All photos courtesy of Nicky Siano.
If there was a dance music hall of fame, Nicky Siano would be there. And if the US government were ever to grant a classic nightclub landmark status, The Gallery would probably be it. As far as pioneering clubbing institutions go, the historic 70s disco will be remembered alongside David Mancuso's Loft, Paradise Garage, and Studio 54. The Gallery opened in Chelsea, in 1973, only to relocate to 172 Mercer Street in Soho, across from what is now the Angelica movie theater, the following year, before finally closing its doors in 1977.
Today, at 61 years old, Nicky Siano is still throwing parties that keep the Gallery spirit alive. This New Years Eve, he'll will be presenting The Last Ultimate Disco Party with disco legends like Rochelle Fleming of First Choice, Melba Moore, and DC La Rue. It's all going down at the El Dorado Auto Skooter space in Coney Island, which hosted the DJs birthday party last year, and contains an impeccable sound system designed by famed Studio 54 sound man Richard Long.
To help get everyone's disco juices flowing, Mr. Siano has been so kind enough to send over an exclusive (and incredibly rare) live recording of the opening party at The Gallery II. As can be expected, it's amazing. We got a chance to talk to him about that special night over 40 years ago, and what to expect at his party in a couple weeks.
THUMP: What were some first impressions of the second Gallery space?
Nicky Siano: The neighborhood was desolate—Soho was a wasteland in 1974, but in Sept of that year when we opened I remember one of the first people who walked in and said, WOW, FUTURISTIC. And it was, it was truly the future of clubs. As we know, many call it THE FIRST DISCO, because it was built to blow people's minds as they danced. The lightening, the air flow, the food, the sound, everything was hand picked and overseen my myself, and my brother.
Who were some of the other key people involved in making the night happen?
When we did things back then, it was on shoe string budgets. In the original Gallery the door price was $5 and we gave away everything, so we had small reserves and were constantly borrowing and paying it back. But, I would think of an idea, then my brother who was and is an architectural engineer would design a way to implement it. Such as the lighting system, which I envisioned after looking at the high ceilings. Many of the staff were in place from the first Gallery, so everyone would come in, paint the walls, carry the elements, and my brother and Danny Prosedda built many of the structures and walls. And of course, Alex Rosner, who's still alive and working, did the sound.
Who were some people that came through the Gallery at this time?
That Gallery was visited by the likes of Billy Preston, Patti Labelle, David Bowie, and Mick Jagger. That night was packed—about 1600 people—and many fashion industry people.
How did other people get in?
You needed an invitation card, which was a membership. You could bring guests.
Tell us a bit about this set. What was your mixing like during the time?
Many of the songs on this mix might be familiar to most, but one must understand, this was the first time those records were being played—the first time those records were being danced to. I talk a lot about mixing, and how when I mixed, I not only matched beats, but sounds as well. On this tape within the first minute, I match up horns on two different records, and change the song—you can't even tell! And then I mix on a violin, find it!
What was your set up like?
I already had discovered using three turn tables, so they were all there. I also used a reel to reel tape deck to loop back and make echo. So i would run a sound effect on one TT, then I would be mixing two records together.
Where did you find some of these records?
Back then my process of finding new records consisted of going to the clubs which were left standing. The original Limelight on 7th ave, and Hollywood, where my favorite DJ of all time played, Richie Kaczor.
Were you nervous before the big night?
No, surprisingly—much more excited then nervous. We were ready and everything was in place. Of course we learned things, and tweaked them as we went along. One of our biggest mistakes when we opened was that painted everything WHITE. Then within 3 months, everything was black…oh well. What do you miss most about this time?
The camaraderie. At this time everyone knew each other. It was a very special experience, as my parties still are now. People were there for one reason, to dance to great music. If you met someone, it was a plus. One great story a friend tells goes: "I was at a wedding and in the bridal party. After the wedding we all went to The Gallery—in gowns and tuxes. We walked out in our underwear, the girls all carrying their shoes and dresses.
Finally, what can we expect from your big NYE party?
We are working on the place right now—I am steam cleaning the place, and we are building a new DJ booth, putting in a new lighting system, WE ARE TRULY GOING ALL OUT! I think this will be the event that people talk about for the next ten years, because no one is doing events like these anymore—they give you morsels and charge you big money. This is everything included for 75 in advance, it's a true gift.
I am going to enjoy every minute, cause the way the world is going, we have to enjoy this time together, and live each moment to the FULLEST!
Nicky Siano's The Last Ultimate NYE Disco Party with Rochelle Fleming (First Choice), Melba Moore & DC LaRue
El Dorado Auto Skooter at 1216 Surf Avenue in Coney Island. 12/31 10pm-6am