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Paradise Lost And Found

Derek Walmsley

[caption id="attachment_1316" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Larry Levan working the deck at the Paradise Garage"][/caption]

Not many mixes demand to be prefaced by an hour long documentary, but this is an exception. The BBC radio series Legends Of The Dancefloor: A Piece Of Paradise featured a four hour radio broadcast from the Paradise Garage's second birthday, recorded by the young Lenny Fontana and on his dad's reel to reel tape deck back in 1979. Tucked away on the BBC radio schedules in July to run through the night, it almost passed me by, although perhaps I thought that a four hour recording from the Paradise Garage was just too good to be true.

Amazingly, the set is just as good as you might hope, so much so that it begs the question of how the hell it came to light in the first place, and how it remained hidden for so long. The broadcast was accompanied by an hour long chat between Mike Morin and Lenny Fontana, the latter of whom recorded it from local radio as a teenage disco freak before he was even frequenting the club.

The set and the documentary has now been unofficially archived on the web by Belfast disco freaks Iso Disco and also on Soundcloud by DJ Mixes – now the recording is out of the bag it would be a shame if it were to disappear into the mists of time once again.

What's the set like? Well, the sound quality is fairly good, but more importantly it’s the early years of the Paradise Garage, so the relationship between the DJ and the audience was still in the honeymoon stage, and you can hear the crowd responding to the music and the sense of community. Live PAs come from Sylvester and Loletta Holloway, voices that are so familiar frozen on their landmark records that it's genuinely startling to hear them singing in the moment. You can also hear better than ever Levan's style on the decks. He was not a technically dazzling DJ, but he knew his records so well that the verse of one could segue into the chorus of another. The sensitivity to mood and theme makes the experience something like film or theatre.

Perhaps in a way this mix is too good to be true, because when you're at a club you don't tend to listen forensically for four hours non stop – you tune in and out, you socialise and experience the space. But listening to it now, 30 years later in the comfort of your own home, it's like discovering a lost brotherhood, a better, fairer society from times past.

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