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Sailing With a Cargo Full of Love and Devotion

Posted by Jim Botticelli  August 29, 2013 10:51 PM

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Boston DJ's: 'Captain' Edmonds, 'Cosmo' Wyatt, Joey Carvello and Danae Jacovodis

"Mama ko mama sa maka makoosa" ... Soul Makossa by Manu Dibango

Joey Carvello isn't a name that you'll likely recognize. But since the 70's, he's helped to reshape the local music landscape in a number of ways. Carvello got his start as a DJ in Boston where, along with jocks like John Luongo, Captain Edmonds, Cosmo Wyatt, Danae Jacovodis and Jimmy Stuard, he put the city on the map as one of the most important disco centers outside of New York City. Becoming Program Director on Kiss-108 in 1980, he gave the station a decidedly danceable sound that would last well over a decade. His book will tell the whole story. More on that later.

"The hair. Will you watch the hair?" ... Tony Manero

"I want people to know that the lifestyle portrayed in Saturday Night Fever was exaggerated and gave Italian Americans a new stereotype much different – and I think much worse – than we had from mafia movies," Carvello said in a recent interview. "The crew that I grew up with in the disco scene wasn’t nearly as pedestrian and rooted in their mother's apron."

For this reason, and to set the record straight, Joey Carvello's book will be called That's Disco Before Travolta. With a facebook page of the same name, it is focused on Boston's  pivotal role in the development of the music. It's a tale founded in Dirty Old Boston.

Disco As Game Changer

"There was a certain truth to the representations – in particular the décor and atmosphere of the club scenes" (in Saturday Night Fever), Carvello said, "But there was so much more to disco than that. Disco really put the record business on its ass until the execs figured out that their bottom line had increased by millions of dollars without their participation – aside from servicing disco DJs with records. Disco changed the club business. It changed hair salons. It changed fashion. It brought people together socially while they were being split apart by busing and racism. Blacks, Gays, Latinos, Italians, Irish, all of us were there."

So how did an Italian kid from Fulkerson Street, East Cambridge come to be a citizen in  One Nation Under a Groove?

Yesterday's Beginning

"I needed a job!" Carvello said. "I was mooching off my friends, and finally they had enough of my broke ass. My friend Carl Lupo saw an ad in the newspaper for a disco DJ audition at a club called Yesterdays in Kenmore Square. It was a little dive bar in the shadow of The Green Monster. It smelled like beer, the floors were sticky. I remember when I went there for my audition some guy said, “I’ve never seen a fat waitress before,” and the waitress smashed a drink tray over his head and busted it wide open. That’s the kind of club it was. The first record I played at the audition was "Pursuit of the Pimpmobile" by Isaac Hayes. Then “Soul Makossa” and something by The Whispers. I got the job. And I was so thrilled. I was just this kid from East Cambridge. Everyone in my neighborhood was a wise guy. Now, I was a disco DJ."

Yesterdays and Today

"Today I’m a resident DJ at Mobile Mondays, this night in New York where we play only 45s," said Joey Carvello, asked what's happening now. "I can’t even explain how fun it is to break out shit from my collection. And of course, working on my book. I just finished the chapter on Zelda's. I only need about 15,000 more words!"

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Jim Botticelli, a 1976 Northeastern University graduate, is a retired Boston Public Schools teacher. In college, he drove a cab and learned the city's cow paths. An avid collector of More »

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