Here's a story I've written on the early days of DJ'ing and Disco in Norway where I'm from.
Honest feedback's appreciated, especially since I'm kinda new to writing.
Maybe you'll discover a record or two you didn't know about as well. Enjoy.
Disco In Norway
(Photo: DJ Tore Løken)
Disco in Norway was started in 1969 by a guy from Oslo named Tore Løken. After he had spent time on the UK club scene he brought the idea back with him, and decided to start a club in Oslo where musicians and other artists could hang out with like minded people, and others in the music business. The name of the club was Mandagsklubben (The Monday Club), that was private and membership only. Sort of a chill-out zone for people in the Norwegian entertainment industry, artists, musicians, and their girlfriends. Later in ' 69 Tore Løken also started a club open to the general public, and named it Safari. Safari would become the new hot spot in Oslo, being mentioned in music magazines outside of Norway as well. The club had a jungle style interior, and the DJ booth was built to look like a hut.
Tore Løken was the DJ at both clubs, and the first DJ from Norway to play in front of a live audience, as well as the first DJ to play records, and talk on the mic at the same time. More DJ's followed shortly, and guys like the Norwegian radio DJ Jørgen Slips would also start playing in Oslo in 1969 at a club called Soria Moria, as well as DJ Steve Lindquist who would team up with Løken to do the first mobile Disco parties in Norway using Gerard twin turntables, and a 100 watt amplifier to play parties in schools. The biggest amp available at the time was a 1500 watt amp they called Grand Slam that would be used mostly for outdoors events, and Steve Lindquist would be the first DJ to travel to various places in Norway to do gigs with the Rabbit Rock Mobile Disco system, a well known mobile Disco in Norway in the 70's and 80's run by Arne Mørk who was a speedboat racer as well as a pioneer in the Norwegian Disco business. After some time on the road in Norway Rabbit Rock Mobile expanded, and became the biggest mobile Disco in Europe.
(Photo:Polar Disco Club)
The Norwegian singer Halvdan Sivertsen would DJ in his hometown of Bodø in 1971 at the first club there named Polar Disco Club, and playing records during breaks in the performance by Swedish singer Cornelius Wrejsvik is what set off Halvdan's DJ career.
The other mayor cities in Norway like Trondheim, Bergen, and Stavanger also had a live Disco scene, and in Stavanger DJ Per Gjøvåg at Grotten Disco, a bomb shelter turned nightclub, would be the first DJ to get on Norwegian national TV that did a special on him and his club in 1974.
Clubbing spread quickly to all corners of Norway, even small towns like my hometown of Geilo, where DJ's like Per Alm would DJ at the first club here called Mølla in 1970, and in 1975 the first local DJ, Dave Dale, would play Disco parties in youthclubs and hotels, as well as at Mølla, and the other local clubs Sherlock Holmes, and Camus Circus. Per Alm would later become an A&R for Polygram records in Norway, and Dave Dale retired from DJ'ing in 1985.
Once Tore Løken had kick-started the Club and DJ culture, it took about one year tops before it had spread to the whole country from the biggest cities to the smallest villages. The norm in the beginning however was to have a live band on stage, and the DJ's playing records during breaks, so the early days of DJ's playing full nights were kinda hard to swallow for the crowds used to live bands, so they would boo when the DJ's came on, but soon, and as DJ's got better, the live band was replaced by the DJ, and some musicians would even become DJ's instead to be able to pay their bills.
The music played in the early days were inspired by the Hippie movement, and artists like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Blood, Sweat & Tears, and various progressive Rock bands, along with traditional Rock & Roll like The Beatles, Stones, Kinks, The Monkeys, etc, would be among the dancefloor favorites. From about 1973-74 uptempo Soul music would take over, and artists like Barry White, James Brown, KC & The Sunshine Band, and The Jacksons would become the hot artists among the DJ's and dancers, but all kinds of music was put in the mix, including the Norwegian folk music style called Gammeldans, which is music without a drum beat, played using only Violin and Accordion, that people would do couple-dancing to in between the Soulful Disco sets. In the early days it was recommended by clubowners that DJ's should play a few sets of Gammeldans during the night, probably to have a bit of Norwegian culture present in this new and exciting thing called clubbing, and keep a balance of Norwegian and foreign culture. In the early days it was also an unwritten rule that the DJ's should play three slow songs every hour to keep the crowd from goin' too bananas to the Disco sounds.
