Vincent DeGiorgio, a Canadian Disco DJ, producer and founder of Power Records and Boulevard Records, talks to DiscoMusic.com about the Canadian Disco scene of the 1970s and 1980s
Vincent DeGirogio interview by Bernard Lopez of DiscoMusic.com
Vincent DeGiorgio (not DiGiorgio) talks with DiscoMusic.com about the Canadian Disco scene of the 1970s and 1980s, which has remained a mystery to those outside its borders. One may assume that because of their proximity to the United States that they would be influenced heavily by American musical tastes. Not exactly as we shall see in our talks with Canadian Disco DJ and record label owner, Vincent DeGiorgio.
Vince DeGiorgio sat down for a very candid talk about his Disco dance music career, which he has been involved with since the 1970s in many different capacities. Here are some pertinent highlights.
- Was a record store manager for Toronto's, Disco Sound of Canada
- A Disco DJ at various Canadian clubs (Le Club) for seventeen years
- Worked in promotions at Unidisc Records in Montreal
- The person who put the group Tapps together and on the map.
- Owner of several Canadian record labels: Power Records, Boulevard Records, and Chateau Records
- Promoter for Denny O'Conor's 120 Dance Promotions and Quality Records
- Helped break such acts like Snap, Real McCoy and NSYNC while at BMG in the 1990s and beyond as well as being a songwriter.
- Wrote a Disco column for the Canadian DJ newsletter, RPM from 1978-1980.
Vincent DeGiorgio's Introduction to Disco
Born in the Toronto suburb of Brampton, Ontario, Vince DeGiorgio was turned onto music at the age of seven through his father who was a big vinyl record collector. The two would go record hunting and the young DeGiorgio would help find records during the daylong outings. By the age of thirteen, DeGiorgio had made the decision to become a Disco DJ and started acquiring records. He goes on to say that it was an expensive hobby, but he would go into the city (Toronto) to buy Disco records from Reggae stores like Monica's on a regular basis. Coupled with this he starts going to area discos/clubs to experience the music first hand. One of these clubs was Petubia where the first song he heard was From East To West by Voyage and the first girl he dances with is Candy Berthuiame who ended up doing the vocals for Tapps eight years later on his Power label.
Disco Sound of Canada
At around the age of sixteen Vince DeGiorgio stopped to buy a slice of pizza while in Toronto. While sitting at the counter he looked across the street to see something he had never noticed before, a huge record store called Disco Sound of Canada. It was completely different from anything he had experienced in his life because it had every record he had been looking for. Vince used to look up new records in a newsletter that serviced Ontario Disco DJs called Disk n Dat, which was run by Jackie Valasek. Seeing all the records listed in the newsletter in one store was like a dream come true. Vince returned to the store a second time and was offered a job by Fred Goshine who was one of the owners of Disco Sound of Canada. The other owner was the late Peter Frost who wrote articles for the aforementioned Disk n Dat newsletter and later went on to produce and remix songs by Tapps.
The clientele at Disco Sound of Canada was very eclectic with a good number of them being professional Disco DJs. DeGiorgio got to know many of them while also expanding his music collection and knowledge. While working at the record shop, DeGiorgio also started working around 1977 as a backup DJ for a club called Stars in his hometown. He soon made his way to several dive bars in Toronto making a measly (US)$60.00 a night.
The Disco DJ at Le Tube
Around 1980 DeGiorgio was flirting with retiring from dee-jaying to pursue traveling. He wasnt working for what seemed only 48 hours and returned to Disco Sound of Canada and then landed a gig at a private party for a woman whose father owned a chain of clubs called Mo-Mos. He made such a favorable impression with the crowd that he was asked to become the head DJ at Le Tube, which was a premiere nightspot in Toronto. Le Tube was owned by and catered to a mainly Portuguese crowd. The Le Tube gig lasted about four years.
