The Subway Soul Club started in December 2001 when Lady Dawn and some of her friends, fellow Brit Jeff Valle and Dr. Scott Bulleit organized the first event, held at a small joint in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Since then, Lady Dawn would draw up the beautiful flyers, dance around in vintage Mod frocks and take names for her mailing list. Jeff and Dr. Scott, along with a guest DJ or two, played cool records that got folks on the floor dancing. SSC then moved around a little bit, and in the confusion, Jeff and Dr. Scott both moved back to their respective hometowns (Dr. Scott is from San Francisco Bay area) by the summer of 2002. At this point, Phast Phreddie the Boogaloo Omnibus was asked to step in as resident DJ. That July, he helped find a new home–Raffifi on East 11th Street–and it was there that SSC lived so well for so long. When Rififi closed, about four or five years later, the Club became homeless, but carried on nearly every month at several different venues for a few years. The most steady was The Loft in Williamsburg, where SSC held forth until May 2011, when Lady Dawn decided to give it a rest.
Subway Soul Club was resurrected in 2013 when it became an irregular, periodic affair. Since then, there has been at least one SSC happening a year at such venues as Grand Victory, Coco 66 and Lucille’s Blues Bar at BB King’s.
Here we are, just barely a little over a month into 2013 and we have already had a Subway Soul Club event. Held on February 3rd at the Gemini & Scorpio Loft, any one who attended will tell you that it was one of the best ones since leaving Riffi.
The Gemini & Scorpio Loft is an unmarked door on a side street in Brooklyn, just a short walk from the Gowanus Canal. It is a large room, smartly appointed with suns and moons and cosmic curtains and low lights and most importantly, a wooden dance floor! One of the things that made this SSC special was the fact that all of the available advance tickets were sold about a week before the event actually took place. Everybody who was in the house was there to dance and dig fabulous Soul Music from the Sixties. There were no looky-loos, hodads, or creeps who accidentally drop in from the street. Also, it was such a gas to see so many familiar faces–many of them regulars from the Riffifi days, and others that have picked up on SSC along the way, plus many new people who now can’t wait until it all happens again.
And what fabulous music, too! Joining the Phast Man at the DJ booth was DJ Honky and Connie T. Empress who played some incredibly great Soul records all night long.
DJ Honky is a legend among Soul Music aficionados. He was one of the hosts of Dig Deeper, a series of Soul Music concerts and dances that resurrected such great Soul singers as Don Gardner, Darrow Fletcher, Renaldo Domino and Sugar Pie DeSanto and put them on a Brooklyn stage in order for their fans to admire them. These shows were great. Many of these singers had not performed in decades, yet each show was fabulous. Before and after the live portion, DJ Honky and his co-host Mr. Robinson, and some times an internationally renown guest DJ, would play some of the rarest and most obscure Soul records ever. These guys new their stuff and were happy to share it with the world. DJ Honky recreated some of that magic during the four sets he worked at Subway Soul Club.
Before there was a Subway Soul Club, there was the Empire State Soul Club–New York City’s original Sixties Soul Music dance. It’s driving force and den mother was Connie T Empress, known as the Empress of Soul. When the Boogaloo Bag writers discovered the ESSC in the mid-Nineties, it was packing them in at Irving Plaza–a large concert hall near Union Square. However, like all good things, it, too, came to an end. Miss Connie was one of the key DJs, always playing jumpin’ records while wearing a sparkly dress and a be-jeweled tiara. The Empress of Soul recreated some of that magic during the four sets she worked at Subway Soul Club.
For Phast Phreddie the Boogaloo Omnibus, the Subway Soul Club is his premier DJ gig. Since becoming its resident DJ 15 or so years ago, it is the event that he most looks forward to and laments that it does not happen more often. He has a couple of boxes at home full of records that he has noted as SSC-appropriate–adding to it frequently. Also, he maintains a database of records that he has played at his DJ gigs and consults it frequently when assembling the box of records he is to play at his DJ events, so as not to play the same record too frequently, in order to keep it all fresh. It is with this fastidiousness that Phast Phreddie hopes to bring a little magic to the game.
Lady Dawn has her own magic, too. She worked hard promoting the event, setting up the advance ticketing situation and dealing with the club. She designed the beautiful flyers–and has done so since the very beginning. Indeed, her handbills and posters of past Subway Soul Club events are collectable and cherished among cognizant hep cats. In fact, her superb designs have been the only constant thing with the Subway Soul Club–well, that and the excellent vibes of folks dancing around to groovy old Soul 45s.