The first DJ to beatmix records in Norway was a guy from Oslo named Heavy Henry (RIP), who was inspired by DJ's he had heard mixing when he was partying in the UK. Henry would bring that style of DJ'ing to Norway in 1975, and mixed using two beltdrive turntables. There were no pitch controls, and you had to count rounds of the platters cause it took about three seconds to get them up to full speed, so Henry would mix slowing down or speeding up the platters gently with his fingers to go from one record to the next without losing the beat, as well as using a radio jingle machine for various sound FX. A very expensive piece of equipment back then that he had imported from the UK. Most other DJ's would be very impressed by Heavy Henry because they would mostly either play records from start to finish, or talk on the mic between them, so Henry was known as the best DJ in Norway in the mid 70's because of his mixing skills.
It didn't take long before entrepeneurs realized that clubbing was good business, and in the aftermath of the blockbuster Saturday Night Fever in 1977 the whole world went Disco crazy, and in Norway, like the rest of Europe, acts like Donna Summer, Boney M, Bee Gees, and Abba would have big hits with their more polished style of Disco that would appeal to the masses, from children to senior citizens. Disco was becoming big business, and clubs opened up left and right. Those were the happy days for club owners and DJ's alike. There were several booking agencies, IDEA, and Nor Booking that would hire DJ's, and book them to play at various clubs all over Europe, Bacchus booked worldwide, and Disco Sound for DJ's in Norway.
The DJ's would make a set fee that would be about $500 for a night, and about $3500 for a month as the resident DJ at a club. Clubowners would get whatever was left after bills, DJ, and staff were paid, and we're not talking about chump-change. The business would gross so much after a while that the Norwegian IRS would become very interested in the scene. They would hire people to make sure the right amount of taxes were paid by the clubowners, and would raid afterhours clubs that did private parties where the illegal sales of alcoholic beverages, drug abuse, and sex was the common thing, and some clubs would be shut down because of legal action by the IRS and the Police, but as one club was shut down, another started. The legal nightclubs had to close by 4am due to Norwegian regulations, but the illegal afterhours spots, often situated at someone's private home, or a basement, would be open ' til at least 9am, or for as long as people wanted to party.
By the late 70's, demand for 12" singles with extended remix versions of songs were high among DJ's, but no record stores would carry them in Norway, so Norwegian DJ's would travel to London to buy the latest 12" singles at shops like Groove Records in the Soho area, made famous by Tony Prince's Disco charts on 208 Radio Lux because the charts were compiled by Groove Records. The store was owned and run by an elderly and friendly lady named Mrs. Palmer who was well into her sixties, but still an expert on Soul, Funk, and Disco music, who would serve the hungry Norwegian DJ's with the latest 12" Disco singles. That way the Norwegian clubbers were lucky enough to be able to dance to the hottest new tunes only a couple of weeks after they were released in the US.
In the early 80's specialist DJ shops would open in Norway, like Funkytown in Stavanger run by a local DJ named Åge Holgersen, Fotokopi, Immerslund, and Hot News in Oslo, Mike Lewis record shop in Grimstad, and a few others, would import 12"s from the US and UK to supply DJ's all over Norway. In Oslo a record pool simply named Record Pool was started to serve DJ members with promo vinyls. Mike Burke record shop put ads in the biggest Norwegian newspaper VG advertising 12" singles to DJ's with a phonenumber to call to buy the records. That was in 1981, and some of the titles advertised were Yarbrough & Peoples' Don't Stop The Music, Blondie's Rapture, SOS Band's Take Your Time, and Kleeer's Get Tough.
Disco related advertising in VG was nothing new because CBS Records in Norway started a service in the newspaper in 1979 where people could call a number, and hear a snippet of the next big Disco hit record. The first record used in the service was Anita Ward's Ring My Bell that would become a number one single in Norway. Other Disco records that did well on the Norwegian charts were Baccara's Yes Sir I Can Boogie, Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive, Chic's Le Freak, and Good Times, Sister Sledge's We Are Family, and He's The Greatest Dancer, Ottawan's D.I.S.C.O., the Saturday Night Fever and Thank God It's Friday soundtracks, Leon Haywood's Don't Push It Don't Force It, The Whispers' And The Beat Goes On, any Earth Wind & Fire, Chaka Khan, Donna Summer, Village People, Bee Gees, Abba, etc...
