Icka Prick In many respects the scene that formed Madonna revolved around a post-disco sound, the roots of which lie in records that concentrated on crisp, heavy beats and repetition. This 1981 track by George Clinton’s legendary outfit is a glorious example of the kind of sound that helped move dance music forward, its thick groove aimed at the dancefloor; its lyrics salacious enough to solicit a Parental Advisory sticker. As the man says: “Icka Prick! You’re sick!” Available on: The Electric Spanking Of War Babies (Charly CD, LP and Digital Download)
Curtis Mayfield Tell Me, Tell Me (How Ya Like To Be Loved) Another track spun freely at the Paradise Garage by Larry Levan, this 1979 Curtis Mayfield classic sees the Chicago legend unpack the patented disco synth drum (check out that opening beat/swoop) and throw lush string parts on a track that builds to a lustful climax. Co-produced by Bunny Sigler and Norman Harris – architects of the Philly sound – Tell Me, Tell Me is sophisticated, fluid and seductive. Available on: Heartbeat (Charly LP and Digital Download)
Chaz Jankel 3,000,000 Synths Hearing Sly And The Family Stone at school in north London had a profound effect on Chaz Jankel. As the guitarist and keyboard player in Ian Dury And The Blockheads, Jankel fed his love of funk into some of their biggest tunes. Going solo in 1980, he released three solo albums in quick succession and scored a US dance hit with Paradise Garage favourite, Glad To Know You, in ’82. This B-side to that track is a staggering slice of proto-electro that hasn’t dated. Available on: My Occupation: The Music Of Chaz Jankel
Section 25 Program For Light The relationship between Manchester’s Factory Records and New York clubland was forged at The Danceteria. There, Madonna opened for A Certain Ratio and Blackpool outfit Section 25 – whose electronics-driven third album, From The Hip, had been co-produced by New Order’s Bernard Sumner – played there in ’85. The fast-moving, techno-thrust of Program For Light is taken from that LP and showcases the mutual influence that existed between Factory and the sounds of NYC. Available on: From The Hip (FBN 33 CD)
Judy Nylon The Dice Travelling between London and New York in the 1970s, US-born Judy Nylon exerted a keen influence on both cities and has been credited by Brian Eno for her input on his early solo works. A key player in the No Wave scene and then a member of Snatch with Patti Palladin, she recorded with On-U-Sound’s Adrian Sherwood in London at the dawn of the ’80s, her restless energy captured on The Dice – a riot of percussive sound and proto-rap. Available on: Wild Paarty Sounds – Volume One
Singers And Players Make A Joyful Noise A loose reggae collective assembled by Adrian Sherwood, Singers And Players’ 1981 debut, War Of Words, was licensed in the US to New York’s 99 Records – then home to ESG and Liquid Liquid. Subsequent albums delivered on Sherwood’s original vision of using a fluid line-up of musicians ranging from The Slits’ Ari Up to Mikey Dread to create colossal dub grooves. The culmination was 1984’s Leaps & Bounds from which this loping, infectious tune is taken. Available on: Leaps & Bounds