Following the Grooves of the Vinyl: Nicky Siano
Nicky Siano saw the light of day in Brooklyn New York on March 18, 1955. He snuck into the club Firehouse at the age of 15 and instantly fell for the music and the nightlife surrounding it. He knew he had to get his hands on those records. Sianos drive for DJing became more and more evident as he used to sit in his room and mix between a stereo and a little phonograph:"I wanted to play records more than anything else in the world. I mean I was possessed by it," says Siano. Friends and his girlfriend had to listen and give their thoughts on the records he played. After Siano got in to the Loft at the age of 16, his destiny was set. Siano was to become a DJ.
First gig at the Round Table thanks to Robin Lord in 1971 as a 16 year old.
After playing at Round Table for about a year Nicky became frustrated. His brother Joe Siano and girlfriend usually went to the Loft and frequently talked about opening up their own place. There was only one place like that. Coincidentally their friend hat gotten an accident settlement of 10,000 dollars. They borrowed $5,000 more and started building. Joe Siano was a architectural engineer who could build anything Siano designed. The club was simple, but ingenious.
In February 1973, The Gallery in SoHo, Manhattan was opened.
The club became legendary in a matter of months with the help of Sianos status as one of the best DJs in town. NY Daily News had entitled Siano as the citys best DJ. Also, New York Magazine wrote in a review that the venue is one of the five most visually breathtaking nightspots or our time. For a short period in the 1970s The Gallery was considered the hottest underground club, taking the title over from David Mancusos Loft. It was a place to go dancing. This was recognized by a lot of different people, also future superstars according to Nicky:I mean these were people who came when they werent really big. I mean we had at one point Mick Jagger and David Bowie there one night, Patti Labelle, Calvin Klein.The Gallery was ran until 1977, having been one of the most successful private clubs of the time.
One of the main things that made The Gallery and Siano so popular, was the skill of Sianos DJing. Playing the best underground funk, house and disco sounds, he had one of a kind ability to drive the dancing crowd into a frenzy.
Soon the radio DJs came to him, to pick out what was hot at the moment. Before Siano it had been the other way around.
Sianos produced a documentary called A Night At The Gallery, but hasnt yet released it commercially as there are some legal issues to be dealt with. Some of the lucky ones got to see the movie as it aired in London and a few other locations. Its been commented as probably the best footage of a legendary club ever seen.
The Gallery was a place for great beginnings. Grace Jones, D.C. La Rue, Loleatta Holloway, Frankie Knuckles and Larry Levan got the wind under their wings from The Gallery and Siano was their mentor.
At the end, there were troublesome times at The Gallery. It basically closed down because of Sianos drug problem. His brother proposed a ultimatum:You know, you are totally strung out on drugs and I feel youre killing yourself and I cant watch this. Are you gonna clean up, or we gonna close the club? Siano couldn't pull himself together, so they closed the club.
Arthur Russell pushed Siano into the studio room to be one of the first DJs to go into production
The same year, Arthur Russell pushed Siano into the studio room to be one of the first DJs to go into production, in his own words: What other DJ did a record in 1977? No-one. There were no DJs producing or mixing then. The track was called Kiss Me Again by Dinosaur. This one was more about financing and pushing the record at sets for Siano. It was released under Sire Records. They sold over 100,000 copies.
After getting over the drug habit in couple of gloomy years, he started putting out one record after another. Pick It Up, Tiger Stripes and many others were released, these were the times when Sianos body of work was established.
Siano had met Steve Rubell at the Enchanted Hellhole in the Enchanted Garden, Queens. And when Rubell opened up Studio 54, he asked if Siano would play there. Getting $150 a month when everyone else got $75, of course he took the gig. Siano elaborates on the experience of Studio 54.
"But then he opened Studio 54 which was a total atmosphere. Like the Loft. The thing is they added this other dimension: It was about the body; it was about the look; it was about the drugs; it was about sex. Clubs before that, it wasnt really the raison detre. And it f****d the whole thing up. It was so self-centred. All these things on Studio 54 recently, and not one of them has talked about the DJs. Never mentioned Richie Kaczor. I only played there for the three or four months.
"It was about the body; it was about the look; it was about the drugs; it was about sex. Clubs before that, it wasnt really the raison detre." - Siano about Studio 54
Starting out as a resident DJ in Studio 54, playing underground sounds opposed to the disco hits dominating the scene, he got fired after 4 months for excessive drug usage. So the endeavour of Studio 54 started out with the purest motives by Steve Rubell, but ended up badly. The drugs took over and that changed the club, tells Siano. The release of 'Saturday Night Fever' and the 'Disco Sucks!' campaign in the late seventies mark the end of an era for Siano:
The party was over. Thats what it was. I mean in the beginning there was no word disco. If you were going to Davids you were going to the party(...)I hate that word to this day. I think coining that phrase, Billboard starting the charts, and the disco forum and then Studio opening brought what was an underground kinda incredible party, into the mainstream, meant this big business, and basically, ruined it.
At the same time hit the reality of HIV
Dark times took over the party scene with people having no time to go out dancing, because they were busy taking care of their friends. This sudden, disasterous virus took its toll very suddenly. Nicky quit DJing in 1984 and started campaigning tirelessly against the disase. He wrote a book called No Time To Wait, an all-important guide for people affected with the dreadful virus.
Nicky Siano stands firmly as a living legend, plays music to this day and is still on a considerable spot in DJ-Rankings.
Nevertheless, Nicky Siano stands firmly as a living legend while most of his colleagues have passed on. His legacy and influences on countless artists is uncomparable to anyone. Siano's become more active in the recent decade, touring the world as a DJ and working on releasing his documentary. He made his return behind the decks in 1998 stepping up at Larry Levan's Birthday celebration. After that he's been playing records steadily at the Twelve West party in NY, at Cheetah. He's mixed Melissa Morgan's 'Believe in Yourself', Taana Gardner's 'I'm Coming' and 'Pillow Talk'. His most recent release 'Power of Love' on "12 is available on his home page. Don't miss one of the best compilations of all time handpicked by the legend himself - Soul Jazz presents Nicky Siano's The Gallery. 2011, Siano reappeared at the Studio 54 for the clubs One Night Only reopening organized by Sirius XM Radio. He played his finest tunes from back in the days before the swedish superstar DJ Avicii took over. Nicky Siano ranks in The Official Global DJ Rankings on a very respectable 6935th spot.
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