Monday, September 1, 2008

A recollection on San Francisco and Alexander Robotnick

The second time I lived in San Francisco, from around 1984-86,
I spent many late nights going out to various bars, clubs, and on
the weekends I'd often go with friends to the many underground
events that were happening in local warehouses, halls, and run-down bars.

This underground scene thrived in SF during that time. These parties
predated - but totally resembled - what would later come to be known
in the late 80s as Raves (okay, minus the Ecstasy and Acid House - but really, the same in spirit.) I remember lots of performance art, film loops, and other then-standard artsy kind of stuff at these parties.

But for me, of course, it was all about the cutting-edge, wildly varied music the DJs were playing; from early electro, electro-boogie, rap, some freestyle, now-standard 80s, new wave, and "alternative" rock. The vibe was edgy, mixed, alternative, underground, and very fun. Alcohol was always served, usually illegally.

I recall some of these underground parties having bands, but as I remember it, the focus was on dancing. Somewhere I have a box containing flyers from many of the parties I attended back then, and I've gotta dig it up and scan them. Until I do, I can, sadly, only recall the name of one of the events I regularly went to: Noh Club at the Kabuki Theater. I know, this wasn't one of the real "underground" parties, but it's all I can remember for now. (Does anyone know the names of any of those underground events?)

Anyway, it was at those parties where I first heard Grandmaster Flash's "White Lines", Laid Back's "White Horse" and of course Alexander Robotnick's "Problemes D'Amour". That particular song would become, for me, one of those long-unidentified but ubiquitous songs of that time. It was probably a year after first hearing Problemes D'Amour" that I heard it played at The (original) Stud (what is now, I think, called Holy Cow) and I was finally able to walk up to the DJ and find out what it was.

The very next day I went to either Aloha or Gramophone Records and picked up my original import copy. I've been a huge fan of Robotnick's (or rather, Maurizio Dami's) original music ever since. "Problemes D'Amour" must have been a huge influence for most of the original Chicago and Detroit producers. I know it's been dropped into many a house and techno set over the years. It's just one of those records; it manages to sound fresh and unique in whatever context it's dropped.

If you think you aren't familiar with this song, think again (and check the clips)... even someone not particularly savvy about Italo Disco has likely heard (and probably loved) this song. And if you ARE an Italo fan, then this is "Italo Disco 101" for you. It's definitely one of those must-have songs for anyone, whether you're into the Italo sound or not.

There are only a handful of songs made by Alexander Robotnick from
that heyday, but all of them are really exceptional.

Popular songs I recall from the SF Undergrounds 1984-85

George Kranz "Trommeltanz (Din Daa Daa)"
The Smiths "How Soon Is Now"
Alexander Robotnick "Problemes D'Amour"
Heaven 17 "Let Me Go"
Time Zone "World Destruction"
Information Society "Running"
Art of Noise "Beat Box"
Shannon "Give me Tonight"

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