|and a half foot counter and the guy had a turntable behind it. All over the wall he had 45s. |
Some of them were bootlegs, some of them were original. Then they had some albums too. I remember seeing The Eagles' The Long Run album there. The guy would write on them, you know, "Rare break beat, Bob James 'Mardi Gras'." There was "Son Of Scorpio" and stuff like that. All these weird records. Some of them were cut-out records that they probably bought for 99 cents. They were selling them for 19 dollars in 1979.
"And there'd be these black kids that would come in that were about 15 years old, or maybe 14. There'd be 2 or 3 of them and they'd chip in together and buy the record as a group so they could share it for DJing. I didn't know who any of them were but the room was always filled with these little kids and they were mostly from the Bronx. That's where Kool Herc was, that's where Grandmaster Flash was, and Bambaataa. They were taking breaks from rock records and that's when I really got interested in going to T Connection to go and hear Bambaataa DJing."
Silverman drove up to the Bronx where he found the club, an upstairs room on White Plains Road. "Nobody was drinking and people were just sort of standing around," he remembers. "Not really anybody was dancing. There were people on the dancefloor but they weren't really moving that much. There was a very small stage that almost never was used because all the action was in the DJ booth.
"Bambaataa was Djing but a lot of the time he was just picking the records and giving them to Jazzy Jay or Red Alert who were the two DJs that he had at the time. They would put the records on. They were spinning these records. A lot of them had scratched-out labels so you couldn't see what they were and I realised this was one of the sources of where these kids were finding out about these records. I heard 'em playing Kraftwerk. The invitations would say, 'James Brown tribute' and it would say, 'Invited guests Kraftwerk'. None of them ever appeared but kids would still turn out. I remember Whiz Kid was playing bass on the stage once while the music was going and then somebody else was up there rapping. That was the first time I heard people actually rapping to these breakbeats. Most of the time it was just beats going on and on and there was no MC.
"Bambaataa would mix different things. Like he used 'Mary Mary' by The Monkees, 'The Big Beat' by Billy Squier, just dun-daa-duh-dun-dun-dak. Jazzy Jay, was more of a technician. Bambaataa was the master of records. He owned the records and could programme the music. It was amazing. I was immediately comfortable and immediately witnessing a merging of cultures. There were no white people in the place and the average age was around 16, 17, something like that. I was probably around 23, 24. I went right up there and I got with him afterwards and talked to him about this and other things."
Silverman had already made the decision to launch his own record company. Taking sale-or-return copies of Disco News to record stores in 1979 had given him first-hand experience of the business. This was the moment when The Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight" started flying out of shops, booming from every car radio on the street. "I saw what Sugarhill was doing," he says, "and the games they were playing with their artists. I thought if these guys are doing it I can do it. It wasn't like they were experts. They didn't really know what they were doing. They were just doing it."
Cautious at first, he released his first dance record through another label. Conscious that he needed some instant business acumen, Silverman attended a two-weekend school for entrepreneurs. "There were people who had medical ideas, petro-chemical, health. Mine was starting this record company," he says. "I talked about how you could make 12inch records and presented my business plan. The guy who ran this thing said, 'You have no chance. You might as well go to Harlem and find a drug dealer to put the money up for this, because nobody in their right mind will put the money up.' I was totally dumbfounded."