Right Place, Right Time, Part 1: Franky Jackson's Soul Kitchen
For reasons which I'll get to a little later in the year, I'm posting a bit of personal NYC nostalgia here. It's part of a bigger story which will be told on my blog over time, so for now it may seem a bit random, but it'll all make sense.
...I always thought that the reason I never made it to the LQ was because I was too young. The reality is that you could be as young as 15 or 16 up in there, but clubs were a few years off for me at that age. And I can't front, from what I knew of the LQ, I woulda been a little pet to go there especially with my penchant for getting mugged in the wrong part of town on a number of occasions as a young teen. (There was, of course, no internet, so if you wanted to learn about something, you had to go there in the flesh...it's bugged how technology has on the one hand brought people together but on the other, removed the element of old fashioned exploration.)
What I can shed light on, though, was Soul Kitchen, at which I was a regular from very early on. It was a part of my weekly routine - a home away from home where all the regulars knew each other. First off, I can't stress the importance of the party. It was THE place to be and while the music was focused, the crowd was a ridiculously colorful mix; one that you could only conjure in New York City, the New York City of then and not now. Soul Kitchen started out very small with a core group of friends and ended up snowballing into something bigger, picking up new people along the way, people that wanted to be a part of something that you really would not be able to find anywhere else. In the grand tradition of 70's and 80's clubs it would be typical to find artists, drug dealers, rap artists (LL was vexed one night because Jack insisted that LL pay the cover charge. So LL bounced and no one cared), models, actors, musicians, boosters, club rats, skaters, clothing designers, artists, music execs, dancers, djs, downtown girls, record diggers...
Brothers BBQ would be slammed with people- you couldn't move - and that's when it paid to know Frankie the DJ (he's one half of "Franky Jackson," the fictional proprietor of the establishment and party). Frankie would let friends congregate around him in the dj area behind ropes that were guarded by Evan who was paid with free 40s of malt. He was, and still is, a rabid collector of all kinds of music, and it was at Soul Kitchen that he would drop his latest aquisitions. It wasn't so much that if you aspired to be a hip-hop producer that you would go there. Soul Kitchen was where several very established producers would go, to enjoy the music and get inspiration, and maybe even catch a record to sample. But Frankie, like the original djs from the Bronx, would cover his labels so that no one could catch the titles of the songs and this on a few occasions had some heads a little perturbed. It was kind of a big tease in a way but Frankie was dropping serious dollars for these records at fairs, and wasn't tryin' to hear about producers making records off of his sweat. This was a smart move because even though Frankie was never a beat-maker his position at Soul Kitchen led Russell Simmons, who frequented the spot, to hire him to produce new Run-DMC material. Frankie looped up a Soul Kitchen staple, "You Can Have Watergate But Gimme Some Bucks And I'll Be Straight" by James Brown's Fred Wesley and The J.B.s, and "The Ave", the second song off of Run-DMC'S "Back From Hell" was born. Perhaps not a seminal moment for Run-DMC, who were struggling to remain relevant, but it showed the influence of the night.
Even though at the time other djs thought that the way Frankie would just play entire songs from top 'til they faded out was corny, in playing like that, Frankie killed two birds with one stone. Not only did he preserve the fidelity of these rare records but he also provided the crowd with a truly unique musical experience. It was refreshing to hear a song in its entirety, especially songs that were known, but only within a mixed and cut context. Records that were known for only a small break were given new life and to hear these songs amplified properly was great.
After Brothers BBQ, the party moved to Wetlands (now a bland condo) and S.O.B.'s but like all good things, faded out. But Franky Jacksons's Soul Kitchen has a permanent place in the pantheon of legendary and influential New York City parties.
For the record, the promoters who threw Soul Kitchen (Jack, Frankie and Chris) were not the same team that threw Pay Day, which preceded it. Pay Day was the creation of Patrick Moxey and Chuck Crook, and they had a great line up of dj's including Bobby Konders, Red Alert, Duke of Denmark, the Fascinating Force and others. While Pay Day was happening, Frankie Inglese held down Tuesdays at Nell's, and that night was THE place to be if you were down and could get in. If you weren't easy, Jessica would have you wait outside all night. It's the first place I heard "Set It Off," "Dominatrix," the dancehall monster "Ring The Alarm" and countless others.
This is where I crafted the skill of reading record labels in the dark, the whole time fronting like I wasn't, while the records were spinning. I can remember specifically the time when Frankie was handed a Def Jam envelope (how jealous was I?), removed two white-label promos, and threw on one, and then the other. It was Public Enemy's first single, which sampled the JB's "Blow Your Head". Frankie first threw on the B-side "Son of Public Enemy (Flavor Whop Version)" which featured Flavor Flav talking mad shit, and then Frankie eased in the A-side with a mean Chucky D..."What goes on...Well... I'm all in - put it up on the board, another rapper shot down from the mouth that roared, 1-2-3 down for the count the result of my lyrics - oh yes, no doubt". That was heaven.
The J.B.'s "You Can Have Watergate Just Gimme Some Bucks and I'll Be Straight"
Run-DMC "The Ave"
Soul Kitchen Staples:
The Mohawks "The Champ"
Joe Cocker "Woman To Woman"
The J.B.'s "Blow Your Head"
plus a complimentary bonus:
The J.B.'s "Blow Your Head (undubbed version)"
This was a massive Soul Kitchen tune, and played a big part in producers looking to Roy Ayers for samples:
Roy Ayers "Everybody Loves The Sunshine"
I brought Frankie these two 45's from Jamaica and he played them every week. No one in Manhattan was playing "No, No, No" but after Frankie did, a lot of djs followed suit.
White Mice "True Love""
Dawn Penn "No, No, No (You Don't Love Me)"