Freewheeling through time and space, Kris Needs continues his adventures in sound. This month: The Interboro Rhythm Team
When I first hit New York in 1983, the city was leading the charge in post-disco electronic dance music. Hip hop was revolutionising with drum machines, and electro was igniting after ‘Planet Rock’. Thanks to Sounds, a fantastic second-hand record shop in the East Village, I was able to procure the audaciously trailblazing tunes reducing me to a salivating heap on KISS FM and WBLS, or at NYC clubs like Danceteria and Area.
Lots of those 12-inch singles still sit in my record collection, stamped with their SOUNDS price sticker. Many people shopped at emporia such as Downstairs Records or Vinylmania, but Sounds often had the same tunes for two bucks, along with luscious rarities. For the next seven years I was a regular, and was usually served by genial local guitarist Binky Philips (who introduced me to my first house record).
Many of the intriguing obscurities in my collection came from Sounds. ‘Watch The Closing Doors!’ by the Interboro Rhythm Team stopped me in my tracks when it pumped out of my blaster on a late 1983 KISS FM Mastermix. I’d been obsessed with the New York subway ever since the life-changing moment on Union Square station, when a graffiti-plastered train came thundering and screeching out of the tunnel like a flame-spitting monster.
‘Watch The Closing Doors!’ captured all that. Cranking into the locomotive electro groove it rides throughout, all played on Randy Klein’s synth, drum machine hissing and chugging as an unidentified rapper describes the action going down on the IRT Seventh Avenue Line between South Ferry and Harlem’s 125th Street – drug deals, muggings, “There’s Julio / Breakin’ to his radio”…“Got tickets to Prince and you’re looking pretty / Guardian Angels walking on through / They’ll take care of you”…“There’s Percy the Pimp in his usual spot / Put out the pot!”. It gets ridiculously exciting as, after each stop, sassy females chant the contagious title hook derived from the guard announcing each station over the intercom until, finally, “Land of the fight / Land of the might / Last stop, Harlem USA”.
Produced by one Paul A Rodriguez and mixed by M&M duo John Morales and Sergio Munzibai, it proved a local hit, although two follow-ups fell short. Despite being essentially a novelty record, ‘Watch The Closing Doors!’ raised the bar for electronic dance music and mutant hip hop, and carried a codpiece-frying dub for steamier dancefloors. Its glorious ride takes me back to that glorious period in New York every time.