It’s nearing 4 a.m.—peak hour at Flamingo, one of New York’s most popular gay discos. The room is steaming hot and glowing; a sort of homosexual Walpurgisnacht is under way. There are 1,500 men on the dance floor, hundreds stripped to the waist wearing stovepipe jeans and boots—clones abounding. The air is streaked with the mingled smell of grass and the sweat that’s streaming down glistening torsos. The DJ, Richie Rivera, is about to make the room even hotter. Mixing the end of one record into the next with a move discernible only as an upward shift in sound, he draws hundreds more from the bar onto the dance floor.
Ray Caviano, the 28-year-old president of RFC (Caviano’s initials) Records, the new disco division of Warner Brothers, stands beneath Rivera’s booth absorbing the mood of the room. A key try-out spot for so-called “progressive” disco, Flamingo plays the newest records months before they reach the mass market. Caviano, who pioneered this method, says: “If the men at the Flamingo like a record, it’s
sure to be a hit nationally and probably internationally.”
The record that has disco’s tastemakers gyrating wildly this evening was first played six months ago, climbing to No. 1 on both the Canadian and American disco charts within a month of release. Dancer, the work of 24-yearold Montrealer Gino Soccio, remains a favorite in the underground clubs. “A jock can throw on Gino’s record when everything is going wrong in the room and it will bring everyone out of the bathrooms, away from the bar and the hallways and back on the dance floor,” says Caviano. “Gino has a real feel for the sort of music people want to dance to today.”
In the rapidly expanding world of disco, Soccio is a major talent. Named Best New Artist at Billboard’s International Disco Forum last month in New York, Soccio was picked by Caviano for RFC Records’ first release, Outline. Made in Montreal, the album includes five Soccio numbers, among them Dancer. Now turned gold in Canada, Dancer is the rage on the disco circuits in Britain, France, Germany and Japan. Well over 250,000 copies of the single have been
sold internationally and Outline's sales are also nearing that mark—impressive figures for a disco newcomer.
Tall, lean and quiet, Soccio is so pooped from this rush of sudden fame that his sentences end in whispers. Settling back in a sofa in his Manhattan hotel room, he is a striking figure in black velvet with a bright red cleaner’s tag peeking from his pocket, a small testimony to the pace at which he moves. “My lifestyle has gone right overboard,” he admits. “What I’m doing is absolutely crazy by normal standards. One minute I’m in Los Angeles, the next I’m somewhere else and when I’m not doing that I’ve got my head in a speaker at 500 decibels creating music.”
Indeed, so confused is Soccio’s life that he hasn’t the slightest idea how much money he is making. Still living (when he can get there) with his parents in Montreal, he has no agent to keep his affairs in order or to control his intake, which, he concedes, is a lot. “I blow money like nobody’s business,” he says. “My mother works in a Montreal store
and what she earns in a month—around $500—1 spend in a day. There seems to be no limit to what I can spend, but I don’t know how long it will last.”
Caviano has no doubts about Soccio’s future, certain that he is the forerunner of a new generation of disco artists. Not only did Soccio write and score Outline, he also produced the album and performed the drum, synthesizer, keyboard, acoustic guitar and vocal tracks. Trained as a classical musician from the age of eight (including studies at Montreal’s prestigious Vincent D’lndy Conservatory), Soccio brings more to the business than good vocal chords and a sense of rhythm. Such versatility, he hopes, will stand him in good stead. Just as he credits his success as a composer with the disco wave, he predicts his demise as an artist will coincide with the death of the genre, which he predicts—perhaps optimistically—will come in the next seven to 10 years.Then, as now, he will produce for other artists: ‘T can’t stop at myself—that’s too limiting. I’ve much more to offer than producing just one album a year called Gino Soccio.”
Still, Soccio sadly allows that his name is better known below the border; the story has a familiar ring. “People are just discovering that I’m Canadian,” he says. “They say: ‘You can’t be Canadian—that sort of thing is only for Hollywood.’ As if it can’t be done in Montreal. Montreal has a good atmosphere. There are certain things that turn me off about the place—politics, for instance—but there is more than enough to make me want to stay. It’s home.”
Soccio may find the record he’s producing for Guy Lafleur—a disco hockey practice album to be released for this year’s season—may bring him a higher profile on home turf. The four songs on the disc—Body Check, Shoot, Skate and Score—are interspersed with instructions from Lafleur, who intends the record for school gymnasiums and rinks throughout Canada. According to Soccio, disco’s 4/4 beat is the ideal tempo for chasing the puck.
Meanwhile, Soccio is under contract to cut at least three more albums for Caviano, the next to be released this fall. He admits to craving a simpler pace: “I would like to be able to run, play tennis, ride horses and swim a lot, but I can’t now because there isn’t time. When disco runs its course, I’ll be ready for the other things in life and I’ll get it all together.” For the moment, he’s riding on the high tide of success with influential DJs watching his every move. “I really enjoy Gino’s music,” enthuses Rivera. “The recording is tremendously clean and clear—sort of light but heavy at the same time, if you know what I mean.” The boys at Flamingo know exactly what he means.
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