The first crossover Rap record, Sugarhill Gang's Rappers Delight, peaked at number two on the Norwegian pop charts in 1980, shortly followed by two other Rap records in the Norwegian Top 10, Rap-O Clap-O by Joe Bataan, and Rhythm Talk by Jocko. After the release of those records it became a common thing among the more upfront DJ's to Rap over the various Disco records, and sometimes DJ's would make their own raps to introduce themselves and to hype the crowds, so in that respect Hip-hop was introduced to Norway by club DJ's.
The common language used by DJ's to talk and rap on the mic was English for Norwegian as well as foreign DJ's playing in Norway. DJ's from the UK were plenty in Norway in the early years of Disco, and some of the best DJ's in Norway were British, such as DJ Gary Dean who would mix records just as well as the best DJ's in the US, and would play the same music that was hot in the clubs stateside.
As far as Norwegian artists putting out Disco records there were close to no real Disco cuts made in Norway. The exceptions being artists and bands doing Norwegian cover versions of Disco hits. There were plenty of artists making Soul, Jazz, and Funk influenced music however, such as Frode Thingnes, Jon Eberson, Inger Lise Rypdal, Jonas Fjeld Band, Alex, Lava that featured Randy Crawford as their singer on a couple of albums, and Drama that changed their name to Creation in the mid 80's and released the 12" I'm Going Up in 1985, on the Desperado label, with a Swedish remix by Fredrik Ramel who also did most of the remixes for the Swedish dance label Beat Box that put out remixes of Italian Disco records mostly. I'm Going Up is now much in demand among Boogie collectors, and fetches about $100 when it shows up.
Comedy acts like Prima Vera would do mediocre Norwegian cover versions of international Disco hits in the late 70's. The first serious quality Disco record from Norway actually didn't come out until 1984 with the duo Avalanche's 12" single Heaven Tonight. Avalanche were Norwegian, but had German production, and were signed to the German label Metronome Records. They followed Heaven Tonight with several more 12" singles during the late 80's, and early 90's.
The only Norwegian club hit before that was Oslo's New Wave artist Beranek with his 7" 45 only release Dra Te' Helvette (Go To Hell), that was a number one single in Norway in 1981, even if it was banned from national radio because of the title and lyrics about shooting up Heroin, and some record stores wouldn't sell it cause it had a picture of a naked ass with a syringe labeled Disco on the front cover. Beranek released a couple of 12" singles and albums in the early 80's, but they were aimed at the New Wave / Punk crowd more than the Disco crowd. For some reason Norwegian labels and artists seemed to have a problem taking Disco music seriously, and Norway was always a little late to pick up on new musical trends compared to the other Scandinavian contries, which is the main reasons there are very few Norwegian Disco records. It took A-ha to make it big worldwide with Take On Me, (Released in 1984), in the late 80's, for other Norwegian artists to realize that it was possible to make it big internationally with a dance record, although the Progressive Rock band Popol Ace, later turned Popol Vuh, were close in the mid 70's when they almost signed a deal with Frank Zappa.
In the US on July 12th. 1979, the infamous Disco Demolition Night took place, where American radio DJ Steve Dahl had people bring their Disco records to a sports event in Chicago to start a giant fire and burn the records. In reality, a racist and anti-gay mediahype promoted by Rock DJ's and music industry people who were stuck in the past, and hated the fact that Disco had taken Rock & Roll's spot as the most popular culture and music. It was an attempt to end Disco that also made it to the Norwegian newspapers in 1980, backed by certain people in the Norwegian press, under the headlines of Disco Is Dead! A lot of people took that literally, some clubs were shut down, and some DJ's quit because they genuinely believed that Disco was indeed dead.
So was that the end of clubbing and DJ'ing in Norway? No, it was just the beginning.
To be continued...
© Uncut Productions - 2009
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