Nicky Siano is one of those people who you could sit and talk to for hours at a time and it would never be enough. The New York native has enough stories to fill 10 books about the history of dance music in this fair city and could name names for days.
Nicky started The Gallery in 1971 which was one of NYC’s first underground nightspots. It’s where Larry Levan and Frankie Knuckles got their first gigs, Grace Jones would come to dance all night and people could be whoever they wanted to be. Nicky is also credited as being the first DJ to mix and broke thousands of disco hits on The Gallery dancefloor.
He later went on to be the first DJ at Studio 54 and ever since then he’s been keeping people dancing through his rare vinyl collection and ear for the groove. After playing at the Red Bull Music Academy tribute to Arthur Russell at Good Room last year, we’ve invited Nicky back for round two. He’ll be taking over the Bad Room on May 28 bringing six hours of joy to dancers (grab your tickets here). With so many stories to tell, we asked Nicky to share five of his favorite moments on the dancefloor. ***Note – We left Nicky’s all caps in for extra emphasis and a little bit of fun***
One – The Loft
The original LOFT at 647 Broadway, was my favorite Loft. I remember hearing GIRL YOU NEED A CHANGE OF MIND for the first time on that dance floor. The room was tiny, 150 people squeezed in, shoulder to shoulder. The break came and the lights went out, it was so dark you couldn’t see anything…everyone screamed. The chills I experienced on that dance floor were repeated at the Gallery, but never since.
Two – Grace Jones at The Tunnel
GRACE JONES appearance at The Tunnel, 1986, A VIEW TO A KILL had come out the year before, and I was invited by Grace’s manager to see her at the club. She was about 2 hours late when her manager BOB CAVIANO came up to me and said, “CAN YOU GO SPEAK WITH HER AND GET HER ON STAGE?” “WHAT WOULD I SAY TO HER THAT YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY SAID BOB” was my answer. Shortly after that, she took the stage, she was high up and people were creaming there heads off. She sang her new single I’M NOT PERFECT and at the end of the song, she dove off the stage to a huge pillow 10 feet below….I remained there with my mouth open for half an hour…PUT SOME GRACE IN YOUR FACE.
Three – Love is the Message at The Gallery
The first time I played LOVE IS THE MESSAGE at the Gallery February 1974, no one had ever heard the song before, and I started looping the last 6 minutes, playing it over and over. From the back of the room, on the part that i turned up the bass, I heard people start to chant TURN THIS MOTHER FUCKER OUT. They had chanted many things at the Gallery, but never this. Then I played it again, and again at the musical break they chanted TURN THIS MOTHER FUCKER OUT, louder, and I made the music louder, so then, they chanted louder and louder. I played the record 5 times that night, and by the end of the night the entire room was chanting a new chant TURN THIS MOTHER FUCKER OUT!
Four – Armand Van Helden at Body and Soul
The first time I played at Body and Soul at Vinyl, was for Larry Levan’s Birthday party….then I began going there. And the night they started playing YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW ME, by Armand Van Helden I remember the room shaking with vibration, from music and dance. I looked around and for a moment, I felt that same energy that I felt in the ’70s on the dance floor. I was so glad it was back!
Five – Ain’t No Mountain High Enough at the Paradise Garage
At the Paradise Garage, LARRY had just mixed AIN’T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH. I was on the dance floor, and I saw WALTER GIBBONS just staring at LARRY as the record played. At the end of the song, he clapped slowly up to Larry in the booth.
You can see Nicky Siano bring these classics and more back to life in the Bad Room on May 28 where he’ll be playing from open to close. Tickets available here.