Downstairs Records and Unidisc Records
During his DJ stint at Le Tube, DeGiorgio worked as the Ontario promotion rep for George Cucuzzellas, Unidisc Records of Montreal. While at Unidisc he worked the clubs and a little of radio and was instrumental in breaking Living On Video by Trans-X. It was also at around this time at the age of only twenty-two that the idea of running his own record label became a priority for DeGiorgio. It all began after having a discussion with his friend Gino Soccio. DeGiorgio had said something to the effect of "That sucks, they don't know what they are doing..." to which Soccio said, "Yeah, what have you done?" Those words are what motivated DeGiorgio to become serious about his future in the Disco dance music industry. He asked his employers, Unidisc Records, if they would distribute his new label, but was quoted a commission rate that he found to be too high. When DeGiorgio wanted to back out, Unidisc decided to let him go and replaced him with his old boss from Disco Sound. Despite the turn of events, Vince DeGiorgio and George Cucuzzella have remained close personal friends.
The Birth of Power Records
Vincent DeGiorgio describes to DiscoMusic.com how his first foray into running his own record label began. In November of 1982 Power Records was begun with $250.00. The first release was by Ambience called Na, Na; Hey, Hey Kiss Him Goodbye. This single was remixed by Wally MacDonald, but only sold less than 400 copies. The next few releases were mainly licensed catalog product such as a Hot Tracks remix of Souvenirs by Voyage and La Bamba by Antonia Rodriguez.
Since I have an original copy of the Hot Tracks remix of Souvenirs on Power Records, we delve into some trivia about this release. DeGiorgio states that they used the original masters on their Voyage releases. Also, on the Souvenirs release in question there was a segment that Hot Tracks had used called Homaja Disco that was not by Voyage and had not been cleared properly and DeGiorgio had to make separate arrangements to legally use it on the Power release. The flip side of the record had a special Discotch Medley.
The release that Power Records is best known for and the one that put it in the international dance arena was 1983's My Forbidden Lover by Tapps. This song quickly raced up the dance and Hi-NRG charts and has been a classic ever since and enjoyed tremendous success in the Los Angeles dance music scene when JDC Records licensed it for the US. market. The story behind Tapps is quite extensive so DeGiorgio graciously provided DiscoMusic.com with a full history on Tapps. One item not covered in that history is that the original lyrics to My Forbidden Lover were of a very controversial subject matter and one that DeGiorgio felt compelled to change. Being that he was a huge fan of Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers of Chic, he used My Forbidden Lover simply as an idea to rewrite the lyrics to the Tapps song.
While DeGiorgio admits that he likes to be in control of things, he did have partners in Power Records. One of them being Dominick Zarca who was one of the owners of Downstairs Records/Unidisc and later went on to head Rio Records. Dominick also headed up the first record pool in Montreal along with George Cucuzzella (also chairman of Unidisc Records) and Mary Spano.
Besides Power Records, DeGiorgio controlled Chateau Records and Boulevard Records. Amongst all these labels, in excess of 200 titles were released by such artists as the late Eria Fachin, Man 2 Man, La Flavour, Patrick Miles...
Vince DeGiorgio on the Canadian Disco Scene and its Worldwide Influence
When asked if Canada's influence was the United States, Vince DeGiorgio had this to say,
Canada's references were a lot more global than American on the Disco side because of the French factor and the fact that we were a former British colony. A record from Australia, France or England was as influential as a record from the U.S. We then discussed how the Unidisc label used to license tracks with a very Euro feel to them and he added, Unidisc was born out of a record store in Montreal called Downstairs Records. Record labels like London Records were huge distributors at that time in Canada. So let's say for example, Crystal World by Crystal Grass, which included Nicolas Skorsky of Santa Esmeralda, Don Ray (Raymond Donnez) and Alec R. Costandinos... It came out in Canada and took quite some time to come out in the U.S. so Downstairs used to export things from Canada to the States that people thought were Canadian, but many times was of French or Italian origins. Canada's marriage to Disco was more global.
Through our continuing talks it is apparent that Canada helped to break many Disco records that would later appear in the U.S. as imports from north of the border and then get subsequently released by the majors in the States like Claudja Barrys Boogie Woogie Dancin Shoes on Chrysalis Records.
