Alongside David Mancuso and Larry Levan, the third member of the triumvirate making up arguably the kings of New York nightlife sits Nicky Siano. Whilst possibly the least known of the three, many would argue that he was the first superstar DJ. He played hard and fast both musically and in terms of lifestyle, he innovated technically and sonically, he straddled uptown and downtown. He was the King of New York afterhours, at least between 1973 and 1977.
Nicky Siano, was inspired by David Mancuso and his Loft parties, however pupil turned teacher as he employed young Frankie Knuckles and Larry Levan to work at the Gallery. Knuckles and Levan would blow up balloons and help prepare the space for the night ahead. Larry later taking over the controls of the lighting system. They would often spend time in the dj booth though, watching as Siano worked his magic to squeeze every last drop out of the tracks he was playing until he left his crowd screaming with the intensity. Siano innovated, he was among the very first to use EQ’s, he added a third deck to allow use of sound effects, doubling up on tracks to create echo effects as well as utilising a cutting edge sound system to literally surround the dancers in sound.
Musically Siano predated what became commonly known as disco, though he without doubt assisted in creating the foundation for the disco scene before becoming one of its leading lights. He took soul, funk and even funky rock and worked tracks hard to create euphoric peaks, maintain crescendos and build on the sections that dancers loved. He of course took his sound uptown to Studio 54 where he played for sometime before his more leftfield selections and style started to rub against the more aesthetic and mainstream direction that club was taking.
His home was of course The Gallery, where his crowd embraced his style, however as with many that burn hard, the end had to come. Drug issues meant that Siano’s brother pulled the plug on the Gallery. Whilst Nicky Siano played on elsewhere for a time, he eventually took refuge from the club scene dropping out of sight and sadly out of mind for many.
His talent could not stay hidden, as interest in the New York club scene of the 70’s and 80’s took hold, not least in the UK, a desire to seek out the pioneers of the scene saw new opportunities arrive. By the mid 90’s Siano was back behind the decks, producing and spreading his love of music again. Playing contemporary dance music alongside classics and many points in between he remains an inspiration, a teacher, a dj and always a pioneer.
As with the posts on David Mancuso, I accompany this with a selection of tracks that seek to represent the subject matter. So here is a selection of music inspired by the records played at The Gallery. Soul, funk and disco. There is no attempt to replicate Siano’s dj style, he is a master of the craft. The selections are chosen with respect to the man and his club.
1. The Temptations – Law Of The Land
2. Bonnie Bramlett – Crazy ’bout my Baby
3. Vernon Burch – And They Call That Love
4. The Trammps – Love Epidemic
5. The Isley Brothers – Get Into Something
6. Zulema – Giving Up
7. Double Exposure – 10 Percent
8. Dr Buzzards Original Savannah Band – Si Si Bon / Cherchez La Femme
9. Genie Brown / Tribe – I Can’t Stop Talking / Koke ( Danny Krivit edit)
10. Margue Joseph – Prophecy
11. Midnight Movers – Follow The Wind (Danny Krivit edit)