Those who know DJ Honky, know that, aside from being a great DJ and a fine example of a human being, he is an excellent cook. He likes to bake things and the things he bakes are delicious. Phast Phreddie is exceptionally fond of his ginger snap cookies. DJ Honky was gracious enough to bake some for Subway Soul Club attendees. (He also circulated copies of the Dig Deeper 6-Year Anniversary 2-CD sampler that he and Mr. Robinson assembled, containing some of the rarest soul records imaginable. Added to the mix were some most excellent chocolate chip cookies baked by Nancy “Jeannie” Gardner, the official photographer for The Boogaloo Bag.
Although the Gemini & Scorpio Loft was an excellent venue for Subway Soul Club, it may not be possible for another event to take place there in the near future, if at all. Lady Dawn and Phast Phreddie continue to hunt for a permanent home, a place where SSC could take place three or four times a year. It could happen. But who knows… maybe the Gemini & Scorpio Loft will be the place, but perhaps only once or twice a year. We shall see.
Here’s a list of all the records played by Phast Phreddie the Boogaloo Omnibus at the Subway Soul Club:
- Booker T. & the M.G.’s–Melting Pot Part 1 (Stax; France)
- The Pac-Keys–Dig In (Hollywood)
- The Martinis–Bullseye (U.S.A.)
- Kelso Herston–Red Pickles (United Artists)
- Herbie Mann–Scratch (Atlantic)
- Dee Clark–Heartbreak (Constellation)
- The Willows–Outside the City (M-G-M)
- Geno Washington & the Ram Jam Band–I Can’t Let You Go (Pye; UK)
- The Globetrotters–Cheer Me Up (Kirshner)
- The Wonderettes–I Feel Strange (United Artists)
- The Supremes–He’s All I Got (Motown)
- Just Brothers–Sliced Tomatoes (Music Merchant)
- Ray Barretto–Soul Drummers (Fania)
- Didi Noel–Let the Music Play (Blue Cat)
- Dobie Gray–Out on the Floor (Charger)
- The Corvairs–Ain’t No Soul (In These Old Shoes) (Columbia)
- Jimmy Hughes–I Want Justice (Fame)
- The Supremes–Shake (Tamla/Motown; Netherlands)
- James Brown and His Orchestra–Out of Sight (Smash)
- Norman T. Washington–Tip Toe (SLD; France)
- Sugarpie DeSanto–The Whoo Pee (Brunswick)
- J.J. Barnes–So Called Friends (Revilot)
- Billy Butler–Right Track (OKeh)
- Sammy Kaye and His Orchestra–The Hucklebuck (Decca)
- Prince Buster’s All Stars–One Step Beyond (Blue Beat; UK)
- Maggie Thrett–Soupy (DynoVoice)
- The Minx–Something We Got (Mercury)
- The Mohawks–Mony Mony (Pama; Netherlands)
- Mel Taylor–Bang Bang Rhythm (Warner Bros.)
- Jessica James–We’ll Be Makin’ Out (DynoVoice)
- Lorraine Chandler–I Can’t Hold On (RCA Victor)
- The Prophets–I Got the Fever (Smash)
- Carl Carlton–I Can Feel It (Back Beat)
- Major Lance–Investigate (OKeh)
- Peaches & Herb–Satisfy My Hunger (Date)
- Gentleman June Gardner–Last Night (Emarcy)
- The Four Larks–Groovin’ at the Go-Go (Tower)
- The Liberty Belles–Shing-A-Ling Time (Shout)
- Dorothy Berry–Shindig City (Planetary)
- Lu Parks Singers–Zap Pow Ee Yow (Ambassador)
- Darlene Payne & the O.D. Girls–Copy Cat (O.P.J.)
- Ike & Tina Turner–Tina’s Dilema (Sue)
- James Barnett–Keep on Talking (Fame)
- The Ambassadors–Doctor Love (Arctic)
- The Astors–In the Twilight Zone (Stax)
- The Magnificent Men–Babe I’m Crazy About You (Capitol)
- Martha Reeves & the Vandellas–Yo Necesito de Tu Amor (I’m Ready for Love) (Tamla/Motown; Spain)
None of these records are for sale. Most of them have links to the youtubes clips, so the reader may click on them and dance around in the privacy of your own home.