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Paradiso Handjobs

Everyone is sweating, coming up on poppers and rubbing eachother’s bodies down in pink, strawberry-scented glitter gel.
Κείμενο William Bennett

Photo: PYMCA.

I couldn’t believe how much fun summer ’84 in Italy’s Rimini was—Britain was a miserable grey dump and, before acid house, the NME hadn’t given heteros permission to go clubbing or listen to dance music yet. Warm sunshine and Adriatic sea-breeze to caress your features, glasses of chilled Chianti, ice-cream and pizza parlours, sultry dark-haired booty wherever you looked, the buzz of Vespas up and down the main promenade—and then as dusk fell, still sporting my Ray-Bans, I’d go hand-in-hand with Carlotta and her 17-year-old sister to the Paradiso to get completely blissed out to the 100 percent happy sounds of Italian disco music. And what an exciting soundtrack it proved to be to those memorable nocturnal frenzies: stolen exploratory fumbles and kisses and dodgy handjobs in the Paradiso’s toilets. Because 80s Italo-disco or Eurobeat, with its hardcore hi-NRG gay, amyl-nitrate-scented dance origins, is a pop music that’s actually both irresistibly sexy, genuinely infectious and tons more fun to lose your inhibitions to than the mainstream, supposedly “artistically superior” dance music that millionaire DJs churn out for ecstasy casualties who find spirituality in Ibiza. The outrageously catchy melodies in cute, poorly-pronounced, ungrammatical English possess a uniquely cheeky camped-up freshness: Max Him’s “Lady Fantasy”, Miko Mission’s “How Old Are You?” and Baby’s Gang’s “Happy Song” are highlights. Italo superstar Sabrina did have a big UK hit with “Boys (Summertime Love)” and regularly enjoyed teasing spotty pubescent youths by deliberately allowing her breasts to fall out on TV during “Sexy Girl”. Baltimora also enjoyed success with “Tarzan Boy” while Laura Branigan covered RAF’s “Self Control” to great, throbbing effect, yet this vast treasure trove of wonderful dance music is, to most, virtually unheard-of—until recently that is. Take a trip to the Far East and you’ll find Italian producers like Giacomo Maiolini, Laurent Newfield, Dave Rodgers, Mauro “Mark” Farina, Giuliano Crivellente et al all making fortunes off their back catalogues to young girls and boys, stripped to the waist and painted in gold. There’s also been a huge revival since the late 90s in Eastern Europe and Russia (like The Cheeky Girls) but on our typical UK diet of house, rap and alternative we have very little exposure to this kind of stuff—maybe that’s why the Brits have to take so many Class As to enjoy themselves. Recently, I’ve been DJing sets of hi-NRG Italo Disco in Scotland and the reaction I’ve had to the songs has been phenomenal. I was at a club in Edinburgh, and was spinning “Menergy” by that unsung genius Patrick Cowley (HIV/RIP) and these two early 20-something girls and one adolescent boy started to lose their minds in front of the DJ booth. They were sweating, all coming up on poppers and rubbing each other’s bodies down in pink, strawberry-scented glitter gel. It was fucking amazing. WILLIAM BENNETT