Canadian Disco Artists
DeGiorgio was challenged to identify Canadian Disco dance artists that are not necessarily known as being Canadian. Here's the list he provides to DiscoMusic.com:
- Claudja Barry (Boogie Woogie Dancing Shoes)
- Suzy Q (Get On Up and Do It Again)
- Karen Silver (Nobody Else)
- Gino Soccio (Dancer)
- Patsy Gallant (Jogging)
- Carolyn Bernier (Secret Agent Love)
- Denise McCann (Tattoo Man)
- Ian Guenther and Willi Morrison (producers of: THP Orchestra, Grand Tour, Southern Exposure... )
- The late Pat Deserio and George Lagios (producers: Bombers, Kebekelektrik...)
- Tony Green (producer: France Joli, Goldie Alexander...)
Disco DJ Wally MacDonald
Vince DeGiorgio says that his friend the late Disco DJ Wally McDonald of Toronto, who is best known for doing the legendary remix on Amanda Lear's Follow Me, was one of the most gifted Disco DJs and one that had a profound effect on him.
Wally was Picasso on two turntables. Wally taught me one of my lessons about DJ booth culture. Wally MacDonald had a line taped on the floor, which no one was allowed to go over-and I crossed it! He looked at me and said: 'You know what that line is there for? You're not supposed to step over it.' I realized at that moment that the DJ booth was that person's sanctuary. It was the pulpit from which you spoke to your people (dancers). I believe that if I had not been told that I wouldn't have a similar appreciation for how important that is.
Wally played at such clubs as the Wonder Bar and Stages.
We delve into Wally's remix of Follow Me and a bit of information that isn't generally known is that only the original pressings on the Canadian Inter Global Music label, which were on gold vinyl, are from the master tapes. All other releases such as on Siamese Records and Ariola Records were lifted from a vinyl copy because the original master tapes that MacDonald had prepared were lost and never found after IGM went out of business.
Fast Forward >>>
In 1990 Vincent DeGiorgio decided to change gears and took about six months off to rethink his career in the music industry. Several efforts were pursued including helping to write Follow Your Heart for Inner City with Kevin Saunderson, which went to #2 on the Billboard Dance. DeGiorgio then worked at BMG in Canada where he remained for about six years taking the company from a 4 share to a 27 share by focusing on European and international repertoire for the Canadian market that ultimately found their way into the U.S. with much success. One of his bosses at BMG Canada was Bob Jameson, and when he was asked by BMG to return to the States, he took DeGiorgio with him to New York as their International A & R man. The first record Vince had a hand in was Le Click and then he signed the boy band N-SYNC when everyone thought a boy band wouldnt work. Other projects he was involved in were the Queer As Folk soundtrack and signing Kristine W. a.k.a. Kristine Weitz (Stronger), which he considers real dance music in that he had an 85-piece orchestra from Warsaw play on Clubland.
I asked DeGiorgio how he made the transition from '70s and '80s Disco all the way to 2000 and beyond and here is his response:
- I was born and raised on music that was orchestral. I learned so much by listening. Everything I did on the NSYNC record was from my sister being a Bread ('70s pop group) fan because I wanted to make sure the mothers didnt take the record off after hearing it all the time. I am a firm believer that one always reverts from where you started. I was always a pop guy who loved orchestral or genre crossing elements.
- The other thing that has to be bolded is that people who were into Disco music were so slighted and so misinterpreted that anyone who was into club music knows more about every other genre than any other person you'll meet...
DeGiorgio and I get into the topic of today's artists sampling, or in many cases stealing, from the golden age of Disco dance music:
If the people who make the records get paid–I'm all for it. If you honor someone's record, it's terrific that some of these people are getting opportunities to revisit or relive with some of their music. If people are getting paid that's fine. I would be even happier though if some of the legendary artists who've been ripped off over the years could get remunerated or get paid.
Wrapping It Up
DiscoMusic.com would like to thank Vincent DeGiorgio for taking time out to speak with us about his role in Disco dance music.
Written by Bernard F. Lopez (August 12, 2004)
Copyright © 2004 by Bernard F. Lopez
All rights reserved